For the first time at VivaTech: the experience of the Ukrainian hardware startup WheelKeep
On June 15-18, the VivaTech 2022 conference was held in Paris — one of the largest European events in the field of innovation. This year, Ukrainian startups joined VivaTech for the first time. Among them is the WheelKeep bicycle safety system. The experience of participating in large-scale "post-Covid" events is especially valuable for Ukrainian startups. In this topic, the WheelKeep team shares their experiences.
The WheelKeep system is installed in the steering column of the bicycle. It is completely invisible from the outside, able to notify the owner of any movement of the bicycle, as well as to fix its geolocation with an accuracy of up to
2 meters. The idea for WheelKeep came from the passion of the founding team for cycling. That is why the startup team understands the needs of cyclists very well.
It is clear that the infrastructure for cyclists in Ukraine was barely born before the war, but such projects are very relevant for Europe. Shortly before the outbreak of full-scale war, WheelKeep launched pre-orders for its product in Ukraine and began preparing to enter the market in the Netherlands, the country with the highest number of bicycles per capita. For example, in the student city of Groningen, which has a population of 200,000, the bicycle is the main means of transportation for almost half of the residents.
Conclusions from VivaTech 2022
WheelKeep joined the Ukrainian delegation at VivaTech after being selected by a competitive commission headed by representatives of the Ministry of Digital Transformation.
Pavlo Herman, founder of WheelKeep, resident of Noosphere Engineering School Dnipro, comented, "Participating in VivaTech 2022 was very important for us, because it opened up opportunities to present our product to both potential investors and consumers. We are grateful to European partners and organizers for the opportunity to take part in such a large-scale event."
5 key of observations and recommendations for young startups about participation in similar events from Pavel:
- Test the value proposition of the hypothesis on the guests of your stand. Exhibitors are a large sample size that will help you understand what "works" and what doesn't.
- Collect as many contacts as possible. We managed to collect about 90 leads. Of course, it will become clear how useful they are in 3-4 months after the event, but this is quite a good database.
- Decide in advance what are the lectures that you have to attend, because it is impossible to cover everything. It is also better to make appointments in advance.
- At a conference of this scale (and VivaTech had more than 500 speakers, the same number of startups and over 25,000 visitors), it is worth going with a team of several people. After all, you will have to simultaneously work at your stand, attend lectures, and inspect the stands of other participants in order to "feed" on ideas.
- Note the trends. These are the sorts of things that will be in the TOP in a few years. At VivaTech, such a trend was represented by sustainable development — sustainability.
Circular business models and a focus on environmental sustainability are becoming increasingly popular in European countries. Moreover, the stands at the exhibition were decorated with live flowers and trees! Being environmentally responsible is becoming more and more popular, and we think startups like WheelKeep will help drive this trend.
What else the WheelKeep team clearly understood for themselves is that their bet on the "comprehensive nature" of the product was fully justified! In Europe, the project has many competitors, but none of them is able to provide full protection for a bicycle. And it is about the technical aspect: a small device must be "decorated" with a large number of antennas, which often refuse to work together. WheelKeep managed to find an engineering solution that makes everything work. According to the startup founder Pavel Herman, this became possible thanks to the professional mentors of Noosphere Engineering School, which operated based on the Oles Gonchar Dnipro National University.
It was also important for the team, like for any Ukrainian abroad now, to emphasize their identity:
Pavlo Herman summarizes, "It was an opportunity to show the world and Europe that Ukrainians, despite the war, remain "on top" and develop the IT sector. One of our goals, apart from directly business ones, was to tell as many people as possible about the war and the heroism of Ukrainians."
Photo tour of VivaTech 2022
Not only startups, but also investors make pitches:
The pavilions are captured by robots:
Everything is digital, even the beauty sphere:
No one needs to explain what Ukraine is anymore.
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