New world, new challenges: Kicking off with this post, we’ll be sharing during the next days and weeks some Questions & Answers in a chat with Beta-i’s CEO, Pedro Rocha Vieira. You’ll get to know more about the big picture of what’s happening at Beta-i right now. A new moment, a 10-years retrospective, our new brand, future scenarios, our startup support and our global reach.
But let’s start by talking with Pedro about this very moment: the breaking news 🙂
Pedro, what’s changing at Beta-i and what’s happening under this repositioning and restructuring
Well, after 10 years of hard work in different areas, we managed to fulfil this first-decade mission: we were, and we proudly are a key player in the establishment of an innovation ecosystem in Portugal. We contributed to the mindset transformation process which has been happening in the Portuguese ecosystem over time, and we managed to be recognized as one of the leading startup accelerators in Europe.
However, now we are no longer in the phase of feeding this innovation ecosystem at its base, but rather helping to give it greater strength within the economy as a whole. Lean approaches, new in-company processes and especially, the collaboration between corporates, public services or other institutions with startups is an inescapable movement.
That’s why we’re undergoing this cycle of change, in order to continue to be relevant at a different level. In the last 3 years, we started to work to become a different type of consultancy firm, totally focused on bringing the startup way of working and making business growth to large organizations and vice-versa, as well as deploying our ecosystem building experience on different geographies. We now have clients and projects in almost 20 countries, on 5 continents. This is a matter of fact, not a vision – but to be very honest, this was still not exactly understood by the market. That’s why we are leveraging our approach.
Therefore we reorganized and redefined our areas, focusing essentially on the collaborative innovation territory. We have a team of experts and different frameworks to converge global startups, large companies, universities, researchers, investors, mentors and governments competencies to work on innovation programs and develop pilot projects with impact on the economy.
How important is this new positioning in the current context?
We were born in times of crisis and now we are “reborn” again in a new period of crisis – and this evolution was made at the right time to respond to current needs.
If 10 years ago we contributed to the generation of new ideas and entrepreneurship approaches to stimulate the economy, today the challenges are different. It is necessary to connect the old with the new economy in a logic of collaboration and win-win – from facing up and coming competitors as a target to be crushed, to see them as a potential partner. This is a paradigmatic shift. It is necessary to support startups as an economic agent of change, helping them to collaborate with companies. And put companies to collaborate with other companies, too – it’s mandatory to be aware that only together we can build this new future. And we’re all experiencing that, at this very moment, due to the pandemic.
So this Beta-i repositioning ends up giving us the necessary approach to face the current challenges and promoting collaborative innovation where everyone benefits, which naturally also includes the people impacted by the developed solutions.
Well yes, we do have some exciting news to share. We’re launching our new brand and everything that comes along in these key moments. We’re really happy with the final result – something that was already happening when the entire planet turned upside down with the pandemic:The interesting thing is that our value proposition – collaborative innovation – couldn’t be more aligned with the new challenges brought by this new brand world waiting for us out there, or already impacting us right now whenever we can be.
Beta-i has distilled its approach on innovation during the past years and if there’s a one really important thing to highlight at this point, is that what we’re saying is not a goal or a will. It’s a reality from here to the future. Beta-i has a global reach actually, a strong 10-year track record on innovation ecosystems and an expert team able to share this knowledge.
We have a new branch in Brazil, clients in 20 countries in the 5 continents and an admirable team of 50 people from 15 different nationalities.
We believe collaboration is the key to make things change. To solve things that matter. To help ecosystems and society grow. To, no bullshit, build a collective future. That’s what we have been doing; now, we’re just funnelling these services to the same destination: collaboration to innovate. We’ll keep connecting the innovation voices to transform ideas into a business, pilots into deals, solutions into impact to solve complex changes.
Beta-i was created during the last Portuguese crisis, in the second half of 2009, with the deep motivation of being part of the solution and help to create an innovation ecosystem able to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. We helped to make that in Portugal and abroad, and now we’re leveraging this in a global scale – helping corporates, startups, universities, investors, social impact organizations and other voices to work together. We’re starting a new phase in the best possible moment.
So you’re invited to explore our new site and follow our social media channels. And stay tuned: we have a lot more to share during the next months. And to tell, after 10 years of ongoing innovation.
