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Corporate Innovation in 4 Steps

Corporate Innovation in 4 Steps

Today’s fast changing environment forces corporations to reinvent their business models constantly to stay on top of their game. However, innovating existing business models is often much more complicated than anticipated. Identifying the technology or process a company wants to improve or which is under risk of disruption is one thing, but where can you find the innovations for a specific demand and how can you test it risk-free and potentially integrate it into existing processes?

Let’s look at a case study of the startup VirtualQ und ADAC to see how partnering with TechFounders supports corporate innovation.

1. Define the search field(s)

Partnering with TechFounders gives corporates access to the newest innovations and technologies in their key innovation fields, thanks to our diligent global scouting process. But to find the right innovations for the company, we must first define in detail what we are looking for. In this case, our corporate partner ADAC was looking for solutions to improve their customer care services, so together with the ADAC, our scouting team specified which technologies and services they wanted to focus on. After identifying the search fields, our scouting team started to reach out to startups working with innovations that exactly fit the search criteria.

2. Find the right innovations

After identifying promising startups which were developing intelligent processes or digital applications that fit ADAC’s needs, the TechFounders startup scouting team and ADAC narrowed the number of startups down based on their startup stage, innovation status, and fit for a pilot project with ADAC. The most promising startups were invited to pitch in front of ADAC and TechFounders to make a final decision with whom they wanted to start a pilot project and support in the TechFounders Accelerator Program. One of the selected startups was VirtualQ, who offers intelligent waiting and call-back services. Their solution spares customers from waiting on the phone and evens out the call peaks throughout the course of a day by combining machine learning and data science technologies. It was an ideal fit for ADAC’s needs!

 

VirtualQ & ADAC CaseStudy

3. Integrate the innovation into your operations

The true value of any new solution can only be evaluated by testing and implementing it into the desired processes. During a 20-week pilot project, ADAC worked together with VirtualQ to shape and merge their call-back solution into the ADAC operations. Pilot projects such as these are very beneficial for startups since they offer a safe environment for the startup to test their product in practice and get to know how corporate processes work. During these projects, the TechFounders team offers all-round support to their corporate partners and startups, and on top of that, startups receive individual coaching and mentoring to further develop their company.

4. Evaluate the results

Implementing VirtualQ’s solution to ADAC’s systems saved over 283,600 waiting minutes during the pilot projects, resulted in more cost-efficient planning, and significantly increased customer satisfaction. Thanks to the more efficient call-management and decreased waiting time, the conversations atmosphere was more relaxed and employees were exposed to less stress. These outcomes convinced ADAC to seal a long-term cooperation with VirtualQ. The program was truly a win-win situation for both sides: ADAC’s aim to find an innovation to improve their customer service was fulfilled, and VirtualQ got a high-class customer and a lot of tools to further build up their product and company.

 

Time to innovate outside-in? Don’t hesitate to contact us at: service@techfounders.com! We will connect you with entrepreneurs working on the most exciting solutions in your field! Read more about the benefits of partnering with TechFounders and take a look at our current corporate partners: https://www.techfounders.com/corporate-partners.

 

Upcycling the food industry – Spoontainable receives six-figure funding!

Upcycling the food industry – Spoontainable receives six-figure funding!

Spoontainable founders Amelie Vermeer and Julia Piechotta transform single-use products into sustainable alternatives. Image source: Spoontainable

The past months have hit especially small businesses hard, which makes the news about our alumni startup Spoontainable’s recent financing even more exciting. The startup recently announced receiving six-figure funding to expand their plastic-free takeaway cutlery product line.

According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. Every year over 300 million tons of plastic is produced, 50% of which is for single-use purposes. Germany alone produces three million tons of plastic packaging waste annually. The urge to reduce the endless mountains of plastic waste brought the founders of Spoontainable together. The Heidelberg-based startup develops plastic alternatives out of residues from the food industry. Their flagship product “Spoonie”, an edible spoon, has been on the market since 2019 and replaced more than a million plastic ice-cream spoons already. Their products allow people to sustain the comfort of single-use consumption but not at the expense of the environment.

