Good things take time. The joint project between Veezoo and AXA wasn’t all plain sailing. Shortly before the finish it even threatened to fail. Thanks to a lot of patience, excellent collaboration and tenacity, AXA and Veezoo managed to establish a successful partnership.
As Switzerland’s biggest insurance company, AXA works with complex systems and large volumes of data. Extracting and preparing useful information from this huge amount of data can be time consuming and requires professional handling. This is where the technology from Veezoo brings a clear value add.
Understanding data with Veezoo
The insurance company and the ETH spin-off met for the first time at Kickstart Accelerator in fall of 2016, where AXA appeared as a partner and Veezoo as one of the first startups in the program. It quickly became clear that the startup’s software was of interest to AXA. Because, with Veezoo’s smart, dialog-based data analysis software, data and information can clearly and easily be made accessible and useful – and this has considerable potential in many areas for AXA.
With Veezoo’s help, concrete questions can be answered easily and in a way that can be understood by anyone. Questions are asked to Veezoo just like in Google and Siri; here, however, based on company data: “How many new customers aged over 30 have we gained in Zurich in the past 3 months?” The question is answered in seconds with a clear, interactive graphic. Answers can also be further explored, either by clicking on individual elements of the visualization or simply by asking a follow-up question, such as: “How many of them came from our online channel?”
Euphoric test phase
Thanks to AXA’s open innovation approach, a potential collaboration and a use case could be prepared very quickly and presented to the decision-making committee. The Customer & Distribution Board wasn’t fully convinced with the original use case. „In a subsequent attempt, we focused more closely on problems of the daily business“, says Marcos Monteiro, Co-Founder of Veezoo. „In the end, it was the focus on the benefit AXA had thanks to Veezoo’s technology, that resulted in the final approval of the pilot.“
In phase one, constructive and close collaboration was essential. After just a few weeks, a running version of Veezoo could be tested. „Selected users in the AXA sales department tested the software for its functionality and to uncover possible deviations in the data reproduction“, says Svea Meier, Open Innovation Developer at AXA. „Initially, some answers from Veezoo differed from the results computed using internal business logics. However, following investigation by both parties, the systems quickly produced fully identical numbers.“ As a result of the test phase, the evaluation showed that the test persons were very satisfied with the support of Veezoo. They were particularly enthusiastic about the extremely simple way answers and information could be obtained from the large AXA data volume. None of them wanted to go back to their daily work without Veezoo.
The final hurdle
Shortly before the end, the Customer & Distribution Board further challenged the AXA/Veezoo team, insisting on full compliance with the process before permanent implementation of the software.
AXA and Veezoo worked hand in hand on that. After clearing the remaining open topics, the business case was presented also to the Executive Board. Further requests were submitted. A few days later, everything was implemented and resulted in the final approval.
For Kickstart Accelerator Co-Lead Katka Letzing, this is a good example of how Kickstart Accelerator can help closing the gap between startups and corporations: „It`s great to see how this pilot project between Veezoo and our partner AXA turned into a longer term partnership. I believe that this kind of collaborations contribute to the Swiss innovation ecosystem in a significant way.“
by Svea Meier, AXA and Till Haug, Veezoo
Over 30 Proof of Concepts (PoCs) and partnerships have been secured at Kickstart Accelerator, one of Europe’s largest no equity, multi-corporate accelerator programmes that culminates today – most of them with leading corporations. Coop, Credit Suisse, Empa, EY, Helsana, Migros, PwC Switzerland, Raiffeisen, Swisscom as well as UBS have entered into partnerships with the entrepreneurs participating in this year’s acceleration programme. At tonight’s grand Closing Ceremony the established PoCs and other partnerships will be announced in addition to the winners in each vertical, who will receive a 25`000 CHF grant. The accelerator – an initiative of digitalswitzerland and operated by Impact Hub Zurich – saw 29 startups as well as an intrapreneur team from AXA Winterthur and Swisscom working in collaboration for 11 weeks in the specially designed co-working space Kraftwerk. Their goal was to develop, scale and promote their business in the Swiss innovation ecosystem with the guide of industry experts and unparalleled access to internationally recognized corporations. The programme also supported by C4DR and evitive, focused on the fields of FinTech, Food, Smart Cities as well as Robotics & Intelligent Systems, which is reflective of Switzerland’s heritage innovation sub sectors.
– PwC Switzerland has signed a Letter of Intent with Zurich-based Apiax to intensify the discussion about joining forces to work on digitising compliance processes in the financial industry.
– UBS and CityFALCON have worked closely together to explore different opportunities on how to leverage a potential partnership. Nothing has been agreed yet, however, it can be confirmed, that UBS sees value in exploring CityFALCON`s offering in a potential PoC.
– Raiffeisen Bank has acquired a Living Farming tree by the Italian Food startup Hexagro Urban Farming as the first step of a PoC and will validate a potential use in Raiffeisen offices.
