You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovation

You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovation

Mathesia is a global crowdsourcing-based innovation platform based in Italy, that brings together a highly specialised crowd of around 3,000 vetted mathematicians and data scientists from around the world. Since it launched in 2014, Mathesia’s focus has been to help clients solve problems through generating prize challenges to tackle from a mathematical perspective. This doesn’t mean they solve mathematical problems, their crowd of solution providers solve real-life problems using math.

It is a great example of the type of highly curated on-demand talent network that is available through a variety of crowdsourced open innovation platforms, and represents the future development of how innovative startups will increasingly work: access to specialist and expert skills and knowledge when any business may have need of it without the burden of an expensive payroll to fund a fulltime team.

The benefits for the network  of experts (dubbed ‘Brainies’) who subscribe to Mathesia include opportunities to gain and enhance a personal reputation, grow in rank and earn money through their effort spent on Mathesia projects.

You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve InnovationA New Development
The original, or ‘standard format’ of such platforms is to act as an interface between the challenge providers and the platform’s network of would-be solution providers. Though through launching its Connected Innovation Hub, Mathesia has taken this to a next stage. In effect it is a white-label service within their platform which can be fully branded in the corporate image of any challenge provider who is then able to interact directly with selected members of Mathesia’s crowd of solution providers, the ‘Brainies.’ And while this goes on, Mathesia’s team remains available as trusted partners to advise and provide help at any stage of the process.

The Idea Garden is a forum to interact with Brainies to raise questions, topics and touch points to source feedback at an early stage of ideation before innovation projects are more fully formed. As much as this can be very useful to short-list the ideas to take forward, it can also swiftly identify the ones that are not going to excite the crowd.

Through a Co-Lab Tech Scouting feature it’s possible for challenge providers to identify both new startups and more established organisations operating in any particular field as potential longer-term collaborators, if that’s what they wish.

The final stage of refining a project through ideation to execution, and identifying collaborators, is then for a challenge provider to launch it in their self-branded environment in the Project Centre to provide the Brainies with a unique and stimulating environment.

Targeting the US Market
A second development at Mathesia since we last updated you about them is they have become a Member of The Collective, a wide member-based community of platforms and innovators, both corporate and academic, dedicated to advancing the dynamic You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovationof open work strategies, crowd-based innovation and practical collaboration. It was launched by Open Assembly, an organization created in 2017 with the purpose of thinking on the future and the significant changes of the working-world. Its members include some of the most relevant key-players in the USA, like NASA, Deloitte, General Electric and Microsoft.

A key aim of Matehsia’s collaboration within The Collective is to extend their expertise to the best organisations and firms on the US market, and make real partnerships with companies, influencers and academic institutions working on the concept of innovation. Mathesia will actively contribute by developing new open innovation solutions, and work with fellow members to define best practices in the world of advanced crowdsourcing.

Prominent Challenge Partners
I’ll close with a mention of a couple of Mathesia’s current and recent challenge partners. The platform is working with Eni, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, in the Safety Pre-sense project where their network of experts has been tasked with the creation of a data-driven framework capable of identifying the most relevant and repeating causes and factors of incidence concerning safety. Eni’s ultimate goal is to build a system able to support and guide their Health, Safety and Environment experts in making faster, more aware and more focused decisions.”

A recently completed Mathesia project was with Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A., commonly known more simply as Generali, an Italian insurance company which is the largest in Italy and third in the world. The project goal was to assess what is the best methodology, and the most promising variable among all the possible external factors, to build a prediction model for foreign exchange rates. 63 “Brainies” worked on the project, aiming to earn a prize of up to €60,000, and Generali received six submissions. Needless to say, their content remains confidential.

Crowdsourcing the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases Through AI

Crowdsourcing the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases Through AI

We are now quite used to seeing the disruption that’s taking place in many marketplaces due to the combination of new technology and mass connectivity in the hands of visionary startups, unencumbered by the ‘rules’ of established business models. Though how about when a global corporation is bold enough to disrupt itself? This is what some think the Philip Morris International tobacco company did when it set out to create a smoke-free future through the development of Reduced Risk Products (RRPs). And the organization they founded to do this now brings together scientists from all over the world to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges, including irritable bowel disease.

As part of their process to develop smoke-free products in a way that would be robust enough to withstand intense scientific scrutiny, PMI launched sbv IMPROVER as an industry initiative to harness the wisdom of the crowd in global science. The purpose was to provide a measure of quality control through gaining external third-party validation of the methodologies used. sbv IMPROVER stands for Systems Biology Verification combined with Industrial Methodology for Process Verification in Research.

It’s a platform that’s available to engage global scientists in non-PMI challenges, and 2019’s major challenge is “Metagenomics for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosis.”  Inflammatory bowel disease(IBD) is a term mainly used to describe two conditions: Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Harnessing AI to Crowdsource the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases

Image source: World IBD Day

An estimated 1.3m IBD sufferers in the US alone, and approximately 5 million worldwide, are divided equally by gender. There is no available cure, and treatment for the many varied symptoms includes specific diets, lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery. The aim of the challenge is to design AI tools for more accurate and faster diagnosis.

Opening in August and lasting until November, the new sbv IMPROVER challenge will address fundamental questions regarding the function and composition of the microbiome, and aims at investigating the diagnostic potential of metagenomics data to discriminate patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) – including Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease – from non-IBD subjects.

Harnessing AI to Crowdsource the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases

Image source: sbv IMPROVER

The challenge brings together two large, publicly available datasets, which participants will use to train their machine learning algorithms, and a third PMI dataset, obtained from an independent study, which will be used for testing the algorithms. The participants will evaluate whether metagenomics data collected from stool samples are sufficiently informative to be leveraged as a diagnostic tool for IBD, and determine which computational methods are best suited for this task.

The outcome of the challenge will represent a step forward to providing healthcare professionals with tools based on Artificial Intelligence intended to speed up the diagnosis, replace invasive medical procedures, and lower the costs in the healthcare system.

