Start-up of the Day: Vialytics quickly registers road conditions

How do self-driving cars handle potholes on the road? As just stay driving ahead or spontaneously around them aren’t an option. You have to take the bull by the horns, that’s what the founders of vialytics were thinking. They designed a system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to map out road conditions. This is how the road authorities can deal with the problems as quickly as possible. Danilo Jovicic, who founded the start-up together with Achim Hoth and Patrick Glaser, explains how the system works.

The founders of vialytics GmbH, (from left to right) Achim Hoth, Patrick Glaser, Danilo Jovicic ©vialytics

How did you come up with the idea of setting up vialytics?

We wanted to do business as an independent company and set up our own start-up. We got to know each other through the Activatr and Pioniergeist start-up programs. It was by coincidence that we then got together in a small group. That’s where the idea of doing something with road management took shape. We came up with a lot of wild ideas for a couple of weeks. We also had a lot of contact with municipalities who told us about problems concerning road management. The overarching issue there was autonomous traffic. We thought carefully about what you need to do in order to be able to drive safely autonomously. That invariably comes down to good roads.

What does your product look like?

Municipalities can continuously monitor their streets with our system. This is done with the help of a modified smartphone mounted on the windscreen of a municipal service vehicle. On a sweeper, for instance. These are at any rate always out and about in the city. The smartphone records the road every 4 meters.

This data is subsequently sent to us. It is then analyzed using an algorithm. Any damage to the road is automatically detected this way. The municipalities get the data back again in the form of a dynamic map. As they are better informed about the condition of the roads, they can react more quickly to any damage. This leads to a more sustainable and efficient way of road management. After all, plenty of municipalities don’t address the maintenance of their streets until it is far too late. Which means that the costs are also much higher. Current systems do not offer a proper solution. Those recordings are actually made with too great a time frame between each other. Nor are they carried out systematically.

Was there a problem you had to resolve first?

It was particularly difficult in the beginning to gain the trust of municipalities. This was mainly due to the fact that municipalities rarely cooperate with start-ups here. We set up 5 pilot projects where our system was tested. Thanks to the positive reactions we received, we have now managed to build up a customer base of 50 municipalities throughout Germany. Currently, we are also in contact with cities in other countries who are interested in our product.

What are you especially proud of?

We are especially proud of our first customers who have dispelled any preconceptions that local councils are a bit stuffy. Some of them were so enthusiastic about our solution that they bought the system before it had even been fully developed. Of course, we are also very proud of our team, which has expanded considerably over the last 6 months. Our employees are busy developing the product on a daily basis.

©vialytics

What does the future of vialytics look like?

Our goal is that of internationalization. We want road authorities all over the world to be able to maintain their road networks in an efficient and sustainable manner. Apart from that, we will continue to work on improving things so that we can keep on responding to the requests of our customers.

What tips do you have for other starters?

Do you have a good idea? Jump into the deep end and dare to make your dreams come true. And for those who have already set up a company: at some stage, take each employee along with you to a client. That’s what you’ll learn the most from.

More articles on start-ups can be found here.

 

Start-up of the Day: Spaceflow digitizes a platform for tenants and landlords

Czech start-up Spaceflow is introducing technology to one of the most old-fashioned sectors – that of residential and office property rentals. “Our aim is to help digitize life in buildings for their occupants by providing easy access to all services, shared resources and the communication flow in the surrounding areas,” says Lukas Balik, company co-founder and CEO.  Spaceflow was set up 3 years ago by a former economy student and two experts from the real estate sector. “They knew that change was just around the corner. Together we saw that we could make a difference with a technological platform for tenants,” says Lukas. It seems that they were right. Today the start-up operates in 12 countries, including the US, UK, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. Recently it raised €1.6 million in funding.

What exactly is Spaceflow?

Lukas Balik: We are a property technology company. Spaceflow is an app that connects buildings with their tenants. It enables communication between a tenant and building owners or managers as well as with other tenants. The app can help you to book common spaces such as meeting rooms, parking spots or amenities such as a barbecue, or report maintenance issues to the building managers. It can facilitate connections to services in the area, for example dry cleaning, food delivery. Also, it is a hub for further smart building integrations such as smart access.

Are these things really such a problem for tenants that they need a special app to book a parking space or report a leaking faucet?

Firstly, if you, as a landlord, want to attract and keep tenants, you must react to current trends when tenants increasingly want top-notch services and a range of amenities. As a landlord, you can offer them various services, like fitness, wellness, food delivery and so on. Technology can help you to do that. More importantly, landlords can get new streams of revenue this way. Through the app, property managers can streamline payments for services and keep an eye on margins.

What is about the innovation that makes you different from your competitors?

The app has a number of components and modules. For example, we connect our platform with other smart building solutions. To give an example, we can connect it with digital lockers, a parking system or an access system so you don’t need to use physical cards to open the door. Instead, you do that with your phone. Also, we have an in-house team of community managers. This is crucial, because sometimes landlords don’t have the capabilities or the time to deal with new technologies. So, our community managers can help them to bring the project on board and acquire the right content and services for the users. They also help to evaluate what works well, get the right data from the platform and curate the best possible experiences for the tenants.

What was the best moment in the company’s history?

Recently. That relates to our latest investment round with solid partners who helped us scale our platform for the new markets. Another big thing for us is that we have just launched our first project with Allianz. Who, apart from being a major insurance company, is also one of the biggest real estate owners globally. The company has more than 60 billion assets under management. Our first project for Allianz is in their flagship building The Icon in Vienna.

And what was the most difficult moment?

I think it was when the company just started out, when every mistake that you make can hit you quite hard. When we started the first pilot, we chose an external IT company instead of building our own IT team. Yet an external agency is always a step too far. We had to figure out how to put our own IT team together. If you want to build something for the long term and for a global market, you have to be close to your developers in order to be able to design the best features and the best product.

What are your plans for coming year?

Obviously the most important thing is to have as many happy clients and users across the market as possible. For that, we’re strengthening our business development teams in several locations. Our focus in this round is on penetrating the European market and we also want to have our first large projects in the US. I’d love to see a lot of progress within a year. We might potentially be able find partners in the US in the next investment round.

What do you want to do in 5 years?

Our ultimate goal is that Spaceflow will become the standard for every commercial and residential building.

Are you interested in start-ups? Read all articles from our series here.

Read moreStart-up of the Day: Spaceflow digitizes a platform for tenants and landlords

Start-up of The Day: ReVibe Energy generates power out of thin air

Generation of electricity without coal, wind, hydroelectricity, or nuclear power plants, wind turbines or solar cells, etc? – Without any harmful emissions? The Swedish start-up ReVibe Energy is doing just that. A self-charging battery that can be attached to any vibrating surface generates electricity solely via these vibrations. This battery also stores the energy it generates. Apart from its 100% climate-neutrality, this kind of battery also comes in handy when no other power source is available for charging.

ReVibe co-founder and CEO Viktor Börjesson talked to Innovation Origins about his company.

Two of the founders of ReVibe Energy: Erik Godtman Kling (COO) (left), Viktor Börjesson (CEO) (right) © ReVibe Energy

How did you come up with the idea of founding the start-up?

The technology was originally invented by Per Cederwall while he was working at the Saab Group. As the technology was considered to be outside Saab Groups’ core focus areas, Viktor Börjesson and Erik Godtman Kling were asked to start a company that revolved around the technology.

What makes ReVibe or your product special compared to your competitors and what problems does it solve?

All sensors in industrial IoT systems are in constant need of power and the shortcomings of current power sources (cables and/or batteries) do not guarantee long-lasting energy security. At the same time, there are many environments where vibrations are almost constant, of which rail transport, mining, and construction are the ones we have worked with the most. With our products, we can deliver a long-lasting and sustainable power source for predictive maintenance and condition monitoring systems.

Our products utilize a patented design that ensures a longer lifetime, higher output per volume and a faster ROI compared to our competitors.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

Slow sales cycles! We work with large corporations who are fairly slow in their way of operating which means that the process of signing new customers takes quite a long time.

And vice versa: What were you particularly proud of?

Our team! It’s our team that makes all of our accomplishments possible, so they are the ones who deserve all the credit!

Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?

When you start a company you will always experience setbacks and periods where you feel that there’s no use in continuing but we’ve never been that close to actually shutting down the company. So no, not really 🙂

What can we expect from ReVibe over the coming years?

We’re currently scaling up our manufacturing capabilities to be able to meet the demand from the marketplace, so I’d say that you can expect a ReVibe Energy that will grow as a company and increase its reach across the globe.

What is your vision for ReVibe?

To be the obvious choice when it comes to powering Industrial IoT systems in all environments where vibrations exist.

Featured Image: The standard product, the modelD evaluation kit © ReVibe Energy

You are interested in start-ups? Here you find all our articles on start-ups.

Start-up of the day: Energy Floors is making smart parking spaces in Rotterdam

Over the coming year, Rotterdam’s Energy Floors wants to sell smart surfaces for public outdoor spaces that generate data, measuring how many cars, pedestrians and cyclists are passing by. These can be used to regulate traffic flows and lighting, for instance. These Smart Energy Floors also generate energy via the solar cells that are integrated in them. At the moment, the Rotterdam municipality is on the lookout for a suitable location for the application of this kind of energy surface in a city parking lot, says Michel Smit, CEO of Energy Floors. A trial of this is planned for 2020 in cooperation with the Engie energy company.

What motivated you to set up Energy Floors and what problem has this resolved?

