Pavel Konecny, Neuron Soundware, StartupYard

SY Alum Neuron Soundware Closes €600K Investment from J&T Ventures

We are very pleased to announce that Neuron Soundware, or 2016 Alum, and winner of “Vodafone Idea of the Year 2016” has closed an investment from Prague-based J&T Ventures, of €600,000 to grow their team and expand their sales to capitalize on early traction with clients like Siemens.

The story broke first on Euro.cz this morning.

Congratulations @startupyard alum @NeuronSW on exciting progress, and fundraising €600K to expand operations! Click To Tweet

The Details

Pavel Konecny, Co-founder and CEO of Neuron Soundware, made the announcement today in Mlada Fronta, together with Adam Kocik, Managing Director of J&T Ventures The investment will help Neuron Soundware to beef up its team, refine its technology, and expand its customer reach to include aerospace manufacturers, rail operators, and automotive companies.

Neuron Soundware, founded in 2016, joined StartupYard the same year. There the founding team, a group of AI experts led by Konecny, conceived of a device which can listen to heavy machinery, and over time, learn to recognize mechanical issues and predict when the machinery is likely to fail. Since attending StartupYard, they have developed a device employing high-end sensors used in aerospace, and audio processing software that can be plugged directly into heavy machinery and can warn of future mechanical problems. The company announced a cooperation with Siemens in 2016, and was invited to join the Airbus Innovation Lab the same year.

“We are continually impressed by the Neuron Soundware team’s technical prowess and ability to attack very complex problem sets with novel approaches and technology,” Kocik commented on the investment, “this technology is going to be even more essential as the IoT [Internet of Things] matures. Neuron Soundware will help to make machines safer, more efficient, and longer lasting.” The investment, a cooperation between J&T Ventures and a private investor, will be used to refine the engineering of Neuron Soundware’s physical devices and software, and to support its outreach to large industrial machinery firms, where demand for the technology is already growing.

Neuron Soundware, StartupYard Accelerator

According to Konecny, the technology, based on “deep neural networks,” learns from the sounds machinery produces, and can detect patterns too faint or complex for a human to hear, diagnosing issues with machinery well before they become catastrophic. Konecny says of the technology: “Sound is a rich source of data, and also quite universal, which is why mechanics and engineers rely on it so much. But a human cannot listen to 100 airplane or diesel engines for 1000 hours each, and make sense of it all. A machine can do this, and when one engine fails, it can apply that learning to all it has already heard, thus greatly enhancing our ability to detect and prevent future problems.”

“When Neuron Soundware joined us for our 6th program [out of 8], their approach to understanding sound had never really been tried before,” commented Cedric Maloux, our CEO, “leveraging StartupYard’s mentor network, locally and abroad, they were able to very quickly prove that there was a huge need for this kind of technology.” The company notes that future applications for machine learning and sound reach beyond machine maintenance, to product testing, autonomous navigation, green energy solutions, and even security. “Sound is everywhere,” remarks Konecny, “and we’ve just started to see how we can use it to understand more of how everything works.”

About Neuron Soundware:

Neuron Soundware is a deep tech startup, exploring the use of self-teaching, constantly learning neural networks in a wide range of audio analysis and audio manipulation applications. Since 2016, Neuron Soundware has focused on technology to monitor and diagnose industrial equipment to predict failures and increase efficiency. They include Siemens and a number of other leading industrial and transportation equipment manufacturers among their clients.

About J&T Ventures:

J&T Ventures is a Venture Capital fund based in Prague. The fund invests up to €500 000 in technology firms at the seed stage in CEE region. Since 2014, J&T Ventures has been invested in 11 growing and promising innovative startups with the goal to contribute to their dynamic growth and value creation. The fund focuses mainly on B2B sector with a particular interest in FinTech, IT (Big Data Analytics), IoT/IoE & Smart City IoT and Retail.

 

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017

Update: StartupYard in Bucharest: June 6th, Partnering with Bucharest.ai

Update: June 1st, 2017:

We’re pleased to announce that StartupYard will partner with Bucharest.ai to reach out to AI specialists and enthusiasts in Romania ahead of and during our visit on the 6th. Bucharest.ai, a part of the CITY.AI project, will speak about the current state of AI in Romania, and give insights and inspiration to potential founders of AI companies in the region. 

A Talk from Alexandra Petrus: 

We are witnessing a nascent playfield where innovators are building amazing products that address unthinkable human problems.  During this talk, we’ll see the Current State of AI: AI beyond the hype, bold predictions and why build an AI product. This talk will take place immediately following a presentation by StartupYard (more info below)
About City.ai
CITY.AI is a community of 23+ cities that share discoveries in applied AI and connect you to international peers. City.AI powers Chapters throughout the globe. The local communities bring unique contributions, perspectives and are bound by the purpose of collaborative knowledge in the field of Applied AI. By increasing transparency and collaboration, we aim to enable more people to better apply artificial intelligence.
About Alexandra: 
Alexandra Petrus is an experienced operations and product leadership professional, with 6+ years of international startup experience who focuses on new technology products and services. Currently contributing to the fintech & ecomm world through products @2checkout; she ran Products @Reincubate – the app data company, helps build the Bucharest City.AI Chapter as an Ambassador and is igniting her hobby and passion that are the emerging technologies & how to contribute to a better life and environment experience through the side projects that she runs (#healthtech).

