Fleksi paket as an extension for traditional delivery

Fourteen teams, 59 active participants and 24 experienced mentors. That was the balance of this year’s Mobility hackathon, which was hosted within the autumn part of the Start:up Maribor programme by Venture Factory, business incubator of the University of Maribor. After the pitches of thirteen ideas, solutions for mobility of the future, the victory went to the young team Fleksi paket, offering an alternative to delivering packages from the postal office to the recipient. They see a business opportunity in frequent impulsive purchases, so they wish to establish a network of reliable postal messengers who will bring the package to addressees at any time, to any place. The second place was won by the Alpaca Fleet team, whose delivery solution is addressing a similar challenge, and the third by the E.V.A.N.S. team with a system for warning drivers about emergency vehicles.

“Hackathons are a tool for making business,” said Luka Topolovec, CEO of EqualEyes and multiple attendee at hackathons abroad, especially in London, where he attended hackathons such as TechCrunch and Droidcon. “Attending a hackathon is a win-win for all participants and hackathons in Slovenia aren’t far behind such events across the world,” said Luka, a big supporter of the startup community and dedicated mentor, who helped teams develop ideas at the Mobility Hackathon long into the night. EqualEyes, too, started collaborating with Nova KBM thanks to a hackathon in Maribor. “For big companies,” says Luka, “this is mostly an opportunity to get to know the startup scene, potential talents and partners.”

What’s happening now is a good thing
“I sincerely believe that such events help make Maribor a better city. And that’s also by having a tech hub where we will succeed in attracting top companies. By starting to build an ecosystem and, in the long term, making Maribor great again, as Trump would say”, is the optimistic view of Luka. When he looks back to 2010, when neither the startups nor the supporting environment were at the level they are today, he is very happy that things are changing for the better. And when asked whether startups are a driving force of the economic transformation of a once-industrial Maribor he, typically for him, answers modestly. “I might be too young to lecture anyone about how it was and how it will be, but I know that what’s happening in Maribor now is a good thing. If I look into the future, I want my kids to have the opportunity to become what they are, also in Maribor. And not that they will be forced to move in order to work on the latest technologies.”

Work with mentors was intense and valuable.

Data, information, knowledge also need to be moved
Uroš Orešič, digital development manager in Kolektor, otherwise also the cofounder of startups U centrix and BookinIT, mentioned an interesting domain that goes beyond mobility as such, when he was addressing the participants. “Every process in the industry, in production, is mobility in a way; from external logistics, internal logistics, data mobility … A huge amount of information that is crucial for the company owner is, for example, encapsulated in machines and the owner does not have access to this information even though it can be very important for him. That is why information mobility is key,” said Uroš, and mentioned the mobility of knowledge and people. “People work by levels and there is a big layer where information gets lost. People don’t communicate with one another and it’s time for these levels to start being punctured,” he said, adding that the industry is privy to a big fluctuation of employees and that “it is crucial that the knowledge of one person – because knowledge is in people’s heads – can be spread across the staff to the greatest extent, in the easiest possible way.”

Uroš Orešič also talked about the mobility of data, information and knowledge.

According to him, every hackathon is also a great opportunity for talents from one field to come into contact with the key people from the industry, with mentors and challenges in these fields, in order to be able to start establishing their talents as solutions. “I was surprised by teams who were actually completely engineering-oriented, but within the hackathon, they started thinking about how to set their idea on the market, how to be competitive, and I thought that was a big progress,” is how Uroš Orešič summed up his observations.

Mitja Štampfer, consultant for development of IT business models at Pošta Slovenije, knew how to convey to participants what Pošta Slovenije needs, thus encouraging them to start thinking about how their ideas could address the needs of an otherwise traditional company that is in the middle of transforming its business operations.

Mitja Štampfer from Pošta Slovenije knew how to encourage participants to make a mental shift.
No lack of energy, not even at midnight
It was already clear on Friday afternoon that this will be a lively weekend, which will have something to show for exactly 48 hours after starting. When first pitching their ideas and solutions, the participating coders, designers and businesspeople already demonstrated that they have the ambition to co-create the future of mobility. For the teams with a full cast, the hackathon was mostly an opportunity to intensely develop ideas and gain valuable mentor advice, while for the individuals and incomplete teams, still looking for the knowledge of individuals, this was also an opportunity to establish new relationships.

There were also opportunities to relax during the hard work.

Heads bent over work, the participants programmed, designed and perfected their ideas on Friday and Saturday until midnight, and on Sunday until the early afternoon, after which they had to present what they had done to the expert jury, requiring their presentations to be as “polished” as possible. “I see a lot of energy; even at midnight, I was talking to three teams who were excitedly explaining how they will change the transport system. And I am very happy that this is happening in Maribor,” was excited Luka Topolovec, already during the hackathon.

The Marshmallow test was a valuable test for all teams.

From optimizing costs to saving lives
A mobile app for students that would be a hub for all key information and would thus eliminate the necessity of using several apps or visiting various websites; a system of mutual help that would work with help of applications the help seekers (for example disabled people) could find help offered by volunteers; an app that would connect various providers of means of transport with the goal of ensuring an optimal travel path; a system for controlling the way professional drivers drive, with the goal of optimizing the consumption of fuel and materials; an app that would transform cars into media and would enable advertisers targeted promotion depending on the location of the drivers … those are only a few of the ideas and solutions of this hackathon.

