Initiating the second day of the Final Event, project coordinator Antonio Damasceno from F6S has opened the the floor to recapitulation on the project initial vision, goals and finally- successes and impact it had made in the last two and half years. With the kind words and support from the Project Advisor Milena Stoyanova-Colas, Block.IS took its place as a true catalyst for change and innovation creating a reef-like ecosystem of startups, innovators, academics, industrial representatives and blockchain enthusiasts.
Representatives of EISMEA – Fabienne Gautier and Daniel Gassmann highlighted particularly the values that made Block.IS stand out – importance of vision, commitment of all the people working on the project despite uncertainties that COVID-19 pandemic brought, taking up more work in order to create real difference for startups, value of project cross-collaboration and the role of EU institutions and agencies in supporting such initiatives.
Reflecting back on the Block.IS’ early days, Innovation Challenges take important part of the community-engaging activities. Initially focussed on agri-food, logistics and financial sector, Block.IS Innovation Challenges introduced two new sectors – tourism and fashion in order to showcase the replicability of the Innovation Challenge principles and blockchain technology to other sectors. For each challenge there was one external organization, the challenger, defining the theme and the problem to be addressed. Following the kick-off of the challenges by Lifestyle & Design Cluster and Cluster Tourismus Brandenburg and the first round of pitches, 3 startups competed in each respective sector for the prize of 12.000 EUR live in Brussels!
Three SMEs to pitch in the tourism category were:
Providing private and public stakeholders the relevant tools to propose new payment systems at a local and a cross border level. They will be able to launch their own tourism destination local blockchain currency system and their Blockchain token-based incentive and reward scheme.
Autonomous Smart Travel Ecosystem where any travel provider can easily create digitized, interactive, and interoperable assets, distribute them to the consumer and receive payments instantly enabling: Seamless Travel; Combining travel history, health history, and biometric ID data of traveller; Removing the intermediaries; Decreasing transactional costs; Establishing real-time cross-border settlement and payment.
Quality software solutions of all stripes, sizes for our clients and final customers, dependent on the product. Investments into employees’ education and professional training, improving their living conditions through higher wages and better working conditions, providing them with cheaper housing options and company lines of credit.
Top three for the fashion sector were:
With the platform that gives customers insight into the product’s journey, from material source to retail and by scanning an on-garment QR code, consumers see who made their clothes, how they are made, and what they are made of. Verified transparency which builds brand trust and increases customer engagement.
Introducing a system that lowers inventory costs, and provides real-time overview of the numerical condition of goods in production, warehouses and shops. The second value is related to customer trust. The buyer can at any time confirm the authenticity of the piece of clothing she/he has purchased. Especially on second-hand markets.
A one-stop shop for companies wanting to work on the digital transformation of their business or the digital presence of their brand. By introducing the blockchain and “Wear the change” Alicorn wants to convey the story and emotions coupled with each piece of clothing, creating a wearable piece of history, happier customers and sustainability to otherwise heavily polluting sector.
Block.IS innovator pitches
Following the Innovation Challenge, Block.IS Final Event included pitches from innovators of the second and third Open Call. For a full list of our top innovators click here. As a reminder, Block.IS had organized three Open Calls for blockchain innovation in agrifood, logistics and finance. For the innovators of the Open Call two, the Final Event was a graduation from the acceleration programme. Startups involved in the third Open Call, have gone a shorter acceleration in order to “catch up”. Third Open Call was specifically curated as a second chance for the startups who did not make it that have completed successfully the INNOVATE Phase of either Acceleration Process #1 or #2, but did not manage to enter EXPERIMENT Phase #1 or #2, mainly due to budget constraints.
Following are the best startups from the Block.IS Open Call #3 :
Local Food – tackling food and tourism sector, Local Food created a trading platform built on Corda that uses DLT to track the origin of local food from farms to restaurants. NU Credit is fintech startup helping other SMEs overcome challenges when dealing with lenders, know and control the status of their data in international trade. NU Credit assists by removing the burden of inert unpaid invoices that immobilise the flow of the capital. Votun highlighted their work around blockchain, NFTs and success story. It is the understanding of trends and blockchain that are the first steps they take for their clients enabling them to create great NFTs, to protect their clients right and Intellectual Property.vCorpora of the iLawLab introduced another side of blockchain – legal. Merging blockchain technology and law, they deal with digital banking, digital IDs, and digital wallets. Europechain by Zaisan is a GDPR supporting blockchain platform scaling trust for EU businesses. Europechain brings together an ecosystem of technology providers, system integrators and commercial partners enabling global enterprises to deploy scalable, resilient and EU compliant applications.