 

Spoontainable Spoonie

Spoontainable’s flagship product “Spoonie” has already replaced more than a million plastic ice-cream spoons. Image source: Spoontainable

 

Despite this year’s weak economic market development in almost all industries, the founders Amelie Vermeer and Julia Piechotta are optimistic about the future. The founders shared in a backnetz’s article that they believe dealing with the virus has increased people’s awareness of the environment, nature, and health. The startup’s ambitions go beyond just replacing the plastic spoons – with the financing from their most recent investors, v. Wedel GmbH and FEP Frankfurt EquityPartner GmbH, the company is planning to expand their sustainable product portfolio and prepare for the upcoming single-use plastic ban. Starting next year, the EU will take ambitious measures to tackle marine plastic litter. The new law is banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, and cotton swabs.

In their recent press release, Spoontainable shares they are launching further products for takeaway consumption already in spring 2021. The startup continues to keep their focus on the upcycling of residual materials to drive for a more sustainable economy. Read more about Spoontainable and their products on their website. 

Spoontainable was part of TechFounders Batch #11 and worked together with ALDI Nord & ALDI SÜD during their participation. You can find all our alumni startups hier.

Batch 12 startup Mushlabs raises $10m during the TechFounders program!

Batch 12 startup Mushlabs raises $10m during the TechFounders program!

Image source: Mushlabs

We are beyond excited to announce one of the current TechFounders startups, Mushlabs, has recently raised $10 million in Series A funding! Mushlabs started in TechFounders Batch #12 in July and is currently working on a pilot project together with our corporate partner ALDI Nord & ALDI SÜD. The Berlin-based biotech company uses fermentation to create the next generation of sustainable foods from mycelium, the “roots” of mushrooms. Mushlabs is dedicated to building solutions that change the way we consume food by offering products that are healthy and good to the planet.

According to the startup, mushrooms offer a great base for a variety of food products. They have natural umami, a savory taste that is characteristic to cooked meats and broths, which the company leverages in their products. In the startup’s production, a piece of mushroom mycelia is cultivated in their lab and fed with side streams of agro- and food industries. The production mimics the natural environment of mushrooms, where the mushrooms use decomposed organic material around them to feed themselves. The harvested biomass serves as the main raw ingredient of Mushlabs products. The products are packed with fibers and antioxidants and provide complete protein.

TechFounders biotech startup Mushlabs
Mushlabs team

The six-figure funding round was led by VisVires and Redalpine, with participation of existing investors Happiness Capital and Joyce Partners. Mushlabs shared in the AgFunder News report that the funding will be used to scale up production to industrial levels and to build out a sales function. The startup’s production lab grows its biomass in just a few days, enabling fast all-year long production that is not dependent on climate or weather factors. This makes the innovation ideal for the overpopulating world and areas that are challenging for farming. Fermentors do not take up a lot of space and more importantly, can be located anywhere.

Learn more about Mushlabs on their website. Check out all the sustainable startups and their innovations that TechFounders has supported on the updated alumni startups-page by selecting “Sustainable products” in the industry filter!

Innovations to Tackle the Grand Challenges in Climate Change – a climate-tech startup landscape

Innovations to Tackle the Grand Challenges in Climate Change – a climate-tech startup landscape

Download the article in PDF here

Due to continuously rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, our planet is experiencing extreme weather events at a rate never seen before. To keep the temperature rise below 2ºC (ideally 1.5ºC), we need strong climate policies, but also groundbreaking innovations to reduce, store, neutralize, and avoid emissions altogether.

In the past years, startup activity in the area of so-called climate technologies has been rapidly increasing, especially focusing on innovative solutions in those sectors which traditionally are contributing most to global warming. In this article, we present a glimpse of a landscape of promising European startups with focus on the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region, which are changing the status quo of the five most polluting industry sectors: energy, food, agriculture & forestry, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings. Moreover, we are also presenting startups which are developing applications for behavioral change and analytics to drive the reduction of carbon emissions.

