Earlier this year 36 teams from all over Europe entered the EIT Jumpstarter pre-accelerator programme where they were given the space and mentorship to develop their startup concepts into actual businesses.
Competing for a €160,000 prize pool, the teams had ideas in the fields of health, urban mobility, raw materials, energy, manufacturing and food — all areas where local policy makers think Europe could one day create global tech champions.
You can spend years scrolling through in your head the ideas of your startup and possible business models and still be afraid to share them.
According to Katerina Daskevica, the chief operating officer of drone software company DronePlan, selected as one of the most promising startups, the programme allowed her team to “formulate our business idea… develop a competitive pricing policy and define ourselves on the EU business map.”
EIT Jumpstarter is the flagship programme of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology, a body set up by the European Union in 2008 with the aim to spur innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.
But what exactly did the participants learn? What can other startups take from their experience? Sifted spoke to the programme manager and some of the startups to find out.
Know your customer
According to Dora Marosvolgyi, the EIT Jumpstarter programme manager, one of the first lessons is about getting a better sense of who the actual customer might be and what they want.
A lot of the companies on the programme were being built by scientists and engineers, who knew a lot about the technology but had not always done the same thinking about the pain points of their customers. 70% of participants had no business experience.
“They learnt that understanding their customer’s needs is key,” says Marosvolgyi. “Validation of the idea and asking whether there is a real life need for their solution is so important.”
“In the Jumpstarter we put an emphasis on running the business idea by potential customers and based on their feedback, advise the teams on how to adapt their business models to satisfy a need they identified.”
Explain the product
The second key lesson, after knowing your customer, was being able to explain your product to your customer — something that again was not always easy for some of the very technically sophisticated products being offered by the groups.
Often, says Marosvolgyi, it’s more important to explain what the product can do for the customer than describe exactly how it works in very technical terms.
“It is important to translate tech into a language that everyone understands,” says Marosvolgyi. “Scientists tend to over explain the technology when it comes to describing innovation.”
She adds: “During the Jumpstarter programme they learn how to formulate their project in a way that is comprehensive for audiences with different backgrounds. When it comes to finding investors, this skill can oil the engines.”
Daskevica from DronePlan said that just having the opportunity to talk about ideas and projects with investors and experts was really helpful in helping to refine them.
“You can spend years scrolling through in your head the ideas of your startup and possible business models and still be afraid to share them with solid investors. But until you speak them out loud, they will never turn into real business.”
Build a network
The third key learning from the programme is to build an international network — something that comes naturally with the programme given that the groups were from across Europe (mainly from central, eastern and southern Europe this time).
This is important because in Europe businesses often need to think internationally from the start, whether it’s to access bigger markets or for connecting with potential partners or investors.
It is important to translate tech into a language that everyone understands.
“As mentors in the Jumpstarter programme, we are connected to a European network of trusted partners coming from the industry, research and academia which can be potential customers, test sites, or a network of investors,” says Marosvolgyi.
Joana Caldeira from the biotech startup Fetalix said: “The EIT Jumpstarter programme provided us with the basic entrepreneurial skills we needed to launch our company. It focuses on bringing together the ‘knowledge triangle’ to build active and meaningful international collaborative networks.”
The winners of the EIT Jumpstarter Grand Final were announced in late November picked by a team of judges. The prizes were for the fields of health, urban mobility, raw materials, energy, manufacturing and food. These were the winners and what they do in their own words:
- EIT InnoEnergy: Drone Plan – Latvia: “Our Drone Automation Software helps power distribution companies who want to run regular inspections of power lines by means of drones. It allows them to save time, optimize the inspection costs and improve safety during the inspection.”
- EIT Raw Materials: Recatalyst – Slovenia” “ReCatalyst produces next-generation patented platinum-alloy nano-catalysts that are 2-3 times more efficient, exhibit enhanced stability as well as enable a 50% reduction in required platinum per hydrogen fuel cell system.”
- EIT Health: Fetalix – Portugal: “Fetalix provides the first regenerative fetal-inspired solution to treat low back pain through a minimally-invasive application. Our developed and patented natural biomaterial is obtained from a mammalian fetal source offering unique regenerative properties.”
- EIT Urban Mobility: Horizer - Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Horizer engages in the design, development, manufacture, and sale of solar modules, energy generation and storage systems compatible with any vehicle. Horizers aim to fragmentize and democratize the energy market by providing every person with the means to have clean, mobile energy accessible, shareable and tradeable anywhere.”
- EIT Food: Coffeco – Greece: “Coffeco has designed and developed a holistic approach in order to reuse 100% of the coffee waste and produce various high value-added products.”
- EIT Manufacturing: ArcLubOne – Slovenia: “ArcLub One is a cryogenic machining system based on lubricated CO2. The system provides innovative and sustainable cooling and lubrication in CNC machining."