There are numerous benefits of developing crowd-based solutions as opposed to smaller teams of scientists working ‘behind closed doors.’ Groups of established scientists have reputations to maintain, and are more likely to want to make public only what they perceive to be their best and most soundly based solution.  This can lead to incremental improvements, but seldomly a major transformative breakthrough.

Whereas people making up a larger crowd, communicating through channels visible to rest of the crowd, are often more likely to mentally prod and poke each other with a wider scope of considerations and “what ifs?” to prompt contributions from participants.

Larger challenges can be broken down and different experts can tackle different parts of it. Participants can use different methods and submit different solutions from starting with the same data, and a combination of submissions often outperforms the best individual ones. This is the phenomenon referred to as the “Wisdom of the Crowds” that can establish state-of-the-art technology in a field, and identify complementary methods to solve a problem.

At the conclusion of sbv IMPROVER challenges, results are made public through publishing papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Crowd-related breakthroughs and the positive disruption they can cause will be the subject of sector-leading speaker sessions and panel discussions at our next international conference, CSW Global 2019, running September 12-13 in San Francisco. Registration is open, you can reserve your place now.

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLD

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLD

Shining a spotlight on BOLD and breakthrough projects in crowdsourcing, open innovation and related-technology sectors, the winners in 12 categories plus three special awards were announced at the inaugural annual BOLD Awards held on Friday April 5th.

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLDThe prestigious international BOLD Award scheme was created by Crowdsourcing Week, which provides insight, information and events for the global crowd-economy-focused community. The event itself was organized and hosted by H-FARM, one of the most important startup business development and accelerator hubs in Europe and indeed the world.

The gala dinner presentation ceremony began with a tour around H-FARM’s campus just outside Venice, Italy. Crowdsourcing Week’s CEO Epi Ludvik and Emil Abirascid, Founder and Editor in Chief of Startupbusiness, opened and emceed the evening, during which Jose Luis Cordeiro brought the future close with his amazing presentation on Mind Value and Attitudes Toward The Future.

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLDOver 300 initial nominations had been reduced to a shortlist of five nominees per category by online public voting. An international panel of judges, chaired by H-FARM’s co-founder Maurizio Rossi, then finalized the winners, thus combining the power of the crowd and hard work of exceptional individuals.

We offer our heartiest congratulations to the winners of each of the 12 pre-announced categories, with details of three added surprise awards that were made on the evening.

Boldest Crowdsourced Online Platform, presented by Mathesia: Mindhive – Bruce Muirhead

Boldest Crowdsourced Marketing & Advertising Campaign, presented by Tipalti: Rebuild Kerala – John Santhosh

Epi Ludvik of Crowdsourcing Week with Bruce Muirhead of Mindhive

Boldest Open Innovation, presented by H-FARM: Open Cosmos – Remco Timmermans

Boldest Space Frontier, presented by HeroX: Open Cosmos – Remco Timmermans

Boldest AI, presented by Spark Beyond: ScienceAtHome – Janet Rafner

Boldest Scientific Project, presented by sbv IMPROVER: ScienceAtHome – Janet Rafner

Boldest Crowdfunding Campaign, presented by Crowdsourcing Week: Startup Italia  – David Casalini

Boldest Blockchain Platform: Medicohealth – Milan Rajlic

Boldest ICO/Cryptocurrency: MakerDao & DAI Stablecoin – Lenka Hudakova

Boldest Future Robot, presented by HeroX: Vostok – Roberto Polesel

Boldest Young Achiever Under 25, presented by GoGo Places: Francesco Bellanca from Feral Horses

Boldest Innovator, presented by Surcle: Memomi – Alexios Blanos

And now the three additional surprise awards, which by their nature were not included in the first stage of public voting. They were as follows.

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLDAn award for the BOLDest Government Digital Project presented to e-Residency Estonia was received by  Ambassador Celia Kuningas-Saagpakk. It recognises Estonia’s breakthrough as the first country to offer a government-issued digital identity and status. It allows non-Estonians to access Estonian services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation.

Maurizio Rossi, who was so instrumental in the success of the inaugural annual BOLD Awards, and is the Founder & Co-CEO of H-FARM, was recognised with a special award for Being BOLD.  To have created a truly unique and amazing hub like H-FARM helps us all to reimagine the future possibilities.

A third special award, also for Being BOLD, was made to Maria Ressa – CEO & Executive Editor at RAPPLER. RAPPLER is a social news network that crowdsources stories to inspire investigative journalism, community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change in Indonesia and the Philippines. Maria has been arrested twice, in February and March, on charges including “cyberlibel” after being critical of actions by the Philippines’ administration.

We Salute the BOLDest of the BOLDAfter the presentations the attendees networked and celebrated the winners’ success. What made their success something to be so proud of was the high quality of all the nominations that had been received at the start of this process. We thank everyone who submitted nominations, took part in the online voting, our international panel of judges, category sponsors, and all attendees at the ceremony.

A BOLD New Asset Class, For The Masses

A New Asset Class, For The Masses

We recently covered the benefits of equity crowdfunding from the perspective of the entrepreneur. It can be an excellent way for entrepreneurs to raise money, while gaining significant marketing exposure, and also solidifying their customer loyalty. It is for these reasons that equity crowdfunding has gained such popularity among company founders. Though there is another important angle to explore: that of the investors.

Equity crowdfunding means that ordinary people can gain a stake in venture-capital-like opportunities, even if they don’t have a net worth in the millions. Wealthy investors have long known the diversification and potential upside that comes through including venture capital in their portfolios. However, until the early 2010’s the vast majority of the general public were legally excluded from investing in early-stage, non-listed companies. Equity crowdfunding has changed all that.

Changes In The Law

Prior to legal changes (which happened at different points in different countries), the law dictated that companies could only promote an investment to individuals who passed a “sophisticated investor” or “high-net-worth” test. The only way it was possible to promote to the general public was to go through an initial public offering (IPO). IPOs are extremely costly, due to all the input required from lawyers and investment bankers – none of whom are cheap. It was therefore simply unaffordable for startups whose capital needs were more modest, in the $250,000 – $2 million range.