 

We strongly believe startup activities around climate-tech will see tremendous growth in the next few years, since all stakeholders including government, capital markets, and corporates are becoming even more conscious that innovation is key to the sustainable transformation we need.
Miki Yokoyama,
Managing Partner TechFounders

ENERGY

(c) Patrick Hendry

The energy sector is the biggest contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25% according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Not only for this reason it is worth innovating in renewable energies, but also because it is part of a bigger solution: with clean energy available, we unlock the opportunity to power other sectors and therefore also reduce and avoid their emissions. A variety of startups are looking to find more aesthetic, economic and efficient solutions to generate energy such as the startup Solaxess, providing solar panels without visible cells.

Nevertheless, the biggest challenges remain in energy storage and grid supply infrastructure development. However, there are many startups working in this field, which eventually will allow us to have clean energy even on cloudy and windless days. For example, the German startup Kraftblock provides thermal energy storage, which not only has a high storage capacity (1.2MWh/m^3), but also converts industrial heat waste into energy.

 

FOOD, AGRICULTURE & FORESTRY

When it comes to the agricultural sector, the main challenge is to find a way to feed our exponentially growing population without increasing emissions at the same level. For this reason, the areas of innovation are concentrating around making our food system less wasteful as well as finding less polluting and more sustainable ways of nutrition.

A good example to reduce food waste is the Swedish startup Whywaste, which provides a management and analytics software system that keeps track of expiration dates in grocery stores, reducing up to 40% of spoiled food in the food retail logistics chain.

Furthermore, there are numerous startups which are bringing new nutrition alternatives to meat or dairy products, thereby contributing to the reduction of methane emissions (as livestock is accountable for 4% of methane emissions). One example is the startup Mushlabs, founded in 2018, which is offering meat alternatives based on mushroom roots (mycelium).

Reducing the farming land is the other big challenge that needs to be addressed to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Numerous startups are trying to change the paradigm of traditional farming practices by innovating in vertical farming technologies, such as the startups Growcer from Switzerland and the Sweden-based Grönska.

(c) Peter Gonzales

 

MANUFACTURING

Industrial production processes emit a large amount of emissions. For this reason, the development of sustainable manufacturing practices for raw materials (such as steel, concrete, cement, paper, etc.), components, and products is going to significantly change this sector within the next few years.

For example, many startups are innovating in low-carbon construction technologies based on the principle of circular economy, such as the Swiss startup Neustarck with its up-cycled concrete aggregate from demolished concrete, which turns CO2 into calcite. The Zurich-based startup Oxara also produces environmentally friendly concrete. With their non-hazardous additives, Oxara transforms excavation material waste into concrete, achieving a 90% CO2 reduction compared to conventional concrete. Nevertheless, the production of other conventional materials such as steel is still a long way from becoming part of the solution in sustainable manufacturing.

On the other hand, eliminating CO2 particles from the atmosphere is equally important, since they remain in the atmosphere heating up the planet for years. To address this challenge, we have found some startups which are showing future potential. For example, a lot of research is happening around carbon capture technologies, a field where the Swiss startup Climeworks, with a total funding of $125 million, is taking the lead. With their renewable powered and stackable machines, the carbon captured can either be recycled or reused as a raw material, and they guarantee that 90% of the captured CO2 is permanently removed.

 

TRANSPORTATION

The transportation sector generates the 4th largest share of greenhouse gas emissions (14% according to the IPCC), primarily from road transportation and burning fossil fuels for planes, trains, trucks/cars, and ships for passenger travel (60%) and freight (40%). It is responsible for the fastest growth in CO2 emissions and is expected to continuously grow.

While all established and numerous new mobility companies are working intensely on increasing fuel efficiencies, developing new materials and alternative drive technologies as well as new mobility concepts, there are also several new companies disrupting the industry with radically new approaches and technologies. For example, the Munich-based startup Lilium envisions making air mobility service a reality with their fully-electric 4-passenger jet, and the German startup e.GO MOOVE is bound to completely redesign urban mobility with their electric, connected and autonomous commercial vehicles. And, of course, there is a broad landscape of startups developing more efficient and lighter electric power trains such as Fazua (electric bikes) and Volabo (electric motors for boats).

