A bright future ahead for Hydrologistics Africa
Exactly one year! A colossal opportunity to launch ‘World’s First Virtual Water Network Operator’ in the heart city of Paris a thousand miles away from our country (Kenya). In an industry that has seen little disruption over the past decades we begun the journey to model technologies with a view to bring intelligence in water distribution network.
While water stress occurs throughout the world no region has been more afflicted than Sub-Saharan Africa which suffers from greater levels of water stress. Which begs the question as to why we came all the way to Europe with the idea (Bring value in every drop/every drop of water counts). Lack of water is an infrastructural concern effected by inefficiency in water distribution network which results from the conflicts of unpaid water bills, aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.
Three months in Paris building Hydrologistics Africa a water technology company bringing intelligence in water distribution by automating billing through mobile money and monitoring consumption real time through an online dashboard. First and foremost Techstars helped us conceptualize and sharpen the idea to create a business case that would stand out from the traditional models one that may blend to growing African population with few if any of our prototypes still at the development stage. Armed with technical expertise and advice from Techstars partners and mentors during long office hours (hardware development) shouldn’t be the order of play but rather scout for a partner manufacturer and fix attention on financial modelling, structuring and fundraising for the business.
In that period our team knocked door-door, remotely conducting a survey that would later accumulate as much data with insights showing over 90% of Nairobi residents needed a solution that could enable them monitor and manage their water consumption. This informed us from the beginning why Techstars uniquely positioned us to be ‘go to’ water service provider partner for major utilities across the African continent. Creating a Pan-African service group is significant strategic advantage to scale as first as possible and the reason Paris was the scene to network with renowned giant water companies (Veolia and Suez) just to mention a few.
First forward to 2018, we’ve built a platform that integrates mobile money with Kenya’s giant Mobile network operator Safaricom and we are building a mobile application for households to monitor water usage. What keeps us awake every other day? Signing up homes and gated communities to test the solution which we began with an average 200 monthly installations with the aim to reach 1,500 households by the end of 2018. We are partnering with Liquid Telecom the leading independent data, voice and IP provider in eastern, central and southern Africa with the aim to use their well-established infrastructure where already Sigfox network exists to set up water monitoring sensors.
In a nutshell, Techstars put a lot in us that made us a first. #GIVEFIRST. We look forward for exciting times ahead!
This November we’re celebrating entrepreneurs and startup communities around the world with Techstars Global Startup Weekend! This global showcase of entrepreneurship will feature hundreds of Techstars Startup Weekend events around the world, from Bali to Anchorage.
A global showcase wouldn’t be complete without some prizes to help the winning teams move forward with their new startups. At Techstars we praise our worldwide network as the #1 tool to help you succeed after an event. In addition to the network support, here are the other prizes for this year’s Techstars Global Startup Weekend winners:
- Conference Tickets (by region) (5–8 tickets)
- Techstars Job Portal Profile Feature
- Regional winners will be highlighted on our Job Portal website, for a lifetime! Companies will be able to see this highlight & badge of excellence when looking at candidate profiles.
- Techstars Water Bottles & Techstars T-Shirts
- Google for Startups Cloud Credits
- $3k in Google Cloud credits!
- WeWork Hot desk for six months
- Access to any open seat in the common area! Just show up, set up shop, and get to work.
- Google For Startups Cloud Credits
- $100k in Google Cloud credits!
- ClassPass membership
- Get an all-access membership to a global network of 10,000 fitness studios, or try their at-home workout videos! Relax after TGSW and try strength training, cycling, and more. Prize covers four $100 gift cards towards memberships.
- Rocketbook Everlast
- The Everlast notebook provides a classic pen and paper experience, yet is reusable and connected to the cloud. Add a drop of water and the notebook erases like magic. Prize covers four notebooks for your team.
Want to win these prizes to help launch your startup? Are you ready to be part of the biggest entrepreneurial celebration around the world? Find a Techstars Startup Weekend near you!
by the TerraManta team (Techstars Class 111)
It’s difficult to believe that one year has passed since TerraManta joined Techstars Paris 2017 program.
