This year the project MOAR Stack of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University won the regional stage of the Startup Tour. Start-uppers got the opportunity to present their development not only to Russian but also to foreign investors in the course of visits to Finland, Germany, Great Britain. The project manager and concurrently the head of the student design bureau of the Kant I. BFU, Alexander Puzakov reported about what the researchers from Kaliningrad learned abroad, and where they can apply the technology.
General public got acquainted with the project MOAR Stack in April due to Startup Tour. What happened then?
- Before Startup Tour we were chosen to participate in the major European accelerator Startup Sauna, it is located in Helsinki, at the Aalto University. Therefore, the team was divided: some went to Startup Village in Moscow, while others took a five-week course in Finland. The selection process was tough: a special commission visited 17 cities in 13 countries (Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Russia, South Korea, China, Africa), evaluated about 700 start-ups, but only 14 projects became the participants of the program. So we entered the top 2%. There we were engaged in the construction of a business model, worked on a presentation, and at the end of the course there was a conference Arctic15. There was a demo-day as a part of the conference, where we were able to communicate with the network Cisco CTO evangelist Monique Morrow, she said that we had an interesting idea. And we continue to correspond. After that we were selected to the top 9 Startup Sauna projects that were presented to investors.
That is, you got into top 9 out of 14, didnt you?
- Yes, this is another filter. We communicated with investors in Berlin and London. As a result, we are in the track list of two investment funds.
Do you develop the technology at the same time or is all the time spent on communication?
- Yes, of course, we keep on developing it. Part of the team is constantly improving the product. The main thing we need to understand now is whether the technology works the way we think it should.
The model works, the test stand runs. There is one last step left, that is, the introduction, the collection of data from the market, making adjustments and scaling the entire line.
Where are you going to locate a test site?
- We are negotiating with several companies. Firstly, with the Russian-Polish company United Control we plan to pilot the street lighting in one of the Russian cities. Secondly, we started communication with the investment fund Rostelecom, they are interested in the idea of ??street lighting system as well. And thirdly, we begin to work with the GS Group on Industrial Internet, the test platform may appear in Gusev.
So, youve been to Finland for 5 weeks, youve communicated with investors in Berlin and London. What did you learn from these trips?
- In general, all weve learned are the truths, which for some reason are forgotten in Russia. For example, if you've done something, there will surely be someone who had done the analogue or the better version before: we cant claim that there is no competition (if there is no competition, there is no market, so you did nothing). Be sure to get feedback from the market, the things that should be changed, improved or added to the product. And of course, we have realized the importance of communication. None of the other participants in Finland has had a slightest idea of what we were doing for the first three weeks. And only by the fifth week, we were able to find the right words to explain what we offer and convince investors that our start-up was worth something. And these skills were very useful for us in London and Berlin: no one is interested in the technical details of your idea, it is important for investors to know who may be interested in your development and how much money you can earn on it. Any startup should be considered from this point of view. Of course, one can study some extremely interesting scientific subject, but if it cant be monetized, it isnt interesting for business.
Once you found the right words, explain what kind of product your team created. Because in April, after you won Startup Tour, only few people at the University realized what you had to offer!
- In fact, our technology doesnt have a custom character, so its quite difficult to describe its benefit to common people. We created the technology that enables to combine various devices into a single network. This is necessary for maximum automation, maximum information of production or infrastructures.
These networks can include millions of devices, these devices will communicate, reduce production costs.
Its not that easy to understand again. Youve already mentioned the street lighting system, explain everything using this example.
- Street lighting system will enable us to obtain information from each lamp (for example, when it is on/off) and control them. Or we will be able to save electricity at night, including every second lamp. But in fact, the street lighting network is the basis, common-house sensors can be hung on this network, as a result, the utilities will receive information on the status of water and energy consumption for each house. Or the bus routes can be hung, and there will be no need to keep track of the transport movement around Glonass: one can know, in real time mode, where exactly the bus is. I mean, the network of lamps is not the final product, but it is the product, which enables us to approach to what is commonly called the smart city step-by-step. Nowadays it is expensive to build networks. It means the traditional network requires the installation of the tower, which collects information from connected devices within a radius of 10 km. Further, this information is transmitted to the cloud storage, processed there, and then delivered to you. It is difficult and expensive. And this is the main advantage of our system:
we are building such a mesh network without control units, these are self-organizing networks, or more precisely said - Mesh-Networks. It is an infrastructure technology that is much cheaper than the existing networks even at the level of energy consumption.
That is, the possibilities of the technology are very broad, the main thing is to find the first customer.
- Yes, the main thing we have to do is to find the customer who is willing to take the risk. Of course, we can build some kind of a test network, but it is important and interesting to have a real challenge. That is, any company or municipality cant solve a certain problem using traditional networks, in this case, we will be able to focus on a clear problem and really evaluate our technological solutions.
Source: Kant BFU website. Published with reductions