5 Questions with Ru Wikmann, Founder of BeeSage for Paris Techstars Accelerator

Aug 04, 2022

Ru Wikmann Founder of BeeSage

01. What is your background? Take us through the steps of becoming a founder

I’m the prototypical university dropout with diverse work experiences, which actually seems to be quite a rare case. I went to law school for two years, then decided to take a break for personal reasons, and ended up in sales after moving from my native Latvia to the U.K. As fitness helped me overcome a bone disease when I was a kid, I thought I should rather sell what I’m truly passionate about. So at first I got a membership sales job in London, got qualified as a freelance personal trainer, and ended up having a 10-year-long career.

Towards the end of this period I realized that the only way to scale is through technology. I had two fitness startup ideas, which didn’t workout (excuse the pun) because I had no idea what I was doing, and could not find a technical co-founder. This forced me into taking the matter into my own hands and learning some coding skills from blogs and YouTube. I knew I’d struggle to get good at it at my age but for my own startup it was crucial.

02. How do you and your co-founder know each other?

I had returned to Latvia to take some time out and was thinking of going back to university to study computer science. I joined an in-person hackathon without any preconceived ideas just to see if I can actually be useful. It was organized by a telecommunications company and they wanted to test sensors for various IoT use cases. 

This is where I met my co-founder. He’s an experienced electronics engineer and, as his dad is a hobby beekeeper, he always wanted to find out how telemetry data could be used for remote monitoring of beehives. I was also fond of building something nature-related so we had the perfect match of skills for the win, which we together managed to achieve.

03. What did you enjoy most about the Paris Techstars Accelerator’s program and what are your biggest learnings?

I had learned a bit of French in school and my mum married a Parisian some years ago. Also, France may become a significant market for us so I was really stoked to join this program. The selection of founders was perfect - a diverse group of people and businesses. I loved learning from each other’s experiences, and we formed some strong bonds for the future. The whole Techstars team was awesome, and our mentors provided lots of valuable insights. Many of the learnings are still yet to materialize because a small team can’t do everything at the same time.

04. What were some of the obstacles your company faced throughout the three months of the acceleration program ?

Hardware is hard. This is reality, not a cliché. Especially when we’ve been hit with supply-chain issues not seen in our lifetime. But as I like to say - it’s not about whether it’s easy or hard. Is it worthwhile? This is what matters. And when it comes to our mission of enabling bees to share knowledge with humans through real-time data, it certainly is.

In retrospect I can see how we could have better prepared for the intensity of the program. We’re a highly technical team, and I believe engineers should focus on what they’re good at. Having a COO type of person would have helped to move faster. But this is just the start, and we know what we need to do to round out our worker bees.

05. How do you plan to measure the impact of your company in the next 5 years?

Our most relevant SDG indicator is 2.4.1 Proportion of Agricultural Area Under Productive and Sustainable Agriculture. Nevertheless, this has dependencies on how the data is currently collected by governments of individual countries. Hence, instead of coming up with an artificial CO2 proxy we’re focused on connected beehives and acres under data-driven pollination.

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