Hamburger Start-up Aimotion

builds networked sound and lighting systems that can be controlled via smartphone. The competition is tough.


Hamburg.  Aileen Herpell (30) and Timo Lühmann (32) enjoy listening to music at work. Some deep house in the morning to get going, quiet pop in the afternoon. If you’re looking for a loudspeaker in the Aimotion headquarters, you won’t find it. The sound seems to spread somehow from above in the factory floor, which is hidden in a backyard on Ottensener Borselstraße. Lühmann points to the ceiling, on which a large lamp made of glass and stainless steel hangs. The music comes from there.

The start-up Aimotion has developed a networked lighting and sound system that can be controlled via remote control or smartphone app. The company has sounding luminaires, mirrors and various custom-made products in its range, all of which can be connected to one another via a wireless network. “Just connect the system to the power supply,” says Lühmann. “There is no need for any further wiring.“

LED luminaires with effects

The ceiling luminaire in the office contains a self-developed subwoofer and four tweeters that distribute the sound evenly throughout the room. The system gets its music from streaming services such as Spotify, the iPhone or the home system. “Aimotion makes it possible to enjoy stereo sound in high quality anywhere in the room,” says Lühmann. A wipe over the volume control in the smartphone app and the music penetrates to the last corner of the office. Another wipe and the light from the ceiling light changes from a soft orange to cool blue and then to violet. The LED lamps built into it make these effects possible.

“I developed the first version of our system during my studies,” says engineer Lühmann, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from HAW Hamburg. He is the inventor in the Aimotion team. Even as a teenager, he built his own three-way speakers and repaired the wiring under his father’s model railway. After his studies he had offers from Daimler in Harburg and other large companies. “But I found it more exciting to start my own business with my idea.”

Own financing

Lühmann teamed up with Kiel-born Aileen Herpell, who had studied business administration in Mannheim. Together, they founded Aimotion in 2015 and settled in the Ottensener Fabriketage as subtenants of a leather manufactory. Loudspeakers and LED lamps are supplied by other manufacturers, but the lumianires are assembled in the company’s own factory.

“We financed the development of the company entirely from our own resources,” says Herpell. The founders are not yet in the black – but this is not to be expected for start-ups in this phase either. “In the beginning it is of course difficult to live on your newly founded company alone. However, the development is very positive for us, more and more customers are asking for our products”, says the business economist.

Sound and light system for swimming pool

The founders of Aimotion have sold a good dozen of their systems in the meantime. These included elaborate custom-made products such as a three metre long mirror that plays music when entering the pool, or a complete sound and lighting system for a swimming pool. “So far, we have mainly installed our system in private homes,” says Herpell. “However, it is well suited for doctors’ surgeries, galleries or other companies looking for an elegant solution.

It’s not going to be easy to get your way on the market. Lühmann and Herpell are active in the fast-growing field of intelligent home technology. But international competition, especially for lighting and sound systems, is fierce. The Philips electronics group has been offering an LED lighting system controllable via smartphone for years. The Dutch Hue lamps can be screwed into any existing socket and programmed to change colour depending on the time of day. The market for wireless music systems is largely dominated by market leader Sonos. The Californians offer various loudspeakers that can be networked across several rooms and also process the music directly from streaming services or smartphones.

New product from Apple

The omnipresent online retailer Amazon is also a strong player on the market. Its cylindrical music box Echo can not only play the current hits, it can also switch off the TV with additional devices or set the temperature in the bedroom to 18 degrees. The whole thing works via voice commands, which can also be used to call up the current weather report or suitable train connections. A similarly clever loudspeaker, called Homepod, will be launched by Apple in December.

All these systems are much cheaper than Aimotion’s products. While Philips, Amazon & Co. charge several hundred euros for the music and lighting system depending on the expansion stage, a single ceiling person costs a good 1300 euros for the Hamburgers, a music-making mirror is 2500 euros. “We know that we are in a niche with our handmade products,” says Aileen Herpell. “In contrast to other manufacturers, however, we offer a lighting and sound system from a single source that makes the technology behind it practically invisible. No other company can offer this in this form.

The two founders are already working on expanding their products. “We might even integrate a fragrance module into our mirrors. That would then make even more sense,” says Herpell.

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Text: Bob Geisler Foto: Marcelo Hernandez