Early-stage companies therefore needed to go to angel investors, venture capital and private equity for the funds they needed. But the aforementioned legal changes have resulted in a set of rules that make it possible to raise limited amounts of capital under a reduced level of disclosure, rather than have to prepare a full prospectus. Now, any investor is able to use equity crowdfunding to evaluate opportunities and be their own judge of which companies are worthy of their hard-earned money.

A Different Investing Model

Equity crowdfunding requires a fundamentally different approach than most of us are used to. Rather than a stable annual yield such as from real-estate or bond market investing, equity crowdfunding (and venture capital) is all about investments which might disproportionately increase in value by 20x, 100x, or 1,000x… or perhaps become worthless. Most startups fail. But that’s what it’s all about – gaining exposure to companies before their prospects are proven: trying to pick “the next big thing.”

Here’s how the investing math could potentially play out – invest in ten equity crowdfunding opportunities at $2,000 each – an outlay of $20,000 (not an unreasonably large sum in the context of the average retirement portfolio across a lifetime). Eight of these companies completely fail, one of them is a moderate success and doubles in value, one of them is a large success and increases in value by twenty times. This would see the portfolio rise in value to $44,000 – a return of more than twice the initial outlay, despite a failure rate of 80%. This is the sort of outcome venture capitalists (and equity crowdfunding investors) hope for when they invest in many companies, fully expecting most will fail, but that the successes will be large enough to make up for the failures. What counts is the accumulated payoff, not the proportion of right and wrong.

Choosing A Platform

Equity crowdfunding platforms provide a marketplace for companies to list and for investors to discover them. The wisest general advice for investors is to stick with the larger, more established platforms. This is because the bigger platforms usually have invested in a stronger investor user experience, better due diligence around their deals, and tend to be the sites where the most attractive companies decide to list themselves. The best investment opportunities cluster around the biggest platforms.

The choice over the exact platform that an investor ought to use is a question of geography. Equity crowdfunding is an offer of securities, so they are governed by securities’ law. The practical consequence of this is that cross-border platforms are rare and there is no single platform which operates everywhere. For example, Crowdcube and Seedrs are two of the largest in the United Kingdom, while WeFunder and StartEngine are big in the United States. Investors need to do their own research on platform selection, depending on where they are based.

A Crowd-Sourced Investing Culture

One of the most exciting things about investing through equity crowdfunding is that it gives young, innovative companies access to finance, while also allowing everyone – of almost any level of net worth – to participate in the upside as they build the economy of the future. By building a closer connection between crowd and company, it flips the old customer/provider relationship, to become one of crowdsourced co-creation.

It all points to a seismic shift in the investing culture. When the masses can achieve a direct shareholding in startups, it is bound to lead to people taking their financial future into their own hands. Rather than sitting on “passive” stock index funds managed by professional money-managers, anyone can take an active role in deciding how they want their money to be invested.

Keep a close watch on the initial public offerings of the coming years. With more equity crowdfunding “alumni” now having had the time to use the money from their past campaigns to grow and expand, there is a strong possibility that the next wave of companies to list on the public markets will be able to point to their origins from crowd-sourced finance.

Author: Nathan Rose is the bestselling author of Equity Crowdfunding: The Complete Guide For Startups & Growing Companies. He has appeared at crowdfunding events all over the world. Today, he runs the website www.startupfundingsecrets.io, to help startups and growing companies to gain marketing exposure and raise investment money at the same time.

This Friday April 5 is our first BOLD Awards ceremony, being held at the H-FARM campus just outside Venice Italy. Next week we’ll post details of the winners in each of the 12 categories.

Unlocking Billions of Dollars in Primary Industry Through BOLD Crowdsourcing

Unlocking Billions of Dollars in Primary Industry Through BOLD Crowdsourcing

Primary industry is starting to sit up and take notice of the value delivered by crowdsourcing to validate concepts at low risk, solve complex challenges, find new innovative suppliers and automate work. Industrial leaders are emerging with sustainable new business models that include crowdsourcing and they are able to clearly demonstrate the value that it is delivering to the market.

In this post we run through two examples of companies leading the way with crowdsourcing in the extractives industry.

1. The OZ Minerals $1million AUD Explorer Challenge

Modern Australian mining company OZ Minerals and their partner Unearthed Solutions are changing the way the industry thinks about mineral exploration, and the value that can be unlocked by being open with data. Through the Explorer Challenge, OZ Minerals is opening up more than 5 terabytes of their private exploration data, with a $1million AUD prize pool for the crowd to locate new mineral targets.

OZ Minerals is not the first company to run this style of competition. Their point of difference, through the partnership with Unearthed, is making geological data accessible, open and attractive to data scientists in a push to involve more disciplines and approaches in the challenge of finding essential minerals. So what is the history of this approach to exploration prior to the Explorer Challenge?

Back in 1999, former CEO of Goldcorp Rob McEwen attended a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about the benefits of employing open source software. Inspired by this framework and the value created by open collaboration, McEwen realised the significant potential for applying this concept in the mining industry. Finding new exploration targets presents a key resources sector challenge that fits this framework.

In 1999, Goldcorp was a $100 million gold mining company, with an under-producing mine, Red Lake. At the same time, it was struggling to find new resources, despite a high calibre exploration team. McEwen became aware that there might be more value locked in the exploration data than his geologists could extract.  He released this data to the public, totalling a mere 400MB back in 2000, with a CA$575,000 incentive to review it and identify additional targets. The result? Thousands of submissions from geologists, mathematicians, and physicists that identified an additional $6 billion worth of gold on Goldcorp tenements. The process reduced the potential exploration period by two to three years, and transformed Goldcorp from a struggling  junior miner into an industry leader.

The lecture attended by McEwen back in 1999 was presented by the founder of the Linux operating system, Linus Torvalds. If you think you are not familiar with Linux – guess again. Twenty years on from that lecture, every Android phone runs on Linux, and if you have an iPhone instead, almost all webpages and applications operate on Linux. This software has achieved world domination, and it is open.

