An autonomous agricultural robot, a cyber security key to generate security codes, and an accurate way to test and connect photonic devices. What do these three things have in common? They are products of start-ups that have reached the finals of the European Venture Program (EVP). A European start-up boot camp for tech start-ups. This program was initiated by the EuroTech Universities Alliance, a collaboration between six different tech universities. The aim of the program is to broaden the horizons of entrepreneurs. Not only will you learn everything about starting a business, but you will also learn about different types of business across Europe during the program. Because, according to the idea, an international orientation for entrepreneurs offers more opportunities for growth.
Read previous articles on the EPP here.
Usually the EPP caravan tours several cities in Europe. There the participants take a look at local startup ecosystems around the technical universities. They also meet experts and investors. But just like last year, Corona thwarted the bill. Traveling with such a large group is not yet an option. In the last week, the participants had to crawl behind their screens with all sorts of workshops on the subject of business start-ups. From pitching to what to look for in financing. Everything was addressed.
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Not being able to travel is bad luck
Steven van Huiden, Start-up Officer at The Gate, is involved in organizing the program on behalf of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e). Needless to say, he thinks it’s a shame that most of this seventh edition is taking place online. “That is bad luck. Because the journey through different ecosystems is such a unique experience for a start-up. You will come into contact with various experts, other entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll also see firsthand how things work in other ecosystems, which can be useful as you expand internationally. Then you already have contacts and knowledge of the regulations. You can’t quantify these experiences, but they are incredibly valuable. The group dynamics that develop during such a trip are also very valuable. You not only see that knowledge and networks are shared, but friendships are also made, ”he explains.
All of this is a little more difficult to do online, but Van Huiden would like to emphasize: “Definitely not impossible!” Lessons were learned from last year’s edition, which was also completely online, he explains. “Over the past year we have noticed that things don’t happen automatically online. It’s not the same as having a beer together after a session. We wanted to promote that more this year. By inviting the participants to break-out sessions in small groups, we wanted to encourage contact and collaboration. As in real life, we hope that they can learn so much from each other. “
Differences blur during the program
The participants come from different backgrounds. From entrepreneurially minded bachelor students who want to get as much out of their studies as possible, to scientific researchers who have been busy building a start-up for a long time. “It’s a very mixed bunch. Everyone has a different background, culture or education. The great thing is that as you go through the program you can see these differences blur. Sometimes there can be an age difference of ten years and a great deal of experience between different participants, but they still accept feedback from one another. “
In the end, four of the fourteen participating start-ups competed in the finals. The other ten start-ups could not convince the jury in their one-minute pitch. But that doesn’t mean that there is no future for them. Kristoffer Buch, who is involved in EVP on behalf of the Technical University of Denmark, assures the dejected faces that have just been eliminated. “The level of all start-ups is incredibly tight and all of them have grown enormously in a very short time. Above all, stay in contact with your EVP hubs, because we can continue to support you. “
By this he means a financial cushion that enables the participants to travel to the respective cities at a later date. He addressed the participants: “We believe that we can help you on your way. You can see with your own eyes how other similar startups in the same industry are doing. You can get in touch with all kinds of interesting experts via the network of universities and build on the foundation laid during the EPP. “
Examples from daily practice
Nicklas Werge is doing his PhD at the Technical University of Denmark and is a business developer at Glaze. The start-up is working on a measuring device that, among other things, checks the thickness of protective coatings on ships. “But there are all possible applications for this technology, the market is very extensive. The food and pharmaceutical industries could also have applications for this. I learn a lot by seeing a wide variety of applications and coming into contact with the people who are already active in this value chain. “
Finalist Fatme Jardali, a postdoctoral fellow at the French École Polytechnique and founder of Hiperssys, also believes that she would benefit from real-world examples. She is working with Hiperssys on a promising new battery that has the potential to be lighter, cleaner, and store more energy than the existing lithium-ion battery. “We are still fully in the research phase, but are already thinking about the next step. How can you quickly scale battery production? It’s quite a challenge that we could certainly use some help with. “
The cooperation between those involved is now being explored, says Werge digital. Together with the ultimate winner DirectFEM, which makes simulation software for engineers, Werge is checking whether they can support each other. “But I also wrote to all the hub leaders to find out whether there were interesting leads for us in the various networks.”
Even if the participants would have loved to travel through Europe to get to know themselves and the different ecosystems, they learned a lot from this edition of the EPP. Felix Schiegg from the Technical University of Munich found it particularly instructive to hear from investors what they are looking for. “This is particularly important for start-ups,” he says.