- the Christmas edition of the CzechInvest Startup Challenge took place online from 6:00 p.m. on 3 December 2020
- a tool for comprehensive quality control for manufacturing companies won the competition of ten promising startups of 2020
- a smart weeding machine took second place, followed by a fairy-tale reading application in third
A tool for flawless production of vehicles and comprehensive quality control, a smart weeding machine and an application for reading fairy tales are the rising startup stars of 2020, having found success in the Christmas edition of the CzechInvest Startup Challenge on 3 December 2020. The competition was held online due to the current epidemiological situation. The overall winner was the startup 24 Vision, which, by means of neural networks and artificial intelligence, is able to detect even the most hard-to-find defects in manufactured products. At present, the company is focusing particularly on the automotive industry, though for the future it is also looking into the food industry, healthcare and consumer electronics. The tool can be used practically anywhere it is necessary to eliminate human error.
The product’s uniqueness consists in the fact that it can perform comprehensive quality control before the product leaves the production line. At the same time, this is a huge advantage over the competition, which generally focuses on individual defects. “We are able to teach the machine to be the best quality inspector in the company and to check the entire product from A to Z before it leaves the production line. Imagine that, for example, Hyundai has several thousand types of seats for only one type of car. The special, custom requirements of each customer are most frequently checked by a human, who, however, has a success rate of between 60% and 80% when carrying out inspections. Our device’s success rate is over 99%. By using x-ray, infrared and thermal cameras, it is also able to look inside the product, which means not only savings in production, but also greater satisfaction on the part of the customer,” says Martin Cviček co-founder of 24 Vision.
24 Vision has been on the market for roughly one year, during which time it has already successfully collaborated with Hyundai Mobis and Hyundai Transys. Pilot projects are also currently underway at more than thirty other companies, such as ŠKODA AUTO, Faurecia and Witte. Through those customers, the startup is also now finding success in penetrating foreign markets, primarily Germany and Spain. However, it has potential customers practically around the world, especially where there this a well-developed automotive industry.
With CzechInvest’s support, the company attended the CES Las Vegas technology conference in January 2020. “That was strategic for us mainly in terms of establishing contacts around the world and mapping the American market. I should also mention the mentoring, which consists in preparation for individual conferences – how to make a video and how to attract attention with a presentation. With CzechInvest’s mentors, we worked on the sales strategy and, following their specific advice, reworked our original vision,” explains Cviček, adding: “Victory in the CzechInvest Startup Challenge is important for our company especially from the perspective of marketing and gaining the trust of customers.”
Second place was awarded to the ecological startup Ullmanna, developer of a smart weeding machine that uses robotics and artificial intelligence to increase the production of organic foods. It enables organic farmers to cultivate crops on a larger area without an increase in manual labour, while also helping traditional agriculturists to reduce the amount of utilised pesticides. “Our smart weeding machine eliminates weeds in the germination stage, rather than when they appear on the surface, while also recognising the cultivated crop. It enables farmers to reduce the amount of chemicals they use by up to 40% and significantly enhances organic growers’ production without increasing manual labour. In one hour, it can do as much work in the field as sixty people. It is intended for those who want to grow crops ecologically, inexpensively and on large fields,” says founder Martin Ullman, describing the company’s product. The startup is currently testing the product with farmers in the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Slovakia on sugar beet fields; it intends to introduce other crops such as lettuce and pumpkins in the future.
The third-place winner in CzechInvest’ competition was the startup Readmio with its fairy-tale application, which plays music and sound effects when reading to children. Its purpose is for families to again spend as much time together as possible. “Today's parents do not have so much time to regularly read to their children and we want to help them. If they download our application, they can currently choose from more than one hundred fairy tales. And we are constantly expanding the list. The application responds to their voice and emits sounds that complete the story and thus makes reading a real experience,” says Readmio’s director, Ilya Novodvorskiy, describing how the application works. Since Novodvorskiy and his team launched the project earlier this year, the application has been downloaded by more than 65,000 users, with minimal marketing costs. “Naturally, we want to further build awareness of our brand. We are aided in that by mentoring and consulting from CzechInvest, where we focus mainly on sales and marketing. For next year, we plan to also use legal advice. For us, participation in the competition is a matter of prestige and respect, as well as a great opportunity to make ourselves known to the world,” Novodvorskiy concludes.
Dronetag, developer of a solution for safe and efficient drone traffic management, won the audience prize in Facebook voting.
All of the finalists – Dronetag, Flowerchecker, Pointee, Readmio, Spacemanic, Ullmann, VisionCraft, Promethist.AI, Vím o všem and 24 Vision – presented themselves to the viewers and the expert jury composed of representatives of CzechInvest, the Startup World Cup & Summit competition, Twisto and Zásilkovna by means of a short three-minute pitch, which was followed by a two-minute question-and-answer session with the jury. The jury assessed the given product/service from the perspective of, among other things, its level of innovation, growth potential, the existence of an – presented actual problem that the particular company is addressing, the business plan and the performance of the presenter. The representatives of the ten finalists were shortlisted from nearly eighty startups that took part in CzechInvest programmes this year.
“In the case of startups, we almost automatically expect them to have global ambitions. This year, we naturally had to modify our programmes a bit, especially those that specialise in foreign expansion. However, we also have the CzechStarter project focused on mentoring and consulting services, in which our mentors give advice on how crisis management should look, how to formulate a business plan and how to adjust it according to unexpected changes so that it remains profitable for the company and so that startup entrepreneurs can use opportunities to their benefit. Most of the startups that presented themselves in the finals of the competition had used the services provided by this programme,” says Patrik Reichl, CEO of CzechInvest.
The partners of this year’s edition of the CzechInvest Startup Challenge were Startup World Cup & Summit, StartupJobs and Zásilkovna. The main media partner was CzechCrunch; the media partners were Roklen24, Tyinternety.cz and CzechStartups.org.
CzechInvest plays a key role in the area of comprehensive support for business and investments. The agency’s unique combination of regional, central and international operations ensures the integrity of its services and its ability to connect global trends with the regional conditions in the Czech Republic. One of CzechInvest’s primary objectives is the transformation of the Czech Republic into an innovation leader of Europe. CzechInvest is a state contributory organisation subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic. The agency was established in 1992.