The Lisbon Tourism Summit, organized by Beta-i and sponsored by Turismo de Portugal, will take place on March 17th, at Universidade Nova de Lisboa rectorate. It is an event dedicated to innovation in the tourism sector, whose main objective is to create strong connections between startups, national and international investors, tourism entrepreneurs, researchers and organizations. According to the data released by Banco de Portugal, referring to November 2019, tourism revenues reached 984 million euros, which means a year-over-year growth of 9.8%.
The 2019 edition of the Lisbon Tourism Summit focuses on a more sustainable approach on the tourism sector, “a segment that requires deepening in strategic themes such as circular economy, mobility, artificial intelligence and energy efficiency so that it is possible to actually talk about sustainability“, emphasizes Gonçalo Faria, Events Director at Beta-i. In such a professional but relaxed environment, the Lisbon Tourism Summit will count on the participation of several national and international speakers, with the emphasis on the sustainability designer, sociologist and businesswoman, Leyla Acaroglu. Awarded as Champion of the Earth by the United Nations, Leyla is also the author of several books and TED Talks. Check what she has to say as, in her own words, a sustainability provocateur:
The Lisbon Tourism Summit is an integral part of Turismo de Portugal’s innovation strategy to manage the growth of this industry in the country over the past few years. Beta-i is a strategic partner in this because, in addition to LTS, it also organizes The Journey – an open innovation program that facilitates collaboration between leading companies in the tourism industry (such as Grupo Barraqueiro, Vila Galé, Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua and Unicre) with technological solutions from startups around the world. The results of its latest edition will be presented within the LTS: there will be more than a dozen project presentations, involving startups from Europe and Asia.
Support for entrepreneurship and innovation is a top priority for Portuguese tourism strategy. For this reason, the Lisbon Tourism Summit will also bring together lectures, panel presentations and workshops dedicated to topics such as Sustainable Destinations, Data Science for Tourism professionals, the adaptation of business models to the circular economy and energy management for tourism. To purchase tickets, have a look at the full agenda and event speakers, please access here.
We’re happy to share that Beta-i has been named one of the 25 Best Financial Innovation Labs, as part of The Innovators 2019, an annual initiative by Global Finance magazine.
As an ecosystem builder in Lisbon, we’re are proud of the achievement. In the words of Pedro Rocha Vieira, our CEO and founder:
It’s naturally rewarding to see Beta-i again on such a narrow and prestigious list, which validates the work we’ve done. We are helping to reconfigure the financial universe, via fintechs, setting up programs like Pay Forward, with SIBS, or Protechting, which involves partners like Fidelidade, Fosun and Hauck & Aufhäuser, a German investment bank. This is an area where we identify new market opportunities, and Portugal can serve as a ‘sandbox’ for new business models and concepts in the financial area – for example, Brexit allows us to glimpse new opportunities. Startups like Feedzai, James, or Keep Warranty, are also making their way into this arena, which creates a more relevant cultural environment.
He also reminded that Portugal has a lot of opportunities to act as an innovation lab on testing new solutions: “There is an opportunity for countries like Portugal to position themselves to allow controlled testing of these technologies, especially in the context of the digital transformation of banks and the financial system, and I believe that’s where the role of Beta-i is, as a result of its commitment to innovation. We are also well positioned to replicate this experience in other geographies, and integrating the newly created Cybersecurity Working Group also allows us not only access but also the ability to influence and support the development of good practices. “
In its seventh edition, The Innovators recognizes entities that regularly identify new paths and design new tools in finance – the full report will be published in June.
“Financial institutions and governments worldwide are creating new spaces and modes of collaboration to better execute on financial technology,” said Joseph D. Giarraputo, publisher and editorial director of Global Finance. “Hubs, labs, centers, whatever you call them, they support innovations that deliver benefits to banks, their clients and society at large, nurturing both upstarts and stalwarts that excel in breakthrough thinking.”
The 2019 Innovators honorees will be recognized at the Global Finance Digital Banks and Innovators Awards Dinner on October 30 in Hong Kong. Here is the full list of honorees:
FINANCIAL INNOVATION LABS
Alior Bank RBL
BNY Mellon Global Innovation Centers
boostLAB Powered by BTG Pactual
Capital One Labs
Citi Innovation Labs
DBS Asia X (DAX)
Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs
Fidelity Center for Applied Technology/Fidelity Labs
Jungle is an innovative startup that is on a mission to reduce uncertainty. Wind turbines, power transformers, and heavy industry machinery – they use tailored AI models to identify when assets are underperforming and predict when they will fail.
