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'Smart Spaces' Pitching Competition winners collect €80,000 in prize money


On Tuesday evening ten start ups from across Europe gathered in Espoo, Finland, for the second of eight pitching competitions organised by EIT ICT Labs. ‘Idea Challenge’ is the title under which the competitions take place and each event has a specific topic. Finland’s was ‘Smart Spaces’, and the ideas on display were varied and fascinating, with the judges having a tough time picking the eventual winners.

We saw pitches from Avansera in Finland, Mapnaut from Italy, InPict from Germany, Jukeboss from Sweden, Qgo from Austria, Lokkupp from Sweden, txtData from Germany, Uniqul from Finland, Homey from the Netherlands, and Workplace Environment Analytics from Finland. Their start ups did things like, track shopping behaviours, generate social maps, manage live music, analyse live queues, track indoor location, facial recognition, home entertainment and office environment analysis.

These start ups went head to head for the three prizes on offer, €40,000 for first place, €25,000 for second, and €15,000 third. Along with the separate cash prizes all three would also get; coaching and mentoring from experts of the EIT ICT Labs Business Development Accelerator; integration into future EIT ICT Labs Action Line Activities, and into pan-European partner network of the EIT ICT Labs; and office space for up to 6 months in one of their Co-Location Centers. It was no wonder that some of the people pitching looked nervous, there were some big prizes up for grabs.

This isn’t the X-Factor though so we won’t drag this out and keep you guessing who won.

Homey from the Netherlands took first place with their product, a speech controlled automaton that can control all your home devices, lights, music, climate, TV and everything else in between. A bold idea that the judges liked for the simplicity of their vision and clear business plan. Their Kickstarter campaign is currently running, so if you're the type of person to get first generation technology you can go order yours right now.

In second place was QGo from Austria, they have developed a system that analyses camera feeds of queues to calculate how long it will take to reach the front. They were able to show evidence from a trial they ran during the winter at some ski resorts where their system, in partnership with an app, allowed skiers to see how long each ski lift queue would take. Again the judges liked that they already had their system in place, a clear expansion strategy and pricing plan.

Finally, Avansera from Helsinki took third place. We wrote about them in February but to quickly recap, they have a business that encompasses both B2B and B2C. They have a free app called Genius Shopper that they said helps consumers save as much as 30% on their shopping bills. They do this by finding out what’s on a customer's shopping list and showing them where they can shop to get the cheapest prices and special offers. All the data they are able to gather allows them to build patterns and fine analysis of shopping habits and traits, information they can then sell back to the food industry. Through their beta trial here in Helsinki over the last six months CEO Cormac Walsh explained that they had gathered over 50 million data points, the sort of extensive data that the food industry currently isn't getting to understand consumer behaviour. This B2B product is called Deep Dive, and again the judges commented on the clear business plan Avansera were able to articulate that won them third place.

Congratulations to the winners, but the rest of the finalists shouldn’t be too disheartened. There were 67 applicants to the Smart Spaces pitching final and they beat out 57 other start ups even to be there. They all showed a lot of promise and some interesting ideas, besides which each finalist was given a stipend of €500 to attend the competition, so no-one was put out of pocket even to be there.

As I said in the opening, this was only one of eight such finals. Applications for the first four have all closed, but the second wave of pitching competitions will take place in the second half of the year. The topics for those four will be ‘Cyber Security and Privacy’, ‘Internet of Things’, ‘Urban Life and Mobility’, and ‘Smart Energy Systems’, applications for those will open on the 1st September. So if you’re reading this and think your start up fits into one of those categories, and you wouldn’t mind winning between €15,000 and €40,000, then start preparing your pitch and materials now.

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