Halfway through the GovStart programme and here is the third monthly update! This past month we have had two roundtables that have been exceptionally helpful to this year’s GovStart Cohort and the Alumni from the programme.
The first roundtable was led by Commissioner Hahn who is in charge of leading the modernisation and digitisation of the European Commission. The talk was attended by startups working with Governments across Europe to transform public services and focused on challenges and opportunities in EU procurement for new market entrants. Additionally, we discussed topics such as guidelines for standardisation of data and internet/wi-fi infrastructure across the EU. In the context of the ongoing consultation on the new European interoperability framework, that the Commission are looking for further input on.
“ I am here to listen to the issues of people within Startups, as an advocate for tech within the commission during the COVID crisis I believe that this is important”
– Johannes Hahn (European Commissioner for Budget and Administration)
Early on in March there was a second roundtable on fundraising led by the CEO of Zencity, Eyal Feder-Levy. Zencity is a SaaS company in the local governance space, who have managed to raise over $21m. During the session Eyal shared a bit about his experience fundraising for his company and provided tips on effectively pitching the GovTech opportunity and how to best position companies in conversations with investors.
“At the end of the day this is all about storytelling, we use data to make our story more reliable… My personal approach [when speaking to investors] is optimistic conservatism, you have to be optimistic because you are telling a story about how your company is going to be huge in a couple of years. But you also have to have strong justification and reasoning around every single number that you put in your deck.”
-Eyal Feder-Levy (Founder and CEO, Zencity)
A common thread between both talks was optimism and making the most of the GovTech opportunity within these changing times.
“Through the GovStart programme, PUBLIC provides companies with as much support as they need to raise new capital. From tweaking your presentation and practicing your pitch, to offering insight and introductions to investors, the team at PUBLIC form a critical support team around our portfolio. It is very important to understand how to present your company in the most compelling way when speaking to investors and to have a razor-focused fundraising strategy in place when you go out to the market.”
– Alexander De Carvalho (Chief Investment Officer, PUBLIC)
Odessa is PUBLIC’s GovStart Operations Intern, who provides company support with expansion in the public sector. GovStart is PUBLIC’s 6 month growth programme targeted at businesses with powerful applications within the public sector. Want to learn more about this year’s GovStart cohort? Sign up to our newsletter to get regular GovStart updates.
Two month into this year’s programme, the GovStart train continues to chug along smoothly. The start of the year has brought many new opportunities for growth and development for the current GovStart cohort. The GovStart team thought to share a few updates from the beginning of this year including a Roundtable on the topic of “Exiting Businesses”.
Eyal Feder-Levy CEO of Zencity, one of the companies in this year’s cohort sat on a PUBLIC TV webinar panel discussing the future of Digital Governance. Eyal and other experts in the GovTech field talked about their views on how Europe could work together to foster a GovTech ecosystem and what the continent’s tech startups need from the government.
Furthermore, on January 26th GovStart hosted a virtual roundtable on the topic of “Exiting Businesses” to provide GovStart founders with insights and advice on how to plan and prepare for a future successful exit. The event was led by Robin Klein, General Partner at UK based venture firm Local Globe, and Lord Leigh of Hurley, Senior Partner at Cavendish Corporate Finance, a specialist advisor to owners of businesses seeking to sell.
“ I would encourage any company in our portfolio to have this conversation (regarding exiting) with us, a lot of founders are worried about having honest conversations as it might be a display of bad motivations, however for good VC’s the positives outweigh the negatives… Having this conversation is a very important step to having a strong company”
Robin Klein (Local Globe, General Partner)
One takeaway from the discussions that followed was not to build your business to sell but at the same time to be open to communication about people who want to be let in so that you have the relationships with the buyers when that time comes.
“It is important to take the time to understand what your public sector client needs and how your solution works to solve issues for them. Building this into a cohesive engagement and messaging strategy is essential to get the right attention from key public sector stakeholders”
Syma Cullasy-Aldridge (PUBLIC, Director of External Affairs)
In the first few months of the programme, we have worked with the companies to help get their narrative and messaging right, through sessions with mentors, Mike Tinmouth (Social Media and Marketing Expert), Syma Cullasy-Aldridge (Director of External Affairs at PUBLIC) , and Rihannon Evans-Young (Director and Founder of PR agency Crest Communications). These mentors have provided support to a number of the GovStart cohort on creating a PR strategy that is “UK Media Friendly”, help build brand recognition, and reach key stakeholders and investors.