Best startups from the Block.IS Open Call #2 :
First in line was DAC – delivering value across areas of IoT, hardware, embedded systems, big data, machine learning, DLT, DevOps, and software engineering. They help their clients with Returnable Transport Items (RTIs). RTIs are utilized across all industries that rely on a supply chain — they provide a standardized method for moving goods from one location to another. Introducing the next generation of agriculture climate insurance Ibisa, a Luxembourg-based company, has developed a platform that enables, for the first time, profitable and scalable agriculture crop protection products! End-to end insurance platform integrates the entire value chain! SpeCtre presented Insur, open platform where people can connect and do business remotely in a trusted, transparent and secure way with no authority supervising them. The platform will provide the means to eliminate fraud and freelancer exploitation. ComeTogether – Originally creating infrastructure for event ticketing, fraud and scalping prevention along with secondary market revenue management, their solutions introduce a new form of digital tickets, the non-fungible tokens on blockchain, with embedded business logic. The ticket delivery occurs as a dynamic QR code making it impossible for resale outside of the blockchain (ensuring tickets are official, following organizer’s rules). Techbricks is the first Italian innovation startup developing disruptive technology solutions for the Energy and Financial sectors by merging Blockchain/DLT, Artificial Intelligence and IoT Technology bricks! Gataca is a Spanish cybersecurity company whose suite of products combines key principles of simplicity and usability with advanced cryptography and blockchain technologies providing hyper secure access to both private and public digital services. Based in Latvia, Kedeon’s monitoring solution contributes to reducing food waste, protecting the environment and helping to shape a sustainable world acting as a shipment’s “little snitch”. Kedeon provides complete tracking & monitoring solutions for large and small businesses. Intakt-Reisen is a German startup developing Vouchain, a blockchain-based platform providing a decentralized infrastructure for shopping centers and retailers, facilitating voucher issuing and management, leading to tangible benefits and cost-efficiency throughout the entire value chain. BAM Ticketing is an Austrian startup creating a blockchain-based ticketing, it developed a voucher Platform and Software as a Service facilitating the full control over the whole ticketing lifecycle, eliminating black markets and adding revenue from secondary trading. Lastly, closing the pitching session was VLDAM, an SME based in Serbia with vision to deliver seamless trading experience to cryptocurrency traders with impressive return of investment with the presentation via their solution – Vizlore.
Panel discussion: experience of participating in an EU-funded Acceleration Programme
Last session before the prize giving ceremony was the Panel Discussion that aimed to summarise startups’ experiences in the Block.IS journey, highlight their success but also clearly voice what are the challenges they face, will face and what is the overall future for startups if they are left without support and sufficient number of initiatives and projects similar to Block.IS.
Danijel Pavlica and Deborah Goll have moderated the panel discussion and the following startups were presented by their respective representatives: Olga Eigelson (Volvero), Dimitar Kyosev (Deriveum), Guruprasad Venkatesha (B-Cube.AI), Timo Wolthof (Cadchain), Chiara Casoni (Gataca) and Jean-Christophe Finidori (HODLNG) to reflect on their participation in the programme, presenting not only their stories but also the development path in the past two years, what are the steps ahead and what was the role Block.IS played in their success.
Discussing about main hurdles for stratups to scale up, the panellists have highlighted the uncertainty of the markets, especially combined with effects of the COVID-19 and the competition with the bigger players. Other important factors are legislation and fragmentation of capital market in the EU, shortage of talents needed to further develop blockchain solutions and blockchain education of general audience and especially clients.
Addressing the challenges and after hearing the European Commission representatives on the first day of the event, it was important to highlight their perspective on the policy suggestions in order to deepen the blockchain adoption. Education on blockchain was at focus, branching out to different sectors and stakeholders – from universities and high schools to legal associations and institutions, business and industrial players operating in sectors that could flourish through use of blockchain and of course of the policy makers who need to incorporate different interests while having a clear vision on how they want to shape progress and innovation. Furthermore, creating and opening a tool for sandbox creation is needed, more projects like this Block.IS – providing funding and other resources to accelerate the product development but also other aspects of the business development.
Future of blockchain in Europe is a factor deeply affecting market success of each of the participating startups. All of the panellists have expressed both excitement and enthusiasm in regard to the future steps and their involvement in shaping their respective markets. There are already good examples in national legislative frameworks that could be replicated across other EU Member States and wider, contributing to a more consolidated use of blockchain technology. The very implications of increased blockchain use are interoperability, trust, cross-border collaboration that can be easily scaled up.
Main takeaways and messages to other entrepreneurs and innovators
By joining Block.IS, the participants had at their disposal blockchain enablers that they could use freely, upgrade, adapt or simply use as an inspiration. Technical aspect coupled with business training (pitching trainings, mentorship programme, webinars, etc.) and community creation were the main takeaway for the panellists. Besides being able to develop and hone their innovations, it was the human factor and people behind the project that made it worth it.
Personal care and touch, availability of the partners; sociological moment- community giving you energy and feeling appreciated! Otherwise, entrepreneurial journey could get quite lonely.
The ability to discuss our use case and finding support along the entire way made all the difference. For others out there: try different approaches, make mistakes, don’t be afraid to proceed and try over and over again
More programmes like Block.IS are needed! Real value is in the community created and support given as well as reputation and credibility that a project funded by the European Commission can provide before foreign investors and clients.
This is the safe environment where you can make mistakes! Something is not according to the plan – it is not wrong, it is beneficial as you can experiment and iterate.
Welcoming environments, pushing you to move forward, regardless of what position and market readiness you are in. More initiatives like this are needed!
I found this project incredibly relevant, learned a lot from mentors and generally partners from the project, changed my own mindset and opened to new possibilities, widening the scope of interactions, business and growing thanks to feedback.
AWARD giving ceremony
Collecting all of the impressions, emotions and knowledge generated throughout the project and the two days of the Final Event, Antonio Damasceno took the stage once again to thank all of the participants, visitors, partners and all those that supported Block.IS and to announce the winners of the Innovation Challenges and Innovators’ Pitching.
Block.IS is proud to present Alicorn as the Fashion Innovation Challenge winner, Tokeo Software SRL as the winner in the Tourism Innovation Challenge and finally Local Food as the top startup among Open Call 2 and 3 innovators.
Using the technology and business training they received, innovators are now on the way of conquering the markets, branching out to the new niches and further being their resilience. As behind any successful endeavour, it is the people that have gone through the acceleration programme as well as those that built this project from vision on the paper to the living, breathing community that surpasses the duration of the project itself. Block.IS thanks you all!