When he started motocross while growing up in rural Kilkenny, Jens Köpke didn’t imagine that one day he would be collaborating with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop cutting-edge technology for racers worldwide.
The founder of Motoklik has developed a system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve safety and performance for off-road motorcyclists. Through a mobile app, they can access a remote monitoring system Köpke has developed to help gauge the best suspension set-up for racetrack conditions.
To make the system work, Köpke relies on satellite positioning and Earth observation data. That’s where the ESA comes in.
“We were able to get a place on the ESA’s business incubation programme here in Ireland because we’re using space data. That was a big help starting out,” Köpke said.
Motoklik recently closed a €300,000 seed round and Köpke has scheduled the start-up’s commercial launch for mid-May. He plans to sell directly to off-road motorcyclists in Britain and the Benelux region initially.
“Both are big motocross markets and, for our market entry, we want to go B2C [business-to-consumer] starting out, selling directly to bike owners, so we can build our brand and get a name for ourselves,” he said.
“Ultimately, we want to be selling our technology directly to manufacturers so that it’s fitted on the bike straight from the factory and they can use it to generate useful data.
“If we go to them straight out of the gate though, we’re unproven and they can hammer us down on price.
“If we go to them with two or three years’ worth of strong growth and good customer feedback behind us, it makes the conversation a lot easier. It gives us a much stronger position to negotiate.”
Köpke established Motoklik in 2018 in his hometown of Graiguenamanagh following a four-year stint in Waterford working for Bausch and Lomb as a research and development engineer.
The 30-year-old studied mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Waterford Institute of Technology, followed by a master’s in innovative technology engineering.
His interest in motocross bikes goes back much further, however.
“I have two brothers who are eight and ten years older than me. That’s how I got into it,” he said.
“They came home one day with an off-road bike when I was about six or seven. The minute I saw it, I loved it. I took it up straight away and started racing when I was 16 in the regional Southern Centre Motocross Championship here in Ireland.”
The idea for Motoklik came out of an accident Köpke had while taking part in a championship race outside Athlone.
“The suspension on my bike was too soft for the conditions. Landing off a jump, the bike completely bottomed out and I lost control,” he said.
“I wasn’t badly hurt, thankfully, but suspension set-up in off-road racing has always been a bit of a dark art. I got to thinking about a product that would help people avoid the same problem.”
Motoklik is a high potential start-up client of Enterprise Ireland, and the state agency has contributed to the start-up’s seed funding round.
“It feels like it was possibly one of the longest fundraising rounds anyone has ever gone through,” Köpke said.
“Getting Enterprise Ireland on board in the early stages really helped to open up conversations with investors, but I had to knock on so many doors to find the right people.
“The very first pitch I did to investors was back in February 2019, and we didn’t close officially until last November. That’s a lot of knocking on doors, but I just never gave up.”
Now Motoklik is undergoing final tests for CE mark approval in the EU market. When it’s ready to launch, Köpke plans to sell online and in partnership with affiliate suspension technicians in his target markets.
“Our initial markets will be the UK and the Benelux countries. From there, we’ll move into Central Europe followed by the US, all the while diversifying our product portfolio,” he said.