Founders Hack was in Bielefeld and it was great!

Some (or none) of you may have wondered what was I doing on a mid-June weekend. Me being me, I went to the city of Bielefeld and mentored in the first Founders Hack. It was a typical gloomy German weekend, yet the hackathon was probably the best thing I have seen in a while.

The best part of the hackathon were actually the teams. I was impressed with the stunning mix of experienced business professionals and pumped up techies. In fact each team without exception managed to deliver a well thought over and absolutely uptodate solution.

It started during the day.

And went on during the night. Some went on till 4am.

A big differentiator to other hackathons were the real life challenges. They were drawn from actual opportunities (or problems) and provided by industry leaders from the Bielefeld area: Wortmann, Miele, Boge, Alcina, Benteler, Claas.

Some went a step further e.g. Boge impressed by bringing an actual product to make the teams play with their machine.

Challenges focused on IoT and machine learning with 2 prominent IoT ones being: 1) build an IoT based business model for the laundry care in sharing economy, and 2) track spare- & wear parts in a complex machine. Then the machine learning challenges explored using external data sources to track fashion trends and ways to increase efficiency in farming with data from agricultural engines.

The final delivery was in the form of a short pitch in front of the cheering crowd in a fully packed theater. And the prize was a unicorn!

Now add to this the fantastic Lasse Chor who orchestrated the event with a ton of great vibes and the tiresome Founders Foundation team, and you have an unforgettable weekend.

This event has definitely left a mark. I believe it is the first time when I saw corporates connect with startups and take over the initiatives into their agenda. For me the secret sauce to make this work would be well summed up with few words: curated team building, well defined areas of interest and business opportunities for the corporates, unhindered access to corporate executives, energising moderation and mentoring.

Most importantly, there was plenty of food. Just kidding but there was indeed good food :). All the time!

Before
and after

“This is Bielefeld” – these are the true words of Jackson Bond from Relayr, the word is spreading. One thing is clear, entrepreneurship is no longer reserved for Berlin, Hamburg, München and Cologne.

A bit about ISTA 2016, the killer of Slack and Blockchain

ista crosslend

This November I came back on stage at the ISTA conference 2016. The 2 day event gathered quite a crowd of geeks from the software industry and in particular from Bulgaria. Hosted in the top notch Sofia Event Center and with a great view to the Vitosha Mountain, the event allowed me to dust out after such a long break. In about an hour I walked with the audience through the evolving online consumer behaviour, and how the internet and ecommerce proliferation have opened the door for a whole new myriad of financial services innovations. That eventually brought me to cryptocurrencies, p2p lending and ultimately securitisation services through CrossLend. What struck me is that the hardcore financial language didn’t scare off the audience. I was actually a bit afraid that my topic might be too softy, yet the insights of how we run our IT operations rounded the talk and instigated plenty of questions from the audience. So all in all, a great event, amazing people and in support of a noble cause.

Another thing that I cannot not resist to mention is the lack of excitement in the media about the advance of a Slack killer from Microsoft. And from Facebook. And… no more big players, for now. So the rumours were true. Microsoft released its Teams product and bets it could beat Slack in their own game. Instead of buying Slack, MS goes for its own product for a second time in recent years. And it certainly has a scalable channel to get a sizeable chunk of the collaboration market. Same time there is the not so old mishap in the recent history of the company and namely building an awesome mobile OS, appealing mobile devices and still not succeeding to beat its equally powerful competitors. What failed MS was the lack of apps. What may fail them again is … the lack of apps (Slack has 750 of them). Yet, the main differentiator seems to be video calls capability. Well, yes, you may say we cannot compare Slack with Microsoft due to their vast difference in size. But keep in mind that Facebook has also launched Workplace and has won over 1 000 business clients. This is gonna be a heated one. Agree?

And finally, a bit about Blockchain.  It is officially my new darling to explore and you will probably get fed up with me writing about it again and again. Just saying 🙂

Technology Series – The opening of Gigafactory 1 surfaced some impressive facts about this engineering wonder

So what is the Tesla Gigafactory besides clearly being a factory?

As its name implies, Gigafactory is an insanely big factory (actually is going to become a lot bigger), and it will produce batteries for the electric vehicles of Tesla Motors. That is not surprising considering the massive volume of around 500 000 vehicles per year that Tesla wants to produce towards end of the decade. This ambition is steered by Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to achieve that goal, Tesla wants to produce electric vehicles in sufficient volume to force change in the automobile industry. This apparently was not feasible to do using existing battery manufacturers so the true entrepreneur he is, Elon Musk decided to build his own factory. In his own words Elon said: “It has to be big, because the world is big”.