And Goldcorp? Following the competition, Goldcorp grew the $1 billion worth of gold into a $10 billion company, and is nowadays considered one of the most innovative gold mining companies in the world.

Despite this success it took the industry a long time to look to repeat it. It wasn’t until 2015, when Integra Gold’s innovative CEO, Steve de Jong, launched the Gold Rush challenge, that we saw a similar approach. Integra had recently acquired 2 historic mining properties, along with over 6 terabytes of historical data. Steve realised that this would have taken his team many years to process and interpret in order to predict where the additional gold resources may occur. To speed up this process Integra launched the Goldrush challenge with a $1million CAD incentive for the crowd to work through the large dataset and identify potential new gold targets. The competition cut the process down from many years to a few months.

The OZ Minerals Explorer Challenge is now breaking new ground with Unearthed Solutions to use this approach and build scalable processes and tools for providing data to the crowd, and to provide industry with a clearer, long term path for using crowdsourcing in their workflows.

2. The Newcrest Crowd

Realising the value that crowdsourcing can deliver across the resources industry, Newcrest has positioned itself as a global leader in crowdsourcing. They are the first mining company to employ a global crowdsourcing strategy, enabling them to realise maximum impact.

Accessing digital talent on demand

As demand for digital capabilities and skills continues to grow, it becomes unrealistic to rely solely on internal talent sources, either by upskilling current teams, or hiring and contracting these skill sets into the organisation. Newcrest sought a long-term solution to easily access digital talent on demand and to work with some of the best innovators in the world to identify, develop and implement new solutions for multi-million dollar operational problems.

Gavin Wood, Chief Innovation Officer:

“We have mining business problems and challenges that we’ve been trying to solve for a long time. By putting these out to ‘the crowd’, we can access different thinking and not be constrained by resource or geographic boundaries. This allows us to develop new ideas and solutions in a low-risk and low-cost way, lets our people focus on using their domain expertise and provides opportunities for those who make up the labour force of the future.”

Newcrest worked with Unearthed Solutions  to steadily build their strategy to access digital innovators via multiple competitions. Newcrest has provided information, data and tools that clearly articulate and quantify the impact that particular operational problems are causing the business. These well-defined problems and supporting datasets are then presented to the online innovation community through the Newcrest Crowd as a pipeline of ‘challenges’ to be ‘hacked’ for cash prizes and business development opportunities. In combination with their big data platform, Newcrest is minimising the time taken to transition these solutions to production. This will stimulate new opportunities for existing businesses to deliver innovative solutions to Newcrest and others.

Hydrosaver, Newcrest’s first online challenge, was released to Unearthed’s community in February 2018. Newcrest asked innovators to predict the density of a tailings underflow inefficiency at Cadia mine (and, therefore, water content), three hours ahead of time, to enable more efficient recycling of water from the tailings process. Participation was truly global with solutions received from countries including Canada, India, USA, Argentina, China and South Africa. 150 highly skilled individuals formed teams who submitted over 750 predictive models.

Sherief Khorshid and his team from AI tech startup Three Springs Technology took first place in the competition. Following their win, Three Springs signed a contract with Newcrest to implement their solution into production and integrate it with the Newcrest technology stack.

Since Hydrosaver, Newcrest has run four additional crowdsourcing challenges via the Newcrest Crowd ranging from extracting data from exploration photography, to engineering solutions for crushing circuits and safe plant startup processes. Newcrest are continuing to lead the way in crowdsourcing for industrial applications and have rolled out the Newcrest Crowd across their operations.

Who will be the next industrial enterprise to develop a crowdsourcing strategy?

Author: Holly Bridgwater; Industry Lead, Crowdsourcing; Unearthed Solutions

Next week on Friday April 5 we will announce the winners of the first ever BOLD Awards at a gala dinner ceremony at the H-FARM campus just outside Venice, Italy. We’re looking forward to meeting the award winners in 12 categories, the category sponsors, and our event co-organisers at H-FARM. Maybe you are as well – the event is a sell-out though we do have a Waiting List you can sign up to in the event that space becomes available.

10 BOLDest Accelerator Hubs In Europe

10 BOLDest Accelerator Hubs In Europe

The gala dinner ceremony to announce the 12 category winners of this year’s inaugural annual BOLD Awards will be held on the campus of H-FARM. It is an innovation platform which supports and accelerates the creation of new startup businesses, as well as the digital transformation of more established Italian companies and the education of young people.  

Startup accelerators are in most cases profit-driven programmes that accept applications from new companies to attend classes run by a small team of advisers, or maybe receive a one-to-one service. Company founders are expected to have already developed their ideas to at least a business plan stage, and they are provided with seed capital, mentoring and guidance, and events are organised at which they meet potential investors and key contacts in their business sector. This normally takes place over a 3-4 month period in return for equity in the business (usually 5-10%). The accelerator hubs may also offer reduced-rate workspace and access to technology and specialist tools.

H-FARM began in 2005 and has so far invested €27.3M to support the development of over a hundred innovative companies. It has also helped 200 international brands take advantage of opportunities made possible by digital transformation, and educated more than 1.000 students. Structured like a campus, it is currently expanding its facilities from 14,000 sqm of buildings with a 20-hectare park to 42,000 sqm of buildings distributed over 51 hectares of land close to Venice. H-FARM’s Co-founder and  Vice Chairman Maurizio Rossi is the Chairperson of this year’s BOLD Awards international judging panel.

We’ve taken a look across Europe at accelerator hubs in nine other countries. We’re not saying these ones are the biggest, and we’re not recommending any of them in preference to others; it’s a cross-section of an important sector that’s helping to develop startups across the whole continent and we’ve highlighted just one hub per country.

UK Founders Factory in London was co-founded by Brent Hoberman (co-founder of LastMinute.com) and Henry Lane Fox in London in 2015. It has so far secured over £100m in funding for 70 startups. It varies from most accelerator hubs because it requires each startup founder to put together their own bespoke plan for up to 6 months of support from a team of mentors and sector specialists. FF provides the startups they take under their wing with £30,000 in exchange for 4%-8% equity. Corporate partners contribute to this initial funding to be able to engage with aspiring innovators in their market sector, and include L’Oreal. Startup founders are also introduced to angel investors and VCs for them to pitch for further investment.