 

Are Romanian deep tech startups, those working on AI, Machine Learning, advanced Cryptography, Blockchain, and IOT applications, competitive yet on the global stage? That is what the StartupYard team will explore during a day of workshops and networking at TechHub Bucharest, on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017.

Are you a Romanian entrepreneur with a love of technology and a potentially killer idea for a global business using AI/ML/Blockchain/IoT or something else? StartupYard is your stepping stone to the wider world. Find out more, and sign up for one of the workshops or presentations below:

WHERE: TechHub, Bucharest 

Agenda:

14:00-15:30: Making it Real: Storytelling and Positioning for Deep Tech Workshop with Lloyd Waldo
16:00-18:00: Office hours with StartupYard
18:00-19:00: From Genius Idea to a Global Business: Creating AI Startups from ScratchPresentation with Cedric Maloux

About the Events:

Office Hours with StartupYard:

Looking for feedback, advice, or connections in a specific domain, or on your ideas generally? We’re here to lend you a hand. You can sign up to meet the StartupYard team for a private 20-minute session on June 6th. No obligations whatsoever.

 

Making it Real: Storytelling and Positioning for Deep Tech.

In this spellbinding workshop, Lloyd Waldo, creative marketing veteran of dozens of startups, will show entrepreneurs how early stage companies can apply practical storytelling skills to convince their earliest stakeholders (including cofounders, investors, customers, and employees), of the power of a new idea. Learn to instinctively transform ideas from dry descriptions and speculation into compelling narratives, that put you in control of the conversation. Learn how simple positioning and framing devices can help you to achieve greater clarity in your ideas, and persuade others to believe in what you do.
Hosted by StartupYard Community Manager Lloyd Waldo , 14:00-15:30, Tuesday June 6th at TechHub Bucharest.

 

 

cedric maloux startupyard

StartupYard Managing Director Cedric Maloux

Presentation: From Genius Idea to a Global Business: Creating AI Startups from Scratch

Cedric Maloux has been an internet entrepreneur almost since there has been an internet after graduating in 1992 as an Engineer in Artificial Intelligence. He started his first major online venture in 1996, and sold it in 2000. He’s been starting new ones ever since reaching millions of users around the world. StartupYard, which Maloux runs as Managing Director, helps technically sophisticated developers and makers turn their ideas into real, growing businesses. In recent years, we have helped launch a series of high tech startups including TeskaLabs, Neuron Soundware, Cryptelo, Chatler.ai and Rossum.ai. Find out how these startups went from a brilliant idea, to companies serving clients all over the world with cutting edge technologies. –Hosted by StartupYard MD Cedric Maloux. 18:00-19:00, Tuesday June 6th at TechHub Bucharest.

 

Krakow Tech

Tomasz Wesolowski: Krakow Breaks Out as High Tech Capital in Poland

Tomek Wesolowski is Founder and CEO of the high tech startup 2040.io. Based in Krakow, he also organizes one of Poland’s biggest meetup groups for AI specialists and enthusiasts: AIMeetup.

StartupYard will partner with AIMeetup in Krakow on June 8th, for an event full of AI speakers, workshops, and a presentation from StartupYard for potential startup founders.

 

 

I caught up with Tomek recently to talk about his company, AI initiatives in Krakow, and the Polish tech ecosystem generally. Tomek also contributed to our in-depth analysis of the Polish tech investment landscape last month. You can read it here.

Here is what he had to say:

Hi Tomek, first, tell us a bit about yourself, and your journey towards becoming a tech founder.

Tomasz Weselowski, Krakow Tech

I’ve spent the last 16 years in the internet-industry as an entrepreneur, advisor, and board member of several companies. My main scope of activities was connected with the software house Empathy, which I founded in 2000. It started from 2 people, and then, with my business partner Bartek, we managed to grow the company to 60 employees. From 2012, after M&A process of three companies I was the Managing Partner of Unity Group (over 200 employees).

Meanwhile I was also a co-founder and board member of PROFEO – the community for professionals (Polish Linkedin competitor), founder of Techcamp –  biggest Polish technological barcamp meetings and co-founder of Ecommerce director’s club.

In 2015 I decided to leave my position at Unity Group to build something new from scratch. Now I am fully focused on the new project, creating an intelligent assistant Edward, as a co-founder and CEO of 2040.io.

Tell us more about your latest startup: 2040.io. How are you hoping to change the way the sales process happens in the mobile connected world?

During all these years we’ve managed to complete hundreds of projects for different types of customers: from small to medium and big players. My main knowledge gained from this period concerned the observation of how end-users use their software. I found out that people are very reluctant to use programs that are too complicated. On the other hand, the constantly increasing number of data and processes somehow enforces this complication and makes it difficult to control the business without using modern software.