We did not know what to expect prior to arriving in Paris. What we found was an incredible ecosystem of mentors, advisors, and investors powered by overwhelming desire to help Techstars companies succeed.
Before sharing highlights about TerraManta progress, I have to express countless thanks to the Techstars team – both local and extended, the city of Paris for being our home away from home, and our launch customer – an integrated oil and energy company based in France.
How long would it take for a complete outsider to become an expert in a deep domain?
That’s the question my co-founder, Andrei Klimanov and I, asked prior to starting TerraManta. For example, doctors require at least 10 years of education prior to practicing medicine with more years invested later in advancing their professional competency.
Crude oil is the biggest commodity market in the world. Companies which depend on crude oil and distillates face enormous economic risks. Airlines often hedge fuel prices by purchasing future contracts at a certain price. Crude oil prices go up? Airlines win. Crude oil prices go down? Airlines often have to close fuel hedges – at a price – to take advantage of lower oil prices. The economic risk ranges from hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars annually for these companies.
So how long would it take for a complete outsider to become a crude oil expert capable of forecasting future oil prices? Probably at least 2 decades, while learning from other experts who have biases.
When crude oil prices collapsed in 2015 reaching $28 / barrel by mid January 2016, it became clear that crude oil experts were no longer equipped to analyze the impact of geo politics on crude oil market fundamentals (supply, demand, inventory, distribution, exports, imports) and resulting price actions.
Something was missing.
That “something” is a platform for domain specific analysis of unstructured and structured data with the goal to apply machine learning in deep domains where humans require many years to master and learn with inevitable biases.
The platform is based on a goal centric learning principle, just like human analysts do when they elect to learn something. They set a goal which aligns their knowledge acquisition approach. Acting just like a human crude oil analyst, TerraManta software instead will do the same.
The first goal – can future crude oil prices be forecasted more accurately – became the first product: TerraManta for Crude Oil. Our software analyzes about 4,000 energy relevant news from public data sources every day, obtains crude oil market fundamentals every month, and looks for correlation between topics influencing fundamentals and how changes in fundamentals cause price actions in the market. What human analysts do today, TerraManta does automatically on a mass scale while learning every day.
Today, crude oil prices more than doubled since January 2016. As a result, the interest in TerraManta is growing.
Several dialogs are in progress: US based airline, major bank in Canada, another major bank in France, leading company providing specialized risk analytics for global corporations, and another leading company providing energy analytics.
We are also excited to support a 17-user trial with another global oil company
Does TerraManta software work? We believe so. The software generated a price forecast on 25 September 2019 which was on target until 11 October 2018 (when this blog post was written).
The Techstars Paris program created many memories which will be forever remembered. To name a few ….
Friendships and relationships which transcend borders and continents. Exceptional coffee. Equally exceptional croissants. Grace under pressure redefined by program manager and associates.
Above all, ‘give first’ was transformed from a spoken comment into a real and sustainable personal belief.
by the Snapswap Team (Techstars Class 111)
Opening an account online is still a painful process for customers and we hardly see people registering and verifying themselves directly from their phone or laptop.
Most of people are still going through the process manually whereas demand for digital services is increasingly booming. It represents a waste of time for customers and a waste of money for financial institutions. We wanted to develop a solution that would improve this process and this is how we came up with the idea of a remote automated onboarding solution for banks, the investment industry and other businesses. We created a white label customer onboarding solution, available 24/7, allowing customers to complete initial onboarding in less than five minutes rather than days. It allows customers to register themselves in a secure an instant way and consistently improve customer knowledge and traceability.
With our team, we put together the different set of skills in business, project management, computing and compliance to provide a brand new solution to the French market that would facilitate the onboarding process and provide a great user experience. Thanks to their past experiences, our team members have a deep knowledge of the bank and the insurance industries. They understand the needs and specific requirements of such demanding verticals, which allowed us to develop a customized solution with a corporate partner of the Techstars program.