And while the plan was announced in 2014, last month the first part of the factory had its grand opening! The event emerged quickly in the press but then somehow got lost in all that sports events and probably holidays rolling out. For those of you who want to enjoy the video of the grand opening, here you go. Below I have put some interesting facts announced during the event.

  • The Gigafactory will be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy.
  • The factory current size is just 14% of its planned size. This article gives a good idea of construction progress with new sites starting already.
  • When complete, 93 Boeing 747 jets would fit inside, or in other terms 50 billion hamsters. 🙂
  • Design improvements allowed to increase initial battery production capacity per year from 50 GWh to 150 GWh.
  • When the factory is complete it will produce a higher amount of lithium-ion batteries than the world produced in 2014. And Tesla wants to build several of these factories.
  • In order to fit the maximum machinery in the factory and increase production speed, the engineering teams had to reinvent the battery production process.
  • The result: the factory strongly resembles a modular integrated circuit and claims a 5-10x increase in production capability. In Elon’s words: “… revitalising manufacturing”.

First Techstars Demo Day in Berlin

The first Techstars demo day in Berlin was something! I know it is Sunday, I will be quick I promise. 🙂

Techstars Demo Day 2015

Hosted in Hebbel-Theater in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district Jens Lapinski and his team presented their first batch of startups. The gorgeous Art Nouveau styled building was built in 1907/1908 and was the early and unique work of the famous architect Oskar Kaufmann. It was the breakthrough that shot him to fame. Let’s wish the same to the first Techstars batch!

The startups pitched in 2 batches of 5 and the presentations all looked super well done – for me this means crisp, elaborated and well timed. Founders walked to the stage accompanied by the thundering tunes of charging music pieces and presented with a sleek looking deck of slides outlining market opportunities, user growth, expansion plans. The best part though is that at least 2 of the companies have secured funding during the programme – 1x Seed and 1x Series A. You could feel that some founders are still fundraising and pretty nervous. Yet, I am confident that more news is coming soon.  I have seen the products of these companies 3 months ago and am amazed by the progress they have achieved.

Jens has closed the demo session with some kind words to all involved but I would like to share one of his slides summarising the Techstars values.

Techstars principles

 

Powerful message – nothing to add!

That was not all though. The event moved on in the Factory Berlin and continued with networking first and last but not least – an afterparty .

It was a well spent day 🙂

Good luck to all teams, and keep sending me updates. Looking forward to hear from you!

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Have a great rest of the weekend.

Impressions from Lange Nacht der Startups 2015

Lange Nacht der Startups

Organised by Deutsche Telekom and marketed as Europe´s biggest event for startups, the Long Startup Night managed to attract a huge crowd of visitors and enthusiastic selection of startups. Spread across 2 big halls you could try a ton of products, engage with founders and corporate representatives, taste some free (but not only) food or just wander around and snatch merchandise.

If I have to summarise in 30 seconds it will be like:

  • The event was full. There was a queue of people waiting for someone to get out in order to get in.
  • Many ideas, startups of all size and in all verticals. Participants varied from startups having a prototype to startups having raised substantial rounds to companies that are known brands or blue chip.
  • Plenty of pitches and interaction during the whole event.
  • Food startups are the new trend. I could see (and smell) food everywhere.

Bottom line: Deutsche Telekom did a really good job. 

Tim Höttges Opening Speech
Opening Speech from Tim Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom

Other trend that I could spot and is of personal interest is that finally we have companies pushing beacons to the forefront. I could spot the proximity platform BeaconInside and discovery app HYPH. Special thanks goes to Marko Barleben, CEO of HYPH, for having the patience to explain me all in detail. Twice. In sum, it is no longer only Sensorberg making the beacon headlines in Berlin.

Another company I spotted a second time in just 2 days is ILOCKIT. These guys know how to protect your bike and I could see their demo the other day at the September Berlin Tech Meetup co-organized by Gabriel Matuschka.

There were guys that really nailed it though. Palmetto allows you to grow microalgae on the walls of an office building!! Let me remind you that microalgae could be used as fuel or food. And all this in a sustainable way.

Now last but not least please give your support for LUUV – they can fix your shaking hands when filming. Their Kickstarter campaign kicks in on 22nd September so sign up for the newsletter NOW and they will keep you posted.

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See you soon!