“Our first idea was to create a Sustainable Dance Floor on which people can dance to generate energy, something that you can actually see because the tiles light up. (By converting the vertical movement of the dancer on the floor into rotational movement through a mechanism underneath the flexible floor tiles so as to generate energy, ed.) That idea originally came from two companies: Enviu and Döll. In 2017, they brought me in as a hands-on expert from the club scene. I had been running a large nightclub in Rotterdam for four years, called Off-Corso. They wanted to bring sustainability to the attention of young people and thought that the Sustainable Dance Floor could help with that.

Unlike today, it was difficult to get young people interested in sustainable energy at that time. It had a bit of a stuffy image. We initially tried out that first version of that dance floor at the Rotterdam pop stage Watt (which went bankrupt in 2010, ed.) – that made it the first sustainable club in the world. We started building our business around that first Sustainable Dance Floor.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“That we had customers for the Sustainable Dance Floor before we had the actual product. At first, we only had a drawing of the floor, an artist’s impression. We worked out the concept and technology with TU Delft and TU/e in Eindhoven. And together with Daan Roosegaarde, we were able to further develop the interaction between the public and the technology. This is where our Sustainable Dance Floor is unique: the interaction between people and sustainably-generated energy. When they dance harder, they generate more energy.

This is what we want to offer people when it comes to our business proposition. That they themselves have an influence on improving the sustainability of energy. We want commitment. This is what we are specifically focusing on. The second obstacle was how we could go about expanding the scale for things that this product can be used for. So that it has a real impact. That’s why we wanted a surface that was suitable for large permanent fixtures in outdoor areas. We had to drop our initial unique selling point – as in ‘human energy’ – for this type of surface. Instead, we came up with our Smart Energy Floor. We use solar energy rather than kinetic energy. Otherwise, the project would be impossible to complete. The system has to be cost-effective, robust and resistant to wear and tear.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That we sold 25 of those Smart Energy Floors to schools last year. Three of them in Germany and the rest in The Netherlands. As a company, we have three business propositions: the Dancer for clubs and discotheques, for example, the Gamer for schoolyards and the Walker for large outdoor facilities. The first Walker in the Netherlands is located near Croeselaan in Utrecht on a crossing opposite Rabobank’s head office. Rabo has partly financed this floor. There is also one in the palace garden of the President of Malta. He found us via Google. It is a public garden with a Gamer and a Walker. A Gamer costs 13,000 euros including the installation. While a Walker is available from 25,000 euros.

The fact that we appeal to people all over the world doesn’t surprise us at all. Our first signed contract was with the producer of Absolute Vodka. He wanted to make a road show around New York with our dance floor in 2009. So, that’s what we did. We get two to three requests a day. Our challenge is to be able to deal with these properly. Because we want to keep on innovating too. As an example, you could also use the Smart Energy Floor on motorways if you developed the software for that.”

 What can we expect from Energy Floors over the coming year?

“We want to start selling more Walkers. This is a new market for us that has a lot of potential. Smart city projects that you can use it in are much larger projects than what we have done so far. You could equip bike paths with our technology so that you can turn them into walkways. We are going to do a smart parking trial next year together with Engie and the municipality of Rotterdam. We will be installing  a Walker for that reason. The energy generated by the solar cells in the surface goes to the electricity grid and can subsequently be used to charge cars. Currently, we’re looking around for a suitable location.

We are also planning to enter the German market. This fits in well with our product and company. There is plenty of capital there and focus on sustainability. And the German way of doing business isn’t that different from the Dutch way of doing business.”

What is your ultimate goal?

“Ultimately, we want our Smart Energy Floors to be used in all the world’ s major cities and have their data connected to each other. You can learn a lot from each other’s experiences. You could monitor and influence the behaviour of the users of our surfaces on city roads. For example, in order to regulate busy situations at certain locations. You can apply the technology in a smart way. If there are very few people driving or walking on the road, you could turn the lights off in the evening.”

Start-up of the Day: Vienna Textile Lab dyes fabrics with bacteria

Bakterien, Textilfarben, Vienna Textile Lab

“Bacteria are the most intelligent, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient way to produce textile dyes,” says Karin Fleck, founder of Vienna Textile Lab. “Bacteria occur in nature, can be stored as a strain in laboratories and propagated at any time. They synthesize colors in a natural way”.

Karin studied technical chemistry at TU Wien in Austria. For many years she had various managerial positions at several energy companies such as Vattenfall Energy Trading in The Netherlands and in Germany. When she met Cecilia Raspanti (who had founded the company Textile Lab Amsterdam), she became inspired to use bacteria to make textile dyes. Cecilia had already tried this herself, but without much success. “It is not so much about the challenge of using bacteria as a raw material. More than anything, you actually need a lot of know-how and understanding of scientific methods. You then also have to go about it very carefully. There could potentially be germs among them,” Karin explains.

She had already been working with dyes when she was graduating. But the whole sector was new to her in principle. That’s why she sought support via:

  • Fritsch, a textile dye company in Vienna, which specializes in environmentally friendly dyes;
  • Erich Schopf, a bacteriographer from Vienna, who makes paintings using bacteria;
  • the Institute of Applied Synthesis Chemistry at TU Wien.

Microorganisms tend to produce microbial dyes in response to altered growth conditions. They protect cells from external influences such as salt or temperature stress, light or intense competition. These substances often also have an anti-bacterial effect. Bacteria-based textile dyes have the same properties as conventional synthetic dyes when used on a daily basis.

Karin Fleck elaborates further:

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

What solution does this bacterial-based textile dye offer and why is that important?

It is an alternative to synthetic dyes, which to a large degree have a detrimental effect on health and the environment. But also particularly for people in the textile industry who are constantly in contact with these dyes. Furthermore, everyone wears clothes and is therefore exposed to the chemicals that they contain. These dyes are currently under critical examination throughout the world. The EU has guidelines on synthetic dyes too. Dyes are banned on a regular basis or their use is restricted. This creates more room for new, innovative dyes. But especially for new production systems which do not rely on crude oil.

What has been the biggest obstacle that had to be overcome?

Our limited ability to hire people. The Austrian labor market is geared towards permanent jobs and employee security. Yet the world of start-ups is unpredictable. Above all, people are needed on a project basis in order to be able to cope with any peaks. You need to be able to react flexibly to the circumstances when you’re a young company who has growth spurts.

What has been a high point so far? What are you particularly proud of?

There have been many wonderful moments. Such as winning prizes. When we first started out, we already won 3rd place at the Climate Launchpad. This year we won the BOKU Start-up Prize from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. All the invitations we’ve received have also been very encouraging. For example, for the TEDxCanggu in Bali or for a pitch at CLIX , part of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

It’s also great to see how people, customers and organizations from all over the world know how to find us. We talk to people from the US, Indonesia, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany and so on. For instance, I came in contact with Material Connexion in New York. This is a collection of some of the most diverse, innovative materials for industry, local tradespeople, artists and designers. Samples from Vienna Textile Lab have now also been included in their collection.

We derive the most pleasure from everyone who supports us. People who let us know that they appreciate how good our bacteria-based textile dyes are. The experts who really help us out when we can’t figure something out right at that moment. But also local organizations that believe in our success. These include the Vienna Impact Hub or the TCBL, Textile clothing and business labs.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab,
Bacteria are applied directly onto the fabric, where they multiply and develop a pattern. Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

How is everything going at the Vienna branch?

Fine. We can have confidence in the structures and systems. We have had many rewarding and supportive experiences involving funding agencies and universities. There are people here who are promoting us, even when they don’t know us personally. I can’t judge whether things are any better anywhere else. But I know that there is more money available for the biotech sector in Germany and the US.

Where will the start-up be in five years’ time?

By then we will have elevated our manufacturing method to an industrial level. We will have a customer base that will facilitate further growth, and perhaps we’ll be expanding on a global scale.

What distinguishes Vienna Textile Lab from similar companies?

We have opted for solid partners. This in turn makes us stronger and more competent. Aside from that, we want to remain transparent and have discussions with all potential customers or partners. Not only with large corporations, but also with niche companies, artists and designers. That may well make it more complicated, but that makes it all the better as well. We learn a lot through this kind of interaction and are therefore able to position and develop our products much more effectively. Last but not least, we have an extremely wide variety of our most important employees: bacteria.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Bacteria are capable of producing a large proportion of the colors in the color palette. Nevertheless, some colors are problematic and need to be mixed. Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

Read more articles about start-ups here.

 

 

Start-up of the Day: only f**king perfect vegetables are good enough for the best restaurants

Ard van de Kreeke (52) from Middelburg became an organic farmer ten years ago. Prior to that, he had owned all kinds of companies in the sustainable quarter. But since he had bought a farm as a house with plenty of land and was kind of done with traveling all over the world, he thought: “I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to be a farmer.” As of this year, he owns GrowX vertical farming, a company that grows micro vegetables and supplies top restaurants in Amsterdam. He told Innovation Origins about what drives him.

What motivated you to set up GrowX?

I didn’t set it up, that happened back in 2016 thanks to John Apesos, a Dutch American from Amsterdam. However, the company turned out not to be viable, due to the high cost price of the products and the poor market. Apesos had hoped to produce for the general public, but the product is not yet suitable for that.

What is your product?

