Initially, 120 people have participated in the Pre-Accelerator, which started in late September, although there were more than 550 applications. However, only twenty projects reached the final presentation and not all of them will get to the Accelerator, where the participants will continue to work more closely on their product and prepare it for entering the market and attracting investment.
The main criterion during the selection of participants was having a minimum viable product and a thorough custdev (i.e. the product was tested on potential customers). The general state of the concept, business model and a thorough understanding of the target audience were also evaluated.
The first place went to the project BuildDocuments – a monitoring system for financing in the construction sector. There is a lot of documentation in the construction industry, and the project's goal is to digitize it. This would help to solve the basic problems as it will eliminate the need to keep a massive, hard-to-navigate paper archive, will make the process of applying for and receiving approval for architectural projects faster, and help to keep record of materials stock. Access is provided by FaceID and digital signature. This way, users may track down who has filled in a certain document. BuildDocuments also automatically shows the production and estimated work schedules, thus eliminating the human factor.
“Today, paperwork in the construction industry is done manually, without authorization and the possibility of complete control. As a result, objects on the construction site don’t always correspond to the project on paper, and an audit of the vast archives does not always help to find the reason for the deviation from the project. Information from analog documents can’t be used promptly. Due to the size of paper archives it is almost impossible to find at what point the information was distorted. The solution is to implement digital technologies in the construction industry,” says Evgenii Buzlaev, project manager at BuildDocuments.
The project is already a part of the real business market. It has received 4,000,000 rubles of investments and a 300 subscriptions pre-order. The project was also supported by the Russian Ministry of Construction.
The second place was taken by ITMO University students with the project Typing School. This is a service that helps people to learn and practice touch typing. The team went from an idea to a working prototype during their time at Pre-Accelerator and has won a grant competition hosted by ITMO University and Gazprom Neft.
The main advantages of Typing School are the fast learning process (from 10 to 15 hours) and gamification, which turns the process into a fascinating game. Such speed is reached due to a special algorithm. It doesn’t just give the user a standard text to retype, but analyzes the way the user reacts: how they type and what typos appear. Later the algorithm makes the user work on these mistakes more.
The team assumes that touch typing courses will soon become very popular. Even today the overall number of users who use such services has reached 600,000 a month in Russia and 20,000,000 worldwide.
The plan for the future is to create more specialized courses for people with different backgrounds: for copywriters, programmers, or designers. It will allow them to learn the hotkeys of the programs they use.
The third place was taken by the psychodiagnostic service ScanFace. The application operates with the help of neural networks and a machine learning algorithm: it creates a parametric model of the user's face, recognizes its features and forms a psychological portrait based on their appearance. That includes their personality traits and the impression they make on others. Final analysis is performed by an expert, who comments on the results obtained by the user and gives recommendations on how to establish communication with people and achieve success in career, personal life and business.
The service is focused only on b2c so far. It already has 2,450 users, 90% of whom were attracted by other users’ feedback and reviews. The project has already earned 1,600,000 rubles and received a 3,000,000 ruble grant from the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises’s Artificial Intelligence track.
The plans include entering the American Mental Health market, the volume of which is estimated at $20 billion, and also developing the b2b segment. According to the developers, drawing up a psychological portrait of a client will help managers to interact with clients more efficiently and HR specialists to choose the right candidate with less effort.
Among other interesting projects that were presented on Demo Day: an application for exchanging contacts and their convenient storage Привет (Hello), Hamstand – a storage system for mobile devices based on the Internet of Things technology, RealGo – a controller capable of compensating for motion sickness in VR, Synaps – a cloud-based storage service for web bookmarks with convenient hashtag search, FitEasy – an online bot that develops individual training and nutrition programs. There were also some social projects: optical colored lenses for the treatment of dyslexia in children, Я рядом (I’m Right Here) – a service that helps children to remotely take care of their parents’ health, a service that allows users to sell and exchange children toys Наигрался.ру and courses for young parents JOMI.
At the end of projects presentation ITMO.NEWS spoke to the mentors and experts about the program’s results, advantages and future plans.
Alexey Solomatin, head of the ITMO Accelerator
On February 15, 2020, we at ITMO Accelerator watched our top 20 projects graduate. Participants entered the ITMO Pre-Accelerator in October 2019 with ideas for their own projects, and today they already have a product that sells, as well as an understanding of the further development of the product in the services market. The Pre-Accelerator’s educational program along with the mentors’ help have allowed participants to develop entrepreneurial skills and create new high-tech startups. All of Demo Day’s jury members and experts have noted the high quality of project preparation, which isn’t often found at such events. ITMO Accelerator is pleased to hear positive reviews on its work and to see that efficient cooperation with its participants is recognised. This major success of ITMO Accelerator opens the way for future opportunities and allows us to expand international relations.
