I was invited to the European Startup Prize for mobility Demo Day on September 10th, 2020. It was my first offline event since Barcelona Tech Spirit at the end of February. Let me tell you what it looked like.
Since 2017, I've been involved in the EUSP, a unique public & private partnership dedicated to startups building innovative, sustainable and inclusive mobility solutions. During the first two editions, we organized a tour of European events to support the 10 winners with business development, media exposure and market research.
This year, the organizers of the prize had to cancel the tour and decided to launch the Day After Programme, a series of investment-focused activities that help the 10 winners get access to funding from organizations including the European Bank of Investment, several EIT Digital clusters, as well as private investors (VCs & CVCs mostly).
According to Grégory Merly, Managing Director of the Prize:
We have created a unique investment programme for startups, combining a Demo Day in front of private investors and a fast track to EU public fundings. By applying once to the EUSP, a startup gets the opportunity to be screened and selected for different investment rounds with the European Investment Bank, the EIT InnoEnergy and the EIT Urban Mobility among others. This "one-stop-shop" to EU funds is unique and allows startups not to lose too much time and resources applying to every single innovation programme of the EU.
A landmark event of this year's edition was the Demo Day that I attended.
The agenda of this virtual demo day included a panel, the startup pitches and a networking session for those attending the event in Paris.
The opening panel was focused on the major challenges of post-covid mobility and Europe's priorities and involved Karima Delli (European Parliament), Sophie Bailly (Via ID) and Maureen Le Baud (Via ID). The panelists were gathered at a TV studio in Paris.
The 10 finalists got the opportunity to pitch their solutions from home:
- AddVolt (Portugal) - developed a Plug-in Electric system that electrifies the refrigeration unit allowing cleaner, quieter and cost-effective deliveries.
- Autofleet (Israel) - The first ever Vehicle as a Service platform for fleets, enabling large global fleets to optimize existing operations and dynamically leverage unused vehicles to launch new services.
- Chargery (Germany) - Chargery is a full-service-provider for the future of mobility. With the combination of intelligent software and a broad variety of services we enable highly efficient operations for shared mobility.
- Fairtiq (Switzerland) - The simplest way to everyday mobility for everyone, everywhere. That’s the idea behind FAIRTIQ, the easiest way to buy a ticket for public transport with the best and fair price every time.
- Humanising Autonomy (UK) - Real-time vulnerable road user behaviour analysis and intent prediction software for accident and near-miss prevention in urban environments.
- MOTIONTAG (Germany) - MOTIONTAG makes mobility intelligent by describing and understanding real-world mobility through data-driven services.
- Pony (France) - Pony is a french micromobility operator providing shared bikes & escooters. Our business model allows anyone to purchase a vehicle and share it with other people.
- Skipr (Belgium) - Skipr’s unique integrated solution (a MaaS application, a payment card and a dashboard) provides companies with smart mobility tailored to their needs and policies
- UFT (Luxembourg) - We provide software for demand responsive transport to some of Europe’s largest public transport authorities and private fleet operators.
- Unifly (Belgiuem) - Unifly’s platform integrates drones into the airspace safely, connecting authorities with drone pilots to approve and manage drone flights. We also made an electronic license plate for drones.
The audience of 260 participants from 27 countries included around 130 investors and corporate executives. They were attending the demo day on Livestorm, a platform specialized in interactive webinars.
As a partner of EUSP, I was invited to attend the demo day in person at Appartement Reeve, a cosy venue in the Sentier area of Paris.
We were around 20 guests, watching the content on a large screen and then joining a networking lunch. Investors were invited to schedule meetings with finalists by the organizers using Calendly.
It was strange to be back at a physical event after months of virtual conferences. Safety measures, including masks and social distancing were in place. However, it was not easy to keep up with these constraints during lunch. As you can imagine, we were all willing to chat and interact while eating and drinking. I'm wondering how you can implement this at larger events and ensure the safety of all participants.
And that's the trickiest part of shifting to online events: it's more efficient to network in person than online. I had several interactions with old and new contacts that will lead to followups that would have been impossible to get during an online event:
- Casual chats with partners and friends that we wouldn't schedule during an online event; everyone is too busy for casual networking.
- Focused conversations with clients and prospects that will lead to business meetings; high profile executives don't attend online networking sessions.
- Immediate followup and scheduling happens on the spot and they will happen; in person networks are stronger than virtual ones.
It demonstrates that even small physical gatherings have a stronger impact on business than large virtual events. At least for a regular participants.
Sophie Bailly, Co-Founder of EUSP shared her perspective with us:
Our goal was both creating high visibility and new investment opportunities for TOP10 winners, and a special networking session for EUSP Partners, who have made this prize possible for 3 years. Objective achieved thanks to this hybrid event!
This hybrid Demo Day proved to me that this new format can be successful: host small gatherings for partners and offer a highly curated online experience.
However, you need a rock-solid tech solution to effectively engage with your participants. Most software is too cumbersome and complex for these formats. Are we all supposed to sign up for community platforms to get this experience?
I hope not and we're working on the solution with Sesamers.
Other mobility events this fall:
[Disclaimer: This Demo Day was attended by Ben Costantini as part of a partnership with EUSP. However, Startup Sesame, Sesamers, and all associated entities receive no compensation (financial or otherwise) from EUSP, and the opinions and information presented here may or may not represent those of EUSP.]