We grow mini vegetables in racks, using LED light and in cellulose instead of soil. Without any pesticides – just light, seed and water. For example, we grow wasabi mustard leaves, three different colored radishes and five types of basil. Our range now includes 50 varieties for the hospitality industry, chiefly the higher-end restaurants. I already had leading chef Sergio Herman as a customer at my organic farm and that’ s a great way in for other top restaurants. I deliver to Le Ciel Blue in the Okura hotel and La Rive restaurant in the Amstel Hotel. They use our mini vegetables to enrich their dishes.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

I had to shift the company’s culture from high-tech to regular farming. Technology is the means and not the end.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

The biggest breakthrough was when the best restaurants started appreciating our produce. When it comes to vegetables grown in greenhouses, it’s a bit like: how can that taste so good? The opposite is true. You get a more concentrated taste. You can even influence taste by changing the color of the light. My customers – and they are really super-critical – absolutely love it. We didn’t do any marketing; word of mouth did the job. A number of chefs, like the Zeeland folk in Amsterdam, told their colleagues: you have to taste this, I have something pretty special. This year’s produce is already sold out.

What can we expect from GrowX over the coming year?

We have demonstrated that the product actually works. The only thing is that the production unit isn’t working as we would like it to be. This is due to personnel and energy costs and investment in technology. I want to robotize a large part of the production, so that a robot can water and weigh the plants from now on. That saves 25 % in costs.”

Where do you want to be with GrowX within five years from now?

In principle, I would like to have 25 of these units in place all over the world. In cities, close to the end user. You chop the vegetables and they reach the customer a few minutes later. I hope that by then we will not only have a product for the high-end user, but also for the mainstream consumer.

What does GrowX’s innovation improve upon compared to other products in your segment of the market?

There is already something like this, but it is so expensive, I’m already now more than 50 % cheaper than that. I can handle that side of things much better, thanks to robots and AI in the main. I’ m never satisfied, but it’s still not quite where I want it to be yet. I currently have 5 switches that I can turn, that should be 20. The major advantage is that I understand how a great chef thinks. Sergio Herman once said to me: everything has to be fucking perfect. We won’t do it for any less than that.

 

Start-up of the week: a Dutch solution for a Dutch problem

”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.

EP Tender: a powerbank on wheels

It’s a strange sight, but the battery trailer from the French start-up EP Tender is definitely a very serious plan. You can regard the vehicle as a kind of extra battery for electric cars. This increases the range of the electric car by a maximum of 150 kilometers. Useful for holidays abroad where there are less charging stations than in The Netherlands. For the start-up it is to be hoped that battery nanotechnology is not set to overtake this wee trailer in the next decade.

Credimi – Fast financing for start-ups

Often an ambitious innovative business model needs money. Money that those involved don’t always have in their own pockets. Of course, you could go to a bank to finance your project, yet that frequently takes up an incredible amount of time. What makes Italian Credimi different from other lenders is that they are very fast. An applicant knows within 48 hours whether or not they will receive the loan. And this can be very welcome if you need to act quickly in a volatile market.

Skinive – Pocket-sized dermatologist

Almost everyone has discovered something on their skin that they were a little concerned about. A birthmark you didn’t know existed. Or a type of rash, an innocent spot. Or perhaps it would be a good idea to see your family doctor after all? By using the app from the Belarus start-up Skinive, you can find out directly by pointing your phone’s camera at your skin and taking a few pictures. The app then matches the images with data from a database that contains a multitude of nightmares for hypochondriacs.

The project initially began with the aim of discovering the first stages of skin cancer.However, the founders soon figured out that their smart app also worked for many other conditions. And because the app works on any smartphone, skin research is more accessible than ever. Skinive just offers advice on dermatological conditions, but unfortunately it doesn’t help against hypochondria.

Hydrogenious – All hail hydrogen

That hydrogen has the potential to be used as a fuel has been known for some time now. And how nice it would be if this would also be possible to roll it out en masse. Hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas. It produces about three times more energy than the same amount of petrol and there is more than enough of it on earth. So much for the advantages. Hydrogen is quite flammable at room temperature. Something that is obviously not very practical when you want to travel by car. In addition, the gas has the lowest density of the entire periodic table of elements, which makes it extremely difficult to work with. The gas evaporates just like that.

The German team behind Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies wants to address and overcome these two disadvantages with an innovative bit of chemistry. The ambitious start-up devised a process whereby hydrogen can be stored without any risk of explosion. And that’s not all. They have also discovered a way in which the gas can be transported to the end user with a tanker or a pipeline. How great would it be if we no longer needed to reduce the use of environmentally hazardous fuels, but simply had a clean alternative that we could burn which never runs out?

Fieldfactors – Avoid wet feet with green fields

Climate change is likely to have serious consequences for the Netherlands. Due to the fact that half of the country is actually below sea level, the risk of flooding is constantly looming over our tiny hinterland. And this is not the sole threat. Heavy rainfall will be more frequent as a result of a warmer kind of climate. Excess rainwater has to go somewhere if you don’t want the streets to be flooded. This is especially a problem in built-up areas. It can be very difficult to get rid of water when everything is packed in tight. However, the Dutch wouldn’t be Dutch if they didn’t have an innovative solution for this. One of these is Bluebloqs, a system from the start-up Fieldfactors, whereby 95% of rainwater can be stored underground in a basin.

This storage technology not only keeps our feet dry, it also looks pretty green. The system is visible at street level in the form of a plant bed. This naturally enhances the appeal of the street scenes. A win-win situation. An underground system is currently being installed in Rotterdam and is also dealing with a third sore point. Climate change does not limit itself to heavier rainfall, but also to longer periods of drought. Thanks to the compact storage basin, rainwater can be stored for months and reused at any time.

The biggest job these ex-students from Delft University have done so far was to install a storm water drain near the Kasteel football stadium, the home of Sparta. The football field is being watered in a sustainable manner through this basin. The square in front of the station has become a lot greener. And the local residents are no longer inconvenienced by flooding.

That the Dutch are internationally known as experts in the field of water management has once again been by Fieldfactors. The initiators show that innovation does not necessarily have to involve high-tech gadgets. One can also look towards nature too. In fact, everyone benefits from this system at a time when a well thought-out irrigation policy is more important than ever. This is enough reason for us to reward Fieldfactors this week with the title of Start-up of the Week!

Start-up of the Day: Skinive develops AI-powered app for skin self-examination

Skinive is an AI-technology for Skin Health Self-Examination. Users upload photos of skin areas with suspicious spots, moles or rash into the app, Skinive algorithms examine the image and make an instant diagnosis. Skinive can detect signs of numerous skin diseases such as pre-cancerous moles and skin cancer, papillomavirus, rosacea and others.

Start-up Skinive began life as AI Skin Health Self-Examination service in 2018 in Belarus. Since then Skinive AI has been continuously learning from medical doctors’ input and countless images and descriptions of skin diseases. Recently the company from Belarus has become a finalist of Rockstart AI Accelerator program in the Netherlands.

Innovation Origins has spoken with Kirill Atstarov, the founder of Skinive, about highlights and challenges that the start-up has experienced and about its business journey from Belarus to the international market.

What motivated you to start Skinive? How did it happen?

Our motivation was to create our own health self-examination product. At first, we wanted to create AI technology for diagnostics of some common diseases and prediction modelling. However, this would involve the use of X-rays or ultrasound images. For that reason, the applications of our technology required pilot projects with medical institutions, which was difficult to arrange in Belarus. That is why we restricted our scope to a skin health examination. In this way, we could bring our technology directly to the end-user – thanks to the fact that nowadays almost everyone has a smartphone. We started with the diagnostics of skin cancer. But soon we realized that the market already had enough of AI skin examination apps serving the same purpose, so we broadened the range of skin diseases that could be detected by our algorithms.

What kind of problems do you solve?

Our main motivation is to create a product that would allow many people to be healthy. Now people can have a quick skin examination with our app, get a result and if a (potentially) dangerous skin condition is found, users need to visit a doctor. However, we plan that in the future it would be possible to confirm the diagnosis with a doctor in the app – in the form of a telemedicine service. Two opinions – from the AI and a dermatologist – are especially useful to have if people are dealing with skin allergy.

What is the biggest obstacle that you needed/will need to overcome?

Our main problem was that medical doctors in Belarus were initially sceptical about our technology. In the beginning, we faced a lot of criticism. Some medical specialists did not understand how AI-based diagnostics worked, some people even called our technology health fraud.

When I came to the Netherlands for the Rockstart program, I visited Nijmegen and met medical doctors who are specialized in diagnostics with the usage of neural networks and AI. That was a pleasant surprise!

What is the difference between Skinive and other skin self-examination apps? 

Most of the existing skin examination apps focus on diagnostics of skin cancer. With our AI algorithms and we can detect and identify not only skin cancer but about thirty other skin conditions. Skin cancer is undoubtedly a dangerous disease, but it is not the most common skin problem. Most frequently people suffer from acne or viral infections, and we want to help those people.

Skinive at work © Skinive

Do you receive support from the government of Belarus?

The activity of Skinive and similar start-ups has attracted the attention of the Belarusian government. So, at the beginning of October there was a round table in Minks with the Minister of Health and the administration of Belarussian main technology hub – Hi-tech Park. They were discussing the new ways of cooperation between medical specialists and software companies like Skinive. As a result, they came up with a program that makes IT and healthcare cooperation more convenient both sides. It is an important step for the industry. Previously medical doctors could only work with IT-companies as private individuals in their free time – not as employees of a hospital.

Are there accomplishments that made you proud of your work?