Our Techstars journey represented a real trampoline for us, since we could meet key stakeholders of large French companies and develop new business connections. Techstars had a great team that was always pushing us out of our boundaries to provide the best in class solution. We received useful mentoring classes and intense training, would be put in connection with the right persons, would be given all the keys for the road of success. Today, our main focus for us is on international expansion and we are going to have major improvements in our product, in security and compliance.
by the Lovys team, from Techstars Class 111
Roughly one year ago we started our new adventure in France by setting big goals! We were thrilled by the ambition of giving to french customers a better solution for the way they buy any type of insurance. We were getting to a market that had been seen little changes since 15 to 20 years ago and whose actors have not been changing much either. France was known in this market by its solid insurance groups that despite their incredible resources were not managing to reinvent the way people relate to insurance products. What was wrong with the market? In many cases, purchasing and claim reporting were not 100% digital. In most of the cases, the interface with customer were full of jargon and poorly designed. In almost every case, insurance companies were giving no freedom to people to cancel their insurance whenever they wanted to.
So one year ago we challenged ourselves to build the most flexible digital insurance of the market. We wanted to offer people a faster purchase, clearer language and a painless management. All this in a form of a monthly subscription where everything they pay is clear and that they cancel or change anytime. One year after, we are glad to say we already launched insurance for smartphones – and home insurance is just about to being launched! Also, we are very glad with our UI/UX design of our website we are just finishing and can’t wait to launch. Our next step is to build our car insurance service to launched early next year.
We are proud of the pace and that is thanks to our amazing team’s energy. Our crew has a very diversified background with one thing in common: our ambition to make the company grow fast (in addition to our taste for mexican food, of course). They have created the first insurance comparison websites in Brazil, led projects of new product development for cosmetics brands and worked for the first Uber’s pilot for helicopters pooling. And they are eager for what is to come.
Last but (definitely) not least: Techstars’ role in Lovys first steps! More than providing useful business advice and putting us in contact with great mentors and advisers (which they did more than we could have expected), the Techstars team created an unforgettable working atmosphere. They were the first ones to believe in our project and we would never be where we are today if it was not for their very early support. Techstars also greatly helped in our development by putting us in contact with large players in the insurance industry and give us the credibility to develop meaningful partnerships.
If we were to sum up our time at Techstars in two words: Dynamic and enthusiastic (or Family Dinner)
Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitators are stewards of the Techstars Startup Weekend mission. They are the on-the-ground support at events around the world, there to ensure that every community has an amazing experience.
Q: How did your journey start with Techstars Startup Weekend?
Filippos: My first experience with Techstars Startup Weekend was back in 2012, when I was a volunteer helping out the organizing team for Athens Startup Weekend University. I was blown away by the event, its structure, the overall vibe and the impact it had on the participants. I remember how it felt different from every other startup event I had been to: it felt global, and it felt real. It wasn’t about long presentations or sponsor talks, it was truly all about action. It made me want to participate, to organize, to be more involved. After this event, I went on to become a leading organizer for the university vertical in Athens, bringing people together from different universities all over Greece to team up, share ideas and turn them into viable businesses.
Q: Why did you decide that you wanted to become a Facilitator?
Filippos: I have a huge passion for educating, connecting, and motivating people. To be able to combine that with meeting different communities from all over the world is something incredible. I knew I wanted to become a Facilitator from the time I saw David Andersen absolutely rocking the Athens stage with his passion and great energy, he was the person that truly inspired me. I wanted to further explore how different local communities approach entrepreneurship and the Techstars Startup Weekend mission, and being a Facilitator was an amazing opportunity for me to do so.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a Facilitator?
Filippos: Meeting community leaders from all over the world, helping them grow their local communities, and being able to support and empower people with big aspirations. As facilitators, we get to be at the forefront of innovation at any place we visit. We are there to help, to listen, to share, and to act as connectors. It’s something extremely rewarding and unique, and has been one of the most important factors for my personal growth in recent years.
Q: What is your best memory of facilitating at a Techstars Startup Weekend?
Filippos: I have numerous great memories from facilitating, but I’ll always remember one from the first event I ever facilitated in Sheffield, United Kingdom. During the Sunday after party, one of the oldest participants came to me and said: “On Friday night you said this event would change our lives, and I thought it was just a corny, motivational statement. And I was wrong. Because of the people, the energy, and the work we managed to pull off, this event truly changed my life, and was nothing like I had expected.” Till this day, this was one of the most rewarding moments of my life.
