Lisa Flieg

CODE_n Alumni | In pursuit of a sustainable world with EcoChain

Today we catch up with a really exciting technology startup which has been a member of the CODE_n community since 2013: EcoChain from lovely Amsterdam! EcoChain embarked on its journey with CODE_n as a finalist of the global startup CODE_n CONTEST. Its motto was “smart solutions for global challenges” and in keeping with this idea, EcoChain pitched a business model with every intention of changing the world. Its idea revolved around a new and innovative life cycle analysis method that would enable companies to maintain a sustainable supply chain.

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Lena Gaede

Can we save the planet through digitalization? Where new digital technologies can improve sustainability

Most of the time, digitalization is the solution to everything, isn’t it? So why shouldn’t it be a solution to the world’s energy problem? But how can digitized processes help to save the planet? Their biggest advantage is helping to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, while they minimize the need for some resources (i.e. paper) in manufacturing as well as in logistics. The digital transformation of industries can help to avoid an estimated 26 billion metric tons of net CO2 emissions and this only from three industries: electricity, logistics and automotive. So it’s high time we went for it! Since every increase by 1 percent of the global gross domestic product, the world’s carbon emissions rise by an estimated 0.5 percent.

Digital innovations should therefore be taken on account and used against this trend. Because, applied in the right way, digital technology can save lots of energy, even if it sometimes consumes much. Based on some examples, we show you here how easy can it be for a company to save energy and thereby to make the world a whole lot better.

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Felix Jansen

Interview: CODE_n Alumnus tado° Is Taking the Next Step

In 2013, tado° was among the finalists of the CODE_n CONTEST. Since then, the Munich-based startup has become a fixed feature in the international smart home market. In our interview, CEO Christian Deilmann speaks about the Internet of Things (IoT), the role startups play in the IoT market, and his experiences with CODE_n.

Felix Jansen: Hi Christian! Deloitte recently released a market forecast stating that by 2020, one million households in Germany will be using smart, networked sensors and devices. That’s three times as many as today. How does your company see the market at the moment? Are we really about to see a breakthrough in smart homes?

Christian Deilmann: Everyone talks about smart homes, but if you ask some follow-up questions you discover that a lot of people don’t really know what the term means. Smart homes always involve a certain degree of complexity, and customers don’t yet know exactly how they will benefit. With tado°, we’re focusing on one specific part of the home, the heating system, because it accounts for most of the household energy consumption. Our smart heating controls let us show customers the precise advantages of networked products: they lower costs and are better for the environment while at the same time increasing comfort.

In the world of technology, at the moment hardly any phrase is bandied about more than “the Internet of Things.” Can it live up to the hype?

We’re all certain that in the future, all important aspects of our lives will be tied up with the digital world. This will lead to the creation of much better products, an entirely new customer experience, and a service industry which wouldn’t be possible without networking. Examples include networked cars, which make car-sharing programs possible, or smart thermostats, which save energy when no one is home or heat less when the sun is shining. Everywhere we look, online products will replace the offline products, making many aspects of our lives much easier.

Christian Deilmann

This area is being pushed by major players such as Cisco, Microsoft, etc. What role can startups play in this broad field?

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Dirk Baranek

Video: Interview with Stefanie Sedlak (tado)

Tado is a Munich based startup. They are developing – together with their community – a solution for smart energy management via intelligent climate control. In practical terms this means a device with which you can control very smart, app based and user friendly your central heating unit but also the air conditioning system.

Here’s what they’re saying about themselves…

We at tado° have been working to optimize energy consumption of buildings and adjusting it to the actual demand of the residents since autumn 2010. We question the old, developing a new hard- and software generation for heating control to replace it. Our outstanding team goes down entirely new paths with our technology.

Tado was a finalist at CODE_n14 startup contest. At the CeBIT press conference end of July in Munich we talked with Stefanie Sedlak, marketing manager of tado, about their kickstarter campaign, their experience participating in CODE_n in 2014 and about women in the startup scene in general.

Vassilis Nikolopoulos

And what about fundraising?

