GovStart 2018 cohort member Strawberry Energy aims to reinvent the urban landscape. We interview Miloš Milisavljević, founder of this smart benches startup about his ambitions and the highlights of his business.
What is Strawberry Energy?
Strawberry energy is a pioneer in creating and delivering smart and solar-powered urban furniture for smart and sustainable cities. Our purpose is to enhance people’s experience in outdoor public spaces and to improve urban living by making cities smarter, greener and more convenient to live in.
We are the first in the world, and are now present in more than 30 cities (17 countries) all around the globe with clients such as: Ford, Cancer Research UK, Canary Wharf, Crown Estate, Orange, UNDP, Eon, EWZ etc. In London, there are Smart Benches in Southwark, Islington, Lewisham and Canary Wharf.
You can check a map with most of Strawberry Energy’s Smart Benches in London: www.smartbench.london
Join Strawberry Energy in its mission to create the next generation of Urban Furniture for Smart Cities and to bring their devices to 100 London locations! Take part in their Crowdcube Campaign!
How does Strawberry Energy impact the way we interact with cities?
Our smart urban furniture improves people’s outdoor experience and motivates them to socialize and spend time outdoors, thus allowing a stronger feeling of community and contributing towards smarter and greener spaces.
We also aim to add a “smart city layer” to any public space and unlock the full power of IoT in the outdoor environment. By giving citizens and the local governments direct use of the data collected by our devices, we are empowering them and help them making better decisions.They would be able to see where are the healthiest conditions for training outside, while the city officials could set actions and policies based on this data to improve the quality of urban living for citizens.
What is different in your business model?
We offer the network of smart Benches free of charge to the City and then make revenue through the long-term commercial partnership with brands who get branding on the benches and digital user engagement on WiFi and Smartphone app. For example, Cancer Research and Ford UK were our first partners in this journey by launching 20 Smart Benches in 2017. Recently, we closed a deal with London Boroughs who will roll-out the first network of 100 Smart Benches in their locations and at the same time, we partnered with the UK leading marketing agencies to monetize branding space and user engagement on the benches. After London, we plan to expand the same model to other UK major cities followed with leading European cities.
Why is there a need for Smart Benches in the public sector?
For the public sector, we see two key benefits of accepting and supporting our Smart Bench Networks: on the one hand, the local government will be providing a new and free of charge city service to citizens as well as a new gathering and socialising location. On the other hand, using data collected and generated from built-in sensors inside each Smart Bench can ensure better contextual understanding on the hyperlocal city level.
What are your hopes on GovStart?
We are really excited to be part of this accelerator programme and to be working with PUBLIC. We believe that GovStart will open new doors for us and will provide us with opportunities of expansion in the UK and the rest of Europe. Also, this is a great chance to meet new startups that can provide us with insights into their personal experience and potentially become partners of Strawberry Energy.
How do you think cities will look in the future?
As a tech optimist, there is no doubt that the future will bring us a variety of advanced new technology solutions. In most cases, we will be able to fully embrace urban innovations, that will truly enhance the quality of life for millions of people. However, we also need to be aware that new technologies mean additional pressure on already built city infrastructures that are in most cases old and obsolete. I believe there is a need for disruption to digitally transform our regular cities into smart ones. It is all about reinvention in a way that progressively reuses, remixes and adds value to our lives. In that sense, we started with public sitting and reinvented the ‘bench’ with a variety of smart free services in the urban landscape. We see cities in the future as livable, vibrant and citizen-oriented districts with technology solutions that will gather people on the streets, strengthening their sense of community.
Strawberry is a herald of spring – it is one of the first fruits that ripens after a long and cold winter. It symbolizes something new and innovative, something that is at its beginning. Since our aim is to develop innovative green technology that will make people’s life easier and better, the company was christened Strawberry Energy.
Moreover, strawberries grow fast. If you plant a strawberry, very soon there will be a whole bush of them growing around. It grows and develops rapidly, spreading among its environment – which relates to our objective of diffusing our benches across the world.