When we created 2040.io we decided to make it simpler. We wanted to create an intelligent assistant that will communicate with the users in the form of a “chat” interface, and at the same time will be smart enough to automatically learn the behaviour of the users. We also wanted to take advantage of the dynamic growth of the machine learning segment and combine these algorithms with a natural conversational interface.

What kinds of industries do you think 2040.io could disrupt, and how?

Starting from the name of our company: We believe that by 2040 artificial intelligence will be as smart as humans. Now, let’s imagine a world, where artificial intelligence will help you with most of your daily activities. A world, where machines and humans will cooperate to provide better products and services.  The fact is that in the future every user will have his own A.I. assistant that will learn from his data and help him to draw proper conclusions.

Using these types of intelligent assistants will revolutionize the way we use business software. We like to think of this segment comparing its early stage of development to early websites. The capabilities of such typse of assistants may soon become unlimited, just like it was with the web-application industry. This is why we created Edward – an artificial intelligence powered assistant for sales teams.

What can Edward to right now?

We managed to create our own software for creating intelligent assistants for various industries. It consists of a multi-language platform for building interactive conversations, a system for efficient processing of large data sets (big data), and models for automatic classification of data based on machine learning. Edward was created on top of this platform.

When it comes to the interface, we focused on the user’s convenience, and not on the necessity of understanding a natural language. This is why Edward is not a typical chatbot. It uses a conversational interface, but we are not forcing the users to enter data, questions or messages. We must remember, that if we will try to fake a real conversation, the user will expect human behavior and intelligent conversations from the assistant. At the moment, we are not ready for it, so we decided to use a “hybrid” interface that combines conversation, suggesting action on the keys and other multimedia elements facilitating system use.

Searching for an analogy to other projects, we can say that Edward works in a similar way as Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant. However, he focuses on one particular area which he knows the best. That means we keep our focus on vertical AI instead of building a general, horizontal AI assistant, which is very hard to create. Sometimes we call Edward “Siri for sales”.

We are currently still in the beta phase, although we already have over a dozen customers using Edward. We are now working with them to decide about the future roadmap of development to make Edward even more friendly and useful, not only for sales reps but also the managers. This is why, for example we created beautiful dashboards that are giving the sales manager an opportunity to compare sales reps performance and draw conclusions about the whole sales process (eg. how much time spent on customer leads to particular effect in sales numbers).

You’re also the leader of a major tech meetup in Krakow. Can you tell us how this got started, and what has happened in the community over the past few years?

Krakow Tech

Building a tech community related to our work was always very important to me. In my previous company, in 2011 we started our first tech meeting, called Techcamp. It took us two years to became one of the biggest Polish technological barcamp meetings. We covered many topics starting from cloud computing to technological “fights” between PHP and Java.

And in 2016 when we founded 2040.io, we noticed that the AI community is not well integrated. There are some events devoted to technical issues, but there is still a need for a meeting where people can gather and hear some presentations covering both business and technical aspects. This is how we started our A.I. Meetup under the motto “Let’s meet to talk about AI.” Looking at the number of participants currently reaching 200 people it seems that we have achieved our goal. That is why we decided to extend the formula to other cities in 2017.

Is Krakow a good place to start a tech company? What are some of the advantages?

Krakow is a special city on the Polish tech-map. Thanks to many years of history and amazing climate, it attracts creative and open-minded people. Very often they choose to study at technical universities such as AGH, or Polytechnic. This means that despite the presence of many foreign corporations, Krakow has a very strong startup community, and the spirit of entrepreneurship leads a lot of people to open their businesses here. We also have access to amazing people who want to develop and learn new things while they are studying. I was born in Krakow, so I may not be objective, but despite our limitations in terms of infrastructure, having the option of starting a business anywhere in Poland, I would choose Krakow again.

Poland has a reputation in Central Europe as being somewhat isolated and self-sufficient. Do you think this reputation is earned? Does it present a problem for Polish startups?

It seems to me that the approach Polish businesses on target the internal market is a kind of myth that we must face when talking to people from other countries. It is true that Poland has a very large internal market and for many years it was enough to run a business here to be successful.

However, over the past 10 years that changed a lot. First of all, our entry into the European Union and opening of the borders made so many young people leave the country. Some of them came back with the intention of building their business in Poland, but already with an appetite for the global market.

Secondly, the development of technology has made us start competing with our colleagues who are working on similar projects worldwide. So now, almost everyone is thinking about the market in a global way, and some businesses do not even open their sales in Poland but direct themselves from the beginning to the USA.

Our big Polish market has its advantages. We are able to get some customers and financial base here, which will allow us to scale more freely into foreign markets. Whenever possible, it is sometimes a good idea to start a business on the Polish market, test some hypotheses, and then scale the solution abroad. It is also unmatched by the lower labor costs of engineers coupled with their high competences. This is why sometimes companies cutting their core business from Poland are leaving their R & D centers here, which makes their projects better, faster and cheaper than their counterparts in other countries.