 

BUILDINGS

Due to rapid population growth, the demand for building sites is expected to further increase in the next few years. Buildings are a big source of GHG emissions due to the materials used for their construction and the energy supply for lightning and heating.
Startups are bringing alternative products to reduce and mitigate the impact of any building by offering carbon-negative materials for facades or insulation. For example, the 2016-founded startup Made of Air has developed a material which is 90% made of atmospheric carbon. It has several applications in the building sector, such as facades or interiors. Another example is the startup Artificial Ecosystems, which provides green panelings for buildings to absorb CO2.

Equally important is to find a way to make buildings’ resources more efficient and reduce unnecessary emissions. Startups such as Envio und Myrsproven optimize building’s energy usage, while startups such as Tado offer smart heating.

 

ANALYTICS & BEHAVIOR CHANGE

Achieving a more sustainable and carbon-free planet is a responsibility that all citizens and organizations need to take. To help us be more conscious about our carbon footprint in areas such as transportation or food, many startups have developed analytical software or mobile applications to analyze carbon footprints and incentivize individual users to reduce emissions through different consumption or mobility patterns, and show companies how they can reduce or offset emissions.

For example, the Berlin-based startup Changers offers a mobile application which encourages citizens, employees, and other users to act environmentally conscious through collecting tokens which can be exchanged for prizes. Many other startups such as Plan A oder Klima Metrix are helping companies to calculate and offset their carbon footprint.

 

CONCLUSION

The ambitious goal of the EU to comply with the Paris Agreement by 2030 implies a huge cut down of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, we must ramp up our support for startups with technologies to combat climate change. We strongly believe startup activities around climate-tech will see tremendous growth in the next few years, since all stakeholders including government, capital markets, and corporates are becoming even more conscious that innovation is key to the sustainable transformation we need.

If you seek to collaborate with startups on these issues or are interested in a more comprehensive and exhaustive list on climate-tech startups in Europe or beyond, please get in touch with:

Miki Yokoyama, Managing Partner TechFounders (the Startup Acceleration Initiative of UnternehmerTUM): miki@techfounders.com.

If you are a company and are interested in innovation and consulting projects on climate change and sustainability topics, please get in touch with:

Christian Mohr, Managing Partner UnternehmerTUM Business Creators: christian.mohr@unternehmertum.de.

Finally, if you are a startup and want to be featured on this article please contact Florian Ebel,
Scouting Manager TechFounders: florian@techfounders.com.

Authors
Miki Yokoyama
Florian Ebel
Marta Tarruella
Brian Diaz

Welcome the fresh new startups of our Batch #12!

This spring we received an incredible number of applications: 519 from 50 different countries! From all the applicants, 26 made their way to pitch in front of our corporate partners. After throughout decision-making 10 startups made the final cut to our newest batch – making the acceptance rate for this batch only 2%. Welcome our fresh new startups and their innovations!

We are excited to finally present the selected startups for our Batch #12! In this batch, the startups are working in various fields. The companies’ innovations are revolutionizing autonomous driving, introducing new sustainable food sources and even saving human lives. You can read about our 10 new startups on the Aktuelle Startups -page and in the press release below. Make sure to follow us on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn) for the one-by-one introductions of these startups and their innovations. Due to the current situation and regulations, our program’s first phase will be held virtually. The first phase includes coaching session in topics such as Key Account Management, Product & Pricing Management and B2B Sales. The startups will also meet our alumni startups qbound und retorio and hear their insights about how to make the most out of our program and what they have learned during their startup journeys. The batch will also take a part in the virtual Kick-Off Pitch Event, where they will see each other’s pitches for the first time.

The future of the selected startups looks promising: 92% of all the TechFounders alumni startups are still active and have raised close to €300 million in funding since 2015. Startups don’t only bring new ideas to the table and generate competition; they also play a significant role in economic growth. We pursue to support startups in the best possible way to enable their companies to grow and create more employment to improve the economy. So far, our alumni startups have created over 1,700 jobs. We are excited to follow the success of these startups! Read the full press release about our Batch #12 here

Alumni startup VayaVision acquired by LeddarTech

Alumni startup VayaVision acquired by LeddarTech

TechFounders alumni startup VayaVision has been acquired by LeddarTech!

