They already know how to make money
Understand what taking the Expresso and EDP acceleration programme means for start-ups. In addition to the €50,000 prize
Money makes the world go around and in few places is this truer than in the entrepreneurship world. Funding rounds, business angels, venture capital, seed money and financial assessments, for example. It is all part of this ecosystem’s jargon. Let those who took part in the EDP Open Innovation tell you, the start-up acceleration competition organised by Expresso and EDP, as it once again looks for 15 business ideas to give them a new dimension. Entering its seventh edition - the result of the union of Energia de Portugal Prize and the EDP Innovation Prize - the programme focuses on transforming projects into successful companies. “It was our launchpad,” said Tiago Reis of Mater Dynamics. The CEO of the team that won the main prize in 2015, with a project that focused on developing sensors to monitor product quality, does not forget how the “structured approach to the programme” was what they needed to get where they are today. In numbers? “We have decided not to accept foreign investment yet. However, given our growth and future expansion plans, we are negotiating for €325,000 with our first potential investor in the United Kingdom. In internal terms, we have already invested €115,000 in sales. “In 2016, revenues reached €48,142,000 and amounts contracted between 1 January and 31 May of this year stood at €87,394,000.
Creating solid foundations to attract customers and funding could almost be the mantra of the programme and its different incarnations. For those who count themselves among the selected group, in addition to the expertise acquired and the work developed, there is also the incentive of the final €50,000 prize for the group of entrepreneurs who present the best business idea. The three teams that most stand out win the much sought-after ticket to the year’s best shop window, the second edition of the Web Summit in Portugal. These incentives are added to a track record of success, to continue to attract companies that are currently calling the shots in the business world.
A description that Thermosite will recognise. In 2015, they won the Energy Award (awarded to the company with the best project in the energy sector), with their digital platform that helps customers find the best air conditioning. Pedro Soares recalls the experience as “enriching, because it allowed us to learn and to solidify concepts that turned an idea into a good business.” A “real and intensive mini-MBA”, he added. After reaching the annual sales target of €300,000 in just five months, they now want to reach the “ambitious goal of €1 million”, with the doors opened by their partnership with the GIA group - which holds a 16% share of the Spanish air conditioning market. Winners of the same prize last year, with their innovative tool for data generation and analysis, DataSonar (then called Pknoa) ended 2016 with an initial capital investment round of €1.5 million and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Now “we really are a business project” said CEO, Maria João Mileu. The competition was the ideal platform “for the initial recognition of the technology” as well as for offering “access to the knowledge and experience of everyone involved”. Contacts were established during this time with “some of the largest companies in the country” and their trips to the Web Summit and to San Francisco clearly showed there was interest in a product for which the pilot tests have produced “excellent results”. Opening the competition to teams from Brazil was one of the defining points in its history, with the country on the other side of the Atlantic already producing two successful winners. In 2014, with its distance education platform for university students, the prize belonged to “Me Passa Aí!”. CEO Luiz Gustavo Borges remembers the period as “the starting point” that allowed “the business model to be validated”. Since then they have grown “very aggressively” and now have “subscribers from more than 1000 different faculties between Brazil and Portugal” – in addition to 120% revenue growth in the first months of this year. They recently closed a €100,000 round of financing and are now in contact with “the big players in the education market”. Last year, the victory belonged to Delfos, with their real-time wind turbine analysis system. With 5% of installed capacity in Brazil, they want to reach the end of 2017 with €100,000 in invoicing, reveals CEO Guilherme Studart, with “100% of our own equity”. Opening an office in Lisbon is one of the next steps in their plan to reach €600,000 in 2019. Euros that have EDP Open Innovation in common.
SIX EDITIONS OF THE COMPETITION
Of the 50 initial teams at the Impresa group’s headquarters to the opening up to Brazil, China and Spain, with hundreds of thousands of euros in prizes, review here the project and its winners
Ever since the competition officially began - with the original name of Energia de Portugal but the same partners as now, Expresso and EDP - on 29 January 2012, it has been extensively supported by the entrepreneurship community. More than 1600 applicants wanted to place their projects among the 50 teams that were preparing innovative projects in an ecosystem that at that time was still taking its first steps. There were eight work sessions, intense Saturday boot camps at the Impresa group headquarters. In this first edition not all teams presented an investment pitch (only ten had the opportunity) and there was no monetary prize for the winner. The winner was the Ostralusa team, with its innovative concept for oyster production on offshore platforms.
The main novelty of the second edition was the introduction of a €20,000 prize for the overall winner. In addition, teams from first to fifth place all received three to six months of additional acceleration at the Start-ups Factory, worth a total of €95,000. The programme’s structure otherwise remained relatively unchanged in a competition for new companies that were increasingly visible on the national and international scene, but more of that later. In the end, it was BetApp, with its social network for friends to challenge each other to wagers, that beat the strong opposition to claim victory.
The third edition of the programme sought to encourage internationalisation (which it continues to do to this day). Applications were invited from Brazil and China, while the number of finalists was reduced to 15. A new award, the Energy Prize, was introduced in addition to the main prize. Awarded by EDP for the best idea in the energy sector, this prize included a six-month incubation at EDP Starter. The boot camps were also cut to four and, apart for some last-minute withdrawals, all the teams pitched their ideas to the investors. At the first competition open to international entrants, it was the Brazilian “Me Passa Aí!” team that claimed the €20,000 prize with its platform of educational videos used to teach students remotely. The first Energy Award went to Pknoa, which has since changed its name to DataSonar, whose model is based on a sophisticated algorithm that collects data from the user’s daily life (in this case, businesses) to create big data statistics in real time.
In the fourth edition, and after the success of the previous year, the invitation to Brazil was kept open while no teams from China were invited to participate. The Energy Prize now included possible investment from EDP of up to €50,000 in addition to the incubation. Mater Dynamics was the winner of the main €20,000 prize. It had impressed throughout the programme with its project that focused on developing Qstamp, sensors that monitor the quality of certain products. This product is made from a flexible material that can be applied to any surface and which generates a visual signal that can be read by a smartphone. The Energy Prize was awarded to Thermosite, with its pioneering digital platform that calculates the best climate control solution for any house. It then tells the user how much the installation will cost and how long it will take for the investment to pay for itself.
This year there has been a great metamorphosis in a competition that has renewed itself and gained a new name. For the fifth edition it has been renamed the EDP Open Innovation (the results of union between the Energia de Portugal Prize and the EDP Innovation Prize) and, in addition to Portugal and Brazil, the competition is also open to entries from Spain. The teams are divided into five for each nation with the focus exclusively on ideas connected to the energy sector (which means the end of the Energy Prize). The big prize for the team with the best business idea has more than doubled in value, from €20,000 to €50,000, while the top three teams also win a place at the Web Summit. The connection with the other side of the Atlantic bore fruit yet again, with the main prize being awarded to Delfos. This team from Brazil have devised a solution that increases the productivity and lifecycle of a turbine without impacting on operating and maintenance costs through the use of a system that monitors the turbine, establishes standards of analysis and automatically anticipates problems.
Employing the same format as in 2016, this time the competition began with a boat trip down the River Tagus and again features energy ideas. After the Brazilian victory, this year the winner was Rated Power, a team from Spain with a business model that seeks to accelerate and optimise the implementation of photovoltaic plants to feed the industrial sectors. It remains to be seen what awaits us in 2018. Are you ready to be a part of it?
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