Polish startups also have open access to a lot of government backed up programs dedicated to startups, and as you’ve noticed in your blog post related to this topic this may cause a problem in terms of building real innovations in our country. On the other hand, due to lack of private capital, young entrepreneurs sometimes have no other choice to start their business, so they choose to do it by taking some public funding.

What are your plans for the future of 2040.io?

We started only with our private money, and the company was also backed up by two business angels. We are currently raising our first early seed round, as we need some money to grow sales and expand our development team. We are talking with both government backed funds, and private ones, so after we finish this stage I hope I will be able to share with you some thoughts regarding the process.

In terms of product, as I mentioned we are now testing our first version of Edward with customers, getting feedback and tuning it to their needs. The plan is to stay on Polish market till the end of 2017, as the product will be technically finished and ready to scale abroad. That means we are now looking for B2B companies from all over the world, that are willing to try the beta version and share their feedback with us. If you are interested in testing Edward, feel free to register on our webpage http://edward.ai/ or contact me directly.

Polish AI/ML Geeks: Let’s Meetup in Krakow, June 8, 2017

We’re very pleased to announce that StartupYard will partner with Krakow’s largest Artificial Intelligence meetup, for a June 8th event, where AI founders will have the opportunity to pitch StartupYard, and learn more about how StartupYard can change the course of a deep tech company.

The Krakow Artificial Intelligence Meetup

For this event, StartupYard partners with the Krakow Artificial Intelligence Meetup. Run by AI entrepreneur and friend of StartupYard Tomasz Weselowski, the meetup was founded in August 2016, and has attracted over 700 members since then, running 3 events so far.

About The Meetup:

StartupYard’s management team will give a presentation on workshop aimed at AI specialists and ML geeks, on the benefits of acceleration, and building a global business, among other topics. There will be a list of other speakers announced shortly via the meetup group’s meetup page.

Here are the presentation and workshop:

Presentation: From Genius Idea to a Global Business: Creating AI Startups from Scratch

Cedric Maloux has been an internet entrepreneur almost since there has been an internet. He started his first major online venture in 1996, and sold it in 2000. He’s been starting new ones ever since. StartupYard, which Maloux runs as Managing Director, helps technically sophisticated developers and makers turn their ideas into real, growing businesses. In recent years, we have helped launch a series of high tech startups including TeskaLabs, Neuron Soundware, Cryptelo, and Rossum.ai. Find out how these startups went from a brilliant idea, to companies serving clients all over the world with cutting edge technologies. –Hosted by StartupYard MD Cedric Maloux. 18:00-19:00, Tuesday June 6th at TechHub Bucharest.

 

Making it Real: Storytelling and Positioning for Deep Tech.

In this spellbinding workshop, Lloyd Waldo, creative marketing veteran of dozens of startups, will show entrepreneurs how early stage companies can apply practical storytelling skills to convince their earliest stakeholders (including cofounders, investors, customers, and employees), of the power of a new idea. Learn to instinctively transform ideas from dry descriptions and speculation into compelling narratives, that put you in control of the conversation. Learn how simple positioning and framing devices can help you to achieve greater clarity in your ideas, and persuade others to believe in what you do.
Hosted by StartupYard Community Manager Lloyd Waldo , 14:00-15:30, Tuesday June 6th at TechHub Bucharest.

 

Ada Jonuse, Startupyard, Lithuanian startups

Ada Jonuse: Lithuanian Startups Need to Think Bigger

 

I will be heading to Lithuania for the first time on May 25th to mentor startups and host a workshop at LOGIN Startup Fair, in Vilnius. As you may know, StartupYard has only ever accelerated one startup from Lithuania, the Slovak/Lithuanian team behind Feedpresso, the AI enabled news collection and curation app (which I also use myself).

Ahead of my trip, I caught up with Ada Jonuse, a well known figure in the Lithuanian tech community, and an advocate of women professionals in the technology sector. Ada has been an event organizer in Lithuania for many years, and has worked in the European Parliament, including as the head of the office of MEP Antanas Guoga from 2012-2014, where she organized #SWICTH!: international event on ICT and entrepreneurship in Vilnius. September 2016: with 10.000 participants, the event garnered the Guinness World Record of the biggest programming lesson in the world.

Here’s what she has to say about Lithuania, the tech scene there, and more:

Hi Ada, you’ve worked in the European Parliament, founded several IT education initiatives in Lithuania, and you “gather talented women in tech.: Tell us a bit about yourself, and why do you what you do.

Right now my main occupation and passion is being CEO and co-founder of Lympo.lt. Lympo is a platform which helps to find the best personal trainers near you and I have a vision that it will gradually evolve to a general global talent sharing platform. We want to make money-free exchanges possible with Lympo points underpinned by blockchain technology.Lithuanian Startups, StartupYard, Ada Jonuse

Actually, I always wanted to become a politician and this is why I returned to Lithuania after 10 years abroad. It did not quite work out as expected as the party I was running with for parliamentary elections got involved in a massive corruption scandal. During my years in the European Parliament I had an opportunity to work with a talented entrepreneur turned politician (and a poker star!) Antanas Guoga. He inspired me to join Lympo and this is how I found myself in a world full of new discoveries.

