A start-up companies formula for success: free work and sleepless nights?

startup prototron
At a seminar on “Cooperation Prototype” held on Tuesday on Tallinn Entrepreneurship Day, a prototype as the visibility of an idea and how to obtain cooperation with customers and investors for the next stage was discussed. At the seminar, under the leadership of CEO of Prototron Jana Pavlenkova, a mentor of Prototron Pirko Konsa, Prototron Alumni Shipitwise CMO Sander Gansen, and Toomas Seppel, and a lawyer from the law firm Hedman Partners & Co OÜ, participated in the discussions.

The following quotes were the highlights.

Pirko Konsa
“Instead of building a product, it is safer to build prototypes – so you can test and rebuild all the necessary parts in order to then bring the perfect product to the market.”
“A drawing is also a prototype!”
“Innovation is always fast, but do not be afraid of it.”
“Zeal to create something unique and different is what you cannot buy for your salary.”
“The theft of an idea is possible at some levels, but Estonia is so small that the society can be let down only once. Information moves quickly, and after that, the perpetrator will be shunned by society. ”

Sander Gansen
“In order to enter the market, there is no need for a new product. What is needed is something that you could immediately sell in order to earn the first 100 euros.”
“Enthusiasm makes people work five months without being paid and four months without sleep.”
“In order for a product to be completed, there must be a larger vision of how the problems can be solved.”

Toomas Seppel
“Ideas are free; they do not belong to anyone as long as someone does something with the idea. So long as the product does not have a patent, anyone can copy it, so it is a race against time. ”
“First, the investors will look at the team – whether they are willing to work for their idea without being paid and without sleep, and secondly they will look at the business model, or whether the thing the team is working on corresponds to the business model.”

In the current round of applications, we expect ideas until October 15. Submit your idea!

Success stories

SprayPrinter – grant 8,000 euros
SprayPrinter is an innovative wall printer, which helps you to print the design or image in your smartphone in to just about every wall.
The team of SprayPrinter began operations last October. Today the start-up company has passed the Tartu Science Park Buildit acceleration program, received 8,000 euros at the Prototron prototyping contest, won the Ajujaht competition, filled 159% of the desired result in Indiegogo crowdfunding. In total investment in the order of 100 000 have been involved.

Smart Load Solutions – grant 8,500 euros
Smart Load Solutions has built a smart appliance for better planning the work of factories and power plants. The appliance s suitable for various automated facilities in order to keep the machines working just when the price of electricity is cheapest. Saving both in energy and in money.
Madis Uuemaa is a 26-year-old founder of Smart Load Solutions. The business magazine Forbes has placed him among 30 most successful young entrepreneurs under 30 years of age.
The Expert Panel of Prototron saw in him the potential already in 2014, when it granted to him 8,500 euros for prototyping. It’s worth keeping an eye on his doings!
A clip of their activities https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=115tT_RZIjk

coModule – grant 10 534 euros
27-year-old Kristjan Maruste is the founder of CoModule and belongs to the 30 most successful young entrepreneurs under 30 years of age ranked by the business magazine Forbes. Kristjan’s formula for success? Let it remain a mystery, or see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3io8sl-8ovo

However, under his leadership, has been developed coModule platform, which can be used to display information on battery charge of electric bike or scooter in the smartphone. At the same time, it is also possible for the vehicle manufacturer to track where and when their scooter or bike moves. Ingenious! So thought the Expert Panel of Prototron and gave them 10,534 euros for the development of the appliance. This was the beginning of the success story.

Lingvist – grant 9900 euros
One of the first Prototron beneficiaries. The team is developing a cross-device language learning novel method working in a nover language learning method that makes teaches any foreign language to any one student in 200 hours. For that is used collation and analysis of the vocabulary of different languages and the optimal learning program is calculated. The author of the program is an Estonian doctor of theoretical physics Mait Müntel who had to learn the French language in CERN and coined an algorithm that helps to acquire a foreign language in 200 hours.
With the involvement of an investment of total of around 1 million euros from different investors, Lingvist continued development; by now the company has announced that it will receive as an A-series investment 8 million dollars, or more than 7.4 million euros to enter the Japanese market.

Three questions to Jana Pavlenkova, the Executive Director of Prototron.

Jana Pavlenkova 29.09.2016 Väimela 3
Why in the current application round of Prototron, clever ideas are expected from the regions of East Viru County and Southeast Estonia?