– Coop and Migros have both agreed on individual PoCs with FlavorWiki. Their technology allows food producers, retailers and others to collect detailed data about consumer taste preferences. Coop and Migros will both test this technology internally.
– Swisscom and Hawa Dawa have signed a PoC to develop a real-time data model of air quality in Zurich. The German startup is leveraging open data from the city of Zurich and is using big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to model the air quality in the whole city.
– The cities of Zurich, Bern and St. Gallen, are discussing further collaboration and sharing of knowledge with different startups, e.g. with BikeLook from Dublin.
In addition to the cooperation between the startups and corporate partners, some of the startups have also started to cooperate with each other. For example, the intrapreneur team Rent’n’Share has partnered with the UK/Switzerland based startup Spark Horizon to offer a sustainable mobility solution. The FinTech startups AAAccell, Blocko and Coincube confirmed partnerships to work on two individual blockchain pilots. Zurich-based Apiax is going to work with South African startup Libryo in the field of legal and insurance solutions. Meanwhile, CoinCube and CityFALCON will be working together on AI/blockchain solutions and London-based startup Nivaura, that took part in the 2016 programme, is starting a joint project with Adjoint from this year’s batch focusing on blockchain solutions.
Several of the participating startups have already or are planning to bring units of their businesses to Switzerland. For example, the Ghana-based food tech startup Farmerline is planning to base their third office in Zurich and US-startup RADiCAL is opening the first office outside New York in Zurich to attract talent in the areas of AI and autonomous systems, with the Zurich office expected to serve as the company’s research and development lab. In addition, US-startup COINCUBE is incorporating in Switzerland to implement projects in the digital asset space. More incorporations are being planned.
Furthermore, since the start of the programme in July this year, the Kickstart Accelerator startups all together have raised more than 8 million CHF funding from international and Swiss investors.
Kickstart Accelerator 2017 ends tonight with the official Closing Ceremony. It will be live streamed on Kickstart Accelerator’s Facebook page today from 4:15 PM to 7:15 PM CET.
Read the official press release for more information about the PoCs and partnerships in detail.
It is unfortunately not that simple. Investors will demand to see current users and to understand how quickly the startup is growing. If the startup’s answer is “I don’t have a use case or user base, that’s why I need the funding” – the feedback will not normally be positive for the startup. Usually it will be that they are not ready to raise venture funding before the validation of the technology, which often requires investment for development and runway – a vicious Catch 22.
Furthermore, many potential customer companies are conservative by their nature. They often like to see evidence of a direct or indirect peer company having worked with the startup, before they engage / become customers of the startup. This process is time consuming if starting with smaller customer companies and gradually increasing the size of the customer company to achieve any market capture.
So, to kick-start development and market validation, an accelerated path can start with a Proof of Concept (PoC) with an established company, as part of the startup’s journey to developing customers and attracting investment.
Moreover, as Andrea Alunni, Senior Advisor at Oxford University Innovation, states, it will also significantly benefit the startup as they focus and improve their product or service:
“PoC is instrumental to take novel ideas into practice, supporting inventors’ business confidence and releasing drivers to innovation embedded in the tacit knowledge of the inventors. The ultimate outcomes of proof of concept investments depend on the ability of the supported technologies to reach the market and generate returns”.
Link to relevant article:
The PoC should be correctly framed and agreed up front with the partner(s). What’s the agreed specification? How long is the development period? How is it to be funded? What are the conditions around the use of the resulting IP? What are the startup’s rights to publicise the association with the partner company and the resulting developments? How does the longer term engagement get structured after a successful PoC?
At the Kickstart Accelerator, startups benefit from access to many of the largest and most successful companies in Switzerland and beyond. These companies can also benefit by deploying the startups’ ideas and agility onto commercial challenges they are facing. In addition, the programme is also supported by leading, global Management Consultancies who can facilitate access to their numerous clients. And so provide potential win-win-win opportunities for the startups, the consultancies and their selected clients.
Successful PoCs are a key part of a startup’s journey and are also fundamental to their stakeholders. We believe that we will see numerous PoCs progressed from the Kickstart Accelerator programme. A key statement of the progamme’s value and results.
Kickstart Accelerator is one of Europe’s largest multi-corporate accelerators with intensive innovation processes for joint Proof-of-Concepts (PoCs) between global corporate partners and selected startups. Backed by experienced entrepreneurs, investors, academia and top companies in Switzerland, Kickstart Accelerator offers a unique opportunity to bring your startup to the next level in just 11 weeks!
Start your company off on the right track: Apply for a chance to be one of the selected startups!
The program will take place between September 4th and November 17th, 2017. We are looking for international startups and intrapreneurial teams operating in the following areas: Food, FinTech, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, Smart Cities (in Zurich) and Healthcare (in Basel).
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Benefits at a glance:
Apply at kickstart-accelerator.com for an opportunity of a lifetime and scale your startup in 11 weeks!
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