Ten innovation teams with altogether 38 participants, joined on the second day by ten prototype pairs, spent two days at the Innovation Jam Start:up Maribor developing their ideas and creating a digital prototype. The four members of the jury were most convinced by the idea of Pošta Slovenije’s team, whose solution wishes to tackle the problem of addressees who open their mailbox and don’t have a package but rather only a note saying they received it. The second and third place went to the teams of Zavarovalnica Sava with innovative solutions for a simple way of extending car insurance through a mobile app and for engaging insured individuals through a game.
Through analogue activities with many post-its and stickers to a digital prototype.
You eliminate the unknowns with small steps
At the beginning, Mateja Verlič Brunčič from EqualEyes and Urban Lapajne from Venture Factory spoke about the role and importance of digital prototyping, revealing that when it comes to designing new products and services, the design thinking method has won recognition mostly in the development of very innovative new ideas that have many unknowns at the beginning. “You eliminate the unknowns with small steps, thereby avoiding the traps you can fall into with the traditional approach, by developing something that the customer doesn’t need or at least doesn’t need it in the form you imagined," said Urban.
The activities with the ten teams became even more lively on the second day, when innovation teams were joined by prototype pairs.
Because the success of a business idea depends on the users, paying attention to them is a crucial part of the solution design process. “The designer way is most suitable when we’re developing a solution but don’t even know what we don’t know. When the solution is so uncertain that there is no reference point in the environment, not even with the competition that we could lean on," said Mateja.
They identified problems and defined the solution
After some initial theory, the teams from Zavarovalnica Sava, Pošta Slovenije, Organics Nutrients, Knowteca, Clubia and Gifty started validating their hypotheses. An infinite number of post-it notes, stickers of various colours, votes … through engaged activities, the groups identified the problem, designed a persona and defined a solution.
Programmers and designers from established tech companies demonstrated the talent and executive power of the startup community.
The ideas got a digital boost on their path to a prototype a day later, when the teams were joined by prototype pairs, consisting of a programmer and designer. The pairs from established tech companies, including EqualEyes, Povio, Motiviti, U-centrix … quickly discovered how they can bring ideas to a digital prototype and at the end of the day, the groups had something to show for at the presentations.
Deep in thought, the numerous team from Pošta Slovenije addressed the pain of package addressees.
"Another great user experience to see how to approach new products in a big company and the realization that the user comes first. So that when we’re developing something, we don’t only look from the aspect of the developer, but also take the opposite side into account, gaining information from it," said Mihaela Jarc Knaver from Zavarovalnica Sava about the two-day event. Her co-worker Klavdija Keršmanc was similarly excited: “Today has brought many new experiences and represents very good value added for the future and truly something very positive for us. Value added for us means that certain decisions that we might have been making for maybe a month, we could make earlier, maybe in a week."
From scepticism to enthusiasm
In two days of Innovation Jam, brothers Bojan and Aleš Kujavec from Organics Nutrients discovered how to digitally connect to their users of organic fertilizer through an app that will not only offer user interaction but also a bunch of advice. “At first, we were a bit sceptical because we didn’t know how introduce our fertilizer into a digital product," admitted Bojan, excited about the solution that they developed in two days with help of programmer Dejan. And added: “If we hadn’t been here today, we wouldn’t have gotten this idea."
"A very organized event, we got more systematic insight into how to tackle new projects if there are many unknowns at the beginning," said Miran Kostanjevec from Knowtec, satisfied with the progress of the idea that has been in their heads for a while but there have been no possibilities and opportunities for its implementation.
Addressing the pain of nearly every package recipient
The expert jury was most excited by the idea of Pošta Slovenije’s team, which is an answer to problems by package recipients who most often get a note about the package because they are simply not home when the postman arrives. By upgrading the recently offered service My delivery, my choice, they wish to save package recipients the journey from their home to the post office, and enable them to choose, when the postman is at their house, whether they wish the postman to leave their package in the backyard, with the neighbour or somewhere else where the recipient will be able to pick it up on their way home.
"The expectations more than achieved their purpose. If we came with mixed feelings, because we are still used to certain set ways of idea development, then Innovation Jam taught us how to develop an idea with a more agile approach a rapid prototyping," said Alojz Krajnc, member of Pošta Slovenije’s team.