Our goal is to declare that the current Prototron application round is open to all people who have an idea on how to solve some problem. It can be something that makes the life of a specific region or community better and is not suitable for using elsewhere. We want to find those ideas also from outside of Tallinn, to give them the opportunity to do something great. Have you noticed how the simple but ingenious solutions to various problems help to make our daily lives better? Let us share these ideas with others, and it can become a successful enterprise, like Lingvist or Sprayprinter.

Does it mean that start-ups from Tallinn are not welcome this time?
On the contrary, the Prototron application rounds are always welcome to all ideas, regardless of gender, age, education level or place of residence of the team members. Since its establishment in August 2012, the Prototron application rounds have received about 100 to 150 applications, 38 ideas have been funded for a total of 400,000 euros. Experience shows that the majority of the teams are active Estonian startup community members. In order for the information on Prototon and its opportunities to made it out of the narrow circle, we are now aiming at the different in regions of Estonia, this time in East-Viru County, South-East Estonia and the Tartu region, where the members of Prototron are going to introduce the nature of the fund and to inspire local enterprising people.

If I have a wonderful idea that could grow into something bigger, what should I do?
To begin with, find and start a team with which to develop the idea further. With the best will in the world, one person is not enough to engage in product development, sales, and financial affairs. Then send your application to www.prototron.ee. All teams will receive feedback from the experts of Prototron even before the deadline for the application round, so you can quickly find out whether the idea has the potential to receive funding from Prototron or not. Certainly, our experts also share guidelines on how to make your applications or ideas even better, so that the team will be able to defend their idea in front of the Panel of Experts.

We accept applications until October 15 at 23:59 www.prototron.ee

1 + 1 = 1, and then some

solo pilt
solO is the first underfloor heating thermostat in the world, with a direct connection to the electricity markets. It is designed for people who have electric floor heating at home. The thermostat smartly turns itself on when the electricity price is very low, and it turns itself off when the price hits the roof. This artificial intelligence will keep the floor constantly warm, and the savings can be seen in the monetary figures. It sounds like a dream, right?

But it is not, precisely because this idea came out as one of the recipients of funding from the Tallinn round of Prototron.

solO completed cooperation with two companies: SLS (software) and THE Systems (hardware), so the winners are two companies and the customers.

The areas of responsibility of the teams are as follows: Henry Liimal and Thomas Tasuja (delivery of the thermostat hardware), Mart Uuemaa (beautiful appearance of the thermostat), Allan Puusepp (top-level artificial intelligence algorithms) and Madis Uuemaa (search for cooperation partners).
The product is currently being piloted, and the first customers are planned to have installations in the coming winter – so that people will have a warm floor and not waste too much money.

“We definitely recommend taking part in the Tallinn Prototron round. In Estonia, this is the best place to start testing and development of your idea. It will definitely contribute a lot to winning if the team has a sparkle in their eyes when pitching their idea,” said Madis. It pays to listen to him because he has tangible results to show!

Submit your idea: www.prototron.ee before 15 October.

Creatomus – solutions for apartment buildings in need of renewal

töötuba Creatomuse prototüüp
The state of apartment buildings in various regions of Tallinn is not the greatest, many of them are in need of renovation, and here is the solution – Creatomus helps housing associations and residents of panel houses of the capital city to compare different types of solutions for the renovation of a house or apartment. Creatomus helps the process of ordering the necessary products/materials, and to find the right builder.

The four-member team of Creatomus has now built a technical solution with which they are able to carry out the first pilot projects. They are planning to reach the first customers (housing associations of housing blocks) within 6-9 months. “We are currently looking for housing associations, who would be willing to participate for free in our pilot project,” said chief executive of Creatomus Renee Puusepp. In addition to Renee, Taavi Lõoke (project leader of apartment building renovation solution), Kaiko Kivi (technical director) and Martins Untals, who is the consultant of business and technical solutions are the other professionals who operate in Creatomus.

In the case of Prototron, Renee highlighted the clear format and the decision-making process. “Protoron is a simple and suitable financing scheme for start-up companies. I would recommend that the participating teams would use the opportunity to get initial feedback from the Prototron mentors, which is even more important than the financial reward. For example, participation in the Tallinn round of Prototron led us to several very important persons in the city of Tallinn,” said Renee.

Submit your idea: www.prototron.ee before 15 October.

Bikeep – first to the US, then to Tallinn

Bikeep operates today in several cities around the world; it has installed a total of 400 smart bike parking lots, and it has a huge contract with San Francisco in its pocket. With the help of Prototron, smart electric bike charging stations and parking lots are also emerging in Tallinn.