The accomplishment we are most proud of is the first life that we have saved with our app! That happened during an international IT-conference EMERGE in Minsk. We were demonstrating what we do as a start-up to the visitors. We were letting them try out our application and examine moles, spots and rash they were concerned about. One of the visitors took the test and received a “potential threat” result for a mole on his face. We helped this person to arrange a visit to a dermatologist and oncologist in Minsk. They confirmed the diagnosis – the early stage of skin cancer – and directed him to the surgical removal of this life-threatening mole. After that case we received lots of attention in media, many people started using our service and the Belarusian Ministry of health offered us support. So that was a breakthrough for Skinive.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

We are going to become residents of the High-Tech Park in Minsk – the “Silicon Valley” of Belarus. Skinive has finished the Rockstart AI-track and with their help, we are setting up Skinive in the Netherlands. The company is going to start working in the European market. However, we are planning to leave RnD centre in Belarus.

s long as the software development concerned, we are planning to create an educational smartphone app for medical doctors and all the people who want to learn more about their skin.

What is the ultimate goal of Skinive?

We want to create a technology that enables people to diagnose different skin conditions in their early stages – a personal tool for skin health monitoring.

Start-up of the day: fintech lends a hand to Italian businesses

The Italian start-up Credimi offers the largest digital platform for invoice financing and digital loans in continental Europe.

Credimi provides loan to companies using an almost completely automated risk assessment algorithm, helping companies simplified access to credit. The start-up has supplied a total of over 600 million euros to over 3500 Italian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Furthermore, Credimi is authorized and supervised by the Bank of Italy, meaning that it is subject to all capital, compliance and anti-money laundering and risk control requirements which apply to Financial Intermediaries. This ensures that the start-up is an even more reliable partner.

Innovation Origins talked with Ignazio Rocco, CEO and founder of Credimi, this is what he had to say:

How did you come up with an idea like this one for a start-up?

Before founding Credimi, I was a banking professional and a consultant. I had a real fascination with financial technology. So, in 2015, I wanted to invest in the fintech industry. Even though at first, I did not have the launch a start-up in mind. However, when I noticed there was a demand for fintech services in Italy, I decided to start a fintech company which focused on loans to SMEs. Plus, there were no other loan companies specifically for fintech in Italy. No one else was trying to serve the enormous Italian SME market either. Italian SMEs needed new services, faster and more flexible ones than those offered by the banks.

Ignazio Rocco, Founder & CEO. ®Credimi

Do you only operate in Italy? 

Yes, at the moment we are operating solely in Italy, but we are planning to expand to other European markets.

Did you create the technology that is used in your start-up?

Yes, we did. Our proprietary risk evaluation technology is almost completely automated and allows us to process and analyze thousands of data information in just a few hours. Our team evaluates the information collected this way and decides if a company’s request is able to be validated.

What makes Credimi different from other similar fintech start-ups?

Well our business model is different from most competitors, due to our proprietary risk evaluation technology (which is almost fully-automated) on the one hand. And on the other, the fact that Credimi has been authorized to lend from its own balance sheet. Which means it can approve loans to companies in real time.

Also, Credimi is fast, it takes an SME just 48 hours to know whether they are eligible for an advance. Then a few more hours to actually get the money. It’s simple, it only takes 10 minutes to apply for a loan. Most importantly, it is transparent. We have no hidden costs. In addition, we have special services for very small and micro businesses, which usually find it difficult to get financed by banks.

Who is the Credimi customer?

Credimi’s customers are all medium, small and micro businesses which very often need and ask for alternative credit and invoice financing solutions. As in faster, simpler, more accessible solutions than banks or other traditional avenues have on offer.

Did you have a role model when setting up the start-up?

I very much admire Xero, the online accounting software for small businesses, which offers a wide range of services. This is what we aim to do too: offer as many services as possible.

®Credimi

What has been the biggest challenge while building your start-up?

So, the biggest challenge was to build up the right team. I had no tech experience, so I needed to find other co-founders that would complement the team. That’s how Jacopo Anselmi, a 27-year-old anti-abuse strategist at Google, and Sabino Costanza, a talented project manager at BCG, came on board. Then I looked for other professionals in San Francisco and other Italian talents who would want to join the project.

What can we expect in the future from Credimi?

Credimi is currently focused on further expanding its client base, product range and talent pool. All that while still carrying on with its mission to help companies improve management of their working capital and their supply chain efficiency. In the future we will also be operating in other European markets.

How has been the response been to Credimi? 

We are receiving very positive feedback. The companies that use our services now number more than 3500 and they are satisfied by the speed and ease of our services. Also, the Italian innovation landscape believes in our project. Several of the most successful Italian entrepreneurs have privately invested €8.5 million in Credimi. Four principal investment funds have signed agreements to underwrite €300 million in loans originating from the platform, and contractual agreements have been recently upgraded to match our steady growth.

What is your ultimate goal?

Our mission and ultimate goal is to help SMEs grow and focus on their business and take care of all the needs of entrepreneurs: starting out from credit and small tech businesses.

Start-up of the Day: Hydrogen as the ‘crude oil’ of the future

Wasserstoff, Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies

Hydrogenious is the product of a university research team that already had faith in hydrogen when it still wasn’t really relevant in Germany. They have managed to find a way to store and transport the hard-to-handle hydrogen in a practical way. After a successful financing round, they now want to establish their LOHC technology worldwide and “make hydrogen the ‘crude oil’ of the regenerative era”, says co-founder Daniel Teichmann.

In terms of mass, hydrogen has three times the energy content of gasoline. This is an impressive feature for an energy source. However, hydrogen also has the lowest density of all gases and is therefore difficult to handle. It evaporates easily, is flammable and must be stored under high pressure or at low temperatures.

Evaporation and flammability

Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies took up the challenge and solved both evaporation and flammability issues. The start-up company developed a process whereby hydrogen can be stored and transported together with oil (dibenzyltoluene) without risk. The result? The existing infrastructure can be used. Not only the fuel tanks at service stations, but also the pipelines for transportation. This could pave the way for emission-free mobility and industry.

Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies is a spin-off from the Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Managing director and co-founder Daniel Teichmann has been working in the field of LOHC (liquid organic hydrogen carriers) since the start of his PhD in 2009. The company was founded in 2013 as a result of a critical technological breakthrough, which was also co-developed by professors Peter Wasserscheid, Wolfgang Arlt and Eberhard Schlücker.

Dewatering system

What was already working under laboratory conditions could be implemented on a technical scale for the first time in 2016. The first LOHC dewatering system was commissioned at the Fraunhofer ILO in Stuttgart. Electrolysis and hydrogenation take place at the main site in Erlagen. The process works as follows:

  • The hydrogen is produced with the aid of solar energy using PEM electrolysis,
  • Hydrogen is hydrogenated through the chemical bonding of hydrogen molecules to the liquid carrier via catalytic reactions,
  • During the dehydrogenation process, catalytic reactions are again used to release the hydrogen molecules from the liquid carrier medium,
  • The carrier material is not wasted and can be reused again and again.

Target groups are the chemical industry as well as service stations and the chemical industry. Hydrogenious sells two types of equipment. These are storage facilities for use in hydrogen-producing wind farms for hydrogenation, and the so-called Release Box at service stations and industrial installations for dehydrogenation.

 

Wasserstoff, Hydrogenious
LOHC recycling system with storage installation and a Release Box (c) Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies

Innovation Origins spoke with Daniel Teichmann:

What is your motivation and what problem does the company resolve?

We believe in hydrogen as a renewable energy source. This motivated us to start the company in 2013. At that time, we could have developed the technology together with industrial partners, but we wanted to be in business.

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome? Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?

Giving up never occurred to us and fortunately there was never a reason to give up. However, setting up and developing a business is a huge challenge. At the start, it’s usually a matter of finding funding. In Germany, there is not really an explicit culture when it comes to venture capital. Things are different in the Anglo-Saxon world and in China. Six years ago, hydrogen was not yet playing an important role in Europe. This has changed over the past year. As a university spin-off, we started out with a technology that works at the laboratory level. We first had to bring it up to an industrial level and make it commercially relevant.

Wasserstoff, Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies
Construction of the LOHC hydrogen infrastructure in the USA (c) Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies

What have been the highlights so far?

The successful funding round in July 2019, where we found four partners who not only act as capital providers, but also make a strategic contribution. This was an important milestone in the history of hydrogen-based LOHC technologies.

What are the advantages of your location?

Erlangen is an ideal location for us because of its proximity to the university, whom we also work closely with. In addition, the availability of specialists here is very good. We are also very lucky with our landlords, they’ve provided us with an excellent office and workshop space.

Where will your company be in five years’ time?

We want to progress from our current demonstration level to the realization of large industrial projects. We want to establish a successful global positioning of the LOHC technology. With our technology, hydrogen can then be easily and efficiently transported over long distances. For example, from Africa to Europe. That is how we can make an emission-free industry happen.

What distinguishes your innovation from similar products in the hydrogen energy sector?

Hydrogen has been produced and stored as an industrial gas for one hundred years. Our technology means that using hydrogen in a liquid form is feasible which thereby means it can make use of the existing infrastructure. In this way, we are turning hydrogen into the emission-free fuel of the future. Similar technologies exist in Japan, although they are not exactly the same. We are the technological leaders with our LOHC. As such, we hope to make an important contribution towards combating climate change.

Are you interested in start-ups? Read all articles from our series here.

Also interesting:

TU Eindhoven is bringing hydrogen as a source of energy for households one step closer.

Mobility of the future – battery or hydrogen?

