European Innovation Academy 2019

We participated in the mentoring program for 500 students and supported a start-up

How will we generate innovations in the future? How do the young people who will shape our future think and work? How will students be prepared to constantly develop new solutions in a rapidly changing world?

European Innovation Academy 2019.

To this end, I would like to present Velox Al. Velox AI is a startup of students of the European Innovation Academy, which I was allowed to get to know and support as a mentor. The European Innovation Academy, in turn, is a 3-week summer school where students learn how to set up a start-up and make it successful.

And so Velox AI has gone through the Innovation Academy:

Day One: 

500 students come together. They have applied from various renowned universities to form project teams in small teams with different disciplines. In the best case, after 3 weeks, these teams are real startups with initial financing that will further pursue the business idea. 

This afternoon, students pitch their idea to find other team members who can identify with the topic. The participants don't know each other beforehand, and put together a colorful mixture of science, IT, and business students.

One of the project teams formed on the first day is Velox AI. The vision: to speed up and improve breast cancer diagnosis through AI. The now appointed CEO has been hatching the idea for a while now, and is studying which algorithms will improve the detection of breast cancer. Now he has a team to drive this project together. The team is motivated, excited, ambitious. 

Week 1: 

Velox AI enters the Ideation Phase, develops target audience, value proposition and drafts for a first prototype. During the first week, the team had to talk to potential customers and test the idea again and again. In fact, two of the Velox team members had contacts with doctors, which made first talks easier, but of course still challenging. The reactions were good, but with each conversation many new questions arose.  A long and difficult path...

Week two: 

The second week was mainly concerned with the visualization of the prototype and the marketing of the product. Marketing strategy, landing page and a first marketing campaign were created. Not easy to generate first leads with a B2B business model without a budget. For the team it felt like taking 3 steps back. "The prototype looks pretty cool already, and now we have to rethink who our customers are?" But slowly the idea that the product must also be sold began to take shape, and all channels and possibilities were checked out: LinkedIn, email, of course the website and personal contacts. Success stories and trust signals were discussed. A nice side effect: The focus on the customers moved the discussion away from features and towards Value Add, and at the end of the week, a much simplified MVP came out, which is not as technically elaborate, but already brings value to the customers. 

Week 3: 

The last week was all about the pitch. The ideas that had been worked out so far had to be somehow brought to a presentation in a short and simple way. The request to investors had to be sharpened. And above all, the nerves had to be prepared to explain to 500 people for 5 minutes how Velox AI will change the world: Breast cancer will be detected faster and better. Doctors can send their samples to Velox AI, where they are automatically compared with millions of past breast cancer samples. Abnormalities and irregularities are converted into probabilities and made available to doctors for diagnosis and further treatment. A great team, a great idea, a huge amount of motivation.

After 3 weeks the Academy was over, but the team wants to continue. The foundations have been laid, but there is still a huge mountain of work to be done if the idea and the product are really to be brought to market. 

What I have seen as a mentor at the European Innovation Academy is positive: learning to solve problems is more important than accumulating knowledge. Education can also be very compressed (3 weeks instead of 4 years!) and can be based on real practical examples. And what large corporations should prepare themselves for in order to remain attractive as employers: Own ideas and real impact become more interesting for young talents than predetermined career paths.