Q: Do you have any advice for those Organisers who are hesitant to take the plunge and apply to become a Facilitator?
Filippos: Don’t hesitate! Facilitating is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. You are already halfway there by being an active organizer, and that takes tremendous effort and skill. Facilitation is going to be that next step that will let you connect with even more communities and truly embrace the global aspect of Techstars Startup Weekend.
Techstars Global Startup Weekend is coming on November 2–4, 9–11, and 16–18, 2018! 15,000 entrepreneurs at 200+ locations around the globe believe they can build a startup in a weekend. Challenge yourself. Join us.
Techstars is excited to be working closely with Startup Boost (who you may remember we partnered with in March this year) for their 3rd cohort starting late September. Applications for the Fall program are open until September 17th here.
Between six and eight pre-seed/seed stage tech teams will be selected to take part in the pre-accelerator program. Prerequisites include a comprehensive business model, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and market validation or traction. Working in tandem with keynote speakers, the Startup Boost City Directors offer industry insights alongside hands-on mentorship, guidance, validation and the necessary resources for building traction.
Concluding with a global demo day, this year’s Autumn 2018 startups’ will gain exposure to potential new sales leads, and the opportunity to pitch and connect directly with investors and accelerator directors.
“Startup Boost was an invaluable experience for our business it really helped us to validate our business idea and focus on our target market. The connections and ongoing support from the startup boost team has been invaluable” – Ronan Kelly Founder of Bespoke Choice from the 2017 Autumn Startup Boost Dublin Cohort.
One of the founding members of Startup Boost and EIR at Bank of Ireland Gene Murphy said ‘The benefit of Startup Boost is that it brings a program to help pre seed investment teams make the next big step in an under supported stage to prepare them for Accelerators, Investment and most importantly Revenue generation’.
Applications are now open to all pre-seed/seed stage startups for Startup Boost Dublin’s Autumn program at startupboost.org/apply with entries to the program closing on September.
Rover.com has raised more than $300M and registered more than 100,000 pet sitters.
“Without Techstars Startup Weekend, there would be no Rover.com,” says founder Greg Gottesman.
Back in 2011, the Seattle-based venture capitalist had a terrible experience boarding his dog at a local kennel. He was determined to create a better way for pet parents to find quality care for their animals, and Techstars Startup Weekend Seattle gave him the perfect opportunity to test his idea and meet team members who shared his passion.
Being authentic and personal when you’re pitching someone a problem and a solution is far more compelling than when you pitch an idea that isn’t authentic to you.
Though Greg didn’t know it at the time, that one weekend would serve as the launchpad for what is now a doggy-daycare juggernaut, which has raised over $300M and registered more than 100,000 pet sitters.
From Day One Dream to Petcare Platform
On day one of Techstars Startup Weekend Seattle 2011, Greg gave a one-minute pitch, explaining his idea — to create a customer-centric company that serves as matchmaker between pet parents and dog sitters, walkers and caregivers. His relatable, authentic pitch scored him a diverse, super-smart 10-person team.
That team got to work, striving to build a company in just 54 hours. Over three days, they experienced the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup: learning from local mentors, finding customers, building the product, and finally presenting the brand new company to a panel of local startup leaders — who awarded Rover first place!
Since then, Rover.com has raised more than $300M and registered more than 100,000 pet sitters. In March 2017, Rover acquired DogVacay, joining forces to create dominance in the online dog care market. Earlier this year, Rover.com announced a round of $125M in equity funding, and an additional $30M in debt to continue their aggressive growth trajectory.
Greg has made a career out of starting up. He currently serves as managing director for a startup studio called Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle, where he and his team create companies from scratch. For 20 years he served as managing director at Madrona Venture Group, the largest venture capital firm in the Pacific Northwest. For the past 15 years, he has taught entrepreneurship and computer science at the University of Washington.
