Online Farmers Market and Students with Jobs: SumIT School Winning Projects
Last week, ITMO University’s Entrepreneurship Center hosted a Demo Day, marking the conclusion of the SumIT international summer school for startups. Over the course of two weeks, promising entrepreneurs from Russia, Croatia, and Cameroon received intensive training in customer development, business process modelling, marketing and PR, met with leading entrepreneurs and business experts, participated in workshops, and prepared to showcase their startups to a wider audience. The Demo Day saw the summer school participants present their projects to guests and judges.
This year, the SumIT acceleration program was attended by 22 young entrepreneurs from Russia, Croatia, and Cameroon, boosting their business skills and improving on their startup projects, some of which were created at the start of the school. The panel of judges evaluating the projects as part of the Demo Day included the iNTG executive partner Liudmila Murgulets, ITMO Venture Partners executive partner Alexey Tolmachev, Useid.pro executive director Andrey Satin, CNT Instruments executive director and partner Vladimir Rudashevsky, business-angel and SoftJoys executive director Alexander Andreev, as well as the FactoryFinder executive director and Future Technologies ITMO executive partner Alexey Solomatin, among many others.
The Demo Day exhibition consisted of seven innovative projects ranging from tourism to farming and healthy eating. For instance, the SeBooker startup is an online service aimed at connecting travellers and helping them book accommodation to lower their costs and avoid fraudsters. Unlike other booking websites on the market, SeBooker has a reliable and transparent payment system that guarantees its clients’ security. Another startup unveiled on Demo Day is Benzo-Robot, an automatic device for refuelling cars which is marketed at both established and young businesses and promises quick returns on investment. Green Space is a food delivery service intended for people who are tired of fast-food and don’t have time for cooking their meals themselves, but still want to eat healthily. In contrast with its many healthy-eating counterparts, the service doesn’t work on a subscription basis only and will deliver wholesome and all-natural ready meals to any office or home in next to no time.
“Other judges and I have come to a unanimous conclusion that all that matters for a beginning entrepreneur to be successful is being committed to the constant development of their project and having a good awareness of what they can do and which problems their project is aiming to solve. How the latter is going to be implemented is not as important as understanding your product and its potential consumer and working with a real-life problem that you have a feel of and really want to solve. Your knowledge and skills, be it your tech-savviness or the ability to hold your own and pitch an idea, also play a significant role. In a nutshell, having a business concept means being able to answer the question of which client you’ll be working with and why they should choose you over your competitor. That was the rationale behind our selection criteria; we evaluated the progress the participants made over the course of the program, their final presentations, product awareness, motivation, and confidence. These are the success factors that defined the winning projects,” explained iNTG executive partner and Demo Day judge Liudmila Murgulets.
It was the expert panel of judges that decided on the final winners’ podium. Third place went to AfroGreenTech Farm, a marketplace for financial and insurance services helping farmers to overcome funding barriers and protect their businesses from natural risks. The project uses artificial intelligence technologies to create accurate and comprehensive investment plans that factor in the farmers’ resources, as well as possible scenarios and estimates for the development of their businesses. The virtual farmers’ market Mamina Dacha project took second place. The startup aims to beat the mainstream supermarkets and shops by offering a wide selection of fresh, organic, and locally grown produce coming with an affordable price tag and a quality guarantee. The Croatian participants’ project was awarded the first place. Called ‘The Board’, their online platform aggregates available jobs, internships, and scholarship opportunities for students, allowing them to cut on the time they spend looking for work at a mishmash of different resources. The service is well-organized, free to use, and easy to navigate. More information on the winning projects and the inspiration behind them can be found in this article.
“Despite the fact that I’d already had my project when I started this program, it helped me form a clear vision of my goals and objectives and create a step-by-step strategy for my startup development. Our mentors gave us the knowledge and skills that no doubt will be instrumental for growing our businesses. I really wish I learned some Russian prior to coming here, though. Some classes were conducted in Russian, and while there was a follow-up English translation, I think that knowing the language would have contributed to a better grasp of the subject. But that was the only difficulty I faced, and I hope that my practical work will help me make up for the knowledge I may have missed out on. During this summer school, I developed a good rapport with Croatian participants and we decided to help each other with our projects, so as soon as I return home to Cameroon, we’ll continue to work together on improving the AfroGreenTech website prototype and expanding its partner community. This program is an excellent opportunity for gaining valuable knowledge and skills in the field of business and innovations, and I’ll definitely be recommending it to other Cameroonian entrepreneurs as a great way for boosting their businesses,” shared the AfroGreenTech project author Boris Mouako Djeumako.
“The summer school program was a perfect blend of theoretical insights and practical methods. I really enjoyed Maxim Ivanov’s lectures; I myself am a teacher and plan on using some of his teaching methods in my own work. I was also very impressed and inspired by Alexey Solomatin and Alexander Alkhov’s profound advice and helpful guidance. The problem that I want my startup to solve comes from my own experience. That’s why I had no problems with defining its goals, objectives, and expected results. But the technical side of it wasn’t as crystal clear, and that’s when the knowledge and skills I acquired thanks to the summer school came into play. Establishing the product’s target audience, working with statistics, coming up with the right website, creating landings: we tried to master every little bit of the information we received and then put it to practice by immediately applying it to our project. I think that our project’s strong point lies in our comprehensive approach; we not only presented our concept to judges, but developed a fully functioning website that embodies it. The summer school was a gateway to a wealth of useful knowledge, but what was especially important for me was seeing our idea becoming a reality. My partner and I are already searching for farmers ready to increase their business by selling their produce to a larger group of consumers thanks to our website; we’re also making first contacts with possible clients interested in buying locally grown and organic fruit and veg,” commented Elena Dymova, the Mamina Dacha project member.