Podjetna primorska is a competition for business ideas in Koper, Slovenia. It is organized by a local incubator Univerzitetni inkubator primorske. The competition assembles all startups, students and people willing to compete with business ideas. There are three categories: students (Rektorjeva nagrada), groups without entrepreneur experience (Optimist) and experienced entrepreneurs (Navigator).

Our institute participated last two years in the Navigator category and both years we won the first prize. In this blog, I will explain how we did it and what was crucial for us.

Podjetna primorska 2016

prototyping sustainable sanitation

Last year we applied the Solar biological dry toilet. It’s a concept of a dry toilet that doesn’t use any water or chemicals. It has its own urine and feces treatment system. It takes the help of the sun to process urine and to fasten the process of decomposition of feces. At the end, it can reuse all the waste as a valuable resource as fertilizer or biomass.

Prototype of Solar biological dry toilet

For the first time in a business competition, we were very dedicated to win it. We asked the organizers what are the main criteria for gaining the first prize. First of all, you have to have an innovative idea or something that is going trendy in other countries and could be implemented in local area. The second part was to be very concise with all ten criteria for the business idea and we tried to get most of the points for each one. We were very strong especially in the criteria of sustainability. The last thing is a big bonus, to have your Minimum valuable product (MVP) or prototype already build and in the testing phase.

We analyzed very well the market for dry toilets in the world. Based on the research we designed an improved version of what already exists. We built our first prototype in record time even though we were building it outside without any roof. I remember that the weather was very rainy. Just a few days before the final event of the competition, we organized an opening event for the demonstration of our prototype. The last days were full of work but we made a fully operational toilet at the opening event.

The opening event of our first prototype in Labor

After submitting the business plan and pitched to the jury we won the first price. We got 7000€ worth voucher for mentoring, office renting and other expenses.

Podjetna primorska 2016
Podjetna primorska 2016

After the competition, we got enough knowledge and some finances to start a company called KAKIS positive sanitation. Based on market demand, we are offering outdoor composting toilets. We also arrange an agreement to sell self-cleaning automated flush toilets made in Italy. The solar biological toilets from the competition are still in development and will be mostly used as indoor toilets. Right now we are building a new prototype for a tiny house on wheels. The toilet will transform all the processed waste into briquettes and it will burn them to gain heat for the tiny house.

Podjenta primorska 2017

healthy food production

This year we applied for a competition with a slightly different approach because we got very busy with the current company. We presented houzVILLAGE – Smartly automated greenhouse. The aim of the product is to produce fresh organic food at the reach of the hand. For more information please visit our website. It’s still in the phase of designing and we are planning the first prototype in the middle of 2018.

Smartly automated greenhouse – houzVILLAGE

I’m a fan of the lean startup methodologies, or how to launch a new product with not much time, money and with the lowest possible risk. Let me explain closely how we did it for this year competition.

During the most workshops, we were in an accelerator in Netherlands and it was impossible to attend so we skipped most of the workshops. If you are a fresh entrepreneur, I would kindly recommend taking part in them.

We arrange to have an application pitch by Skype but by chance, I had to come back to Slovenia and I did it in real person. The pitch was very quickly prepared, mostly improvised. The slides were just pictures from www.pexel.com put together in a story with just one or two words per slide.

We develop the idea with help of five Erasmus students that did an internship at our institute. Each student researched and developed a part of the idea and the next student upgraded the previous work.

These days there are tons of technologies around the world. We decided to develop nothing new but implement ideas and technologies that already exist. We were searching for early-stage startups because they are so motivated and willing to upgrade their products to our demands. So we used their products and their knowledge to put several ideas and products in one big product. Like this, our R&D department cost us almost nothing. We have right now a product design, already prepared solutions and partially already potential customers. Our next target is to find some funds to finish the development and to build the first prototype.

For me was very important to implement actual global megatrends. The population is growing and fewer people (potential farmers) are staying in rural areas. Inquiry for organic food is each year growing between 7% and 12%. A lot of automatization and robotics are becoming part of industries and even homes. On top of it, digitalization and connectivity are appearing everywhere. Each of us is touching their smartphones around 150 times per day. The last important trend is personalization. Each of us wants a product or service totally personalized for our needs. We implement all these trends in a product that we believe live will be part of the future.

My pitch in the part of trends

One of the biggest parts of gaining this competition was finding and listening to the right mentors. Our idea went through 8 mentors. I took an hour for each and then I decided which one I need more. I decided to go deeper with three mentors, Boris, Andrej and Tina. But also others took a big impact on our idea. BTW, I used their knowledge also for some advice for KAKIS.

The last thing that I hope did an impact on the business plan that we send to the jury was an improved graphical design. I did a logo, put a header on each page, put a very subtle background and put some pictures with explanations. Maybe I’m wrong but the common application form for the business plan looks very plan and boring.

I did my last presentation in 2 hours on Sunday evening. As I was one of the last to pitch, I prepared almost all my pitch during the other pitches. Hopefully, I am very good at improvising so I did it quite well.

Podjetna primorska 2017 – 3 winners in 3 categories
Podjetna primorska 2017 – 3 winners in 3 categories

At the end, all the work was paid off as we won again. Congratulations also to all the participants and especially to the winners of other categories. Big thanks also to organizers that made a very good job.

What’s next?

After winning two Podjetna primorska, a very common question is “will you apply next year again?”. Actually, I don’t know. I would say no but I never say never so maybe I will apply next year again.

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