Techhouse does not want to be “yet another accelerator,” explains Managing Director Johannes Müller. The Graz-based “innovation accelerator for startups and industry”, according to its own definition, is therefore gearing its offering to the “needs” of founders and corporates and can already come up with success stories. One of them is Felloz by Raphael Marton, which became a “local superhero” by participating in first batch and – not “only” – got capital.
“We moved our headquarters to Zagreb and increased our team with a full-stack developer. Two major clients have also come on board, ‘SOS Children’s Village Croatia’ and ‘Red Noses International’,” explains the founder of the Graz-based social impact startup.
From guest contribution to 50,000 euros
The pre-seed investment Felloz received was in the amount of 50,000 euros and was provided by the VC “Fil Rouge Capital”. Marton comments, “During the Techhouse Accelerator, Julien Coustaury, the founder and managing partner of Fil Rouge Capital, gave a guest post and told us about his early-stage fund. Shortly after, we signed up on the website and were invited to Zagreb out of hundreds of applicants:inside. The same day after the pitch, we already had the acceptance.”
Now Felloz is already looking at the next steps. “In the spring, we launch our donation app with our customers in Europe. We will close the seed investment round next March in order to penetrate the U.S. market as quickly as possible,” Marton continued. “The Techhouse Accelorator has been instrumental in helping us build an international network. On the one hand, there were incredible guest speakers, like Andy Baynes, Apple’s former ‘Head of Product Design’, who shared their knowledge with full passion. On the other hand, there was just the right infrastructure to discuss innovative ideas with creative minds.”
Accelerator as shortcut
Czech “Conversational AI” platform Amio was also a participant in the first batch of the Techhouse Accelerator and recently closed a funding round of 390,000 euros. Founder Matouš Kučera saw the participation as a “shortcut” for his startup: “What was definitely helpful for Amio is the fact that we got connected with Raiffeisenbank and were able to talk to managers responsible for improving UX, support and the whole ‘customer journey’,” he says. “We also got our two-month on-site presence – in the form of an office – from Techhouse. That helped us enter the Austrian market.”
Topic Track and PoC-Track
To explain: The Techhouse program is divided into two levels: In the Topic track, five early stage startups have the chance to develop business models and technologies. The PoC track, on the other hand, was designed for startups and young teams that have not yet founded a company, in order to work closely with industrial cooperation partners on concrete problem areas and their solutions. For founding teams, the focus here is on identifying the customer’s “pain-point” and, if successfully addressed, achieving an immediate ‘product-market fit’ and winning the first industrial customer.
All participants of the Topic Track have – in addition to a four-month accommodation during the program provided by Techhouse – the chance to qualify for a direct investment of the “Innovation Excellence Partner” RLB Steiermark and to work directly with the bank. The topics here include “Service based technology applications” (e.g. AI, Blockchain), “Sustainability”, FinTech, “data driven business models” (data security or data empowerment) and HealthTech.
In addition to the well-known cooperation partners (e.g. NextIncubator, Christof Indestries), this year’s PoC track includes Hutchinson Drei and Amiblu, an internationally active “hidden champion” with 200 million euros in sales, which is looking for smart solutions in the field of “pipes and water management”. Müller was also able to win a first international partner for the second batch, which can be registered for until the end of January.
“Amiblu has been setting the tone in the GRP pipe market for 60 years. It is therefore very natural for us to work with startups to generate ideas and combine our passion for water with the digital world,” explains CEO Alexander Frech.
Techhouse partner Nutrichem: Developer of smart drinking bottles for Parkinson’s patients
Nutrichem is a B. Braun subsidiary and would like to develop a smart drinking bottle for Parkinson’s patients as part of the partnership, for which a five-figure development budget is also available: “Our aspiration is to develop and produce innovative solutions in in-house production,” explains Managing Director Angelika Müller. By participating in the Accelerator as a cooperation partner in the PoC track, the company hopes to take a “think outside the box” approach to gain new perspectives from different industries with experts from different fields.
“Our goal ‘beyond the product’ is to make life as ‘convincing’ as possible for users or patients through services,” the entrepreneur continued. “By combining different fields of expertise, we see an opportunity here to design an eco-system, bundle synergies and thus offer a unified platform. Techhouse has different contact persons and disciplines and can thus also incorporate the most diverse influences into the idea of our smart drinking bottle. So far, we have approached the topic from a purely medical perspective. But compliance is essential for therapy.”
New coops – new fields
In general, the merging of startups with industry seems to create a level of its own that goes beyond the business basis that founders receive, if one compares Müller’s statement with that of the last batch. It was remarkable then when Kurt Herzog, “Head of Industry 4.0” of Techhouse partner Primetals Technologies Austria said that the “matchmaking” with the partner startup had not exactly corresponded to the company’s original plan, but through the cooperation they had discovered a field in the company to be optimized.
The Product & Innovation Manager for Digital Business Solutions at Drei, Eddie Sommerville, also expects a digital boost from this cooperation, albeit in a different track: “The Techhouse PoC Challenge gives us the opportunity to be part of a dynamic exchange with technology startups, where we can address new ideas and solutions together and also test them directly,” he says. “As we are currently rolling out the first Austria-wide LoRaWAN network (note: Long Range Wide Area Network), which we will complete by the end of 2022, it is particularly exciting for us to further strengthen our digitization portfolio in collaboration with existing and new partners.”
These two examples are just representative of the innovation opportunities that a startup-corporate collaboration can enable and created last time. Back then, there were 120 applicants from 14 countries who applied for the Accelerator.
Specifically, RedoxNRG from Estonia, a green tech startup that converts carbon dioxide into fuel, Synctactic.ai from India, a “data science” platform that helps companies make sense of data, Asya from Latvia, with its communication skills training, with real-time AI feedback, Mada Analytics from Israel (AI software to optimize financial returns on investments in renewable power plants) and Cortecs from Vienna, a data marketplace for alternative financial data to inform investment decisions, were selected as participants.
Google and EA at the next Techhouse run-through
For the next round of the Techhouse Accelerator – which will also feature speakers from Google and EA Sports – the topic of investment will once again play a major role.
Hannes Meixner, RLB Steiermark Head of Corporate explains: “In the course of the first Accelerator round, RLB offered the participating startups the prospect of an equity investment totaling 50,000 euros. All variants from an investment of the total amount in a single startup, to an equal distribution among all five startups were conceivable. Currently, we are in the process of processing three investment packages with a total amount significantly higher than the last time. And are looking forward to a long-term successful cooperation here.”
Registration for the Techhouse Accelerator is open as of today until Jan. 30, 2022. “Kick Off” of the program is in early March and starts remotely. In the further course of the program, the teams will then be invited to the Techhouse location at Unicorn in Graz.