Start-up of the day: Field Factors recycles rainwater in a compact modular system

De waterzuivering bij Sparta in Rotterdam

Field Factors enables purification and storage of rainwater with the use of their Bluebloqs circular system. It can be applied in an urban environment like that of the Sparta football club in Rotterdam. The system offers the advantage that it takes up very little space. The water can be recycled during dry periods several months later.

Commercial director Wilrik Kok (36) talks about the innovative character of Field Factors.

How did the idea for Field Factors come about?

We all have a background in spatial planning, including at TU Delft, e.g. landscape design, architecture and industrial design. We saw that rainwater was often just being drained off while there was a demand for water for irrigation and cooling later on. This awareness existed even before the very dry periods of recent summers. As an example, that you could take advantage of this opportunity when a sewage system gets replaced. Field Factors wants to manage water differently and in a natural way.

What kind of things does it do?

The application of Bluebloqs is key. It is a compact, green system that collects and purifies 95% of the rainwater through biofiltration in conjunction with underground storage technology. This allows parks to remain green and sports fields can be kept in optimal condition every season. The water is good enough for industrial use too.

For example, at the Sparta stadium in Rotterdam the rainwater drainage system has been disconnected and is being prepared for recycling which happens in four steps. Rainwater will be collected in the stadium and at the nearby square. Together these cover an area of six football pitches in total. This water will be collected in a reservoir underneath one of the Cruyff Courts (mini football fields made of artificial grass in public spaces, ed.) This polluted water is then decontaminated using plants and sand. The purified water is stored in an underground water reservoir. W hen it’s hot This water can be used by children who are playing to cool them down. As well as for watering the Sparta sports field. Flooding is prevented during heavy showers. The square is greener and the football club has a sustainable water supply.

Location, location, location

It is a comprehensive approach, from the beginning to the end and where maintenance is concerned. We base our work on the location and use it to make a quick scan. What is the ground underneath like, and is decoupling possible? We then make a draft sketch to offer an idea of what is feasible and what it will cost. If the interested party agrees, we work on it up until the specifications phase when a contractor can take over and get to work. After it is completed, we remain involved in monitoring and maintaining it.

Het team van Field Factors, plus een onderzoeker en twee afstudeerders
The Field Factors team, including a researcher and two graduates. With founders Wilrik Kok (left) and Karina Peña (right).

What makes your company stand out?

What’s special is that Field Factors is busy with the design of the water system at a very early stage, but also remains involved afterwards. That usually doesn’t happen. Construction of water drainage systems and their management are usually carried out separately from each other. Aside from that, the actual physical integration is unique to Bluebloqs.

How have the reactions been so far?

When we first started out, the problems surrounding dry weather were not yet apparent and it was really a matter of first seeing, then believing. In retrospect we did choose the right momentum as it is very topical nowadays. Up until now, we had primarily been working on unique locations and pilot projects which can also serve as an example for regular application of our system in the vicinity.

What has been the biggest obstacle?

Initially the local community – even people out and about on the streets -was reluctant and they found it difficult to accept the way it works and is built. Or even that a water purification system can actually be used in a public space. Usually these are hidden underground, but we have deliberately opted for visibility. And by that I specifically mean the location. That in the first instance, you pick a particular place where many people flock to, and use that for the Bluebloqs Biofilter.

What have been the highlights?

That was last year at Sparta in Rotterdam. Then you’ve built something and it’s exciting to see if it works properly. A lot of water is being processed at that location. So, if things go wrong you’re bound to get a lot of unwelcome attention. And in October we won €100,000 as finalists of the Green Challenge. This is an annual, international sustainability competition held by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

What can be expected in the coming year?

We are racing to build five systems. One of these is definitely going to succeed, but all lights are green for the other four projects as well. Besides that, we are expecting an answer from our patent application. And we are launching a new product, an extension of the Bluebloqs product line. A rain garden, so to speak.

Where will Field Factors be in five years’ time?

We will have grown and have a team of fifteen people. By that time we will have fifty systems operational in The Netherlands. We will also have shifted our operations to Spain. Our director Karina Peña is in fact a Spanish speaker. Spain is likely to suffer more and more from increasing drought as time goes by.

Read moreStart-up of the day: Field Factors recycles rainwater in a compact modular system

Start-up of the day: Carefree electric travel with EP Tender battery trailer

The EP Tender looks like a camper’s tiny pod caravan that’s towed behind an ordinary car – but it isn’t! It is actually a mobile battery that will someday make it possible to travel hundreds of kilometers with an electric car. At present, most EVs usually don’t go further than 150 kilometers, so says the founder of EP Tender, Jean-Baptiste Segard. The battery is then empty and needs to be recharged. Segard hopes that the masses will switch to buying an electric car as soon as EP Tender’s battery trailer comes onto the market.

What motivated you to set up EP Tender and what problem did it resolve?

“I first came up with the idea of a trailer with extra capacity for the electric car like our current EP Tender when I wanted to buy an electric car myself. That was back in 2012. I couldn’t find a suitable electric car at that time. The range was not great enough for the few times a year when I wanted to travel much further. I thought it was a pity that there wasn’t a modular system around that would supplement the electric car’s battery so that I could occasionally travel longer distances with it.

At first I thought of a trailer with an internal combustion engine which might run on petrol. But in 2018, we switched to a trailer with an auxiliary battery, because then we would be better able to meet the needs of the electric car manufacturers. We will have to halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. And that is something that car manufacturers must also work towards.

150 kms of extra range

The rationale behind the battery is that you only hire it when you need extra range. Generally speaking, I think this would only be about six times a year for me. You can lengthen the range of your electric car from about 150 kilometers to 250 to 300 kilometers. You could also place a larger battery permanently in your car so that you can keep on driving. But that is far too expensive for most people. This remains an obstacle for them as far as switching to electric-powered transport is concerned.

Installing a larger battery is generally not an efficient solution for increasing the car’s range either, as most people drive just a few times a year further than an average car battery can handle. Otherwise you would be driving around with that heavy battery for no reason. You can compare the weight with that of a cow or a donkey. You’ll have these on your back seat during every short trip. Why would you want to do that if you don’t need to?”

The EP Tender team: Frederic Joint, Jean-Baptiste Segard (second from left), Hugo Basset, Fabrice Viot, Dingjie Ma, Hancheng Yang

What is the main obstacle you will need to overcome?

“It is very difficult to be taken on board in the development plans of car manufacturers. The automotive industry has been around for 120 years. And the planning cycle is lengthy when it comes to developing a new car. That said, we are in talks with a number of car manufacturers. However, a contract with any of them is yet to materialize. It is important that this happens. After all, the car manufacturers must apply for approval from the statutory regulators for use of the EP Tender system with their electric cars. They will only do that once they have our technology fitted to their cars. We cannot do that for them. As long as they haven’t got that done, there won’t be a market for us.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“In 2018, when we switched to a battery in the EP Tender instead of a combustion engine. That way you can rely even more on sustainable energy.”

The EP Tender mobile battery Photo: EP Tender

What can we expect from EP Tender in the coming year?

“Our business model must be in place by then. We are now completing a survey using data from 350,000 consumers which should show what most people would be willing to pay when hiring the EP Tender. As well as how often, where and when they could use the EP Tender. We are now putting the finishing touches to the robotics of the trailer so that it can connect itself to the car. The idea is that every 50 kilometers along the road there will be a service station where there will always be twenty EP Tenders ready to be connected. We are currently discussing the location of these service stations with energy companies. But also with private motorway operators in various European countries who have a state concession for these. They have an interest in electric cars being able to add energy in time so that they don’t end up stuck on the roadside.”

Where would you like to be with EP Tender in five years’ time?

“Then we would like to be profitable. Or at least break even. The outlook is that 40% of cars will be electric by 2030. So the demand for the EP Tender should have increased by then. By 2025, we want our trailer to be available for hire in the major European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. But also in Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. And we want to have a foothold in the US, China and India.”

What does EP Tender’s innovation improve upon compared to products in your segment of the market?

“That drivers of electric cars can drive a long distance without having to constantly worry about their battery’s energy reserves.”

Start-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

During his mechanical engineering studies at the TU in Eindhoven, Henk Ouwerkerk came up with a system that allows combined gas and steam turbines to generate supplemental electricity ‘on demand’. And now, fifteen years later, his idea has evolved into a product that he plans to sell through his company Heat Power. It will be on the market for the first time next year.

What motivated you to set up Heat Power and what problem does it resolve?

“I always wanted to become an entrepreneur and I always have all sorts of ideas too. I had written down a few of them and I thought they could turn out to be something. I have been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to design a prototype at the TU/e during my Masters and subsequently as part of my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

My idea was to enhance electric generation from existing combined gas and steam turbines so that they can meet market demands more quickly. So turbine can generate more electricity when there is more demand, and less when there is less demand. This innovation is particularly interesting for smaller factories that use steam, for example to heat raw materials during their manufacturing process.

Electricity on demand

A combined gas and steam turbine which is capable of generating electricity is already a reality in large power plants. But these turbines run continuously and on the basis of a consistent air flow. You can’t turn them on or off from one moment to the next. This is possible with our system, the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine (RCG). How? We let the steam turbine drive the gas turbine’s compressor. We then use a special valve in order to gauge how much air can or cannot pass through the steam turbine. The more air you let in, the more electricity is produced by the generator connected to the turbine. This allows you to generate as much electricity as you need at any time. That way you save on costs as a company. Because then you don’t have to buy energy from an external supplier.