Maksim Zaikin, lead tracker
I think that the work was performed well, because some Pre-Accelerator projects have even gained some profit. Pre-Accelerator is more about working from an idea to creating a minimum viable product, but we even had projects that gained profit. These are very good results. One project even attracted 3 million rubles of investments. It came just with MVP (minimum viable product), it was improved and properly presented. It already has several signed contracts and, as a result of their presentation, which was prepared with the help of the Pre-Accelerator, the money was raised. Some of the participants have pivoted – meaning, have changed the business model, some even more than once. This shows how inspired they are and how much they wanted to enter the Accelerator.
On Demo Day the experts – jury members – came up to me and told me how well the event is organized and how well-prepared the startups are. Experience has shown that other similar events’ standards are much lower. We, trackers, were training the participants so that they would make a good presentation and explain their ideas clearly. It’s very important.
Olesya Baranyuk, deputy director at ITMO University’s Technopark
When we launched the Pre-Accelerator on September 29, we had quite moderate expectations because we understood that the activity of startups is not very high, neither is the activity of research teams. Thanks to the new Pre-Accelerator format, not only teams that have a prototype can participate, but also those that only have an idea. When they come here, they receive the necessary skills and meet people who are needed to assemble a team. Today we’ve seen the result of such cooperation. Some teams had come in having only an idea and after four months they came out with a prototype or even with first sales. That’s why overall we’re very happy with the results. We’re glad that participants have shown their courage, persistence, and made it to the finals with us.
This project was arranged jointly by us and our partners from ITMO Highpark. We as a university were responsible for the projects that are developed at the university by our students and employees, whereas ITMO Highpark was more about other, outside projects that also could participate. Today there was a 50/50 ratio. For example, the winner is a third-party project. Nevertheless, we’re all united by one idea, all the participants visited common sessions, communicated, formed their teams. For example, third-party projects have invited ITMO people to work with them as marketing specialists, programmers, and other technical staff. We, among other things, were responsible for forming the teams.
Irina Lvova, deputy director at ITMO Accelerator
Yes, there were mixed teams. At the very beginning of our program, we’ve performed such a thing as team building. If someone needed a marketing specialist or a techie or someone did not come up with an idea, but wanted to join a startup, we gave them such an opportunity.
We are planning to grow further and to launch a program that will be focused on expanding the customer base, sales development and marketing. We will accept the best teams, which already have a working prototype and are starting to launch the sales, to the Accelerator and will continue to work with them. It will be launched in mid-March and go on until mid-June.
At the same time, we continue to process the applications for the Pre-Accelerator that we get through accel.itmo.ru. You can register there and attend our online course. Online courses are available all year long, you can take them anytime and we’ll provide feedback. We also continue to give feedback for the projects that didn’t make it to the Pre-Accelerator due to various reasons. That way we’re preparing the next Pre-Accelerator program that will be launched next September.
Konstantin Khomchenko, tracker and mentor at the Accelerator
Let me tell you briefly what were the highlights of Accelerator’s life:
The first highlight was seeing 500 applications. There were various projects. Some people had only an idea and others had been working on it for several years before the Accelerator and came here to get breakthrough results. At the opening of the program the venue was overcrowded, and it was very nice to see so many faces.
The second highlight was the moment when we’d picked and formed 60 teams and matched them with the trackers. The knowledge you receive in the educational program is important, but it is thanks to the connection between a project and a tracker that it was possible to achieve groundbreaking results. As a tracker I’m very proud that I had a chance to work with such great participants. Out of the eight projects that I was dealing with, four made it to sales. I’d especially like to note Typing School, which came in second. Its founder was working very hard and his work paid off. Startups that took first and second places were working on them for a long time before the Accelerator, whereas Typing School has achieved its results in 140 days of the acceleration program. That proves that persistence and discipline mean excellence.
And of course, the third highlight is Accelerator’s Demo Day. I’d note the atmosphere – no one was “fighting to death” in order to win. It was very friendly. It’s important not to get divided according to fields of interest, but to unite. It’s all about people. That’s why I’m happy that I was waking up every morning to the thought that I will talk to people who are trying to create something meaningful, something important, something that can change the world. Maybe it won’t be the same thing that they came to the Accelerator with: many entrepreneurs have achieved success only with their fifth, sixth… twentieth company. What's important is that the participants were working hard for 140 days and if they will keep that pace, success is inevitable.
Translated by Kseniia Tereshchenko