Netherlands  High Tech XL in Eindhoven provides 3 month accelerator programmes to startups, plus a €15,000 investment for 8% equity. They also helps corporates to become more entrepreneurial through collaborations with startups and open innovation with external specialists and communities. Thirdly, High Tech XL provides expertise in all areas of visual communications for businesses to communicate more effectively with their clients and other stakeholders, both online and offline.

Germany Startupbootcamp in Berlin specialises in working with startup entrepreneurs in the Smart Transport and Energy sectors. They run three month programmes, working with ten startups at a time, providing funding (€15,000 for 8% equity), mentorship, office space in central Berlin, and access to a global network of corporate partners and investors. Their USP is support from Airbus, Cisco, HERE, Kuehne + Nagel, Mercedes-Benz, SBB Cargo and VINCI, who all provide expertise, market exposure, and access to a network of company professionals that most early-stage smart transportation & energy startups would not be able to otherwise access.

France Station F in Paris claims to be the world’s biggest accelerator campus, providing a whole entrepreneurial ecosystem under one roof. Their Founders Program is one of 30 they provide. Last year, roughly 4,000 startups from over 50 countries applied to join it, from which they accepted approximately 250 startups, 6% of the applicants. It is an in-house program for early-stage companies from all sectors and all countries. Startups that join are required to stay a minimum of 3 months and can send up to 15 employees. The program does not provide investment for equity and startups need to pay for their desks.

Other programs cover specific business and market sectors, such as foodtech, adtech, beauty tech and fashion. Many of the programs exist due to corporate support from established businesses that want to keep a finger on the pulse of possible new breakthroughs and disruptions in their marketplace.

Switzeland Kickstart is an accelerator program delivered through Impact Hub Zurich since it was launched in 2015 by digitalswitzerland. Each year, Kickstart brings around 100 entrepreneurs and innovators from the science and engineering sectors to Switzerland to collaborate with key players on proof-of-concept work, pilot projects and other innovation partnerships. Once selected to take part, the program is free of charge (no fees or equity required). Kickstart provides access to executives and decision-makers at their corporate partners which include Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros and Swisscom, AXA Winterthur, City of Zurich, ETH Zürich, EY, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Mercator Foundation Switzerland, Stäubli, Swisslinx and University of Zurich.

Portugal Lisbon Challenge works on behalf of Beta-i with 15 startups at a time to follow a 10 week program that concludes with an Investment Day pitch to potential investors. It offers all startups that join one of their programs €15,000 for 2% equity, and then a further €55,000 for 5% to the startups that complete the program and receive wider investment backing.

Candidates can apply from anywhere in the world, though their business has to be incorporated in Portugal and company founders have to attend the fulltime 10 week course.

Lisbon Challenge has so far sifted through 4,300 applications to work with 210 startups in more than 20 industry sectors, and over 140 remain active. They have engaged their startups with over 500 mentors and helped them to raise €75M.

Norway Based in Oslo, Startup Lab has been investing in and mentoring tech startups since 2013. They offer 3 month programs and investment of up to 3M Norwegian kroner (around €310,000) for 6% to 8% equity. They ideally develop Norwegian tech startups creating products or services for businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C/D2C). Regardless of whether it’s software, hardware or a combination of these, they want to meet startup founders with global ambitions, and the companies should preferably have launched their product, or have plans to launch within the next six months. The teams accepted on to the program have to physically attend the course in Oslo.

Finland Maria 01 hosts Finland’s next generation of startup tech teams alongside venture capitalists and established companies in an extended ecosystem of know-how, tools and contacts, based in what was originally the first public hospital in Helsinki. These days it gives out a different form of help. It welcomes “the weird, the brave, and the ambitious” as members, and encourages an even wider group of related people to drop in and use its restaurant and bar.

They target scalable startups with global ambitions and an existing product, and receive five applications a week from startups who want to base themselves at Mario 01 for up to three years. They can accommodate over 90 startup teams in their 10,000 sqm of space (so far they have hosted over 700 in total) alongside several VC fund managers who between them have €1.6bn of assets under management.

Sweden Since 2003, Sting (Stockholm Innovation and Growth) has supported hundreds of promising Stockholm-based startups whose combined value exceeds €500 million. Their accelerator program accepts 16 startups per year in the internet or media sectors, and in 2018 Sting won the “Best Accelerator or Incubator in Sweden” prize in the Nordic Startup Awards. They run two accelerator programmes a year, running for four months with 8 startups on each one. Each startup on their programs automatically qualifies for 300,000 Swedish kroner (over €28,000) in exchange for equity. The money comes from around 40 Swedish angel investors through a funding scheme administered by Sting’s own investment company Propel Capital

The BOLD Awards gala dinner ceremony at the H-FARM campus is now Sold Out. Though you can add your name to our Waiting List if you’re BOLD enough for an evening with our international category winners and sponsors.

Surcle And The Power of Crowdsourced Innovation

Surcle And The Power of Crowdsourced Innovation

While some industries have already realized the potential of crowdsourcing, others have not yet been impacted. Kickstarter innovated the world of fundraising, allowing entrepreneurs to connect with capital from all around the world. Websites like Fiverr use crowdsourcing for design and marketing solutions. Wikipedia employed the power of the crowd to create a digital encyclopedia. Founded in 2018, the team behind Surcle has brought crowdsourcing to the industry of hardware and manufacturing.

The team originates from Sourceability, a global electronic components supply chain company dedicated to connecting clients with difficult-to-find electronic components. Through their work at Sourceability, the Surcle team realized that as well as components, companies today face a challenge in obtaining innovative solutions to their business problems. The potential of crowdsourcing as a solution to this challenge became rapidly clear, and Surcle was born.