A sensor fusion and perception software company VayaVision has been acquired by LeddarTech, a leader in ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) and AD (Automated Driving) technology. LeddarTech announced the acquisition on July 07, 2020.

Our alumni startup from batch #8, VayaVision, provides a reliable environmental model for autonomous vehicles. Their high-end 3D environmental model is built by applying their AI and computer vision algorithms to raw data fused from radar, lidar and camera. VayaVision’s solution enables to detect the size, shape and velocity of every surrounding object, including small obstacles. It detects objects and dangers even during a sensor malfunction which ensures functional safety. The company was founded in 2016 by Dr. Nehmadi Youval and Ronny Cohen and is based in Israel. VayaVision took part in TechFounders program in 2018.

LeddarTech’s hardware and software agnostic sensor fusion platform solution integrates signal processing technology into automotive systems. It is ideal for enabling ADAS and autonomous driving for autonomous shuttles, trucks, buses, delivery vehicles, and robotaxis. Their solution is cost-efficient and adaptable to any sensor setup. The company is responsible for several innovations in mobility remote-sensing applications, with over 70 patented technologies (granted or pending) that enhance ADAS and autonomous driving capabilities.

By combining their solution with VayaVision’s technology, LeddarTech plans deliver a one-of-a-kind end-to-end platform to the market, which will accelerate safe, scalable, and affordable ADAS and AD deployment. VayaVision is now a subsidiary of LeddarTech and will henceforth be referred to as VayaVision, a LeddarTech Company in all subsequent corporate communications.

Read LeddarTech’s full press release about the acquisition here: https://leddartech.com/leddartech-acquires-vayavision-accelerate-delivery-comprehensive-open-sensor-fusion-perception-platform-automotive-mobility-market/

You can find all the startups that have participated in the TechFounders program in our Alumni Startups page.

Refresherboxx receives $100,000 Investment Prize

Refresherboxx receives $100,000 Investment Prize

Alumni startup Refresherboxx receives over $100,000 in cash prizes at virtual Rice Business Plan Competition 2020.

Congratulations to our Batch #10 alumni startup RefresherBoxx for being part of this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition finals! The German startup received the $100,000 TiE Houston Angel Group Investment Prize and ranked in 4th place in the Rice Business Plan Competition and the Mercury Fund Elevator Pitch Competition, receiving additional $5,500 in cash prizes.

The Rice Business Plan Competition is the world’s largest graduate-level student startup competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship in partnership with TiE Global, a nonprofit organization devoted to entrepreneurs in all industries. This year 42 teams from around the world competed for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes.

Refresherboxx’s goal is to stop the waste of resources and contribute to an improved quality of life for people worldwide by revolutionizing washing. The RefresherBoxx is a device that eliminates viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms. The product is designed as a refreshing and hygiene device for hotels, businesses, and home use, and the company is currently researching its effectiveness against the coronavirus. Read more about their product on their website.

During their participation in TechFounders program, RefresherBoxx conducted a pilot project together with our corporate partner Miele.

Startup “wheel.me” receives investment right after TechFounders program

Startup “wheel.me” receives investment right after TechFounders program

TechFounders alumni startup wheel.me receives investment right after finishing our accelerator program!

The Norwegian startup from Batch #11, wheel.me,  has received a new investment. The company announced last week that Nabtesco Technology Ventures AG, with support from Emerald Technology Ventures, have invested in their innovative smart-wheel technology. The amount hasn’t been publicly disclosed yet.

Wheel.me has developed an autonomously driven wheel that aims to revolutionize indoor mobility and material handling. Their product, “Genius”, transforms any object into a robotic device without changing the object’s design or form factor. The solution runs in the cloud and allows users to move heavy objects indoors with a smartphone app or by simply using voice commands. Read more about their innovation and services on their website hier. 