They started out in Delft (Netherlands) in mid-2016, where Alexander Helmer and his co-founder, Tim Kock, were trying different AI technologies – they didn’t wanna focus on a single-purpose product – looking for something that could serve a broad spectrum of applications. Through their network, they landed on a case where they ended up developing their predictive system – that blew their minds and found a place in the world for the Jungle.
Looking to scale their business outside of the Netherlands, they looked into Portugal as a talent-filled pool and a great place to unleash the Jungle. They met Beta-i when they casually walked into a TGIF one day – and liked it so much that they decided to stay.
They’ve been in our hub since April 2017, so we went to talk to Alex Helmer, co-founder of Jungle, them about their experience in Free Electrons.
ReThink: I heard you were not big fans of accelerators or open innovation programs before FE. Why was that?
Alex: (laughs) You’re talking to the right person. The other team members were a lot more open-minded, I was the one that was a bit against accelerators. I think many accelerator programs focus on the first stages of starting a business: defining a product, defining a customer, validating your idea, business model canvasing, these types of things. That was my association with accelerators, that it focusses on early stage – on validation of your concept. So I was not too excited.
RT: So, what made you join Free Electrons?
A: It was actually Rodrigo Zwetsch [Beta-i’s community manager] that came into our office and said that maybe we needed to look into this. I was not fully convinced, I thought that we should keep with our existing customer database and spend time on building it out more. Tim and Silvio were actually more open-minded so we decided to dig a little deeper into what the program consists of. Turns out that, at that moment, it was a very different accelerator than what we thought, and there was actually a really good balance between the time you put into it, and the alignment that it had with the company that we were at that moment. Because we were still validating some of our ideas back then, we wanted to try it on different customers, we wanted to see how our solutions scale from one customer to the next. And this was actually a great opportunity to start testing that because there were a few very big and important utility companies globally present at the event. And we could see how long it takes to turn a solution if we go from A to B and also test it on C, how long does that take.
Turns out that, at that moment, it was a very different accelerator than what we thought, and there was actually a really good balance between the time you put into it, and the alignment that it had with the company that we were at that moment.
RT: So was that your main goal going into the programme, to test?
A: To test our solutions technically for sure, but also to test commercial viability. There are some areas that we work in where the way the stakeholders work together is fairly complex and closed, so we needed to understand better how we fitted in into that. And I would also say, to just create a network worldwide because if you serve, for example, utility companies, or factories of heavy industries as a customer, you can only grow so far within Portugal and the Netherlands, so you need to start looking beyond borders.
RT: You partnered up with EDP and also innogy. What were the pilots you worked on about?
A: At Jungle we currently have 3 products/verticals that we’re working on: one is on wind energy and wind turbines, one is more generic electrical assets like power transformers and circuit breakers, things typically in the electrical grid, and the third one is heavy industry, which is factories of basic materials like steel. The technology and the predictive capabilities that we build, they work pretty much the same for all three of these, so that’s why we have this big approach.
With innogy we worked in wind. The pilot was basically to show them what our predictive technology could do in an offshore farm and what it could do in an onshore farm, and given that result, how can we integrate it to make commercially viable for them.
With EDP, it has been a longer trajectory with them. They have a very big portfolio and different business units and all of them have transformers. And these things may fail – not that often! – but if they do they can fail pretty catastrophically and they’re expensive. We’re taking a look at a big spectrum of data and when you’re able to grab all this data and put it together in a logical way, you can start predicting when these failures might happen and also, with that, how you should operate them to extend their lifetime. So, it’s maintenance and also operations, in the sense that how do you operate them to have less maintenance.
RT: What was it like to work directly with corporate partners?
A: We had worked with utilities before in the Netherlands, on smaller projects. I think it’s a very interesting trajectory to go through. At Jungle, we’re all quite young – the oldest person is not even 35. So what we see of the world is how we operate. And this is the way we expect companies to work. Of course, we know that a utility company works differently than we do, especially big organizations. But, it is still interesting to observe the dynamics of how a company like that works and how you interact with them and what are the steps that you need to take in order to get a partnership with them.
RT: There must be a big gap between the way they work and the way you do. Did Free Electrons help you bridge that gap?