Surcle enables its clients to pose challenges to their diverse community of innovators – engineers, programmers, designers and other industry experts who are vetted and organized according to the skillset they provide. When a client company posts a challenge, the community competes to offer specifically tailored solutions to the problem. Cash rewards, ranging anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars incentivize active participation. Currently, the Industrial Multi-Protocol Converter challenge is offering $45,000 to the individual or team that can create a messaging system that aggregates industrial sensors and hardware inputs for seamless and real-time tracking.   

The advantages of offering a crowdsourcing option to overcome corporate challenges are immense. Surcle allows companies to draw from a diverse set of perspectives and ideas, expanding beyond the sometimes claustrophobic corporate mindset. Fresh eyes give way to fresh ideas and Surcle provides a far more cost-effective alternative to consulting firms or R&D teams. Currently, Surcle has 18 active competitions and more than $70,000 in incentives.

Surcle And The Power of Crowdsourced Innovation

Surcle’s innovative platform made them an ideal sponsor of the overall Boldest Innovator category for this year’s Bold Awards. The category is dedicated to recognizing the brightest and most original crowdsourcing ideas. The final five nominees for this year’s Boldest Innovator award are:

Plan A is dedicated to combatting climate change through its prediction platform. The platform directs donations towards organizations in those regions predicted to be most vulnerable to climate change.

 Robo Retail is an automated store, capable of storing and selling a diverse set of items to customers. Robo Retail is similar in concept to a vending machine, except that it is the size of a kiosk and capable of managing items of many sizes and shapes. Robo Retail is leading a new era of automated shopping.

Medical Cooling provides an all-in-one, mobile, life-saving device. Paramedics simply carry the Medical Cooling device as a backpack which includes a defibrillator, a vacuum pump, and a ventilator. With advanced telecommunication integration, the medical cooling system also supports Telemedicine options.

Memomi  Memomi is a VR integrated mirror that allows customers to try on virtual products instore. Simply by standing in front of the mirror, a customer can virtually dress in anything from makeup and jewelry to shoes and bags.

The CBOT Physiotherapeutical Robot uses facial recognition technology, a 3D scanner, and an advanced robotic arm to provide A.I. powered, physical therapy treatments to patients.

These companies continue to bring the power of crowdsourcing to novel industries. As the value of crowdsourcing grows, the importance of platforms like Surcle will too. Additionally, crowdsourcing makes R&D affordable to companies and teams of all sizes. The reality is, a well-supported platform featuring crowdsourced innovation will revolutionize the way we approach and overcome problems.

The winner in each of the BOLD Awards’ twelve categories will be announced at a gala dinner award ceremony held at the H-FARM campus just outside Venice, Italy, on April 5 2019. If you think you’re BOLD enough for a very sepecial evening in the company of the award winners, category sponsors and the teams from the event partners H-FARM and Crowdsourcing Week you can apply now for a ticket. 

Author: Noam Levenson

 

A Perfect Match: Artificial Intelligence and Crowdsourcing

A Perfect Match: Artificial Intelligence and Crowdsourcing

Over the past decade, the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has seen striking developments. There are now dozens of domains in which AI programs are performing at least as well as (if not better than) humans. Crowdsourcing on the other end has matured and reached a certain saturation; and while companies and organizations do see crowdsourcing as a valuable and cost-efficient mechanism, there is a growing awareness of its limitations.

This is now changing with the convergence of AI and crowdsourcing: the latter has evolved into a more pragmatic approach for corporates and organizations, who access the crowd not only for co-creation of products or their ingenuity but rather as trainers for AI systems. The other side of the equation is the growing awareness of the potential AI has in empowering crowds and enhancing their value.

In fact, AI and crowdsourcing are a perfect match. Take for example machine learning (ML) – a subset of AI. ML algorithms build a mathematical model of sample data, known as “training data”, to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to perform the task. This outcome is the result of two powerful forces in the evolution of information retrieval and analysis: natural language processing (NLP), and crowdsourcing.

Today we are accessing the knowledge of the crowd to label data – for instance to label a picture to be a cat or a dog. But this is just the beginning; crowds can provide data sets – for example, an individual or a group of people could provide data regarding their health, which an AI-system could collect and analyze, thus supporting the development of new treatments. And much like current crowd-based labor markets, where people are getting paid for performing micro-tasks (e.g. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, or Witkey) – the crowd will either get paid for its data or will provide data for free to help advance a good cause for humanity (as in the case of CancerBase). Another exciting example is that of  sbv IMPROVER – a platform that is developing a crowdsourced and AI-based classification challenge on microbiome samples from inflammatory bowel disease patients.

Combining AI with the insights of annotators and the information provided and encoded by large numbers of humans, which traditionally has been performed by small numbers of people (usually experts), can allow companies and organizations to acquire large labeled datasets at lower cost, thus making R&D and production processes more efficient and less costly.

The other side of the equation is how ML can be harnessed to leverage the complementary strengths of humans and computational agents to solve crowdsourcing tasks. One of the main challenges of managing large online communities, especially communities who produce large quantities of data and information, is the challenge of synthesizing this information, i.e. creating knowledge – insights, patterns, predictions and more. Most communities rely heavily on human moderators, and can use analytics tools to analyze quantifiable participation patterns, but not the (sometimes fuzzy) content produced by humans.

Another problem with manually managing online crowds is the need to identify the right target audience, a sub-group if you will, for a specific ask, task or message. Take marketers that manage online communities, for example: they need to reach people who can contribute to their campaigns and not trolls, or just irrelevant participants. Remember that invaluable communication from a marketer is perceived as spam and could cause reputational damage.

Crowdsourced-AI, however, helps to overcome such problems. It enables human-like intelligence, allowing individuals and crowd subsets to be better analyzed and targeted. Even more so, AI-based engines can identify patterns in crowd behavior as well as discursive patterns (as in the case of an exciting Israeli startup – Epistema).  An AI-based crowdsourcing, or a crowd-based AI would allow to bridge between the basic level of data and information – which machines can analyze much better than human beings – and the knowledge domain, which is in the highest cognitive level, currently only performed by humans.

