Case 1

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Interview with David Pond of Muzeums, SOUL-FI Round B company based in London, UK (www.muzeu.ms)

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Q1) How did you first hear about the SOUL-FI accelerator project? Did you, for example, already receive funding under Round A?

I heard about SOUL-FI through f6s.com where I went to try and find funding and acceleration for the startup idea I was developing.

 

Q2) What is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of your product or service?

Our USP is a SaaS solution for museums that manages their entire visitor experience, creating automatically personalized experiences on-the-go.

 

Q3) What are the more significant achievements that Round B funding has facilitated over the 6-month period?

Over the grant period we developed the initial version of the product, initiated our pilot program with selected museums, and raised over £60,000 in equity crowdfunding.

 

Q4) Have you managed to trigger follow-up funding/investment or a strategic partnership and do you consider that the SOUL-FI label helped you achieve this?

As mentioned, we raised over £60,000 on Seedrs (UK leading crowdfunding platform) and we believe that the SOUL-FI support was a factor in that success.

 

Q5) Have you managed to engage with first users or potential customers, or is it too early?

Yes, we met with our first customers to initiate a pilot program; some have already signed up to join and with some we are still in negotiations.

 

Q6) What do you see as the main ingredients for making a successful Future Internet business?

There are a lot of factors, but I would like to emphasize one in particular: don’t be a perfectionist. When it comes to releasing the product, instead – be a listener. If you wait until everything is perfect to launch, you will be late and launch something irrelevant for your customer. Launch something that works and LISTEN to the feedback before you start improving it. Or as Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder) said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

 

Case 2

Interview with Walter Nunziati of Magenta, SOUL-FI Round B company based in Florence, Italy (www.magentalab.it)

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Q1) How did you first hear about the SOUL-FI accelerator project? Did you, for example, already receive funding under Round A?

We heard about SOUL-FI Round A from a local newsletter presenting calls and funding opportunities. Round B was a consequence of our successful participation in Round A.

 

Q2) What is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of your product or service?

We provide “analytics for smarter cities”. Our USP is powerful analytics that requires nearly-zero physical and technical infrastructure.

 

Q3) What are the more significant achievements that Round B funding has facilitated over the 6-month period?

We were able to build an advanced prototype of the complete solution, including a data acquisition platform based on FIWARE GEs. In particular, we leverage the capabilities of Cosmos GE to process the traffic data, and CKAN to host the datasets. The web-based platform receives data from the field sensors, and distribute them to web and mobile client. A full demonstration platform is available for testing for potential customers and stakeholders.

We also started or planned pilot actions with various stakeholders in the smart city and retail domain. Regarding smart cities, we have an ongoing pilot in the Metropolitan Area of Florence, where currently about 30 sensors have been deployed. Other potential partners (industrial and institutional) have been contacted and pilots are either planned or just started. Regarding retailers, we are in the process of activating a pilot with one of the major commercial centers in Milan. This is still in the design phase and should be fully activated in March/April 2016.

 

Q4) Have you managed to trigger follow-up funding/investment or a strategic partnership and do you consider that the SOUL-FI label helped you achieve this?

Thanks to SOUL-FI, we were able to start some potential partnerships, in particular with start-ups working in the field of city logistics and transportation in general. We attended the ECFI eventi in Hamburg in October 2015, and we were selected among the 50 best FIWARE companies in Europe. This triggered the interest of some investors, although we have decided to proceed with our own funding for the time being. We also successfully applied to the SME instrument Phase 1, and got funding under the call H2020-SMEINST-1-2015.

 

Q5) Have you managed to engage with first users or potential customers, or is it too early?

Yes, we did. We already have early adopters, both in the smart city sector and in the retail sector, which are the two segments we are targeting.

 

Q6) What do you see as the main ingredients for making a successful Future Internet business?

The ability to provide highly contextual information to users, based on current time, location, and user’s activity.

 

Case 3

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Interview with David Barroso, CEO & Co-Founder of Findster, SOUL-FI Round B company based in Coimbra, Portugal (www.getfindster.com)

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Q1) How did you first hear about the SOUL-FI accelerator project? Did you, for example, already receive funding under Round A?

We first heard about the SOUL-FI accelerator project through Instituto Pedro Nunes, in Coimbra. After learning more about it, we thought we could be a good fit for the program (and vice-versa) and since we were looking for funding, decided to apply. We didn’t receive funding under Round A – we applied directly to Round B of the SOUL-FI accelerator project.

Q2) What is the USP of your product or service?

The fear of losing a loved one is something that we all can relate to. However, none of the currently existing solutions are ideal – Bluetooth trackers (such as Tile or TrackR) have a very short obtainable tracking range and no GPS, and are more ideal for objects; Cellular trackers (like Whistle or FiLiP) are expensive, require $5 to $40 monthly fees and, despite having a greater tracking range, do not allow real-time monitoring.

Findster Kids and Findster Pets are the first GPS trackers completely free of monthly fees, allowing real-time monitoring in a range of up to 1 km.