A: Yeah, there is a big gap. I mean, if you look at the footprint of the company, it’s completely different, it has to be different.
I think the interesting thing is that most of the people in the Free Electrons programme that are from the utilities’ side are from innovation departments, so they’re sort of in-between the two, and I think that’s a really good bridge because without that bridge it would very difficult for us to partner with the utility.
We’ve had really good relationships with the innovation people of the [Free Electrons’] companies we’ve worked with. EDP, obviously, because they are also an investor of ours, we’re next door, we’ve got a good relationship. But also with innogy – I mean, Tim went to Hamburg in October for an update, and he stayed at the Innovation Manager’s house – crashing in his guest bedroom – and he even picked him up at the airport at midnight. It was a very funny dynamic for sure, but without those people, it would be very very difficult.
RT: You developed a long term relationship with the utilities there, they are still your partners and your clients, right?
A: Yeah, of course! But I think this is also a bit of a given – as a startup, at least in the area we are, you have to develop a long term partnership with a company like that because the projects that we do are so big that it doesn’t make sense to do this in the short-term. In these projects, we only worked on a couple of wind farms for them, but they have dozens of wind farms, so we need to push for that.
I think it’s something that outside of a programme like that, it would have taken us just so much time.
RT: What surprised you the most in the program?
A: I think what maybe surprised me, and this is given my perspective of accelerators earlier on, it is how effective the time was that we spent during those four weeks. It was an intense programme for all four of the phases, but just putting all of these people in the same room, having a decent schedule, knowing what the goals are… I think it’s something that outside of a programme like that, it would have taken us just so much time. So, I guess, that’s the thing that surprised me, being against accelerators (laughs)!
RT: In the end, did it change your mind about accelerators?
A: (laughs) Yes, totally. I’ll confess to that!
In the end, we just asked Alex if he would recommend Free Electrons to other startups looking to go global. Here is his video reply:
A new paradigm that allows infinite growth with finite resources
As we mentioned in our Consumer Trends Report, the Circular Economy is one of the trends that will be taking over the conversations. Don’t know much about it? Let’s do an overview of the basics of Circular Economy!
Why Do We Need Circular Economy?
The linear economy is not sustainable anymore, as we are currently experiencing:
Resources depletion: Over the last four decades, the global use of materials almost tripled, from 26.7 billion tonnes in 1970 to 92.1 billion tonnes in 2017.2 Not only has material use been increasing, but it has also been accelerating and is forecast to grow to between 170 and 184 billion tonnes by 2050.1
Waste production: “Throwaway culture” has been having an impact on our planet, especially our oceans. In 2016 alone, the world generated 242 million tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to about 24 trillion plastic bottles – and that is just 12% of the total waste generated each year2.
Global Warming: Climate change and material use are closely linked: around 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions (excluding those from land use and forestry) is released during the extraction, processing, and manufacturing of goods to serve society’s needs1.
Demographic Explosion: In August 2018, the total population of the world exceeded 7.63 billion people, and this number is continuing to grow each day, driven by the economic growth of emerging countries.
What is the Circular Economy?
A circular economy is an economic system aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources. This regenerative approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production.
The Circular Economy is all about business – economy has always been about how we manage scarcity and resources efficiently. In this sense, we should look into the earth’s resources as finite and design structure to be sustainable, share resources and re-use everything: design everything integrated into a bigger circle and closing the loop for every piece of material produced.
Restorative by design
The Circular Economy is restorative by design: it aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times. It’s about maximizing efficiency in all aspects – it’s pure economy.
Even though this system is compatible with environmental causes, it doesn’t really dwell on guilt. It’s about innovation and integrating everything into a bigger purpose: individual action is nice, but cooperation downstream and upstream can really leverage the power of small changes.
Businesses don’t have to choose between profits and doing good for the world – because if they do it right, they’ll be doing both.
What is driving CE?
Regulation: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, are just two examples of regulations that will push forward innovation and working in the circular economy.
Eco Trends: Consumers’ are more connected than ever to causes and to brands who support their convictions (we talked about this in our Consumer Trends Report), so businesses will be increasing efforts to diminish their footprint.
Business Opportunity: The world economy is only 9% circular. Filling the circularity gap redefines markets and creates tremendous business opportunities. It is estimated that $1.8 trillion is the worth of wealth that could be created by unleashing circularity.
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