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
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”.
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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!
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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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