“In the future, the share of electric bikes on the streets is increasing and, therefore, the need for locking them is also growing. To help ensure ease of use and battery life for longer rides, it is reasonable to charge electric bikes while they are parked. The interest for such charging stations has shown up in lots of places, and in spring, a prototype station will definitely be up and running Tallinn,” said Kristjan Lind, who is responsible for customer relations and sales in Bikeep. The team also includes Oliver Nuut, whose area of responsibility is designing and manufacturing the charging station, Ainar Estra, who is engaged in the development of the charging modules, and Meelis Haidak, who develops control the processes for charging.

In regard to receiving funding from Prototron, Kristjan noted that the whole process forces one carefully think through the product life cycle (from product development to sales) and allows the winners to come up with a clear plan for and support for the realization of their idea. “This is a good opportunity for bringing your exciting product ideas into reality,” said Kristjan and added that definitely the most important part of the product is understanding potential customers or how to design the product according to their needs

Bikeep has understood the needs of its customers and will continue its flight to stardom.
You have the opportunity to do the same – send an application with your smart idea to us at www.prototron.ee.

Applications can be submitted until 15 October!

Prototron helps Tallinn to benefit from 3 innovative solutions

sOlo termostaat
During the Entrepreneurship Day that took place on Tuesday, 4 October, the winners of Prototron Tallinn Round were announced. The three winning teams received over 20,000 euros in total. The Tallinn Round welcomed ambitious ideas able to make life in the capital better and easier.

The expert council awarded the following participants of the Tallinn Round:

  • Bikeep team (6,000 € of funding) with the idea of smart bicycle parking lots that provide for secure and easy locking and the solution for charging electric bicycles;
  • solO Thermostat (4,460 € of funding) that develops a smart thermostat that makes electrical heating more environmentally friendly and cheap;
  • Creatomus team (10,000 € of funding) that develops the digital market for construction works and materials that allows owners and buyers to plan construction and repairs with help of 3D technology.

According to the head of the innovations commission of Tallinn City Council Andres Kollist, Tallinn has always been open to innovative new ideas. “In order to find new ideas that can make lives of residents and guests of Tallinn easier and more comfortable, we decided to cooperate with Prototron – one of the most successful Estonian startup foundations. In the Tallinn Round three ideas with great potential were selected – in the nearest future they will make life in Tallinn even more comfortable,” says Kollist and adds that preference was given to solutions that can be used as widely as possible. “The number of those using bicycles as their main means of transportation in Tallinn is growing constantly and safe parking of bicycles is the major issue for such people. Improvement of living environment and home renovation will become significantly simpler with use of 3D technology. Saving on electricity is also important – the funded innovation will help many people with budgeting. This is why we can’t wait to see the prototypes and the actual products entering the market,” Kollist explains the reasons for selecting the particular ideas.

114 ideas submitted for the Tallinn Round demonstrate that there are great many proactive and initiative people in the capital who wish to change living conditions in the city and the urban environment to the better.

“Simple yet smart solutions to various problems help to improve our daily lives. I am very happy that so many ideas were submitted for the Tallinn Round, and I hope that our experience will inspire other cities, major regions, smaller communities and individuals alike. We welcome ideas from everyone – regardless of their place of residence. The new Prototron round has already started and will end on 15 October,” adds Jana Pavlenkova, the chief executive officer of Prototron.
Prototron foundation, established in 2012 by Swedbank, Tehnopol and Tallinn University of Technology so far has provided financing to 35 ideas for the total amount of 380,000 euros. Some of them grew to become international success stories – Lingvist, Flydog, coModule, GlobalReader and Sprayprinter. Sponsors of the foundation are the Ministry of the Environment, the city of Tallinn, Utilitas and Hedman Partners.
Applications can be submitted until 15 October: www.prototron.ee.

More information and contact details:

Jana Pavlenkova
Chief executive officer of Prototron

How to get money from Prototron to implement your idea?

10000 1
The Prototron application round is underway again, which is why it is worth to recall the seven of the most important points that can help you to prove to the Panel of Experts that your idea is worth the funding of EUR 10,000.
The advantage of obtaining funds from Prototron is simplicity: the application can be filled in online, you do not have to have an enterprise to submit the application, all enterprising people are welcome to present their ideas, it is not necessary to provide your activity reports of previous years, it is the idea and a capable team that are important.

1. The idea must be understandable immediately
The primary decision regarding financing the idea will be made on the basis of applications submitted by the teams, so it is most important to formulate your world-altering idea as clearly as possible. It must be clear in just a few sentences why, for whom, and how? Also is important the uniqueness of the idea, or what problem it solves?