When I recruited first team members for Lympo in December, I had no idea what the difference between back-end and front-end is. 🙂 For me, leading a startup is a big responsibility and a commitment to never stop learning.

StartupYard is headed to Vilnius for the first time this year, for the startup fair at LOGIN. What should we expect from Lithuanian startups? What are their key strengths?

LOGIN is a great event and I am very glad you will be visiting Vilnius. You will be surprised that Lithuanian startups don’t actually have to be Lithuanian: their founders, CTOs and key developers might be coming from Ukraine, Belarus or Russia. This talent influx made the startup ecosystem in Vilnius much more interesting. You should expect tech-heavy companies focussing on providing various niche B2B solutions: it could be, for example, VR, big data, medtech, fintech. The key strengths are very talented engineers, hard working teams and drive towards perfection. On the other hand, they might lack business development or global strategy elements.

When people think about the Baltics and tech, it’s usually Estonia front and center. Would you say Lithuania is following in Estonia’s footsteps, or making its own path forward? What does Lithuania lack that Estonia has, and where are Lithuania’s advantages?

Lithuania is on its own path. In recent years, we concentrated on enabling fintech companies to thrive in Lithuania. The Bank of Lithuania did a great job and now the country has one of the most innovation friendly regulation systems in Europe. Another big topic is gaming industry. Lithuania attracts a lot of IT talent from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Great gaming talents could make Vilnius a strong gaming hub. What Lithuania lacks in comparison to Estonia is obviously a big success story like Skype and all the experience and connections that came with it. So far, we also lacked a proactive government that makes digital innovation its top priority.

Lithuania is a small country, and sadly many Europeans don’t know much about it. What do you wish more of the European community knew about the character of the country, the people, and life in Lithuania?

It is natural that a country of 3 million people is difficult to remember. I wish Lithuania was known more for its amazing nature. We have superb quality air, water, lots of space and fresh and healthy natural food. I love gathering wild berries in the endless forests of Lithuania. It is such an exceptional experience. Most people in the world are deprived of these crucial elements of good life. I started appreciating this a lot after my traineeship with the UN in Kathmandu, Nepal, which is one of the most polluted Asian cities.

Estonia has cultivated a strong reputation for an innovative government, in addition to the private tech industry. Has this had a big influence Lithuania as well? How does the government relate to the tech ecosystem?

Lithuanian government is very innovative in the fields of e-government and digital services for citizens. This works great. Much better than in the majority of EU countries. However, on the larger scale I miss more strategic government actions. Let’s take education: IT education in schools is old fashioned and starts way too late. At the same time, there is a huge lack of developers in the country. I personally constantly struggle to find people. Therefore, I co-founded an initiative to provide every Lithuanian fifth-grader with a BBC micro:bit microcomputer in 2017. Lithuania is celebrating 100th anniversary of modern statehood next year and this will be our gift for the upcoming 100 years!

On the same theme, how does Lithuania compare with the rest of Europe in terms of conditions for entrepreneurs, in things like taxation, bureaucracy, and legal complexity? 

Within Europe I had a chance to live in Germany, Belgium,  the UK and Italy. I dealt with bureaucracy in all these countries. Now, back to Lithuania ten years later I realize how simple our bureaucratic system is. It took us less than 2 days to establish a company and we didn’t use any paper at all! When it comes to taxation, as an entrepreneur I have one single wish for the Lithuanian government: tech companies must have tax exemptions for the first year. In order to pay an employee 1500 EUR I have to spend 2600 EUR. This is killing startups.

As mentioned, you founded W@Tech, a platform for professional women in tech. Would you say the Lithuania and the Baltic states generally are doing better, or worse than the rest of Europe when it comes to being inclusive?

I am right now part of an amazing project – Women Go Tech mentorship program which connected me to a wonderful mentor Darius Montvila. The very fact though that this program exists shows that we lack women talents in Lithuania as well as in the rest of the world. Having in mind that women are top users of many tech products, from social media networks to e-commerce platforms, it is staggering that only 17% of startups have female founders.

W@Tech aims to make these names known and show more role models to inspire younger generation. Together with W@Tech, I plan to organize a conference on VC startup financing in Berlin this autumn. It will be almost impossible to find female VC speakers, but we will do all it takes to at least uncover some names.

What would you say are two or three of the top challenges for Vilnius as a tech ecosystem today, and what are local entrepreneurs, investors, or the government doing about them?