If you generate more power than you need for your own manufacturing process, you can also sell it if there is a demand for it. You could earn money from that. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine generates electricity on demand. That’s very useful. Because when a great deal of sustainable solar and wind energy is already being produced, you don’t want to add to the electricity supply. That’s of no use to anyone. In that case, the electricity grid might become overloaded.”

Henk Ouwerkerk (right), project engineer Jeroen Schot and project leader Marc van Erp Photo: Heat Power

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

“Our turbine is an industrial hardware product. You have to finance the transition from an idea to a working system in a factory. Before you get that far, you are already talking about an investment of $1 million. And then you haven’t even done anything over the top. The steam turbine that we had to buy was the most expensive component for us. I found a used one in Germany. The new price is €150,000. But I bought this one for €10,000.

I attracted investors and issued shares for each stage of the design of Heat Power. At first, these were business angels from my own network, and then investment companies later on. I also applied for an energy innovation grant from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Looking for funding was half the work. I also spent many years investing my own unpaid time and money in it. We did energy consultancy work for third parties through the company. That’s how we earned money. We put that back into the company. We have made steady progress thanks to this diverse mix of income.

In the early days, I was also a truck driver in the evening hours for one of my business angels who is in the meat industry. I also drove trucks full of beer crates to supermarkets’ distribution centers for a beer brewery at night. I am a night person, so that wasn’t a problem. Then at 10 a.m. the next morning, I started tinkering with the prototype for my own company again.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was the pilot at the Hout Industrie Schijndel factory towards the end of last year. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine is actually integrated into the manufacturing process there. We were able to demonstrate that our turbine is capable of a quick change of gear without hampering the manufacturing process.”

What can we expect from Heat Power in the coming year?

“Then we will bring our first full-scale commercial model onto the market. The model used in the pilot is made up of just one module. You need several in order to be profitable because you can then generate more electricity that way. We currently have three potential customers. But we are hoping for more.”

Where do you want Heat Power to be within five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“That purchasers of steam turbines will be able to choose the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine as an extra option via the established suppliers. The market in Europe, where there are 25,000 companies that use steam, is large enough for us.  Although it continues to be a niche market. After all, these are exclusively companies that use steam in their manufacturing process and that want to generate flexible electricity.”

What does Heat Power’s innovation improve in comparison to products in your segment of the market?

“That you only need to generate extra electricity with this turbine when there is a demand for it. In order to supplement the supply of renewable energy from the sun and wind, which is very difficult to regulate.”

 

 

Read moreStart-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

Start-up of the day: the greening of the fuel-guzzling shipping industry

Efficiënter brandstofverbruik met behulp van We4sea kan enorm schelen in de scheepvaart

We4Sea helps ship charterers and ship owners to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of their ships. And they do this without needing to install sensors on board. This energy-intensive sector can reap substantial profits with the help of big data. Especially now that fuel costs are soaring.

CEO Dan Veen elaborates on their services.

What motivated you to set up the company?

Co-founder Michiel Katgert and I have a passion for shipping. The downside of this wonderful and global industry is its relatively large impact on the environment. Shipping has a major impact on the environment due to the large amounts of industrial oil that is used daily. We aim to use our expertise to help improve ships by greatly improving their fuel efficiency. Research at TNO (where we used to work) has led to an idea for helping shipping companies and charterers to cut down on emissions from their ships.

What are you doing?

90% of all goods around the world are transported by ship. The maritime sector consumes enormous amounts of crude oil -up to 100,000 liters per day per ship. As a result of new regulations aimed at reducing emissions, fuel costs will rise to 50% as of January 1st next year. Shipowners are therefore looking for existing or new techniques geared towards monitoring fuel consumption and conservation. However, the purchase and installation of sensors is expensive, and the uncertainties surrounding this is considerable. To date, the use of data analysis in the maritime sector has been very limited when it concerns predicting consumption in combination with new technical measures or technologies.

We4Sea helps ship owners to monitor and lower their fuel consumption. We4Sea can provide accurate and real-time insight into fuel consumption and ways to improve it. This requires using big data and simulation models. The data provides insights into where profits could be made. There are two areas where measures can be taken: operational and technical.

In operational terms, we can advise on economical speeds. This means that a recommendation is made on the speed that leads to the lowest fuel consumption based on the ship type and the weather forecast. This can save up to 10% in fuel consumption.

Another common factor is that the ship is used for a purpose that differs from their design. Almost all the ships that we monitor do not sail the way they were originally designed to. For instance, a ship doesn’t reach the high speeds for which it was built. If that is permanent, you can adapt the propeller, engine or hull to the new situation. This can often reduce consumption by between 5 to 10 percent.

How is your company different from comparable companies, how do you try to distinguish yourselves?

We4Sea has a unique technology which means that we don’t have to install any sensors to be able to give an accurate picture of the performance of ships. Installing sensors on ships is often complicated. This is because the ship has to be in a port and cannot be used for a few days or several weeks. Moreover, maintenance and calibration are required, and in the event of a breakdown, the data supply is immediately cut off.

We4Sea’s technology uses a sophisticated combination of various data sources, such as satellite data, vessel position data, weather data and the ship’s technical data. These are all in aid of enabling the Digital Twin simulation mode to calculate what the ship’s energy consumption should be at that particular moment in time. This creates an accurate overview in real-time of the ship’s usage. This estimate is regularly validated using the ship’s fuel consumption and speed data, usually once a day. Discrepancies between theoretical and reported usage often signify inefficiencies that can be addressed. This monitoring method means that a ship could be monitored with a minimum of investment. After analysis of the data, concrete cost-cutting measures can be proposed.

The founders of We4sea are Michiel Katgert (CTO, left) and Dan Veen (CEO, right).

How has the response been?

The response has been very positive. The high level of accuracy for the data analyses and fuel consumption projections were particularly well received.

What obstacles have you come up against?

The main problem is the speed at which this technology is being accepted by the industry. Many shipping companies have limited expertise in data analysis, which means that the implementation and acceptance of this technology is progressing slowly. Thanks to internationalization, decisions about the application of the technology are often divided between various companies, each with its own role: ship owner, technical manager, charterer, end customer. In most cases the shipowner is not the one who pays for the fuel, while the charterer, who foots the fuel bill, doesn’t have long-term contracts with the ship owner either.

What has been the main highlight for We4Sea so far?

There have been a number of highlights. Like the first version (MVP) of our online platform back in November 2016. The signing of our first commercial contracts with clients and, of course, the favorable reactions of some of our clients.

What will happen in the coming year?

In January 2020, new regulations will come into force which will increase the charterers’ fuel costs by 25 – 50%. We are anticipating a much greater level of interest in fuel monitoring and fuel efficiency. By the end of November 2019, we will be launching a new module that will provide charterers with immediate insight into this. We have high expectations for this.

Where will We4Sea be in five years’ time?

We will have reduced CO2 emissions by one million tons in the shipping industry. This is comparable to the annual emissions of 300,000 cars.

Read moreStart-up of the day: the greening of the fuel-guzzling shipping industry

Start-up of the day: Solar panels for DIY-ers – plug it in and you’re good to go!

The Supersola plug-in solar panel may be a nightmare for the installation industry. But this new gadget on the market is not that at all for the consumer who prefers to do as many chores around the home as possible by themselves. It will be up for sale next year. “Then anyone who can connect a plug to a wall socket can install a solar panel on their own,” says Julius Smith, founder of Supersola in Delft.

What was it that motivated you to set up Supersola and what problem did it resolve?

“About 10 years ago I first started working and began in the renewable energy sector. In other words, sustainable energy. Then I found out that the sales of solar panels were slower than we had expected at the company which I was working for back then. The question was why. That’s what I then looked into. It turned out that the majority of the Dutch population really wanted to generate their own solar energy. However, lots of people decided against buying panels in the end. It was often the case that when people did buy solar panels, they only did so a year after having decided that they wanted them.

The reason for this long period of reflection turned out to be that consumers aren’t able to easily find all the information they need in order to find a suitable installer. They also often don’t know which solar panels to buy, and what other products they need to connect them to. Not all components of all brands are compatible, and not all systems are the same. That makes the choice difficult. I then realized that I wanted to design a ready-made panel that consumers could buy with all the necessary parts already on it. So that you get a panel where you only have to plug the attached cord into a socket.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“When I told the suppliers of all those various parts that I wanted to make and sell a plug-in solar panel with everything on it, they would always say: ‘it can’t be done’. The entire solar panel supply chain is geared towards the installation sector. Whereas I want to bring this product to the consumer electronics market ready-to-use. That sometimes made it difficult when it came to getting cooperation.”

 

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was at the beginning of 2018 when we sold a hundred ready-to-use plug-in solar panels as part of a pilot project. They cost €700 each. Some of them were sold via our own website following a campaign on Facebook. While others were sold via Sungevity, a supplier of solar panels. Only one of those hundred had problems. The power cord was damaged when a windstorm blew through the village of that particular customer. We then sent them a new cable. That fixed the problem.”

What can we expect from Supersola in the coming year?

“That’s when we start selling the first commercial version of the plug-in solar panel. Initially through our own web shop. And we are also working on contracting other parties who are willing to sell our product. That’s not quite finalized as yet. Next year we want to focus on the Dutch market. After that, we plan to go abroad.”

Where do you want Supersola to be in the next five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“We want to be available in Europe and the United States by then.”

What does Supersola’s innovation do better when compared to other products on this segment of the market?