2. An expert team
The mere ingenious idea is however not enough for conquering the world; someone has actually to implement it. Practice shows that if one person is able to see the best technical solution to a problem (which is often their own problem), they may lack competence in the field of marketing or sales. Or, if you have a good idea and customers, there must be at least one of the co-founders on the team, who will be able to carry out the idea technically. Therefore, enlist around yourself a team who is able to successfully bring the product or the service to the world market.

3. Show commitment
The evaluators of the idea consider it important that the team is wholeheartedly involved. Therefore, describe where the team is currently with developing their idea? In the best case, the negotiations have been held with potential customers who have already made a commitment to test and use the product. Of course, no one expects the team members to quit his or her current day job on the spot, but the Expert Panel must be able to see that the team is ready to commit to the product, and even at the expense of his or her free (or sleep) time.

4. Know your market
To sell your product/service successfully, you must map the target group who would be willing to buy it and at what price – how large is the number of potential customers? If your product would, in reality, have just a few customers or its price would be inaccessible for the major part, it does not seem too promising. Find out if there are already competitors operating in the same field and how is your product different from the currently existing products? What is this “something” that makes your product desirable?

5. Assess your need for money, realistically
With the grant from Prototron, the team can create their first tangible prototype, so write down 5-7 main cost lines, for which you plan to use the grant (preferably for the purchase or outsourcing the components necessary for assembling the product), and to which extent is the team able itself to contribute financially? Have you planned to involve other funding sources (EAS, Estonian Development Fund, KredEx, the ESTBAN, BuildIt, Ajujaht etc.)?

6. Time is money
The faster the first prototype is ready, the faster it will reach the first paying customers to be sold. List the realization of the idea into timewise measurable steps, so you will be able to plan the actions of the team better. Depending on the complexity of the product/service, it could make it to the market within a year after the completion of the prototype.

7. It is always worth at least a try
To succeed, it is often necessary to experience failures; it is part of the evolution. For success, it makes sense to involve those who have walked the same road before as mentors. Prototron experts provide feedback on many ideas, providing help on how to develop an idea further if the plan is still at the level of thought, but the idea is worth implementing. Prototron gives strong teams, in addition to money, also mentoring, an incubation program, legal and marketing advice, further investor contacts and specific other types of help when appropriate.

Prototron is waiting for your application until 15 October at 23:59 at: www.prototron.ee. The amount that will be shared between teams in the current round of applications is about 40,000 euros.

Prototron gives up to € 10,000 to prototype your idea!

This Autumn Prototron will give up to 40 000 euros together with coaching and mentoring for carrying out smart ideas, inventions, gadgets and solutions making daily lives easier, better and more convenient.

We look forward to your applications with descriptions of smart ideas until 15 October. As early as December 9, we will declare the winners, who will receive funding (up to € 10,000) and 6 month in Tehnopol incubator (worth € 5000) in order to turn the idea into a tangible prototype already in 2017. Everyone is welcome to participate – individuals and companies, young and old, experienced and novices, those working and those studying, from the city and from the country!

The aim of Prototron is to encourage smart and enterprising people through a cash injection for carrying out their ideas, turning them into tangible prototypes and into a major business.

It is an all-Estonian competition of ideas, the participants of which are mentored by experts from various fields, in order to prepare the idea and the team for the final pitch before Prototron Expert Committee.

The best ideas will receive start-up funds of up to € 10,000, legal support, corporate marketing channels and 6 months of incubation in Tehnopol Startup Incubator to prepare the startups for market entry and investment readiness.

We invite entrepreneurs, businesses, and their employees, who have product ideas that will improve the world. We welcome secondary, vocational, applied and higher education students, who want to carry out ideas and gadgets that have emerged from their minds
We challenge business consultants to encourage all their customers who want to carry out their enthusiastic dreams.

All applicants will receive personalized feedback for their applications, the TOP 20 participants will get personal mentoring and the TOP 10 finalists get opportunity to pitch their ideas to the Prototron Expert Committee. We will reward the best teams with a grant of up to 10 000 € and with 6-months incubation in the Tehnopol incubator.

Submit an application here at www.prototron.ee!

Prototron is founded by Swedbank, Tallinn University of Technology and Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol to support business ideas that could conquer the World. Prototron is the first fund in Europe granting equity free funding to startups so they could build their first working prototype to test on customers.

Contributions to the 15th Prototron round will be made by Swedbank, Tehnopol, the Ministry of Environment and the City of Tallinn.