How would you describe your start up in three hashtags?
AYES : #LiveNavigationalAssistant, #ArtificialIntelligence, #VisuallyImpaired.
RideBee: #Mobility, #B2B, #Shared.
How did your start ups come about?
AYES : In short AYES was founded by three friends (myself included). The idea came from one of our family friends who is visually impaired. We spoke during the Covid pandemic and discovered that he had less opportunities to go out and about, especially with all the increased restrictions. Naturally as engineers we thought about how we could make some sort of tech solution in order to help him. We soon realised that there are millions of visually impaired people struggling to safely get from A to B. So we founded our AI startup that delivers a mobile application, assisting blind and visually people to do just that.
RideBee: We're a startup coming out of the Technical University of Munich, originally Lukas and I met during our respective semesters abroad at Carnegie Mellon University. RideBee enables sustainable B2B-Mobility by developing an employee platform for shared mobility on the way to work via carpools and shared bus shuttles. We were a group of students carrying out master's thesis in maths, and information systems. We applied for a scholarship that was kind of bound to the university in order to start our company. Within a year that was sponsored by the state scholarship. We are probably the “oldest” startup on the programme as we were already found in 2018.
Why did you decide to participate in an accelerator and specifically why the Baloise Mobility Accelerator?
AYES: One of the main reasons we applied is because it was an accelerator truly focused around mobility. Another reason is that Baloise carries a large, reputable name and we are also in their core markets. It would be interesting to see what potential partnerships could arise at the end of the accelerator. AYES is thinking about expanding internationally and one market that is especially big is Germany, so the expertise from Baloise is another reason. Finally we needed some mentorship - coming from a more technical background, it was important for us to learn more about the business development side of things. We saw the accelerator as an opportunity to have some sort of mentor guiding us through establishing our company.
How has this accelerator been filling the gaps in particular areas of knowledge then?
AYES : A key area has definitely been business development. I actually worked with another startup in 2020 and was the first employee so I do already have some experience in business development. But, in general, I didn't know how to talk to customers, how to reach them, how to set up a financial plan, business model and revenue model. We are also internally pivoting our business model quite a lot causing our revenue to change. As a general rule of thumb, so far we have been learning by doing it ourselves and with the mentoring of relatives and friends. Although we have already learned a lot there is so much more to learn which the accelerator is helping with. One thing that comes to mind is making five year projections - which is really a whole different mindset. We’ve also learned a lot from the Sparkademy modules - right now I'm completing the one on stakeholders. Although we already in a sense know the answers, it's great to sit down at a desk, complete a course step by step, think (properly) about it and not rush.
Has there been a missing piece of the puzzle for your business that you’ve discovered so far in the accelerator?
RideBee: I'd say for us, we are kind of an exception in terms of our maturity because we were already founded nearly three years ago, and the other startups joining the accelerator are in an earlier stage. Nevertheless, we were motivated by the same thing - we wanted to have external feedback and validation, get to know our processes and see where we can challenge, and think about our assumptions again. At this accelerator it has been possible and the programme runs really nicely in collaboration with Spark Works and Sparkademy.
What makes this program stand out?
RideBee: We participated in another accelerator earlier on and I think it was quite different. Of course, I think it always depends on your startup’s status and current goals. But, as a startup if you are willing to learn and progress then you can always find some internal processes + cases that you can improve and advance. What I've seen in this program is that it is really tailored to our needs. We can set out what we do and don’t need, which is really helpful.
AYES : We've been really enjoying the expert calls. Another stand out point I’ve noticed is that on another program we took part in we saw our business coach maybe once a month. But within the Baloise 10 week time frame it's more compact, direct and agile.