Mavix's product takes its salesmen to many exotic locations. The system the company developed has already been installed in Sydney's airport train service, in a diamond mine in South Africa, soccer fields in Spain, Norway and even at the company managing Japan's dams and rivers.
However, when Avner Mor proposed Fibronics' management should set up a spin off for remote management in early 1995, he was greeted with astonishment. "Have you gone mad?" he was asked, "We have so many difficulties, and you want us to enter into additional expenses?" Mor persisted. He approached Uzia Galil, Fibronics chairman of the board of directors at the time. Galil became convinced, and Mavix came into the world at Yokne'am in the north of the country, as a profit center within Fibronics.
Founded: January 1995
Product: Remote multimedia monitoring
Market: Tollway operators, transport authorities, town management authorities, and in the future - large organizations
Customers: Australian Airport Authority, Spanish police force, Siemens in Norway, Norwegian railway companies
Competition: Telexis of Canada, Javelin of the US, VCS of Sweden
Ownership: Cidav (44%), Teledata Singapore (25%), employees (31%).
The company built a prototype, and managed to make some sales in Italy before Fibronics was sold to Elbit in July of the same year. Mor decided to make the company independent and raised $650,000 from listed company Cidav , which dealt in printed circuits, but at the same time began to put some emphasis on investments in high tech. Cidav currently has holdings in Internet company HyperBanner and in Eliav. At the beginning of 1997, another investor, this time strategic, entered into Mavix - Teledata Singapore (unconnected to Teledata of Israel), distributor of telecom products throughout South East Asia to the tune of $100 million a year.
What exactly does Mavix do? The company has an open platform for remote monitoring of sites from a control center in large organizations, for example railway routes. Mavix's system ensures that no trains collide, they are in good working order and tracks have not been tampered with, and monitors signs and security at train stations. The system operates on LAN, which use a common site, and WANs for communications between remote sites. The technology is already adapted for Internet 2, that is broadband communications.
Australians were among the company's initial customers. Currently connected to the Mavix system in Sydney are ten stations, train arrival signs, cameras, train position monitor, paging system and a ticket sales system. It is important to stress that the company's products deal solely with monioring. The system does not include the cameras, the signs or other auxiliary equipment. Mor, president and chairman of Mavix, says an Israeli company is incapable of leading a project of such enormous proportions, and that an integrator is required to assemble all the components together. The company has ties with 45 integrators in 30 countries.
An average project injects a few hundred thousand dollars into Mavix's pockets. The Sydney project, for example, amounts to $250,000, another railway project, if it is implemented, will total $350,000, and the installation in Singapore's light train service, expected to take place at year-end will reach $760,000.
Mavix has also installed its system in mines, gas plants, tollways and oil refineries. In one instance, in a South African diamond mine, management discovered it was losing 5% of revenues to theft by employees. It installed remotely controlled television "surveillance components" in the mines. Mor says the result was that the company managed to recoup the cost of the system after only a few weeks.
Mor says that competitors exist, but "Mavix is a brand name in the relevant market" and has a clear advantage in the video quality it produces, "just like television."
"Globes": This sort of quality requires a more sophisticated and expensive communications infrastructure.
Avner Mor: "That's correct, broadband communications infrastructure is required. However, the entire world is thinking in this direction, and prices are dropping constantly.
"We still have an advantage. I say 'still', as the visual monitoring world and the data monitoring world will merge." As befits a company thinking about its future product generation, Mavix decided that its current business is very good and brings in cash, but that is not enough. The company understood that it must fit into the mainstream, and if their business isbroadband communications, why not appeal to large organizations?
"In 2-3 years, we want to be the supplier of this technology to large organizations," announces Mor, emphasizing the word 'large'. In the meantime, the challenge is to reduce the price and size of the technology, and the difficulty in installation and need for maintenance. The aim is to conect a close-circuit television to the broadband communications of Internet 2, DSL, cables or any other broadband organizational communications network. Organizations need visual monitoring combined with voice and data for security, operations monitoring and control.
Mavix is currently in the throes of raising $7-10 million from an Israeli-American investment bank. In the previous round in January 1997, the company was valued at $5 milion after money. This time, with $2.5 million in revenues and order backlog to year-end, and an $8 million forecast for next year, the sum will be much higher. The money raised will enable the company to start marketing in the US, and develop the new product for large organizations. An IPO is planned in the US in another two years.
"We're an entire industry," says Mor in comparison to Internet companies, "We're not a company with a single program that provides a solution for a small part of something. We can be as large as Nice or ECI."
To his credit, Mor is the only start-up manager I have met this year who did not present me with a list of possible exits from his company.
Published by Israel's Business Arena on 8 September, 1999