The investment will be used to further develop the product and to establish a manufacturing facility. Wheel.me was founded in 2013 and already works with well-known global companies, for example with Porsche and Skanska. During the TechFounders program, the startup worked together on a pilot project with our corporate partner Miele, and with the help of the recent investment, they aim to further expand their presence in global markets.

Read the Nabtesco Technology Ventures’s release about the investment here 

Alumni Startup received €2.5 million Horizon 2020 Funding

Alumni Startup received €2.5 million Horizon 2020 Funding

Another great news from our alumni startup Toposens! Just little over a month ago the Munich-based startup from our Batch #3 announced raising a new round of funding, and last week the startup received €2.5 million from the European Union Horizon 2020 Program. 

Toposens has developed a 3D ultrasonic sensor technology that perceives its environment via the principle of echolocation – like a bat. This technology is ideal for autonomous technologies and industrial applications, and the company has already implemented and tested their technology in various projects with well-known customers like BMW, Continental, and Daimler. In addition to the funding the startup secured on early May this year, last week the company announced that they have received six-figure funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 ProgramThe funding will be used to further develop the startup’s technology for the autonomous driving market. The planned improvements include waterproofing to IP standards, enhancing close-range detection and supporting autonomous driving functions such as ADAS.

Horizon 2020 program is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever existed and is aimed to secure Europe’s global competitiveness. The program’s goal is to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth by connecting research to innovation and focusing on three key areas: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. In addition to support that Europe produces world-class science and technology, it also aims to make it easier for the public and private sectors to work together to deliver solutions to big challenges facing our society. Read more about the Horizon 2020 program and how to apply for the funding hier.

Tobias Bahnemann, CEO of Toposens, states in their press release that together with their recent investment round, the company is now in a very good position to successfully introduce their technology to the mass market in the foreseeable future. The previous funding round that was closed last month was led by their existing investor ALPANA Ventures and joined by new investors Basinghall Partners and In-Q-Tel, Inc. Read our post about the previous funding round hier.

Congratulations once again to Toposens!

The full press release about the Horizon 2020 Funding on Toposens website.

Virtual Demo Day – new innovations and future tech-trends

Virtual Demo Day – new innovations and future tech-trends

TechFounders Virtual Demo Day brought entrepreneurs together from around the globe to see new innovations and share thoughts on future tech-trends and current crisis’ effects on entrepreneurship. 

This spring has really shown how well we all adapt to change. A few months ago, everyone’s lives changed from meeting face-to-face to behind the screen, and so did our program for Batch #11. In the past months, all coaching and mentoring sessions were held online and the pilot projects between our corporate partners and the startups continued remotely. It was an obvious decision that, to keep all the participants safe, our program’s highlight event – the Demo Day – would also have to take place virtually.

Last week, the anticipated Virtual Demo Day finally took place in a live broadcast form. After a short welcome by our Managing Partners and event moderators Miki Yokoyama and Heiko Huber, the startups presented their pitches in front of over 400 live-viewers! After this unusual spring, we were thrilled to see the progress our eight startups had made with their pitches and companies. All the innovations to digitalize operations and to fight for a more sustainable tomorrow showed us that supporting startups means building the future as well.

After the pitches and short Q&As from the audience to the founders, it was time for the moderated talk lead by Sebastian Matthes, Deputy Chief Editor & Head of Digital at Handelsblatt. The special guest to join was Andreas von Bechtolsheim, a successful entrepreneur and one of the first investors in Google. In this rare video interview, he shared his thought-provoking viewpoints on entrepreneurship, investing and the current crisis’ effects on entrepreneurship. Throughout the interview we got to know what motivated him to start his own companies one after another and what his predictions on future tech-trends are.

We want to thank everyone who participated on our Virtual Demo Day! We were pleasantly surprised by the number of viewers at our first online event ever and how engaged the audience was during it. If you missed our livestream, don’t worry – you can watch the recording of the broadcast hier or on YouTube. 

Great thanks to all our Batch #11 startups for participating in our program. We can’t wait to hear the success stories that these startups will turn into. We would also like to thank all our corporate partners for supporting our program.

 

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