“If all consumers could buy our product, then there’s no longer a hitch when it comes to buying solar panels. You can start with one panel. You don’t have to spend more than €600 or €700. At the moment, installing solar panels costs so much more because you have to bring in an installer. Plus, you have to have more than one panel installed in order to recoup those costs. You’ll end up paying €5000. This would not be the case with our system. You can do it all yourself.”

Start-up of the Day: environmentally friendly cling foil made from beeswax

Problems with plastic waste reach the media almost every day. We are continually being confronted with it even in our own environment. Governments all over the world are trying to tackle this problem with regulatory bans, such as those on plastic bags and straws. Sandra Palazzolo and Kristina Immerz, two young women from the German region of Allgäu, have been working on a solution to the plastic problem since 2017. They are producing beeswax wrappers and cling foil at their start-up Wabenwerk (honeycomb). The products are not just for sale in the region Allgäu itself, but also in Austria and Switzerland and online via their own website. Now Wabenwerk has expanded its product line. The two founders are even playing with the idea of opening a shop in Kaufbeuren where they only sell unpackaged goods.

Innovation Origins spoke with co-founder Sandra Palazzolo about Wabenwerk and its plans for their launch on the market.

Both the founders of Wabenwerk: Kristina Immerz (left) and Sandra Palazzolo © Wabenwerk

How did you come up with the idea for the start-up?

Kristina and I are sisters-in-law. Even before Wabenwerk was set up, we had always made natural foils and we were busy being creative. One day Kristina read an article about beeswax in an organic magazine. We immediately became enthusiastic. ‘What a worthwhile and sustainable product!’ we thought, as well as easy for us to make ourselves.

The first beeswax foils were meant as a Christmas present. We worked so hard on the product and on the waxing technique and composition of the beeswax mixture, that they eventually became Mother’s Day gifts.

Sold out

Of course our friends also got beeswax foils, which proved to be very popular. A friend insisted on designing packaging for us. Another friend invited us to her craft market as exhibitors. We sold out at this market after just a few hours. We also received invitations to other markets and retailers were interested. That was the birth of ‘Wabenwerk Natural Foils.’

What makes Wabenwerk or your products so special compared to your competitors and what problems does it solve?

Beeswax manufacturers don’t see each other so much as direct competitors. At least that’s what experience has taught us over the years. We are all driven by issues ranging from pollution to microplastics to bee mortality. We are able to tackle all these problems through our work. This quickly creates a sense of community and an exchange of ideas. At first we could hardly believe it when we saw in black and white how much aluminium and cling foil you could actually avoid with every sheet you sold!

What has been biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

Our biggest obstacle was the EU legislation concerning the Food and Consumer Product Safety Act. We received a phone call from the city council who alerted us to the compulsory guidelines. According to this, we have to remind consumers to pack food directly in our foil. Aside from the financial burden, it was not easy finding a laboratory where the requisite tests could be carried out on natural products such as beeswax. For the time being, we have decided not to advertise the foils for food packaging. This brought us a few sleepless nights. We questioned whether it was really worth doing all the work. In hindsight, it was just a minor setback. But this obstacle seemed insurmountable to us at the time.

And vice versa: what are you particularly proud of?

We’re very proud when we’re at a market and meet customers from last year who enthusiastically tell us how often they use our beeswax foil and how much plastic they’ve managed to avoid this way. We’re also seeing more and more children and teenagers at these markets who pack their snacks in beeswax foil and proudly tell us that. Which always feels very special to us.

© Wabenwerk

What motivates you to go to work every morning?

There are many reasons to do that. The enthusiasm of our customers and retailers. The varied work that goes into production. The fact that we can realize our ideas and of course the continued success of our company. However, the main motivation is our team and the atmosphere in our workshop. Our work is a lot of fun for all of us and we make a sound and sensible product. What more could you ask for?

 What can we expect from Wabenwerk in the coming years?

We are planning a pure organic line, a vegan line and a do-it-yourself set for the new year. Above all, we want to offer companies, hotels and organizations the opportunity to have personalized beeswax foils designed for them. With their own logo, as promotional gifts or business gifts or Christmas presents. We have already started on that this year. We look forward to being able to do even more along these lines in the future.

What is your vision for Wabenwerk? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years’ time?

Our vision is to keep working on Wabenwerk with the same commitment, to build a worthwhile and sustainable company and to be proud of it. We are constantly trying to evolve and to do something good for our customers and our environment.

Are ypu interested in start-ups? Read all of the articles in our series here.
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Start-up of the Day: 4 students break the Dutch deadlock on the electric scooter

Four school friends went off to Valencia for a study trip in April this year. They all jumped on an electric scooter for the first time in their lives and think: “Wow, this is fun. That’s what we need in the Netherlands too.” Half a year later they are the ones who break the deadlock around the introduction of the scooter in the Netherlands.

The first scooters have been on the road in Tilburg since November 1st. It’s Waalwijk turn next year. The first target is about 400 rental scooters by the end of next year. And after that? Who knows. The Netherlands is big and so is the world.

The story of Hannes van Bellen, Teun Verschuren, Mike Meeusen and Thomas van Heeswijk is almost too good to be true. A youthful dream with American allure. They set up a start-up within six months which also turned out to be successful. Respect!

Four boys from Breda

As already mentioned, it started in April with a study trip as a part of their Entrepreneurship & Retail Management course at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, says Hannes Van Bellen. Who, besides Citysteps, is also busy with setting up the Fruit Pause company. They had an amazingly fun day there with the e-scooters and thought “this is bound to be a success in the Netherlands too.”

They just didn’t realize how much opposition there was to these scooters. This was due to the Stint tragedy in Oss that cost four children their lives after a train accident with an electric wagon. Since that horrendous debacle with the Stint in 2018, new electric vehicles have to comply with much stricter safety requirements. This is compounded by the fact that many Dutch cities are reluctant to allow scooters to dart about in their city centers.

However, the four boys from Breda didn’t allow themselves to be discouraged. “In spite of all the rules, we decided to buy a container full of scooters, even if only for private individuals in other countries.” The container is gradually emptying out, but the scooter is still not allowed on the road in the Netherlands.

What did you do then?

Van Bellen: We had a few good contacts with a few entrepreneurs in Tilburg who were eager to help us. Like Jaap van Ham from the rooftop bar Doloris in Tilburg. Then when we went looking for a scooter that was in line with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW) regulations. Strangely enough, we ended up with a company through that very same RDW, who managed to design the exact kind of scooter we wanted. Subsequently, contact was quickly established and the ball started rolling.

What is so special about this scooter?

The main differences can be found in the design which uses bicycle handlebars and larger wheels than scooters in other European cities. This benefits both safety and comfort as well as insurance coverage. Moreover, the scooters are only able to travel up to 20 km/h, which is relatively low compared to the scooters from competitors like Lime, Tier and Bird.

Meanwhile, you’ve already made a start in Tilburg. How is that working out?

We’ve now started out with 20 scooters that are mainly for recreational use. You can order them as an all-day package from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm. The costs are €49.50 for the scooter plus coffee, cake, lunch and a drink in the rooftop bar Doloris at the Tilburg Central Station.

What is your goal in Tilburg?

We hope to have expanded to 200 scooters within a year and a few extra collection points besides Doloris.

And Waalwijk?

The main difference with Tilburg is that we are targeting the business user more in Waalwijk, at least in the beginning. The goal is the same. Start small and then within a year get as many as 200 scooters. We think that there is more than enough market potential for this, what with large companies like Bol.com nearby.

And are there other cities where you want to start working in?

Certainly. I can’t name names, but we are in discussions with a few cities. What we ultimately want is a national network. We have great ambitions, but please give us a bit of time. After all, we’re just getting started!

Read moreStart-up of the Day: 4 students break the Dutch deadlock on the electric scooter

Start-up of the day: on-the-spot accurate and fast disease diagnosis

Polish start-up Genomtec is trying to introduce a compact and practical device to general practitioners (GPs). This will enable them to analyze samples on-the-spot. As well as help treat symptoms straightaway and stop a disease from spreading further.

The diagnosis requires no more than a reduced sample volume of biological material. Moreover, the examination does not need any samples to be prepared beforehand. Once the sample is placed on the test card, the device will automatically test the material and provide the results. These can then be sent directly to the patient’s medical records or to an email address.

This process is based on the amplification and detection of specific DNA and RNA fragments, i.e. standard procedure for molecular diagnostics. However, not just GPs will get to use it. Because research involving Genomtec’s technology is able to be carried out on both on humans and animals. Plus in the fields of agriculture, the food industry and environmental contamination control. This technology is easy to use so that family doctors, pediatricians, oncologists, veterinarians, scientists, and also regular consumers will be able to operate it. Nonetheless, the technology is still undergoing further development. Although it already has a number of implementation options in many areas of medicine,. These include liquid biopsy, immunological and biochemical tests.

Innovation Origins talked with Genomtec’s CEO and co-founder Miron Tokarski, here is what he had to say:

Miron Tokarski, CEO & Co-founder. ®Genomtec

What can you tell me about your technology?

As you know, there are several competitors on the market. Though almost all currently use the old-fashioned qPCR technology. This is very energy-inefficient and also needs plenty of effective cooling in order to be able to provide the results as soon as possible. So, from day one, we decided that we need to move from the qPCR technology to a more novel technology. As in an isothermal technology. This has a lower energy consumption, which means that the device can be made smaller in structure.

