The European Commission, jointly with the Finnova Foundation, has launched a special support initiative for young entrepreneurs – StartUp Europe Awards (SEUA). The main idea is to gather different players in the European ecosystem: start-up owners and organizers of the summit such as accelerators, incubators, universities, public administration representatives, business angels, experts, start-up foundations, and unions, etc. This collaboration can help not only to win grants but also to find investors and partners in addition to networking and exchanging experiences.
In 2019, five special start-ups were recognized during a Summit in Romania.
“Bolt” was the winner with the youngest founder (under 30). This platform helps people to search, get, and pay for taxis or rent a private driver in more than 150 cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America.
This Estonian company was created by a 19-year-old boy and now provides services to 25 mln users and more than 500 000 drivers. Since 2018, “Bolt” has offered food delivery services and electric scooters booking. The seed capital was $ 5 000 in the form of a loan from Markus Villig’s family (the father a tech company founder). Before the arrival of game-changing financial impact from Didi Chuxing (launched by Alibaba Group in 2012), “Bolt” got € 2mln from business angels in Estonia and Finland.
It has overcome its main rival, Uber, by allowing drivers to earn 10% more on average. “Bolt” charged them a 15% commission per ride, whereas other ride-hailing platforms get 25%. That has helped company to occupy a niche by focusing on the one, simple idea that drives the venture: “As an entrepreneur you sometimes get thousands of ideas that seem great and you want to do them all, but ultimately you can only do a few things really well,” Markus advises his peers. Now “Bolt” is a well-recognized brand that you might already know.
In South Africa “Bolt” had a big success not only in larging number of users but also in territory occupation that is crucial for infrastructure development. Gareth Taylor (“Bolt” country manager for South Africa) claims that their company works in more South African cities than any other ride-hailing service. It has opened a new opportunities for major number of people to get a new job and passengers to be more mobile for less costs. Obviously, such activities play a crucial role for economic growth of communities. Bolt is going to be available in more than 40 cities by the end of 2020. Very likely such ambitions will become a huge driver for local infrastructure development.
“OKRA” won the category of the Best Female-Led Start-up. It is an AI (Artificial Intellect) project in the healthcare field. “OKRA delivers predictions, suggestions, and explanations to empower life sciences executives and operational teams to provide the right drug to the right patient with humanised and understandable AI inputs,” says the official web site.
The idea of CEO Dr. Loubna Bouarfa was to predict and alert surgeons to potential mistakes with the help of modern technologies. In 2015, she launched her project to push the healthcare industry towards the personalised level by explainable AI. Doctors have got an opportunity to query actionable insights through a simple search bar to access a large base of clinical, scientific, and commercial data. In 2018, OKRA raised $ 4,2 mln.
It has already produced over a million answers and predictions using professional data sources on different topics. AI has been learning to generate evidence-based answers even in brand performance KPI. This technology is currently being adopted by large corporations giving them opportunities to improve outcomes in a rapidly changing world.
“Mama Organa” is the name of the Best Job Growth start-up in the EU in 2019. Interestingly enough, the food waste recycling sphere inspired the founder to move in that direction by producing organic fertilizers. The company collects waste and adds value to it for creating innovative soil substrates. “Mama Organa” got support in creating a business plan and registering a company from CEED Hub in Skopje. Moreover, there was a financial support in the form of seed capital to buy raw materials and pay wages.
It is a very demanding eco-project for Macedonia due to huge spending on recycling rubbish. For example, only the capital Skopje has been spending over € 8 mln per year just for transportation of waste. But this initiative not only for reducing communities’ costs. The prevention of larging Methane and CO2 pollution, emitted during decomposition of garbage in open landfills, plays an indispensable role in preserving the climate of our planet. The start-up aims at helping single parents to achieve financial independence.
It is particularly relevant for Macedonia where 1 in 7 people live in poverty and suffer from hunger every day. Moreover, 1/3 of these people are children under the age of 8, predominantly living in a family with one breadwinner. Having got opportunities to hire 3 single mothers, in addition this project internationalized activities – exports product to the European market. Such socially responsible and eco-friendly initiative led “Mama Organa” to success in several entrepreneurs’ competition.
The nomination as the Best Social Inclusion Start-up was successfully won by “Kidibot”. This platform helps children to enjoy studying as a process. All acquired information is checked by questions in quizzes. Children win points for all the right answers that can help their team to beat rivals. There are different categories such as schools, cities, countries. So, players from one school unite in one team and can move together in ascending rank. This team-building activity allows its participants to create a sense of corporate responsibility in a competitive atmosphere.
The founder uses the term “positive social pressure” for the process. It is a good incentive for building good reading, math, science, IQ, and EQ skills. Overall, this initiative fights lack of interest for education of kids 6-18 ages old. “Kidibot is a recognized professional educational platform that kids perceive as a fun online game to play with their peers,” as the official web site says.
A special project was launched through the “Kidibot” platform for encouraging pupils to create ideas, technologies and solve problems in Romania. With the help of Kidibot Young Entrepreneurs Club children had got the opportunity to know more about startups and took part in contests. On the whole, it has been launched in 7 countries and successfully sighed partnerships with Ministry of Communication and Informational Society of Romania and bid companies. “Kidibot has grown quite a bit. We have reached children from 27% of schools in Romania, to 1000+ schools in the USA, now we are launching in Canada and Italy and we have a few more countries in preparation,” said Constantin Ferșeta (“Kidibot” cofounder).
“NorthQ” is a Danish company that empowers consumer-led energy efficiency through intelligent data management. This start-up was selected as the Best UN Sustainable Development Goals project in 2019. The NorthQ team has developed and designed high quality performance devices. They collect consumption data on one central platform and access it from multiple devices as needed. Created algorithms provide valuable insights and improve building efficiency. Using such data, clients can create ideas about how to add to the bottom line by reducing costs. Products for analysis are electricity, gas, and heating. “NorthQ” makes buildings data-driven by empowering innovative and integrative solutions.
Director of the company Christian von Scholten has secured a million euro order in the Philippines in 2017. “The contract opens up great opportunities for us. The Philippines has a huge waste of energy and at the same time the electricity price in Asia is high, so even smaller savings can be felt on the bottom line,” says the founder.
At the same time this initiative occurred quite popular in Denmark: “At home, we have agreements with Danish municipalities and housing companies that use our sensors and data-based energy solutions to track and limit energy losses in office buildings and apartment blocks,” says the NorthQ director.
Believe in yourself, stay dedicated to your dreams
All the afore-mentioned 5 start-ups has a focus on social impact. They were also recognized as the best in Europe in 2019 among 70 other projects. 25 partners orgaznied a wide media coverage. Participants got access to financial support (e.g. European funds like SMEs Instrument of 50.000 € to 2,5 million € of non-refundable subsidy per project).
However, we should remember that the idea always came first. Only then did the entrepreneurs make business plans, find investors, build teams, implement their ideas and find support among professional communities, local authorities, other investors, and the European Commission. All these start-uppers believed in what they wanted to do and were ready to work hard to clear away obstacles.
Believe in yourself, stay dedicated to your dreams. These qualities will definitely help you to launch a viable start-up.