This vision of crowdsourcing our opinions and combining them with AI‘s superhuman ability to crunch data and come up with patterns, stands behind IBM’s “Project Debater – Speech by Crowd” as IBM dubs it – a “new and experimental cloud-based AI platform for crowdsourcing decision support.” It solicits arguments for and against a specific topic from as many humans as possible and then uses them to create debate speeches.

Looking even deeper into the future, there is a third type of AI-and-crowdsourcing convergence, only in this case, the crowd isn’t composed of people, but machines. This is what I call “Machine Sourcing” – the fourth component of the “Big Knowledge” revolution, along with AI, crowds and advanced data visualization. Machine Sourcing is based on machines that can not only write code, program and develop new algorithms, but create an algorithm that can analyze other algorithms, decide which ones serve a certain purpose, and use them to create another set of algorithms – or neural networks. Google’s AutoML is an early example of such existing technology: “neural nets that can design neural nets”. Wow!

sbv IMPROVER is sponsoring the Boldest Scientific Project in the international BOLD Awards. Details on the final five nominees in this category are available here. The winner will be announced at a black-tie award ceremony being held very soon at the campus home of  accelerator hub  H-FARM near Vencie, Italy, on April 5 2019. You can apply if you think you’re BOLD enough for one of the remaining event tickets for a unique gala dinner evening with the award winners, sponsors and the teams from H-FARM and Crowdsourcing Week.

Author: Dr Shay Hershkovitz

5 Ways Equity Crowdfunding Provides More Than Capital Investment

5 Ways Equity Crowdfunding Provides More Than Capital Investment

Many successful businesses reach a stage where transformational expansion to take it to the next level, whether that might be developing the next version of a product or setting up a Sales and Marketing team, can’t be funded fast enough through sales income. Equity crowdfunding, through which backers invest in businesses for a share of the equity, has opened a door for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Prior to crowdfunding, a key source of startup business investment was often a bank loan, though these are hard to come by for a business that does not have a trading history and some evidence of future orders. Venture Capitalists often work to minimum sums that exceed the seed investment amounts that startups are looking for.  Yet the money available from “friends and family” is often not enough. This could leave an entrepreneur with few options other than to gamble by loading up expensive debt on credit cards. Relatively high interest charges could lead down a slippery slope ending in personal bankruptcy or a forced sale of assets – which might include the family home.

In the UK the Government has encouraged a relatively low level of involvement from the financial regulators which has led to a flourishing equity crowdfunding marketplace. Another incentive to support UK entrepreneurship is the generous tax benefits available to investors, explained here on the Seedrs platform .  These benefits not only compensate investors for most of their losses if the businesses they back fail to survive, they also shelter future income from successful investments from a full tax liability.

In recent years many startups have used equity crowdfunding to successfully raise funds for businesses of all stages and sizes. One such business is Borrow a Boat, who describe themselves as “an Airbnb for boat owners.” They have used two rounds of equity crowdfunding on the Crowdcube platform, first raising almost £470,000 in late 2017 and then almost £1.5m in December 2018. They are one of the five final nominees in the BOLD Awards crowdfunding category.

Importantly, equity crowdfunding can deliver more than just the capital investment that a business needs. Here are five additional benefits that equity crowdfunding platforms can offer entrepreneurs.

1. Good crowdfunding is good marketing

Businesses raising funding through equity crowdfunding cannot rely solely on their crowdfunding platform to promote their investment opportunity. Sure, each platform has a network of signed-up investors, and some startups have a database of customers to promote their equity offer to. But there will still be a large marketing push needed to convince the existing audiences to invest and to extend news of it to a new, wider audience.

The platforms operate an ‘all or nothing’ policy so have a vested interest in successful raises. They provide marketing support (at a price) that can include extensive PR, digital and social media marketing, and even access to deals on paid-for out-of-home advertising. All this helps the startups to not only attract investors but also acquire customers and raise their brand awareness during the process.

2. Crowdfunding improves customer retention and creates brand ambassadors

Equity crowdfunding is a virtuous circle whereby customers can become investors and investors can become customers – sometimes the most valuable ones. They have a vested interest in the success of a company and often climb the “brand loyalty ladder” to actively promote the business to other potential customers.

Chapel Down is the largest maker of English sparkling wine. Even though they were listed on a junior stock exchange and had VCs queuing up to invest in their business, they ran equity crowdfunding in 2014 and raised £3.95m in 24 days. What they also gained was 1,470 investors who would support the brand through word-of-mouth recommendation and show their brand preference at every gift-giving opportunity, That was “priceless,” CEO Frazer Thompson once told me, and something no VC could ever provide him with.

3. Reach a broad spectrum of investors

The “crowd” involved with an equity crowdfunding platform encompasses a diverse range of investor types which would not be the case if an entrepreneur was to go down more traditional routes of raising capital.

A crowdfunding platform’s “crowd” can include a mixture of VCs, Angel Investors, Family Offices, HNWIs, and institutional and intermediary partners, to put alongside each entrepreneurs’ friends, family, and existing customers.

4. Crowdfunding validates a business

A rule of thumb has evolved that to be successful an equity crowdfunding round should reach 30% of its financial target through pre-selling before going public, as the Scandinavian platform Invesdor explains to potential users.

5 Ways Equity Crowdfunding Provides More Than Capital Investment

The SyndicateRoom platform actually makes it a formal condition of going ahead with them that an entrepreneur must have a cornerstone backer who will invest at least 25% of the initial financial target. Incidentally, their exclusive USP among UK equity crowdfunding platforms is that they are licensed by the London Stock Exchange and can thus work with a business right from an earliest round of seed investment to an IPO.

Once an equity crowdfunding project goes public and these early guarantees of investment appear to fly in so quickly it gives vital confidence to other members of ‘the crowd’ who may have never even heard of the company or met any of its management team.

Entrepreneurs using crowdfunding also receive frequent feedback and analysis on their business, growth and exit plans, by investors carrying out their own due diligence prior to investing, which can be invaluable in a company’s success.

5. Get support throught the company’s lifetime

Businesses that have used crowdfunding can continue to receive support from their investors, from the platform they used, and from other successfully funded businesses they meet along the way.