Q3) What are the significant achievements that Round B funding has facilitated over the 6-month period?

When we applied to Round B of the SOUL-FI accelerator project, we believed that it would help us to reach the market with a better solution. At the same time, as we were looking for funds to scale up our team, we also believed it would allow us to speed up the development process of our product – saving time without sacrificing quality.

We are now 6 months into the program, and have definitely confirmed our expectations. Using FIWARE technologies we were able to speed up Findster’s development and are now finishing the development of our first products – they are currently undergoing mass production. We’ve also added new members to our team, valuable resources who contributed significantly to our cause. In short, over this 6-month period we managed to make our product more reliable and to reduce its time to market.

Q4) Have you managed to leverage follow-up funding/investment or a strategic partnership and do you consider that the SOUL-FI label helped you achieve this?

Yes; we applied to and were subsequently selected for the European Space Agency Business Incubation Center (ESA-BIC), from whom we’ve received a grant. We definitively believe that the SOUL-FI label was one of the things that set us apart and helped us to be selected.

We are currently looking for a seed round and the SOUL-FI label represents an important seal of approval. Potential investors view it as proof of confidence: the fact that this label is attached to our product automatically makes it trustworthy. It represents and rewards innovation, an ambition to disrupt and change the game. Potential investors know this and value it, absolutely.

Q5) Have you managed to engage with first users or potential customers, or is it too early?

We’re currently engaging with our first users. In fact, this month we’ve started shipping our products to our first customers: people from 52 different countries who already bought Findster through our crowdfunding campaign. Although we’re still in the early stages of the shipping process, the feedback we have received so far has been positive.

Over the next two months we’ll be able to further register feedback from our first users and do a more complete evaluation of this first batch, including what went smoothly and what could be improved in the future. We’re always looking for ways to optimize!

Q6) What do you see as the main ingredients for making a successful Future Internet business?

The technological world is only getting more and more competitive, with new businesses starting every day. Considering this, the first thing that any aspiring business should do (assuming they already have an innovative idea) is make sure that the product or service it provides will solve an existing problem for a wide range of people, who are willing to pay for that solution.

We obtained this validation before we even had a final product. After we had a suitable prototype, we started a crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo platform to verify if parents and pet owners around the world were interested in this type of solution.

Our assumptions were correct. Our campaign was a success, with over $120,000 raised and buyers from 52 different countries. This proved that parents and pet owners were in fact willing to pay $99 for a real-time GPS tracker completely free of monthly fees. It reinforced our confidence in our product and also gave us facts to back our statements with when we talked about our potential market reach with possible investors.

 

Case 4

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Interview with Ricardo Margalho and Rui Sales of Média Corp, SOUL-FI Round B company based in Coimbra, Portugal (www.stratio.pt)

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Q1) How did you first hear about the SOUL-FI accelerator project? Did you, for example, already receive funding under Round A?

We initially heard about SOUL-FI and about the FIWARE initiative through IPN. The FIWARE website provided us with the remaining information. We studied the purpose of the GEs, identified the funding opportunities, and used them to leverage some of the ideas we had in mind to develop and bring to market. Before participating in SOUL-FI Round B we were awarded a grant from another FIWARE accelerator (FrontierCities) for a different project.

Q2) What is the USP of your product or service?

It breaks a technology barrier. We are a company that lives focused on R&D of IoT solutions for the transport industry, and we’re very focused on R&D because we firmly believe that’s where innovation comes from. It is the reason why we can support our strategy on differentiation and not just on price. We had already performed R&D on vehicle communication protocols, vehicle physical interfaces, Big Data analysis, machine-learning and Artificial Intelligence, and that’s where we built our differentiation.

 

Q3) What are the significant achievements that Round B funding has facilitated over the 6-month period?

It allows us to build on the R&D we performed internally over the last months. It also reduces our risk, and therefore allows us to set some bold targets in terms of both product development and market uptake.

 

Q4) Have you managed to leverage follow-up funding/investment or a strategic partnership and do you consider that the SOUL-FI label helped you achieve this?

It’s still too early in the project life cycle for us to be thinking about follow-up funding or partnerships. Right now our mind is set on development and prototype testing. Having said that, we do believe that SOUL-FI can facilitate the right connections. On that theme, we managed to meet and introduce investors and municipalities to our project at the FI@Coimbra event. The networking from the event will prove to be important in the future.

 

Q5) Have you managed to engage with first users or potential customers, or is it too early?

We did manage to get some initial feedback about our project at the FI@Coimbra event. But as previously said, our focus is on product development at this stage. We will follow up on the commercial aspects later.

Q6) What do you see as the main ingredients for making a successful Future Internet business?

For us it’s all about research. Most technological disruptions come from the US, and that’s for a reason. Their startups give more importance to research, and most disruptive technology changes happen through investigation. That’s why we have lots of business model innovations in Europe, but we still lag behind in science. So if one is aiming to differentiate through innovation and not just by producing cheaper, I personally think that’s one of the key ingredients for a successful business.