A platform for mothers looking to go back into work and a digital bike lock were the winners as the first Berlin Startup Academy program came to a close with a demo day. Momslink and Clyc both received €5,000 from hub:raum, while Smartbrand, Voyage for Health and EMbraaSe also received some valuable feedback from a crowd of investors and other tech experts.
Friday’s event at the BSA HQ in the Haus Ungarn on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse followed five months of weekly sessions, work assignments and individual mentoring, with the stated aim of turning participants from being just a “guy with an idea” into the CEO of their own company.
After an hour of coffee and networking – the latter one of the most important parts of the day for the startups – BSA CEO Christoph Räthke took to the stage to speak of his aim of helping “dreams finding reality.”
First off, though, was Luis-Daniel Alegria, CEO of Vamos, who began the evening with a talk arguing that learning from your mistakes is vital: “We released an Android version [of Vamos] which looking back on now, we should never have done. Make sure you keep your focus narrow, and do it well. We were trying to do everything but our Android version is still quite buggy.”
In addition, he told the new startup founders that there are never any certainties or guarantees of success so they sh0uld “take the risk, and enjoy the journey.”
Then it was finally time for the startups themselves to present their projects. Esther Eisenhard of Momslink kicked it off with a surprising fact – seven million mothers in German-speaking countries cannot return to the workforce for various reasons. Based on this, Momslink is a job portal enabling mothers to discover flexible work opportunities, and companies to tap into the under-utilised pool of qualified women.
Momslink later received one of the two awards of €5,000 pre-seed investment from DT’s hub:raum. The company has big plans for it, Esther said: “We are currently applying for funding and developing the product. I think the most important thing is to perfect the product, test it and get feedback on it.”
All the teams celebrate finishing the program
Clyc was next up and also managed to impress the audience. CEO Michael L. Usher pitched his startup as having the potential to become the Airbnb for bicycles, taking two-wheeled transport to a higher digital level. Clyc’s product is a digital bike lock which users can access through their mobile phone. You can even allow friends and family to use it by sending them the ability to unlock – and it’s this feature which could see an Airbnb-type model, with users renting their bikes out when they are not using them.
Michael said: “I’m not reinventing the wheel – mechanical bike locks have been around for ages. But what we do is we combine digital security, mobile app platforms and design all in one package.”
There were drawbacks to the presentation – there was no finished prototype and the problems associated with running a hardware startup remained largely unaddressed – but it still went down well. Lucy Jasper from 99designs chose Clyc as her favourite and presented Michael with a complimentary voucher to change his company’s logo.
The startup also received the other €5,000 prize, with hub:raum’s Peter Borchers it was his favourite: “My favourite is Clyc. I truly believe in hardware startups because there aren’t so many. There are a lot of potential similarities between this model and Deutsche Telekom, so we should get in contact.”
Following Clyc, Hieu Ngo Duc took to the stage to present SmartBrand, a piece of image recognition software which allows smartphone users to access content by scanning pictures (as opposed to, say, having to scan a QR code). The platform is initially going to be aimed at publishers and advertising agencies, although many of the experts in the crowd believed efforts would be better directed at providing an API for anyone to use the technology for themselves.
He was followed by Yvette Badack pitching Voyage for Health. It’s a global marketplace for wellness holidays. All of the providers on the platform are personally checked and vetted and Yvette said the idea is to battle the increasingly prevalent problem of stress.
Last up was Christian Stanke of EMbraaSe, a cloud-based solution to help free-to-play game developers to set up and manage the monetisation ecosystem of their apps. The product is a complete toolset for game publishers and developers to manage user acquisition and retention alongside monetisation on what is a hugely important segment of the gaming space.
It was an interesting first round of graduates for BSA,whose program covers topics such as conceiving a business idea, defining a business model and a vision, pitching, legal setup and sales. To keep the participants on their toes there were mandatory Friday night sessions, assignments, reading lists and weekly pitches. The course costs €1,000 as well as a 4 percent stake in your startup.
Christoph said: “We had a lot of applicants last summer and I had to turn away many candidates. I feel great about these five. I can’t choose a favourite. There were also four guys who dropped out of the programme due to ideas falling through, illness, and personal reasons.”
During his closing speech, Christoph promised the audience that Momslink and Clyc would have to demonstrate the improvements they made with their €5,000 in the upcoming months.
Interviews for the next BSA program, beginning in June, start on April 1 – more info here.