Odessa is PUBLIC’s GovStart Operations Intern, who provides company support with expansion in the public sector. GovStart is PUBLIC’s 6 month growth programme targeted at businesses with powerful applications within the public sector. Want to learn more about this year’s GovStart cohort? Sign up to our newsletter to get regular GovStart updates.
Helping people to hear: An interview with TympaHealth
We spoke to Krishan Ramdoo, CEO and Founder of GovStart company TympaHealth to find out more about how their technology is helping patients with their hearing.
What does TympaHealth as a company do and why did you embark on this venture?
TympaHealth is a multi-award-winning company united by a vision of helping the world to hear. We are an NHS spin-out and have developed the world’s first all-in-one hearing health assessment system. I am a front-line clinician and ENT surgeon by training and I could see first-hand how challenging it was for patients to access ear and hearing health services. Patient pathways are often convoluted, with multiple referrals having to take place before they reach the right specialist. On average it takes someone 5-7 years to seek help about their hearing from the point they first notice it. I kept thinking there had to be a better way. If I look back, there was likely one patient who I met very early in my medical career which was perhaps the “lightbulb moment”. It was a 79 year old lady who came into hospital for an infection unrelated to her hearing. She received treatment for the infection, yet she still seemed confused and was not engaging with us as her medical team. Her family also said that over the last year she had slowly become more isolated from them. As a budding ENT surgeon, I decided to look in her ears. They were full of wax! I wheeled her down to the ENT department myself, removed the wax and arranged for her to have a hearing test. This revealed age related hearing loss. She had a hearing aid fitted and when I followed up she was a completely different person and was planning her 80th birthday party.
What does the Tympa System do and how does it help patients?
The innovative Tympa system was designed to uphold and support the key objectives set out within the NHS Long Term Plan. The Long Term Plan outlines the need for improving “out of hospital” care and provide better links between primary and secondary care settings. There is a focus on supporting people living in care homes and bringing care closer to home as well as working within a primary care framework.
The Tympa system allows allied health professionals to deliver a mobile ear and hearing health clinic within the community, streamlining patient pathways and better facilitating access to care. The device combines a digital otoscope, micro suction wax removal and a hearing screener. The Tympa can capture high resolution images and video of the ear drum which can be shared with specialists anywhere in the world. This telemedicine capability is particularly important for people who live in more isolated parts of the world where specialist care is unavailable. In time, our machine learning algorithm will help diagnose conditions of the ear and help clinicians identify abnormalities and detect hearing loss. We are developing one of the largest ear and hearing health databases in the world.
A key aspect of the Tympa System is that it facilitates the removal of ear wax via the traditional hospital method of
micro-suction. On average, 3.9% of the UK population require management of ear wax each year. However, unfortunately the current waiting time to receive wax removal services in the NHS is 12-16 weeks. If people are able to access these services within the community, not only are patients receiving the care they need quicker and easier, it lessens the overall strain on NHS resources and reduces footfall in hospitals. This is particularly important in the current climate.
What makes Tympa stand out from the crowd?
We are the world’s first all-in-one ear & hearing health assessment system. The Tympa solution brings together three different diagnostic and treatment systems into one; otoscopy, micro-suction and a hearing screener. We always strive to maintain the highest standards in hardware and software design, as well as the training programmes we provide. Allied health professionals who want to use Tympa have to go through our TympaHealth Training Academy which is ENT UK and British Society of Audiology accredited. We also promote continued professional development through our learning management system. This comprehensive method of learning, with this level of accreditation, is unique in this sector. What’s more, we also have a strong focus on research and have a bi-monthly meetings as part of the TympaHealth institute for Research. This is where clinicians from different backgrounds all over the country join to discuss collaborations on any research related to ear and hearing health. We collectively use this forum to discuss new ideas and ensure everything that we do is evidence based. We have recently had a request from an ENT surgeon from Harvard wanting to join the meeting! It is initiatives like this which aim to help us stand out from the crowd and ultimately provide the best ear and hearing health services for patients across the globe.
How did Covid-19 affect your business?
Covid-19 brought with it challenges for all companies. However, in the era of telemedicine, TympaHealth’s review platform offers the ability for patients to be virtually assessed outside of the hospital setting with the help of remote specialists. We demonstrated this capability in the midst of the pandemic by working with University College Hospital London to help their ENT consultants see their patients remotely in a community setting. On the back of that a business case has been put in for a formal UK-first tele-otology/tele-audiology service. This is just one example of how we have been able to showcase the benefits of Tympa. And, with the new adapted way of working in healthcare, we have seen an increase in demand for the system.