Consequently, that was when we first realized that we needed to move from qPCR to isothermal technology. Then our co-founder Henryk sent us a very good idea for heating the system and measuring the temperature. This is important as these technologies require that all samples are all treated in a certain way. Subsequently, he found that it might be interesting to use optical heating. It means that we are using very powerful LEDs. These heat the test cards so that they are at the right temperature without the use of any other heating systems or sensors, or without any other active elements besides the test cards. The heating elements and the control temperature elements are built into the hardware of the control device. That way, we are able to heat the sample and measure the temperature at the same time. This ensures the temperature level will not experience any interference. This was quite interesting, because energy consumption is kept to a minimum so we can maintain the exact same temperature level more efficiently.

At that time, we also started work on acids which makes it possible to detect virilization patterns. We are still focusing on developing an acid which has a very low risk of detection and that can aid diagnosis as fast as possible. We are now able to get the results within seven minutes after the process has started.

And, who can use the Genomtec technology? 

In general, this is intended for general practitioners (GPs). There is a high number of antibiotics being prescribed around the world. This is being done outside of  hospitals and GPs sometimes don’t have enough experience or the necessary equipment. Therefore, this is a quite affordable device that we want GPs to have. They are then able to start with the correct treatment straight after the first visit. This means that the disease won’t advance any further and in many cases the patients will no longer need to go to hospital.

®Genomtec

What has been the biggest obstacle during the creation of the start-up?

From my perspective this has to do with microbiology. The quality of the acid is very important because you need to have results that are constant. And also, we’ve stated that if you want to use equipment on site, you cannot use refrigerators to store the test cards. That means that you need to build equipment that is compatible for applications at room temperature. So, taking all those factors into account, building a state-of-the-art technology that will not affect the sample. However, it must be fast and specific enough at the same time. This has been our biggest challenge from the start. Back then, we thought this was our ultimate goal. But, of course, there were some tough moments when it came to developing this. Because at first, the acids were not acting in the way we wanted. It took over a year to finally develop the first acid that was extremely effective.

And the most rewarding moment?

This was right at the start when we eventually found a way to develop this acid. As we are taking a different approach from other people, this is particularly interesting. But, another very good time was at the beginning of this year when we received the Fast Track to Innovation grant. It is partially funded by the EU and the Polish government, it’s a grant of $2.5 million (€2.2 million). This is quite substantial for technological development. It was an endorsement that the experts saw potential for a real breakthrough solution.

What can we expect from Genomtec in the future?

Now we are moving into this production phase for the test cards. In the next few months we will finalize the so-called beta system, and of course then enter the clinical trial phase. Over 500 patient samples will be tested so that means we will be able to verify our parameters. This is what will happen over the next 12 months. And this falls in line with our idea of bringing the device onto the European market in 2021.

 

Start-up of the day: designing energy efficient buildings

The Italian energy tech start-up Enerbrain turns regular buildings into smart buildings with their intelligent system. It is deigned to cut energy consumption by up to 30%. The result is improved cost-effective performance, indoor comfort and environmental sustainability.

In order to make environments more efficient, Enerbrain uses autonomous modules for real-time analysis of environmental data, remote energy management and control units for buildings. In a nutshell, a customized monitoring system collects the data and an IA system process the data and finds the best solutions. Then finally the control units regulate the existing system operating in the building. In addition to this, Enerbrain has designed a complete dashboard as well. This is available for browsers and tablets, and is where all the information can be accessed. Consequently, the web app enables the control of separate buildings or entire real estate portfolios.

Use of the Enerbrain technology can help reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 30% and cut operating costs by 10%. This could increase the value of the building by 7%, according to the start-up.

Innovation Origins talked with Giuseppe Giordano, CEO and co-founder of Enerbrain.

®Enerbrain

Why the focus on buildings?

At present, buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of carbon emissions worldwide. We spend on average 90% of our life indoors and we want to make our cities more sustainable, smart and people oriented.

What was the most challenging thing about designing this technology?

As we utilize the latest technologies such as IoT, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, we had to put together a multidisciplinary team with expertise in diverse areas including HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), mechanical engineering, energy, hardware, telecommunications, software, data analysis, design, and operations. Assembling and cultivating a winning team – as well as investing in research and development a couple of years before being on the market – was a successful strategy.

How exactly does it work, making an environment more energy efficient?

It all starts with the eNodes, the sensors which constantly monitor temperature, CO2, relative humidity, VOC and air pressure. They send all this data to the Cloud. Then, the Cloud uses sophisticated machine learning algorithms that process the most ideal parameters for comfort and energy efficiency. This is then to the control units. Lastly, the control units receive all these figures and can consequently adjust the air conditioning in order to maximize comfort and reduce energy consumption by about 30%.

And, thanks to the Dashboard, it is possible to monitor and manage the entire building portfolio in real time

What was the biggest challenge while setting up Enerbrain?

Winning over the first customer required a lot of work and out-of-the-box thinking. Nowadays, every time we approach a new market it feels like another start-up story for us. It is very difficult to build trust without a previous relationship and it requires a lot of time. Yet the good news is that winning over the customer’s trust brings investors, team members, banks, partners on board and fuels continual growth.

What is it that Enerbrain brings to the table that other similar start-ups don’t?

Our system not only keeps energy consumption under control, but also automatically intervenes so as to improve a building’s energy balance. The operator can check the efficiency of the systems at any time – even with their smartphone. But the truth is that everything happens without human intervention. Furthermore, a machine learning algorithm enables the system to constantly refine its programming to eliminate any potential waste.

Do you operate exclusively in Italy?

No, we already have had projects outside of Italy. We have collaborated with Planet Idea to create the first smart city in Fortaleza, Brazil. We have taken on projects in France, Spain, the Emirates and we are currently working on several others around Europe.

Plus, we opened two international headquarters this year, one in Japan and one in Barcelona.

Who is the Enerbrain customer?

Our usual stakeholders are facility managers and all the other professionals involved in managing large non-residential buildings from an energy standpoint. The field of application for Enerbrain systems is as such airports, schools, hospitals and shopping malls. However, we have also designed specific applications for industry. As far as all of this is concerned, being able to cut energy bills has a decisive influence on the balance sheet.

What is your ultimate goal?

You see, in big non-residential buildings about 30 percent of the energy is wasted due to poor management of air conditioning systems. We are able to reduce this waste using a system that is quick to install, and which works immediately. If our systems were to be installed in all non-residential buildings in the world, 1.6 billion tons less CO2 would be released into the environment. That is equivalent to 170 million trees.

What can we expect from you in the next year?

Enerbrain is in a growth phase. Our focus is on scaling our impact across various markets. And establishing strong relationships with trusted partners such as energy utilities, energy service companies, facility management companies and engineering firms. We aim to reach a milestone of €10 million in revenue within the next 2 years. Expansion into foreign markets is a must. We are pursuing opportunities in Europe, Middle East, Asia and America. And we aim to stay agile and innovative. We want to extend our services along with our aim of being a trusted partner for our customers.

But ultimately, we want to be a leading company that is able to operate around the world and provide scalable solutions which have great financial and environmental impact.

 

Start-up of the Day: Sirum provides software for smaller logistic firms

The Hamburg-based start-up Sirum has set out to solve a fundamental problem in the logistics sector. Only a few companies can afford modern IT solutions, and only larger companies can afford to use digital Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP, which controls, monitors and optimizes all processes along the supply chain. Sirum wants to make these capabilities available to smaller companies, too.

Sirum was founded in 2016 and its founders, Dennis Uhlemann and Georg Notter, have known each other since their school days. After completing his studies, Uhlemann went into logistics and asked Notter for help with one of his projects. At the time, Notter was worked as a freelancer on ERP systems. Previously, he had been working for Siemens on industrial production monitoring systems. The two initially developed the Sirum application together, with the other two founders Michael Hötte and Bennet Block joining later.

Sirum’s presence at this year’s Transport & Logistics Trade Fair in Munich: Michael Hötte, Georg Notter und Bennet Block. Photo: Sirum

Sirum runs a browser-based software as a service solution. Customers can access their applications from their PC, laptop or smartphone. The system has a modular structure with each customer accessing the modules he has booked. This could be transport management, fleet management, human resources, master data administration or a combination thereof. The system runs on Sirum servers in Germany, but customers can also install it on their own system.

The software is based on an open source solution and is therefore constantly being improved by a community of developers. The core ERP is a product of the open source community, while Sirum developed the transport module itself and integrated it into the ERP. Their close relationship with the open source community enables them to react quickly to customer requests.

What is your motivation? What is the problem you want to solve?

We want to solve a central problem in the logistics industry. Small and medium-sized companies have high IT costs and have to work with partners who often use completely different products that cannot communicate with their applications. Established systems are expensive and often have outdated architectures. In addition, isolated solutions dominate individual areas such as transport management, scheduling, accounting and finance, warehouse management or human resources. These individual systems must be able to talk to each other. However, this is often problematic. Sirum offers all this from a single source. We are a web-based, all-in-one solution.

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome or have to overcome?

Market entry was easy because demand came from the market.

What is the best moment you had with the launch?

We were at the Transport and Logistics Fair in Munich at the beginning of June. Through the mediation of the Deutsche Verkehrszeitung and Blue Rocket, we had a presence at the Start.Hub stand. We were pleased to receive a lot of positive feedback and new customer contacts.

What can we expect from you in the coming year?

We are planning to scale up and have carried out a version change of our software. We hope to see a further increase in customer numbers.

What is your ultimate goal?

In the long run, we want to set a new industry standard.