"For us, this workshop format is mostly good because we brought developers that are slightly closer to agile methods, but the fact remains that you can’t always use them in corporations. That is something that we lack, and we would wish to implement it in all offices that need to be included in the development of a certain new product or service," said Kristijan Perčič, responsible for the development of digital business operations in Pošta Slovenije.
The expert jury chose the best digital prototypes after listening to the presentations.
Big companies are still learning how to participate in innovation stories
Robert Sraka, new generation services director in Zavarovalnica Sava, is convinced that the process itself is even more important than the ideas developed by teams at Innovation Jam. “For the company, we see advantages in spreading the knowledge of how to find solutions in such a way. By working with short iterations and experiments and not developing new services or products with the assumption that we already know it all."
He added: “Big companies in Slovenia are still learning how to participate in innovation stories. We are climbing this ladder of innovation maturity."
After the end of Innovation Jam, we concluded the autumn programme in Start:up Maribor with a Social startup evening in the Vetrinj Mansion where we heard, among other things, that Maribor is increasingly establishing itself as a tech hub of the broader region, also thanks to the activities of Venture Factory and the Start:up Maribor programme.
In the Vetrinj Mansion it could be heard that Maribor is increasingly establishing itself as a tech hub of the broader region.
Thousands of consulting hours for young entrepreneurs
So far, Venture Factory has carried out more than 90 events, including workshops, lectures, Start:up Müslis, hackathons … with altogether more than 2500 participants, it supported 31 new startup companies and helped young entrepreneurs with 3200 consulting hours by experts. Standing out amongst the events is the traditional annual PODIM Conference, the biggest and most influential startup event in the region, which Maribor will host next year on 21 and 22 May.
More than 200 participants from the ranks of startup entrepreneurs, investors, corporate representatives and startup mentors then socialized, networked and forged new plans.
The event was also an opportunity to award recognitions to the best prototype pairs, but every pair also received a vouched by Zavarovalnica Sava in the amount of 200 euros. More than 200 participants from the ranks of startup entrepreneurs, investors, corporate representatives and startup mentors then socialized, networked and forged new plans.
Let’s make technical vocations more attractive
The desire to make the startup system in the city even better is the idea that drives the Venture Factory team, and it was frequently highlighted at the Startup social evening that Maribor is becoming a tech hub, not only on the national level, but in the broader region as well.
Amongst other things, this is also confirmed by the arrival of young tech companies to Maribor. Andraž Logar from 3fs admitted that the company didn’t expand to Maribor because of the customers, since they do business exclusively abroad. “But Maribor is incredibly interesting because of the community when it comes to the intellect and entrepreneurship knowledge," said Logar. It’s a similar case with Dewesoft, whose Maribor office is in Venture Factory. But Dewesoft cofounder, Jure Knez, highlighted that: “We all need to make an effort to make technical vocations more attractive to young people."
The best prototype pairs received recognitions, while all participating programmers and designers also received vouchers.
Iztok Kramberger from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, otherwise also a part of Skylabs, which is designing a nanosatellite, talked about how hard they are trying to keep good personnel in Maribor. “We can’t tell them that Slovenian bread is better than Austrian," is how Kramberger highlighted the problem of personnel escaping abroad, to the Austrian city of Graz, which he says is a small Silicon Valley. Kramberger earned true applause when he said that two days ago, he received a call from the Ministry of Defence, telling him that Skylabs is also mentioned in NATO. “We have two key technologies that ensure European independence in the relationship towards the US," he said, drawing back the curtain of secrecy about what’s being created in Maribor.
Iztok Kramberger from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, otherwise also a part of Skylabs, which is designing a nanosatellite, talked about how hard they are trying to keep good personnel in Maribor. “We can’t tell them that Slovenian bread is better than Austrian," is how Kramberger highlighted the problem of personnel escaping abroad, to the Austrian city of Graz, which he says is a small Silicon Valley.
Kramberger earned true applause when he said that two days ago, he received a call from the Ministry of Defence, telling him that Skylabs is also mentioned in NATO. “We have two key technologies that ensure European independence in the relationship towards the US," he said, drawing back the curtain of secrecy about what’s being created in Maribor.