How to Standout at Startup Weekend
We recently caught up with Greg to get the back story on Rover.com. We asked him to share his top tips for anyone considering attending a Techstars Startup Weekend in their area.
“During the one-minute pitch, I told a personal story about my own dog and that was compelling to people. Being authentic and personal when you’re pitching someone a problem and a solution is far more compelling than when you pitch an idea — even if it’s a great idea — that isn’t authentic to you.
And second, choose a problem that you can see yourself spending more than a weekend working on, something you are passionate about. The reason we were able to recruit so many people to the team is that they were excited about solving a real problem that was relatable.”
“When you’re choosing a team to join at Startup Weekend, base your choice on the people more than their ideas. Make note when you hear someone pitching and you think they would be an incredible person to work with. Too many people listen to the idea rather than focus on how much fun they are going to have working with someone.”
One team member who signed on to Rover.com for Techstars Startup Weekend was Phil Kimmey, a developer and (at the time) rising senior at Washington University.
Over the weekend, Greg realized that Phil was an exceptionally talented young engineer, who also didn’t have a summer job lined up. Today, Greg says, “Had Phil Kimmey had a summer job, had someone realized how talented he was, there would be no Rover.com.” Phil became a co-founder, and is still a member of the leadership team.
The roots of Rover’s culture are entrepreneurial and customer focused, which is a culture that is grounded in Techstars Startup Weekend. At Techstars Startup Weekend, finding and focusing on the customer, not just the product, is an important part of the weekend and learnings.
“The team has executed very well on the product, but at the end of the day, it’s the customer experience that we focused on at Startup Weekend and that kind of thinking has been really helpful to people as they come out into the real world.”
“I think a lot of times what happens is that people get very sensitive about equity splits and those kinds of things. When in reality, as you think of the many thousands of businesses that have been started at Startup Weekend, I bet there would be a larger number of companies that were successful if people weren’t as sensitive about the equity splits.
If someone really wants to run with a company, being open to giving up most, but not all of your equity is the right way to do it. I think holding on too tight ends up killing a lot of the projects that have promise.”
“I wrote the Rover deck that first night of Startup Weekend, so by early Saturday morning I knew very clearly the brand story I wanted to tell. If we could tell the story and demo part of the product reasonably well, that’s a nice formula because it’s not possible to build out all aspects of the product during the weekend.”
Greg knows to avoid the trap of an overly high level, general pitch. He advises: “Share a personal story about someone you know well and take me through why it’s an important problem worth solving, and how you would solve it. It sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how hard it is to do that.”
Build a Company in 54 Hours
Techstars Startup Weekend has hosted over 5,800 events in more than 150 countries, with over 330,000 alumni. At these events you’ll be immersed in the ideal environment to learn, build, and meet your next team.
In Greg’s words:
Startup Weekend is an incredible, intense, addicting experience. For those who haven’t tried one yet, you should sign up for the next one.
Find a Techstars Startup Weekend near you.
AccorHotels is a world-leading travel & lifestyle group and digital innovator offering unique experiences in more than 4,200 hotels, resorts and residences ,as well as in over 10,000 of the finest private homes around the globe. Through a heartfelt mission: to make every guest Feel Welcome.
Topics of interest 2018:
- AI for customer relationship – hyper personnalisation.
- Big data
- AR / VR
- Social network of services (daily services, management of employees and planning)
- Blockchain (validation of contract, crypto money)
- Prop tech – Data management (management and performance of buildings, privacy and storage)
Employees: 250,000 in 95 countries
The world leader in gases, technologies and services for Industry and Health, Air Liquide serves more than 3.5 million customers and patients. Oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen are essential small molecules for life, matter and energy. They embody Air Liquide’s scientific territory and have been at the core of the company’s activities since its creation in 1902. long term. I
Topics of interest 2018:
- Data analytics
- Administrative tasks
- Customer excellence
- Asset management.
Employees: 65,000 in 80 countries
FDJ is the French national Lottery and Sports Booking leader. 4th lottery group in the world, FDJ develops and operates 5 ranges of games : draw games, fast draw games, scratch cards, interactive digital games and sports betting. With €15,1 billion of stakes and 26 million players in 2017, FDJ guarantees the accessibility of its games with a distribution network of more than 31,000 points of sale, a website and applications for smartphones and tablets.