Number 1 challenge is a lack of global mindset and network. There are so many startups that aim to operate in the Lithuanian market. It is simply too small. Entrepreneurs don’t have connections to big tech hubs like Silicon Valley, London or even Berlin. Number 2 challenge is related to that. It is a lack of big ambitions. As access to finance is difficult, startups must make money as soon as possible, but they need to find a business model and grow first. Big ideas have to find markets for their expansion. Government played an important role in securing more IT talent by making visas for non-EU citizens easier. We even have a startup visa now, so the whole startup can migrate to Vilnius with the assistance of the city and the government.

Big ideas have to find markets for their expansion: @adajonuse on #Lithuania #startups Click To Tweet

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017

For you, what are the two or three biggest successes in tech to come out of Lithuania in the last few years? What parts of the tech ecosystem show the most promise going forward?

 

One of our great successes is  a mobile social marketplace for secondhand clothing with more than 11 million users and its top market Germany. Actually, the co-founder and CEO of Vinted, Justas Janauskas, is advisor to my company Lympo. We learn so much from Justas. I believe that more successful companies should mentor young startups in Lithuania. [Vinted secured 27M Euros in VC funding in 2015]

I also admire Trafi – a public transport app based on machine learning, data from the crowd and self-learning. It was the official public transport app for Olympic games in Rio. Last year, Trafi launched a partnership with Uber for connecting public transport with Uber services.

When it comes to fintech, I have to mention the Bitcoin wallet SpectroCoin. It has achieved great results last year.

Top 3 #startups in Lithuania to watch via @adajonuse: @trafiapp, @vinted and @spectrocoin Click To Tweet

It is a bit unfair, but I must mention two exciting companies I work with myself: PM Screen producing 3D holograms and interactive screen apps with amazing projects in the US and Dubai; and a.lot parking – a parking technology company that aims to transform parking industry in the US. With license plate recognition technology so common in Lithuania, we want to ensure seamless parking experiences and even enable everyone to rent out their private parking space in a garage.

So, you see, the variety of companies is huge: from marketplaces to machine learning and fintech. And then there is a big lot of niche B2B tech startups working with big data, sensor technologies, 3D printing and much more.

What would be your 3 top reasons for visiting Vilnius (or other parts of Lithuania), and what are a few things a visitor simply has to do there?  

 

I love Vilnius. It is my home town and honestly one of the best places in the world. Vilnius has a charming medieval old town, a great bar scene and vibrant cultural life. People here might not smile a lot, but they are very helpful and sincere once you get to know them a bit better. I would propose to discover some great street art and the atmosphere in the upcoming part of the town, Naujamiestis, close to the train station; to take a balloon flight during one of the fantastic summer sunsets and to simply try to get lost in the narrow streets of Vilnius. You will discover so much.

SY Podcast: Mergim Cahani, Founder and CEO of the Fastest Growing Tech Company in the Balkans

Central Europe Accelerator

StartupYard Announces Second Fundlift Campaign for 2 Accelerator Rounds

Last year, we gave qualified investors the opportunity to invest in StartupYard Batch 7, via the Czech investment crowdfunding platform Fundlift, backed by Roklen. As you may know, the campaign was more successful than even we had hoped, and the subscription limit was met in a matter of days.  

Because our community has expressed such interest, we are very pleased to announce that StartupYard will again be doing a private placement via Fundlift to invest in StartupYard Batches 8 and 9 and potential follow-on funding for the best performing companies. This will be our first fund to cover more than one cohort of startups, and the focus of Batches 8 and 9 will be “Deep Tech.”

Here is the official announcement from Roklen

The New Fund and Focus

The fund will raise a minimum of 13m CZK, and will include investment capital for 14-20 startups, and a potential follow-on fund for both rounds, giving investors an opportunity to further leverage the first-mover advantage of investing in very early stage companies.

Deep Tech, in short, means technologies and products that are unique, difficult to replicate, or are exploring areas of innovation where the barrier to entry remains high, and the problems scientifically complex and difficult, such as Robots, AI, IoT, VR/AR, and Cryptography. StartupYard will seek to identify more early stage startups with a profile similar to such Deep Tech-focused alumni as Neuron Soundware, TeskaLabs, Cryptelo, or Rossum.

Up to 150 qualified investors will be able to take part in this non-public offer, and they will invest alongside a group of professional startup investors. The minimum ticket for this Fundlift campaign will be 25,000 CZK.

Where Does the Money Go?

Funds being raised will be invested directly in 14-20 startups, in two rounds of acceleration. Each team will receive a direct investment of 30,000 Euros (half at the midpoint of the program, and half at the end), and the best performers may be considered for follow-on financing, either in cooperation with outside investors, or in-house.

Investors will own a proportional stake in each of the startups selected and accelerated for this round. StartupYard’s total stake in individual startups ranges from 5-10%, or higher, in case of a follow-on investment. 

Why Not Invest Directly In Startups?

Of course, we want those interested and able to invest in early-stage startups to consider investing in any of our portfolio companies (present and future) directly. That should go without saying. If you want to invest in individual startups, you should do so, and we are happy to help you in that process.

