The Demo Day is an integral part of each new ITMO Preaccelerator session – an event during which startup teams talk about their projects and receive feedback from experts in the field of business development. A total of 14 teams out of the initial 47 made it to this stage.
“We checked the projects out and chose those teams that are passionate about their idea and are ready to spend time on implementing it,” says Maxim Zaikin, an expert of ITMO Accelerator. “During the selection process, we paid attention to the flexibility of participants’ thinking, as well as to business models they’ve built and what their product/market fit is. We also considered the size of the market.”
The chosen startups cover various fields: robotics, app development for businesses, eco-friendly facilities, and food retail. During the Demo Day, they not only competed for the attention of experts but also for the opportunity to make it to the next stage of ITMO Accelerator. As a result of the event, the jury chose and awarded three winners.
Projects on production
Startups are often associated only with a computer or mobile app development. However, this is often not the case. Some of the presented projects are about the creation of material objects. For example, the Laminar Container team works on lab devices that contain a sterile environment for working with bacteria and particles of a virus. This equipment can also be used in microelectronics, as it allows users to avoid even the tiniest specks of dust.
The laminar container developed by the team has a cost price of about 250,000 rubles, whereas their competitor sells similar equipment for nearly 1 million rubles. Moreover, the startup team also implemented a robot: it helps enhance efficiency and lower resource consumption.
The CRMP project develops a robotics platform with a continuous track that can be used in agriculture, as well as for removing snow, mowing, facility patrolling, and fire extinguishing.
The XXI Century Shoes project wants to make a dream of many sci-fi fans come true and produce sneakers that would lace themselves. The prototype is now in development.
“A year ago I was putting my shoes on and an idea came to my mind – wouldn’t it be great if I could put the shoes on and take them off without using my hands. If I would just put my foot in, the shoes would lace on their own, and I would go out. Then I would return from a shop with bags, the shoes would take themselves off, and I’d just go straight to the kitchen with bought goods. Since then, I’ve been thinking about how to implement this idea,” said Konstantin Boldin, the creator of the project, during his presentation.
Credit: sneakers from "Back to the Future", howitworksdaily.com
The KONOSSOS project is meant for fans of board games. The team created a game that can be played remotely without losing the sense of another person’s participation. The pandemic proved it to be a relevant idea, as people all over the world have had limited social contact throughout the past year.
“Our solution is to use augmented reality (AR) and wireless communication technologies in board games,” the presentation says. “This approach would allow us to connect people remotely without changing the tactile board game. The second player will be displayed in the AR layer. The project is aimed at three audiences: professional gamers who want to try something new, teenagers already living in the digital world, and people who for some reason are socially limited. We intend to launch two gaming sets on the market: an individual one, which would allow you to play remote games, and a team one, containing four kits and a playing field, which would make it possible to play a board game in the physical world. If fully funded, the alpha version of the project will be completed in 5 months.”
Projects on education and self-improvement
The EGE BOTT project creates a platform for high school students to help them study for the Unified State Exam. The key feature that distinguishes them from other services is the fact that users can study on just one website without the need to visit other pages.
“Let’s say there is a student from a distant region of our country who decided to enroll at Moscow State University,” says the presentation of the project. “On top of other problems, they have to study for exams. Their parents have no money for tutors, so the student has to search online. But there are so many different materials: some are too difficult and some are too easy. They have a hard time choosing what suits them personally. Our task is to give students the opportunity to prepare well on their own. Our solution is a web platform with artificial intelligence, which recommends both theoretical and practical materials to each student based on the mistakes they’ve made.”
Another project called AReducation aims to make school lessons more comprehensible and interesting. The team aims to do so using AR technology, which would supplement conventional textbooks with virtual materials.
Not all projects were about gaining knowledge. The Sigly Fit team offers new opportunities for physical development. They work on creating a project to help people of different ages and abilities to exercise on their own.
“Our product is automated fitness studios without administrators and other personnel. The studios are available for rent both for amateurs and instructors,” the project presentation says. “Over the past few years, the trend for year-long membership at gyms has decreased. Now it’s more about the mono-studio format, where you can use the equipment you need and pay for the number of classes you want to take.”