Topics of interest 2018:
- Customer experience
- AI for customer management
- Customer Interface
- Payment solutions
- Digital ID
- Data driven marketing
- AR / VR
GEFCO Group – Global player in industrial logistics and European leader in automotive logistics. GEFCO designs and implements flexible and smart supply chain solutions in more than 300 locations.
Topics of interest 2018:
- Flow optimisation analytics
- Applied Data
- Real-time external transport-related data
- Blockchain technology
- IoT – Intelligent trackers and connected sensors
Groupama – Insuring tomorrow with confidence. The group’s identity is built on Groupama’s agricultural origins and its territorial roots anchor it in the everyday reality of its members and customers. Global insurer with operations in France, Southern and Eastern Europe, and China. (€13.6B in combined premium income; 13M customers).
Topics of interest 2018:
- Operations Automation (RPA, AI …)
- Data-driven products
Next47 is a global venture firm created by Siemens that invests in, and partners with, entrepreneurs who think big and build industry-defining companies. With offices in Boston, Beijing, London, Munich, and Palo Alto, Next47 gives startups unparalleled access to one of the world’s largest portfolios of customers in the areas of industry, energy and infrastructure as well as domain expertise in the deep technologies that impact those customers.
Total is the world’s fourth-largest oil and gas company, as well as a major integrated player in low-carbon energies. Backed by nearly a century of history, Total discover, produce, transform, market and distribute energy in a variety of forms, to serve the end customer. Total is committed to energy that is affordable, reliable and clean, in compliance with the highest safety and environmental standards.
Topics of interest 2018:
- Customer Relationship
- Energy Services
We recently held an AMA session to answer questions on applying to an accelerator program. To help answer questions, we had Lesa Mitchell, the managing director for Techstars Kansas City, and Ted Serbinski, managing director for Techstars Mobility in Detroit.
What is the one thing you can do to stand out during the application process, outside of user and revenue growth?
Ted: The biggest things I look for in applications are the team video and the product video. We limit those videos to just a minute because one, it’s impossible to look at all the applications if we have to watch more than a minute.
But, two, more importantly, it focuses the team on highlighting the most important things about that team or about that product that they’re working on. If you can’t crisply explain what you’re working on or why you’re working on it in a minute, it’s going to be really hard to do that during Techstars.
Focus on that one minute to say “this is the best thing about our team,” and highlight “this is one thing about our product.” That concise factor really makes it interesting to see what it is about that team, how do they think about themselves in a minute, and how do they think about their product in a minute. It doesn’t need to be high production value. If anything, how you produce the video can say a lot about what you’re like as a team.
One of the best videos from one of my previous companies was actually filmed in a coffee shop. The reason it was so good was because they waited until the last minute to film it, so that it gave us a sense of their deadline and their ability to get things done. But it also gave us a sense of their personality, where they even admitted “hey, we’re doing this in a coffee shop, and we don’t have money to put it into production, but we’re really passionate about what we’re doing.” Using whatever means to get those videos done says a lot about you and your company.
Lesa: Having an insight and understanding about the founders and the problems that they have is most important. I really want to know that founders are scrappy. Taking an easy way in is never going to work as an entrepreneur. Scrappiness could include finding other people that have been through Techstars and finding an opportunity to talk with them. Get them to make a comment about you, or even mention that you’ve talked to them.
Techstars is going to be what you make of it, and how hard you work when you’re in the program. We only get you for a short period of time, so a piece of what you have to figure out through the process is whether or not a founder and their team are all in. That’s pretty hard to discern, so anything that you can help us to understand your “all in-ness” is super helpful.
Ted: One thing to add that is important – complete your entire profile. You don’t need pages and pages per question. A sentence or two, or a tweet-like response, can be sufficient. But I’m always surprised at the companies that take the time to do a video or a team video but don’t take the 30 seconds it takes to fill out the rest of it. Just taking the time to fill it out completely can say a lot about your own personality as a founder.