At the same time, there are barriers to entry in angel investing that many with an appetite for investment find too cumbersome. Legal knowledge of investment, assuring transparency, and vetting startups is a challenge for any small scale investor. What’s more, startups who are worthy of investment often are selective of early investors, looking only for those with experience and a track record in angel investing. We advise startups to protect themselves in this process, by working with investors who are proven and recommended by others.

More and more, accelerators like StartupYard bridge these gaps: connecting qualified and trusted investors with equally qualified and trustworthy startups. An accelerator also spreads an investor’s risk to a selection of startups in several verticals, keeping their investments diverse.

You can see this as an opportunity to build your brand among startups as a potential investor; someone who is willing to invest, and has shown their capacity to take appropriate risks in order to do so. Angel investing isn’t for everyone, but it can be for more people. This can be seen as a manageable first step.

This is a way of getting started. You shouldn’t expect to get rich quick as an angel investor, nor can you count on getting anything back, but investing through StartupYard can provide assurance that your investment is used appropriately, and that it has the best likelihood of success. We also ensure that startups follow industry best practices in legal and finance, and larger institutional investors, including VCs like Credo Ventures and Rockaway Capital, are also invested in the outcome of our decisions. In short, StartupYard can provide some protections against the pitfalls of angel investing that many are already familiar with.

There would be no StartupYard without investors willing to take risks. While we offer enormous value to angel investors who pick individual companies from our portfolio to invest in, that portfolio would not exist, if we did not have our own committed investors supplying initial funds. An accelerator needs funding- just as a fire needs oxygen. In order to accelerate, or to expand our services to startups, we have to have funding in place.

How to Invest?

Fundlift is not a donation platform like Kickstarter. It is an investment platform and you will be investing using Roklen as a licensed securities broker. In order to invest, a person must meet some legal requirements, including a full anti-money laundering process which is part of EU regulations.

Prospective investors should apply to open a brokerage account through Fundlift, and follow a verification process on the platform before being allowed to invest. It may sound daunting, but it is worthwhile. Once you become an investor, your investments will be duly recorded on your account and Roklen will administer all payments, change of ownership and key reporting until such time when we exit all investments and return money and profits to you, our investors.

If you are interested in the offering, please send an email to info@fundlift.cz . More info is available directly from Fundlift

StartupYard will be at Startup Safary Budapest: April 20-21

We’re pleased to announce that StartupYard will take part in Startup Safary Budapest, April 20th and 21st, 2017.

What is Startup Safary?

Budapest turns into a startup exhibition for 2 days

For two days only, most of the tech community of Budapest opens its doors, and takes part in a broad series of meetups at dozens of locations around the city. This year, an estimate 3-5,000 people will participate.
As an attendee, you can register online and pick from the program sessions you want to attend. This way, you create your personal schedule, which you will follow during the event, traveling around the city and visiting various offices.

 

StartupYard Events

From Genius Idea to a Global Business: creating AI startups from Scratch

20/04/2017 17:30 – 18:00 – thehub.hu, 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 65.

21/04/2017 TBA Mosaik, 1136 Budapest, Pannónia utca 32.

StartupYard helps technically sophisticated developers and makers turn their ideas into real, growing businesses. In recent years, we have helped launch a series of high tech startups including TeskaLabs, Neuron Soundware, Cryptelo, and Rossum.ai. Find out how these startups went from a brilliant idea, to companies serving clients all over the world with cutting edge technologies.

 

Office Hours with StartupYard

20.04.2017: 13:00 – 16:00 – thehub.hu, 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 65 

21.04.2017: TBA – Mosaik, 1136 Budapest, Pannónia utca 32.

This is your chance to meet the management team of Central Europe’s leading seed accelerator for tech startups, and find out how we can help you turn your experience and knowledge of AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Blockchain, or Cryptology into a globally scaleable business. Come to find out about our program, pitch us an idea, or make a connection.

How do I meet the StartupYard team in Budapest?

There will be a few opportunities. First, we warmly invite you to join our workshops at TheHub and Mosaik, where you can hear about real-life examples of startups that have been through our program, and what they have accomplished as a result.

You can also sign up for our office hours. Because this event is happening under the umbrella of Startup Safary, you should sign up directly on their platform, and you will need to purchase a ticket on their website (tickets are just 8 Euros, and go toward organizing the events).

We will update this post when we have times for our appearances at Mosaic on April 21st.

We look forward to seeing you!

Petya Lipeva, Puzl Coworking

Exclusive Interview: Puzl’s Petya Lipeva on the Bulgarian Tech Space

On April 11-12 2017, StartupYard will be visiting Sofia to meet with Deep Tech startups, and offer two workshops – one on turning an AI idea into a global business, and the other on storytelling for Deep Tech startups.

Before our next official visit, which is to be StartupYard’s third in beautiful Sofia, I talked to Petya Lipeva, Chief Navigator of CowOrKing by Puzl, one of Sofia’s hottest tech startup spaces, about the tech scene in Sofia, how it’s changed in recent years, and what we can expect in the near future from Bulgarian startups. Here is what she had to say:

Hi Petya, first why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself, and your path to becoming Chief Navigator at Puzl?