Projects on ecotechnologies
Several projects of the current ITMO Preaccelerator launch are related to ecology and biotechnology. One of them is the Microrevolucion social media community. Other than sharing information about biotech, the authors self-publish materials, give lectures, and even work on a signature drink in collaboration with one of St. Petersburg’s bars.
“We form a public community about applied biotechnologies,” the presentation states. “In our community, you can meet enthusiasts who don’t want to spend their money buying more and more medicine and would rather spend a bit more time baking bread and producing sour cabbage. We are also joined by foodservice employees who have only recently started to use fermentation as a source of new flavors and price reduction. It’s only fair, as using something as simple as lemon peel you can produce a refreshing lemon tonic with a nice bitter aftertaste to mix with gin. There are biotechnology specialists, too, who would like to look at their field in a new light and find like-minded people.”
Another project intends to create an eco-technopark for recycling in St. Petersburg.
“We have identified four sub-stages: organization of separate waste collection at ITMO, development of mobile centers for collection of recyclable materials, establishing a facility for utilization using waste gasification, and finally creating the eco-technopark: mobile waste collection centers, secondary sorting, processing, and disposal centers, as well as production facilities and greenhouses,” the project presentation says.
The Step to Energy project deals with the creation of floor tiles that can transform the kinetic energy of human steps into electrical energy. Such systems are already in development in several countries, but St. Petersburg’s team plans to create less pricey and more efficient devices with customizable form and color.
Projects on technologies for drinks
Two projects are about drinks. One of them is called Winewood and its creators work on a recommendation service for wine lovers. According to the creators, their task is to become an “invisible hand” of the national wine market.
“Most people don’t know much about wine and require recommendations and consultations. What some people might like, others won’t. The service offers personalized wine recommendations for each user,” the presentation says.
The TeaB2B company is engaged in the wholesale supply of tea for teahouses and clubs. After joining the ITMO Preaccelerator program, the company also managed to reach the foodservice market.
“What has changed after participation in the Preaccelerator? Now we know for whom and for what we are working, we have all business processes spelled out, and our competitors are analyzed. We also have all goods and services updated and published on our new website. We offer our clients to do everything on a turnkey basis and provide them with a tea menu, branded dishes of our own production, and, of course, the tea itself. Then we become their wholesale suppliers. Since the start of the project, our income grew to 1 million rubles per month in just six months. Then it decreased during the pandemic but after the accelerator, we started to grow again,” the team’s presentation says.
The winning projects
All three winners are engaged in business-related projects. The third place went to the Easy Try company that creates online fitting rooms for networks of clothing stores. Implementation of such an app should help reduce the number of returns of bought goods, as the customers will have a better understanding of what they’re buying and how it’ll fit them.
“Here’s how it works: we integrate our widget on the page of an item and customers can attach their picture to then receive the edited version, in which they’re “wearing” the chosen item. Then they can either share it or purchase the item. Our solution offers several metrics for business but the main thing is – it’s a new marketing tool for customer service,” the presentation states.
The Leed Bot team is focused on small businesses. The company creates bots for individual entrepreneurs, such as hairdressers, therapists, and fitness instructors, on social media – they can answer the most frequently asked questions and make appointments.
“Thanks to the chatbots, the clients would receive quick answers to their questions without distracting a specialist,” says the team. “Through contacts, the clients would be able to ask the specialist a difficult question directly through a convenient communication channel – a messenger or a social network. Also, the chatbot works instead of the specialist and answers frequently asked questions – it can describe the services in detail, provide information about the specialist’s education, as well as their working address.”
Finally, the best project was presented by the Metrica Guru team. The service offers business analytics of the market and of the competitors to companies. At the same time, the analytics might be of different depth and price, from simple analysis of competitors’ website statistics to tracking new products and innovations.
“We take data from a large number of paid and free sources, aggregate and process it, and then look for insights. We show what the weak spots of a competitor are and what works well for them,” the presentation says. “Our target audience is business owners and top managers who need to see the big picture: they can’t delve into every team and every process but they want to make sure that the company makes the right decisions, doesn’t lose their share of a market, and their competitors haven’t launched something cool.”