“A mind-blowing team, whose independence and initiative are powering the company to exceed many of my ambitions and expectations”. – Andre Fourie – Poynting Group CEO
Poynting experienced phenomenal growth in international sales during the past 24 months – most of this growth occurred during the Covid pandemic. A portion may have been due to the “online working” revolution, but most seems to be driven by our brand gaining traction as more reports, comparisons and use cases indicate performance surpassing those of competitive products. We started comparing our products routinely reputable competitors by simply using their published performance. These comparisons surprised us since we often find our products performing significantly better especially in terms of maintaining radiation patterns across frequency bands. The hard-core engineer in me struggled to understand this because we “all cook with gas” and it is evident these competitors use similar measurement and computational tools and well-qualified engineers. We know we employ some of the brightest minds, but it was still difficult to understand why some competitor products perform abysmally – especially the inability to maintain functional radiation patterns across frequency? This is certainly not “an opinion” but rather self-evident from the radiation patterns provided by the market leaders.
Why is this happening?
Three years ago, cellular fixed/mobile antennas were relatively simple and the performance requirements straightforward. The arrival of fast 4G data and growth in IoT drove rapidly increased demand for antennas to enable fixed and mobile connectivity. My opinion is that many established consumer antenna companies were caught “off guard” by the complexities, new skills and know-how needed to maintain directional and specifically omnidirectional radiation patterns. Generally, it is insufficient to modify trusted narrower band predecessors to cope with these demands – completely new approaches are necessary. Antenna design complexity was compounded by the additional demands for MIMO connections. The Poynting history and DNA, by fluke or destiny, meant that the tools and knowhow demanded were already understood and mastered by our R&D team since:
Poynting started designing fixed wireless antennas for cellular voice and data around 2003 because of our location in Africa. Fixed telecoms infrastructure was mostly non-existent or dysfunctional in most African countries. We were hence developing “large” cellular antennas at a time where external antennas for cellular applications were virtually unheard of in first world countries where phones, not devices, comprised 99.9% of end-user applications.
Equally important is the fact that Poynting Antennas grew from a Defence Antenna design background where we developed advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) jamming, monitoring and direction-finding antennas. These all are required to operate over massive frequency bands. Poynting only split from the Defence Antenna Division in 2014 and when they rebranded to Alaris Antennas which remains a respected and leading international supplier of specialised defence antennas. We hence naturally developed, perfected, and used sophisticated auxiliary optimisation and design tools (mostly interacting with well-known antenna simulation programs) and inherently had the know-how and experience associated with the design of such antennas. These allowed us to transition to design increasingly complex antennas relatively effortlessly and without a painful learning curve, need to upskill and/or develop software tools, etc.
Poynting’s core engineering group came from a university antenna research group. This includes our CTO Dr. Derek Nitch and myself. We have been involved with teaching engineers and supervising postgraduate research for the past 30 years. We both hence devour IEEE and other academic publications routinely and provide access to advanced electromagnetic concepts, antennas, and theory, produced by the best universities and research laboratories worldwide. We naturally “harvested” valuable knowledge and shared these with newer engineers keeping all close to cutting edge developments and designs.
This rich history, experience, culture, and knowledge became a huge advantage when 4G/5G technologies similarly demanded broadband, cost-effective, and complex (MIMO, switched, etc) antennas.
This fortunate position made me decide to invest in aggressive growth around June last year with the target of doubling turnover in 2022 appropriately called our AG2022 Strategy… Poynting invested heavily in fast prototyping machines (laser cutting, PCB cutting and printing, plastic growing), increased computational power for R&D, and, most importantly, more engineering, industrial design, and other R&D staff contrary to the conservative approach adopted by most companies. We established an “Online Dream Team”, which comprised of talented and innovative creative people changing switch our marketing to become virtually exclusively online. We opened a new USA office, Poynting Antennas Inc, in Texas in 2021 to capitalise on the growing demand for our products in the USA. One crucial strategic decision was to form a new “Antennas Combined with Electronics” or ACE R&D division because I anticipate that such antennas are necessary and likely to play an increasingly crucial role in fixed wireless, IoT, and vehicular/marine markets in the future. Our European staff more than doubled in 2021 to cope and drive business in this region where we already derive about 65% of Poynting turnover in the previous financial year. The AG2022 strategy has significantly focussed Poynting to expand internationally and to start introducing disruptive and innovative products in 2022. The WaveHunter marine dome antenna and ePoynt fixed wireless products are the first ACE products. We have several novel solutions in development over the past 12 months which we shall start releasing in H1 2022 which I hope will excite and delight our partners worldwide.
We intend to open our first international R&D facility, very likely in Netherland during 2022. This is part of our drive to engender an overall “global” culture. We visualise ourselves as a global technology company rather than a South African company selling globally.
Poynting developed from a close relationship with Wits University from where the company was founded. Wits were the first multi-racial, multicultural SA university Poynting, therefore, embraces the strengths associated with a rich racial, cultural, and gender diverse staff. Our international ambition provided continuous exposure to cultures worldwide. These solidified in us establishing Poynting Europe, creating our Chinese factory and close international relationships – providing tangible proof of the strengths inherent in cultural diversity. The rich mix produced what I call “Poynting People”, a mind-blowing team, whose independence and initiative are powering the company to exceed many of my ambitions and expectations.
My underlying philosophy is that we all should refrain from chasing mainly financial and status goals. Poynting hence focusses on solving real problems and “Making wireless work” and measure ourselves on doing this successfully.
This allows us to enjoy our “mission”, encourage us to take risks and financial growth follows rather than become the main driver. I feel we can find joy and fulfilment in creating wealth as result – when looking back we remember epic moments, loved ones, and friends rather than income or status. I would consider Poynting a success if we become known for creating great solutions which have a meaningful impact on lives, society, the world.
In this context, I hope to inspire and empower both Poynting, our partners, and their customers to join us to make a step-change in 2022 and beyond. We should continue developing and deploying connectivity solutions surpassing the innovative products and solutions offered thus far. By delivering disruptive, delightful, and beautiful connectivity solutions we should improve people’s lives and enable new business models and lifestyles to flourish. I truly believe these dreams, ideas, and visions will be relentlessly and enthusiastically driven to reality by the Poynting People and partners. Whether we achieve some or most of these is not so crucial. Enjoying and thriving in the process is key.
So, I am confident that our partners you to take some risk on some of the new products next year and will help us with feedback, advice, and patience if some problems need ironing out.
Allow us to stand on your shoulders because we are still small on a world scale. We need strong, brave, and like-minded partners to have any chance of achieving all or some of these ideals. Customers who become partners and ambassadors for Poynting after some time must please continue to share their knowledge about market needs, advice and criticism– we shall reciprocate by sharing our insights, on successful market verticals, applications, and use cases from other markets. We hope to extend such partnerships as we find new customers worldwide. New inventions, ideas, and visions are worth little without a team such as we have assembled to give this life and customers who promote it in their regions. Poynting itself is driven by brave and capable Poynting People.
Without customers, suppliers and partners, however, we clearly wouldn’t get anywhere. Ubuntu – a famous African philosophy states it best and means: “I am because of others”. What better way of saying it?
I wish you all a full and happy journey in 2022. Remember to live in the moment. Don’t forget to enjoy what you do but also to prioritise time and energy on those closest to you. Do things, take risks and be happy. Be good. –Andre Fourie–