Last summer, a craft brewery I have invested in organised a social event exclusively for its 1,000-plus investors. It was a way for the brewery founder to say Thank You, an opportunity for us investors to visit the new brewery we had helped fund, and a day to strengthen relationships all round. A large whiteboard and pens were available for numerous investors to offer not only comments on the products but help in all manner of professional sectors.

5 Ways Equity Crowdfunding Provides More Than Capital Investment

More formally, the Seedrs platform has created a community of successfully funded companies which they call their Seedrs Alumni Club. Through the club they maintain links with the businesses as they continue their journey beyond their raise, offering significant value to entrepreneurs through access to exclusive deals and resources to guide their business to further success. This includes support from Amazon Web Services, Amazon Launchpad, and payment facilitator Stripe, to provide technical help and marketing resources for businesses to scale and grow.

 As they do continue to grow, alumni businesses will most likely need to gain further funding and the ongoing support from the crowdfunding platform continues here with many returning to the same platform for further rounds of funding. In 2018, 71 Seedrs Alumni ran further equity crowdfunding campaigns on the Seedrs platform.

Crowdcube calls their equivalent group of post-raise companies The Funded Club.

The value equity crowdfunding platforms offers businesses after raising capital can be equally as important as the value it adds while raising funds.

Entries in the BOLD Awards crowdfunding category all had to show what they had achieved beyond reaching their financial target, and you can see the final five nominees here. The winners of all 12 categories will be announced at an award ceremony held at H-FARM near Venice, Italy, on April 5 2019.

Being Bold in Crowdsourcing

Being Bold in Crowdsourcing

It’s easy to forget that the Internet was once all open. Rather, the Internet has been in a continuous cycle of highly-structured portals and free-flowing information. The initial platforms, like BBS boards, gave way to walled gardens like America OnLine. AOL’s drop in popularity lead to an open field again, and the last decade brought Facebook, Twitter, and other highly-structured platforms back again.

It’s also easy to forget that the word “crowdsourcing” didn’t have to be used since everything – from our interactions with others to the exchange of information – was from the crowd.

So it makes sense that Crowdscouring Week would join forces with H-FARM to create  next month’s first-annual BOLD Awards: a partnership with the world at large to celebrate the wisest, most-applicable innovations worldwide. The best way to understand the future is to, in a sense, go back to the purest form of engagement.

We can go forward by listening.

Crowdsourcing is a process of leaning on the public to strategize your next move. The project-focused platform Mathesia is one of the strongest examples today. Mathesia wants to solve the world’s problems using math as the foundation. Projects on Mathesia are business challenges solved by means of Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Data Science. What is distinctive is the different criteria required to get involved: everyone can participate.

The shift here cannot be overstated. As we shared recently:

In the past, the same concept would have been done all in-house. Startups and small businesses would have little-to-no access to high-caliber mathematical experts. Skilled mathematicians would be rarely utilized unless they had a high-profile position or several letters behind their name. And the two groups would have a difficult, if not impossible time being connected together, as would startups with established mathematicians or established businesses with novice mathematicians. Businesses like Mathesia not only stand out because they utilize the crowd for delight, but they wouldn’t exist without the crowd.

Being Bold in Crowdsourcing
Image source: Mathesia

Mathesia has three projects that epitomize crowdsourcing’s opportunities:

In one instance, an energy trading company wants to help maximize resources. The key is creating algorithms based on weather patterns as well as consumption statistics from customers worldwide. Instead of looking inward, the organization is opening up opportunities to outside parties. The project has a two month deadline for up to 15,000 euros to be awarded to the best submissions.

Second, another party wants to optimize airline ticket seat sales. There is a classic airline adage: the person next to you may have spent twice as much as you did for the same exact seat and experience, but unless you talk, you’d never know. The widely varying prices do have a pattern, but this project wants to make the mathematics even tighter. The biggest concern, it says, is the third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) offering deep discounts and, arguably, wielding more power than the airlines themselves. By creating a smarter algorithm, airlines could attract more travelers to buy directly from them. The deadline and reward will be announced soon.

Lastly, a recently completed project helped a major Italian hospital. The orthopedic organization needed to optimize the time in the operating room. The criteria was varied, including maximizing the billing to cost ratio, reducing the probability of or activity after planned closing time and using as much as possible of the allocated time during the day. Math would not only be crucial to success, but it would be hard to imagine any success without it. The hospital offered up to 2,000 euros for the preliminary work, with more budget available after a successful start. The end result was an 18% increase in the time that the operatng room is used.

The three projects all reflect the strengths of crowdsourcing. First, it is a rare opportunity for outsiders to build a reputation working with potentially powerful organizations. Second, it gives organizations fresh ideas outside of their culture since, by their very nature, businesses innovation get stagnant over time. Third, it is a reputational, if not a financially rewarding path, not based on degrees, social network or status, but on actual results.

Mathesia is a natural fit for the first-annual BOLD Awardshappening April 5th in Venice, Italy, and the platform is sponsoring the Boldest Crowdsourced Online Platform category.  Here is a link to the final five nominees in this category.

Crowdsourcing is a great equalizer, diversifying the people able to contribute their ideas. It also is a great necessity. We have the opportunity to make our future brighter than ever by leveraging today’s technology, networking and accessibility tools to broaden our landscape. The term “crowdsourcing” may be mainstream today, but we remain far from harnessing its true power.

Everyone attending the BOLD Awards ceremony on the evening of April 5, at the H-FARM campus, will gain an insight to the unique workings of this special and stimulating startup accelerator set in beautiful countryside just outside of Venice, Italy. Attendees at the black-tie gala dinner will include the BOLD Awards winners, category sponsors who will be presenting awards, the H-FARM and CSW event teams, along with some of our corporate supporters and investors. Some tickets remain available if you’d like to apply to spend an evening in the company of this select group of BOLDEST people and organizations who are spearheading breakthroughs in the crowdsourcing and many other sectors.

Main image credit: adapted from an original image by James Cridland