As the deadline for EIT Digital Challenge applications for digital deep tech companies approaches (June 7th!), we had a chance to interview EIT Digital Accelerator’s Access to Market Lead, Outi Toijala, who is responsible for offering their services to scaleups and helping them to grow internationally across EU countries. She is of course not doing it all on her own as the work is done with her 30+ colleagues across Europe and Silicon Valley. Outi gives us some tips on scaling internationally and explains her ways of working with scaleups.
Also we got some Q&A with the founders of two previous Challenge winning scaleups, SidekickHealth and Oculavis. As a clear case on how deep tech innovation can support the society, the Icelandic digital health company SidekickHealth, has deployed its platform with health authorities in Iceland to help doctors remotely manage and triage patients affected by COVID-19.
Working with digital scaleups
Outi, as you see so many different digital startups, are there some specific things that the companies are lacking and they should improve on the most when preparing to scale?
First of all, scaleups should have several commercial customers. This will give them the much needed references and a proof that their solution and business model work and are ready to scale. It will also provide statistics of the impact of the solution and confidence to the founders on how and to which sectors to sell the solution. Delivery team also needs experience on successful implementations.
Scaleups should also have enough international marketing and sales resources. This is crucial when actively building relationships and following up leads in new countries taking into account that usually sales cycles are a bit longer in foreign markets. In the largest EU countries and in the most conservative sectors local language skills and localised product versions are also a must.
International expansion takes time and resources and most scaleups need extra funding for that. Our Access to Finance (A2F) team can help with A Round and beyond.
After getting accepted to EIT Digital Accelerator, what are the first steps you take with a company assigned to you?
We create a tailored international growth plan for each scaleup and agree on shared targets and schedules for the 12 months acceleration period. We nominate contact persons from both sides and agree on ways of working and tools for daily collaboration. In case the company is also raising international capital, we’ll make a plan for that as well.
And how do you continue working with the company throughout the program?
First, we prepare sales and marketing materials and tailor them for different markets and industries. We have a kick-off video call where the scaleup trains our team on how to sell their solution.
After that, we start reaching out to our warm contacts to schedule introduction meetings for the scaleup. Usually we start with 1-3 new markets and add more later on, if relevant for the scaleup and possible from resources perspective.
Our Access to Finance team will review all investor documentation including the business plan, train the CEO for investor meetings and identify relevant investors to contact
We also arrange matchmaking events between scaleups and corporates as well as investor dinners.
When working with companies what’s the most rewarding thing for you?
I’m very excited when I find a new customer for a scaleup and a solution to a corporate problem. It is great to see scaleups getting well prepared for customer meetings and being very active in following up after the first meeting. I’m also eager to support in the background when the case is progressing from an introduction to a pilot and a deal.
If one is planning to apply for the EIT Digital Challenge, what’s your top three tips for them?Have public customer success stories which show that your deep tech solution works, solves a problem and is ready to scale. Have a strong and large enough team with tech, sales and marketing experience. Have a clear vision where you want to take your scaleup and how you will do it.
And how do you get to the finals?
You have more chances to get to the final if you meet our criteria and your revenues are coming mainly from your scalable solution, not from consulting or tailor-made projects.
Thank you, Outi!
If you want to scale up your business in Europe with EIT Digital, make sure to apply for EIT Digital Challenge and compete for international growth prizes totalling €350K. More details and how to apply here. Deadline to submit is June 7th.
The 2019 winners Q&A
SidekickHealth – Gamified digital therapeutics
Q&A with Tryggvi Thorgeirsson, co-founder and CEO of SidekickHealth.
What was the situation like in the company before entering the contest?
Sidekick was already making progress with international pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer and Bayer, and getting ready to scale up across a number of therapeutic areas. And we were getting ready to start our Series A fundraising efforts.
How was it like to compete with 20 of the most innovative companies in Europe?
We were extremely proud to join the ranks of the leading digital innovators in Europe. To be recognised by Europe‘s leading innovation organisation has boosted our confidence as a company, reinforcing our firm belief that we have all the ingredients to empower and motivate people with chronic illnesses to take control of their health. Competing with Europe‘s best innovators has validated our efforts externally – in a way given us a license to play in the top league.
What did you learn from the contest and the “EIT Digital Accelerator”?
We have been extremely lucky and grateful for the opportunity to tap into the vast experience and knowledge associated with the EIT Digital Accelerator network. This is especially true when it comes to the great access-to-finance (A2F) team, which has given us valuable insights into how to navigate the fundraising process and put us in front of over 70 European venture capital funds.
What other benefits did the contest give you?
Being one of last year‘s winners has really increased our visibility and awareness. EIT Digital leverages powerful media and social channels, which have been utilised to give us an additional platform to amplify our message.
What is the status of the company today?
We are growing fast on all fronts. We expect to have increased our team to 35 to 40 employees by the end of this year, up from 18 when EIT Digital brought us into the fold. Sidekick was commissioned by the Icelandic Emergency Management Authorities to provide a nationwide COVID-19 program to remotely monitor, triage and manage infected individuals in their homes; thereby improving health outcomes and making better use of healthcare resources. Our COVID-19 response has also attracted a lot of attention and opened doors for us, resulting in exciting conversations with healthcare providers in Europe and the United States.
Oculavis – Remote collaboration for the industry
Q&A with Markus Große Böckmann, Managing Director at Oculavis
Could you tell us about Oculavis?
Companies from the manufacturing industry use oculavis SHARE to solve problems remotely using augmented reality. Oculavis offers the software platform for PCs, smartphones, tablets and smart glasses for expert support via AR video call and augmented reality step-by-step instructions. Experts’ trips are prevented by up to 50% and machine downtimes are reduced by up to 50%. oculavis was founded in 2016 and today has over 45 employees, more than 150 customers, has been profitable since day 1 and makes over 3 million euros in sales per year. The company is on a growth course throughout Europe.
What kind of challenges are you facing?
Finding the constant balance of personnel growth, profitability and product development is one of our daily challenges. However, we are looking very positively into the future through the ever better linking and continuation of our internal processes from financial planning to order processing to product development.
How does the EIT Digital Challenge take you further?
The EIT Digital Challenge enables us to win customers across Europe. Eleven people from EIT Digital support our European sales activities. This is great support!
What would you recommend to other deep tech startups?
Take part in the EIT Digital Accelerator competition if you want to expand across Europe! It’s just worth it.
Deadline on June 7th
Scaleups in one of the following five thematic areas: Digital Tech, Digital Cities, Digital Industry, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Finance, are invited to apply and compete for the prizes totaling €350,000 in cash and in kind. The application deadline is June 7th 2020, so now is time to act and seize this opportunity to scale your business.