Vassilis Nikolopoulos

Vassilis Nikolopoulos, PhD
CEO and co-founder, Intelen

Fundraising is a magic concept for every entrepreneur. It describes a difficult and tedious procedure of raising money to develop a venture and support all growth stages.If you ask me about that, after raising two rounds so far for my startup from six different investors (and hopefully more…), I would say that your initial objective should be bootstrapping and not fundraising. This will give you self-confidence, focus and will push you to the limits to finish your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in order to get feedback and your first pilot customers. Fundraising is a tedious and time-consuming operation that eats your time as a co-founder from other important tasks, such as product validation and initial customer acquisition.

Fundraising comes after you have a prototype that can be used for customer feedback and can validate a business/revenue model, according to the LEAN approach. The initial money you will be asking for, from angel investors or early stage VCs, should go to one important objective: scaling up!

In every fundraising pitch, what should be stressed is not the technology, which already exists out there, but rather how the product or service can be scaled up as fast as possible and how it will follow a specific go-to-market strategy, already defined by your team.

An investor is not looking at the present, but the future. He uses your pitch and product to project his personal portfolio investment life-cycle, analyzes the risk of its current investment portfolio, calculates some financial and investment metrics and makes decisions based on that. So what you need is a good story to simply describe your idea, a well differentiated product with some initial customer contracts, a good emerging market that will help you evolve and take a good market share, and a pretty straightforward go-to-market plan to scale up your product quickly and efficiently.

When we feel ready to go for a fundraising campaign for our startup, we should be ready to justify and present the above arguments. In general, fundraising takes a lot of time from the co-founders, so we have to be sure that our product and progress are not left behind. The CTO should have a dedicated team to move on with development in a semi-automated way. Continuous progress is another key that we have to show to our potential investors. Investors and VCs always evaluate progress and milestones as a part of a continuous startup assessment.

The Intelen story so far…

Intelen started fundraising back in 2009, after winning its first international recognition in the Guidewire Innovate!100 Contest as a finalist. After that, some more international awards came up in 2010 for Intelen’s innovative prototype product on energy analytics and social game mechanics for energy efficiency (Red Herring Global, silicon valley launch, OECD eco-innovation, Siemens World Smart Grid Innovation Contest, etc).

This opened many potential doors and gave Intelen publicity and credibility for its innovative methods; but this also created many expectations and put pressure on the whole team to finalize the products, start acquiring customers, form a high level advisory board and produce a great success story for the fundraising. International recognitions and innovation prizes do not give you funding or money and do not create revenues. Happy customers do…! But, they create expectations you have to meet, and you have to continuously prove your point of differentiation and your will to succeed to people and potential investors. This is what Intelen did and still does, after two seed rounds. Create a success story and show people your agility and fast progress. Then, prove that you have an extremely well differentiated product, acquire satisfied customers, and as soon as your team progresses you are another step closer to success!

In general, when we fundraise we should:

1. Have a 1-2 page executive summary for the investors and a good financial projection (in the seed stage) 1-year ahead. No need for a big business plan, nobody is going to read it.

2. Have a good pitch deck to present: focus on scaling up and go-to-market strategies and use your success story!

3. Organize your development and company progress well: the co-founders will be very busy with fundraising.

4. Demonstrate agility and the will to go global: present contracts and initial satisfied customers. Also use this feedback to adapt your price models. This will give you good and accurate financial projections.

Be ready to meet any expectations you create around you and to work hard in order to prove that you can evolve, learn, adapt and stay agile!

Janina Benz

CODE_n13: Startup Contest @ CeBIT 2013 (Case Film)

Europe’s leading startup event CODE_n presented the 50 hottest startups from all over the globe. More than 250 startups from 35 countries applied to be part of the CODE_n Community live at CeBIT 2013. This video shows the highlights of five days full of entrepreneurial spirit and our 50 finalists which exhibited at CeBIT in hall 16!

