Prototron Fund Helps Bring Modular Electric Bikes to the Streets


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The Latitude59 start-up conference showcased the finalists of Prototron’s spring round – innovative start-up technology companies competing for €75,000 in prototype funding.  The grand prize of €35,000 was awarded to ILUS Bike, developer of easy-to-use modular electric bikes. A standout feature of these bikes is their modular compatibility with various bike-sharing systems like rental platforms, charging stations, and additional equipment, aligned with the preferences of the operator and the city.

The spring round of Prototron, Estonia’s first smart idea prototyping fund initiated by Swedbank, Tehnopol, and TalTech, featured several influential business-to-business software ideas among its finalists. ‘While the number of excellent software ideas is growing in our increasingly digital world, the real breakthrough is finding the perfect synergy between software and hardware,’ noted Brait Pilvik, CEO of Prototron.

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Prototron’s biggest cash prize of 35,000 euros went to a company developing a modular bike that incidentally uses an Internet of Things device developed by Comodule, the company that won Prototron’s very first round of funding in 2012. ILUS Bike and Comodule share another connection: both ventures originated from TalTech, thanks to the Formula Student project. ‘For years, TalTech has been helping students move forward with their own business ideas and come up with new products and services. Teams such as Formula Student, Solaride, Student Satellite, and other multidisciplinary groups that integrate software and hardware have been especially successful,’ explained Caroline Aruoja, Manager of TalTech’s Centre for New Entrepreneurship. The bikes can already be spotted this summer as the first pilot project takes off in Tartu.

The spring round of the Prototron fund provided financial support for prototyping and legal services from the law firm Hedman Partners to the following projects:

  • €35,000 for prototyping and €1,500 in legal services to the ILUS Bike team, which is developing a simple modular electric bike for rental services
  • €15,000 for prototyping and €1,500 in legal services to the Sciflux team, which will begin production of a blood-test based technology to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • €15,000 for prototyping and €1,500 in legal services to the Audiocat team, creators of smart games for the visually impaired
  • €10,000 for prototyping and €1,500 in legal services to the TraynMe team, which offers efficient computing power over the network for 3D and video media rendering.

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According to many teams participating in the programme, besides obtaining funding, receiving valuable feedback and advice on how to further develop their ideas was equally important. According to Kadri Tammai, Head of Tehnopol Startup Incubator, experienced mentors can significantly accelerate a startup’s journey towards achieving its goals. ‘The main advantage of mentors lies in their experience. While a startup might face certain problems for the first time, an experienced mentor has advised hundreds of companies in the same situation and helps avoid pitfalls. As Prototron supports companies in their early stages of development, mentors help them save valuable time and money,’ Tammai added.

Applications for the autumn round of Prototron will open in the summer and close on 31 August. ‘The first prototypes are still very much in need of funding, even though we have been running the project with Prototron for 12 years. I encourage other companies to contribute as well, so that an even greater number of good ideas have the potential to become reality,’ said Triin Preem, Swedbank’s Startup Segment Manager, urging other companies to invest in promising projects.

Prototron is a grant fund created by Swedbank, TalTech and the Tehnopol Science and Business Park to fund prototypes of technological ideas so that world-changing ideas and products can reach the market faster. Over the past decade, Prototron has funded 98 innovative ideas with a total of €1.3 million, and the teams have subsequently raised more than €85 million in additional investments.

In addition, Prototron teams have received support from the law firm Hedman Partners, the City of Tallinn, Utilitas, the Environmental Investment Centre, and other partners who value innovation.

Additional information:

Brait Pilvik

CEO of Prototron MTÜ

brait@prototron.ee

+372 520 8200