Tough tech exit – Focalspec acquired by TKH Group

Inka Mero, Managing Partner of Voima Ventures writes about our exit of Focalspec.

Building deep tech companies from the research lab to global markets and scale is a long journey. 

Focalspec was founded 10 years ago to Oulu, Finland, as a spin-off from VTT. Today, the company announced the BIG NEWS – Focalspec has been acquired by TKH Group, a multi-billion Dutch corporation specialized in high-end technology across Telecoms, Building, and Industrial Solutions. 

Having been there many times, signing the documents for selling the majority or 100% of a company is a historical moment for everyone onboard, but for the founders in particular. Letting “the baby” go one has created, is a big thing. But eventually, after some time, when I talk with entrepreneurs who have done successful exit(s), it’s not the exit itself or the money they talk about. Much more important is the original founding story, the big passion and big leap done as entrepreneurs a long time ago. Equally important is the continuum after the M&A: having a big global player committed to taking the product and business of a small startup to a global scale. 

I am particularly thrilled with the sales of Focalspec for this exact reason. The new entity will continue pushing for innovation and R&D from Oulu. Go Finland! 

As a VC, our job is to help the deep tech founder’s to succeed. In science originated startups this means, in particular, supporting the startups we work within three areas: 

  • building a better and stronger team
  • building growth through industrial partners 
  • funding. 

With Focalspec the team has grown from the lab to R&D, industrial-scale production and sales operations in China. After initial product-market-fit discovery for ultra sensitive and high speed sensors, the business has grown to serve the biggest CE players in the world together with Chinese partners. And of course, several funding rounds closed step by step with our co-investors, including Nordic Option and institutional investors. 

All the kudos on this exit goes to the team. Congratulations! Particular thanks to Sauli Törmälä, the chairman and grandfather of the business. After launching Voima Ventures last spring, we wrote an interview with Sauli’s founder story, you can read it here. It actually makes much more sense now :D.  

And for the new readers, FYI – Voima Ventures manages two funds – our new 40M€ fund from where we aim to make 25-30 new investments, as well as the old portfolio of VTT Ventures, owned by and done for VTT Group of Finland.   

Your can see the press release here:

Oulu, November 1st, 2019

FocalSpec joins LMI Technologies group

Finnish technology company FocalSpec has been acquired by TKH Group NV, a Dutch listed technology company.  FocalSpec will join the LMI Technologies group, owned by TKH and strengthen further its position in inline metrology.

FocalSpec is a global pioneer in designing and manufacturing high-precision, high-speed optical sensors.  Their unique and patented Line Confocal Imaging (LCI) technology is used in diverse, demanding quality assurance applications e.g. in electronics industry.  FocalSpec was founded in 2009 as a spin-off from VTT, the National Technical Research Institute of Finland and is

headquartered in Oulu, Finland.  Apart from VTT Ventures, the company owners have included  Nordic Option, Veritas Pension Insurance, Sauli Törmälä as well as several other private investors.

During 2019, FocalSpec made a breakthrough in mobile device manufacturing.  The most important customers of FocalSpec today are system integrators providing QA functionality for the production lines of the world’s leading mobile device manufacturers.

To strengthen the resources required to sustain and continue the high growth of the business operations, FocalSpec has today accepted the purchase offer of TKH Group NV for the entire capital stock of FocalSpec Oy.  TKH Group is a Dutch listed technology company focused on high-end innovative technologies in high growth markets within three business segments: Telecom, Building and Industrial Solutions.  TKH Group operates on a global scale, with growth concentrated in Europe, North America and Asia.  Employing 6,533 people, TKH achieved a turnover of € 1.6 billion in 2018.

With this acquisition, TKH Group expands its vision technology with industry-leading confocal technology that solves applications in markets such as consumer electronics, battery, pharma, semiconductor and medical.  FocalSpec will join the LMI Technologies group and operate under the LMI brand – a global leader in 3D inline scanning and inspection.

“Line confocal sensors offer a leap in technological performance for scanning opaque, transparent and curved materials, such as hybrid glass assemblies common in cell phone manufacturing.  By combining this game-changing optical approach with our proven Gocator inspection software and volume manufacturing know-how, customers will be able to solve challenging inline metrology applications at a price/performance and ease of use never seen in the market today”, said Terry Arden, CEO, LMI Technologies.

Sauli Törmälä, Chairman of FocalSpec: “The addition of LCI technology to the 3D product portfolio of LMI Technologies builds a highly complementary set of solutions for metrology applications in critical assembly processes.  Along with their leading inspection software, we believe FocalSpec and LMI will be a true powerhouse of metrology in the years to come and look forward to joining forces.”

The FocalSpec unit in Oulu, Finland will act as the LMI competence center for the LCI technology globally and the current activities will continue, focused on product development and operations.  The development work will gain additional resources and platforms from the LMI Group’s existing metrology operations.  FocalSpec’s sales organization will be strengthened considerably as the products will get access to the LMI Group’s extensive sales network globally.

Oulu, November 1st, 2019