Janina Benz

Key success factor crowdfunding – CODE_n initiates live funding at CeBIT

The bestowal of the special crowdfunding award at CeBIT was a big success. Why did we do it? Because even the best idea or the most innovative product does a startup absolutely no good if it doesn’t get out there, to the people. It takes money to get the word out. And financial means aren’t always easy to come by, especially considering the ever-increasing demands associated with implementing new technologies. In fact, preparing market-ready products eats up much more of startup budgets today than it did just a few years ago. It has been getting more and more difficult for small, young companies to get their hands on the capital needed to see their ideas take off. We wanted to introduce our finalists to a new topic, and show them yet another way to find potential investors: crowdfunding .

Crowdfunding describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. It can also refer to the funding of a company by selling small amounts of equity to several investors.

A lot of people asked us how this cooperation came about. We wanted to offer our finalists the opportunity to familiarize themselves with crowdfunding opportunities. That’s why we turned to Jens-Uwe Sauer. He was a member of the CODE_n jury in 2012, and, as Founder and CEO of the German crowdfunding platform, Seedmatch, he brought a world of expertise to the table. Just what we needed for our little endeavor.

Working together, we came up with the idea of hosting a live crowdfunding event, right at CeBIT. According to Jakob Carstens, Head of Marketing at Seedmatch, the winners were selected according to very specific criteria:

“In our selection of the startups for the special crowdfunding award, we sized up the finalists as we would any other company at Seedmatch: Is their idea exciting? Is their approach dynamic, innovative, and will it win customers over? We looked at all of the startups that applied for the award through the lens of these criteria. Then we assessed whether the numbers added up and the team was a good fit. In the end, we went with Changers and Carzapp, two candidates ideal for receiving a business jump start.

Crowdfunding Special Prize for Changers and Carzapp

Crowdfunding Special Prize for Changers and Carzapp

The strong turnout at both of these startup stands at the trade fair was a good indication that we picked the right winners. After all, there was a reason why Changers stood out in the eyes of the highly expert CODE_n jury: a completely new product with a groundbreaking design combined with a social approach to the megatrend known as the transition to alternative energy sources. Changers is revolutionary, and most revolutionary ideas need just a little longer to convince the masses of their usefulness.

Carzapp, the innovative approach to private carsharing, didn’t just attract Dr. Philipp Rösler’s attention. It also put a lot of effort into its trade fair appearance: Many Carzapp investors got all the information they needed at CeBIT and then invested from home. The team has an ambitious business model and serves a topic that’s right at home in Germany: cars. Even representatives from pretty weighty industrial corporations were pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity of the idea. They were sure the patent-pending solution Carzapp presented was ‘technically impossible’.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about current crowdfunding initiatives and the funding status of these two startups, or anyone looking to become an investor themselves, should visit the Seedmatch site. (The information on the site is only available in German, since Seedmatch only hosts crowdfunding projects in Germany. We recommend that all interested English speakers check out the American crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo).

Janina Benz

Marco Voigts: “Strike out on a new path to get attention”

Marco Voigt Code N InterviewMarco Voigt is co-founder of PIN AG and one of the initiators of the GreenTec Awards, the best-known environmental award in Germany. For many years he worked as a consultant for the EU in the Ministries of Economics, of Environment, and of Science, and coordinated several support programs in the field of environmental technologies and electromobility. At the moment, though, he is focused on anchoring clean technologies in German industries. Additionally, he is managing partner at VKP Consulting and partner of Deutsche Messe AG for Business Development, responsible for the international trade fair IndustrialGreenTec.

Janina Benz: Could you tell us about the GreenTec Awards (formerly Clean Tech Awards)?

Marco Voigts: The GreenTec Awards is an annual event presenting the newest advances in green technologies. Green technologies need strong ambassadors! The GreenTec Awards bridges the gap between entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, artists, media representatives, and consumers, thus raising awareness and boosting the popularity of the sustainable (r)evolution. Projects range from car-sharing concepts to recycled construction materials—any innovative project can be part of the competition. But the GreenTec Awards is much more than just that: we host a session for the jury, encourage people to vote for their favorite projects online, and carry out many other activities to raise awareness for a more sustainable life. One of the event’s highlights is an interactive exhibition that invites guests to experience environmental technologies firsthand. More…