Hey StartupYard-ers! My name is Petya and I’m the Chief Navigator at Puzl CowOrKing – a coworking space for IT professionals and IT startups in Sofia, Bulgaria. I joined the team a month after they opened the first space.

My background is in PR and marketing for a Bulgarian tech company in the CG industry. For a few years I was traveling the world and I needed to settle down, so I tried to do some freelancing work. However, being a freelancer is quite a lonely experience for a person that is used to working with big crowds.

I was considering relocating to France or Italy when I found out that two guys opened a new shared space in Sofia and they were looking for a person to run the space. I met the team for a lunch and this was the most random job interview that I ever had. It was a couple of days before the start of a big CG conference that I was organizing and my phone was ringing all the time. Meanwhile we were speaking about anything but my role in the team. It’s amazing how you click immediately when you find your people!

Petya Lipeva, Coworking by Puzl

What makes Puzl CowOrKing, aside from any other workspace in Sofia, a special place?

First of all Puzl CowOrKing is the first industry focused coworking space in Sofia. We created the space to help IT companies and professionals to grow and develop together. The amazing industrial design is complemented with different areas to foster efficiency, collaboration, and creativity both for companies and individuals.

We started with one space in October 2015 and a few months later in May 2016 we opened a new floor that we created specially for early-stage startups. In the beginning of April 2017, we’re opening another floor with 10 dedicated offices for small startup companies. The idea is to have different areas so a team could start with some desks in the area for the early stage startups and move across the different zones as the team grows and develops.

Do you have some success stories from your own alumni you’d like to highlight?

Yes, we do have quite a lot of success stories! I’d say that the whole community of 250 professionals is one amazing success story.

We have quite a lot of starting companies that are funded by different funds and accelerators. We have a few examples of individuals who are starting alone and growing a team of 10 people. My best success stories however are the collaboration stories – I love seeing how companies and professionals in the space start working together and find it valuable to exchange experience and resources.

StartupYard is about to make our 4th visit in as many years to Sofia. What would you say have been the most profound changes about the city and the tech ecosystem there in the past decade? What can we expect when we visit next month?

I would say that about 10 years ago in Bulgaria only a few people had heard the word ‘startup’  and the entrepreneurship ecosystem basically didn’t exist. However a decade is quite a long period and the ecosystem is thriving now.

Last year Forbes Magazine named  Sofia  one of the top 10 destinations for starting a business. Only three years after the first venture capital funds Launchub and Eleven started; they have already about 200 start-up companies in their portfolio. Recently we also witnessed one of the largest exits in the region, with a value of 262.5 million USD after acquisition of Telerik by Progress Software.

Quite a lot of organizations are working on organizing entrepreneurship events and trainings and the country is definitely showing a great progress and could show a thriving and interesting tech ecosystem.

What are, in your view, the biggest strengths of Bulgarian tech people, engineers, and thinkers?

I’ve noticed that the engineers in Bulgaria have amazing tech skills – they are talented, dedicated and passionate about their projects. They are real problem-solvers and quite interesting people – there are some quiet ones, loud ones, crazy ones, real inventors, thinkers, and players.

To you, which have been the most interesting and inspiring successes in tech to come out of Sofia or Bulgaria in the last few years?

The most inspiring success to come out of Sofia is Chaos Group – the company that develops the rendering plugin for 3D computer graphics software applications – V-Ray. Chaos Group founder Vladimir Koylazov received an Academy Plaque at the 2017 Academy Awards. The award, presented by the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, recognizes V-Ray’s role in bringing realistic CGI to the big screen.

Another great success is the above mentioned largest exits in the region by Telerik. We have quite a lot of interesting starting tech companies and I’m sure that we’ll see many more great stories in the upcoming years!

What kinds of things do you think we can expect from Bulgarian startups in the near future?

I’d say that we’ll see many exciting products and services coming from the Bulgarian startups and I’m sure that we’ll see many teams growing worldwide. I’m sure that soon enough I’ll be saying proudly “he/she used to work in Puzl CowOrKing”.

Bulgaria is a relatively small economy. Does this force Bulgarian startups to think bigger? Does it have a negative impact on startups looking for their first customers and their first investor?

Yes, Bulgaria is a small economy but it’s a great floor for product testing before going outside the boundaries. The small economy is definitely pushing the startups to grow bigger and to find bigger markets. However, I don’t think it has impact on finding customers and investors, as nowadays we’re all easily connected and because of the thriving ecosystem in the region. It’s easy to access many resources outside the country.

How would you rate the local and state government’s involvement in the tech ecosystem? What are they doing right, and what are they doing wrong?

The local and the state government is not much involved in the tech ecosystem although they are trying a lot. It takes time – the administration in Bulgaria is quite slow in picking up new trends and the tech ecosystem is still something that they don’t completely understand and relate to what’s happening in a starting company. I think the administration needs to attract a new generation of people in order to start helping out the tech ecosystem.