Two interesting solutions addressing problems faced by firefighters also got intense acceleration this weekend in Maribor. The team Approw, aware of the flaws of the existing way of informing voluntary firefighters about the intervention location, would create an app that would enable access to data regarding the location, even with gloves on their hands, it would automatically trigger navigation … The team ZZVTech would eliminate the problem of firetrucks and other specialized intervention vehicles, which are on standby for more than 90 percent of the time but need to be reliable when there is time for the intervention, by introducing a system for controlling the vital functions of these vehicles. The Voisk team sees the optimization of mobility in the future with its automatic mower, which would pick up leaves while mowing, with the key novelty being the possibility to control the mower without the now-essential wires in the ground.

Would you let yourself be driven by a self-driving racing car?
Following the example of global metropolises, the young team Ridey would bring the incredibly popular trend of borrowing electric scooters to Maribor. The scooters would be stored under benches, which would be an aesthetic addition to urban furniture. Meanwhile the students of the Faculty of Engineering would develop their student formula one car into an autonomous vehicle by the end of next year, and its features would offer a racing experience to those that otherwise couldn’t have it. Persons with limited movement and those who shouldn’t or can’t drive could thus experience the delights of racing, while enthusiastic drivers would benefit from such a self-driving car because it could show them the ideal line for driving on the racetrack, using sensors and algorithms to calculate the best path.

The jury did not have an easy job
Two dozen mentors directed the teams towards better solutions with their knowledge and experience, but the ideas and solutions also had to convince seven members of the expert jury at the end. The jury consisted of Robert Sraka, director of new generation services at Zavarovalnica Sava, Iztok Renčelj,director of sales and development of IT services at Pošta Slovenije, Marjan Beltram, executive director of tourism and mobility services in Nomago, Miha Lesjak, executive director of Inova IT, Klemen Koželj, programme engineer in Comtrade, Saša Pelko, deputy mayor of the Municipality of Maribor, which is also enabling the Start:up Maribor programme, and Jure Verhovnik, manager of Venture Factory, business incubator of the University of Maribor.

The tech aspect of the solution, user experience and pitch were the categories in which the participants needed to convince the jury. The latter recognized most potential in two solutions, similar to each other at first glance, both addressing micro-delivery of packages.
Victory as an opportunity but also an obligation
The winning solution Fleksi paket offers a solution for so-called last-mile delivery, which is the last step of the package from the postal service to the addressee. “With our product, we are solving a problem of Pošta Slovenije. It’s the lion’s share of the costs that occur at this final kilometre,” said Davorin Mesarič, team leader of Fleksi paket. The team did market research and realized that the addressees are prepared to pay between two and five euros extra if that means that they don’t have to go to the postal office to get the package and can instead get it delivered anywhere, at any time.

The team took advantage of the Mobility Hackathon to establish contact with representatives of Pošta Slovenije, but they realize that their victory is also an obligation for the future. “The next step is definitely to attend Mobility Pioneers in Munich and we will see what we can do there. The opportunity is now on our side, the obligation is as well, and we are completely ready for it,” asserted Davorin Mesarič, thrilled about the victory, and praising the team he had worked with for the first time.

Businesses need to be based on algorithms, not only on people
The demands of postal service users are increasing, and the second-placed team Alpaca Fleet is also aware of it. They are actually addressing a similar challenge as the winner, but in a different way, placing automatization into the forefront. “Businesses need to be based on algorithms and advanced tech solutions and not only on people, who can also have their bad moments,” said Borut Markelj during the presentation of their solution. Hackathon was excellent for him and his friend, coming to Maribor on their own, also because they achieved victory in a team with other participants whom they had first met on Friday in Venture Factory.

With their solution for warning drivers about emergency vehicles, the third placed team E.V.A.N.S. wishes to contribute mostly to road safety. The team is convinced that increasingly better sound-proofed cars and the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens that have been the same for decades importantly contribute to the fact that drivers don’t notice emergency vehicles. They wish to change this with a system that will send drivers information about emergency vehicles through the radio with an RDS signal.
Rich prizes for the first three solutions
The winners, four members of the Fleksi paket team (otherwise from the EqualEyes company), didn’t only take home the main prize, the electric scooter Xiaomi M365 that can reach up to 25 kilometres, but two members of their team will also travel to Munich for the event Mobility Pioneers in February 2019. Two members also received tickets for the PODIM Conference 2019. Additionally, Pošta Slovenije and Nomago prepared rich prizes for the first three teams of Mobility Hackathon: the latter will offer a package of IT services in the joint amount of 3000 euros to the best three, while Nomago will offer each a travel package in the amount of 500 euros.

“We are working for the right thing”
“I have never absorbed as many ideas in such a short amount of time as I did today. I believe that some of them will be implemented, I’m still collecting impressions, but I’m thrilled,” said deputy mayor of the Municipality of Maribor, Saša Pelko, after the event, convinced that a sustainable business model is crucial for idea success, but innovativeness is key as well. “I am proud that we are supporting the Start:up Maribor project, as today I saw in practice what it means to actually work for the right thing and I think that there needs to be even more support in the future,” added Pelko.

“My impressions are positive, I’m glad that so many individuals attended the hackathon, but it’s mostly very good for Maribor, because there are still a lot of people who wish to prove themselves in new fields, and that is positive for the entire environment,” said Iztok Renčelj, adding that Pošta Slovenije is now in the middle of a transformation and that the Mobility Hackathon served them with interesting ideas that they could also very quickly launch to the market. 

The three best-placed teams will also have the opportunity for priority registration for the innovation weekend, which the Venture Factory is organizing mid-November.

Good turnout and excellent company marked this Mobility Hackathon.
Author: Mitja Sagaj, 23.10.2018


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