Why did you join GovStart and what are you hoping to learn from the programme?
TympaHealth has benefited from some good traction in the private sector both locally and internationally. The company is a product of the NHS and with what GovStart stand for in helping companies to engage and aim for adoption in the public sector it felt like a natural fit. The mentors on the program will be a fantastic asset and source of knowledge of how to navigate the system and present Tympa in a way that can facilitate uptake by the public sector. Ultimately, adoption of TympaHealth services by the public sector will be beneficial for both patients and the public sector itself. Patients will have quicker and easier access to ear and hearing health services, and the NHS will benefit from a time and cost saving. We are also looking forward to joining the GovStart community and share ideas with other teams and learn from each other.
What are Tympa’s next steps and plans for the future?
There are a number of promising projects in the pipeline. Our global ear and hearing health database is growing and our pioneering AI/Machine learning capabilities are progressing. Eventually, the AI we develop will aid clinicians in assisted diagnoses and predictions for health. We are already working on version 3 of our product which will have some exciting new features – so watch this space!
With 5 days left to apply to GovStart 2020, in this article we’ve taken a look at the journey of one of the startups from our 2018 cohort, Goodbox. Goodbox is a FinTech and Tech For Good company that leverages the latest in data driven AI to transform the third sector.
Goodbox joined GovStart as part of the 2018 cohort and is a social impact startup providing contactless payments devices for charitable donations. In an ever increasingly cashless society, Goodbox’s solution helps charities that previously relied on cash donations.
Goodbox was founded in 2016 and now serves 1,500 UK non-profit organisations including many public sector sites from arts and heritage venues to schools and hospitals.
“GovStart doesn’t simply guide you through your early stages, it provides vital lessons in bringing a new product to market, navigating the maze of government tender opportunities.”- Francesca Hodgson, Co-Founder
Their GovStart journey:
“Throughout the six month programme we received strategic support and opportunities to meet and gain exposure with influential individuals, organisations and government bodies. Most memorable of which was a launch that took place at 10 Downing Street.
Our journey started by meeting our fellow cohort, almost all of which I’m still in touch with today, as I found that support, learnings and connections from your peers are highly valuable.
We’ve had support from PUBLIC in all areas of our business, from fundraising and meeting new investors to seeking fresh commercial opportunities.”
Next steps for Goodbox:
“At Goodbox we had a tough time initially with Covid-19. However thanks to the support of our investor base, we now have a promising future ahead of us.
We never envisioned a global pandemic four years ago to accelerate the adoption of new digital strategies by the third sector. Yet here we are, and we are proud to have solutions that will generate great value for so many.
We remain optimistic on fulfilling our global ambitions and are proud to have the GovStart name and PUBLIC behind our organisation.”
Want to find out more about the GovStart 2020 programme? Check out this article exploring some of the key themes we are interested in this year.
GovTech is now – backing companies helping the government during the crisis and beyond
PUBLIC has launched GovStart 2020 – our growth programme helping startups transform the public sector.
You will have heard many times from government leaders that the current crisis – with its all-encompassing impact on people’s lives and on our societies – has profoundly shaken up our systems and processes, creating new opportunities for change and positive impact. “What previously would have taken months, during COVID-19 became possible in just one day” is what the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said during a recent keynote address. The adoption of new processes and new technologies in many areas of our lives – from healthcare to mobility to education – has been accelerated at an unprecedented speed in the last few months. At PUBLIC we have been dazzled by the effort of many startups to do their part in the fight against COVID-19, powering secure and sophisticated new technologies to solve complex new challenges. During the peak of the pandemic, we were commissioned by NHSX to find the best technologies that could help healthcare professionals and informal carers look after the most vulnerable segments of the society that were isolating at home. As a result, we heard from nearly two thousand technology companies providing solutions such as remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients through wearables, sensors and tele-health, digital solutions to support mild mental health conditions, and platforms to coordinate the volunteering response to ensure that those isolating could get essential goods delivered to their homes. A number of GovStart alumni stood out during these difficult months. The social care company Cera was enlisted by the UK government to operate a nationwide recruitment solution for carers, helping people that are currently unemployed or furloughed back into work. Pando became the most used messaging service for medical professionals in the UK to safely exchange key information on their current clinical cases. The recruitment company Patchwork launched the London COVID-19 digital staff bank, encompassing thousands of medical professionals to fill critical vacant shifts. It would be short-sighted not to acknowledge that the economic effects of the pandemic have hit the startup ecosystem hard, forcing organisations to completely rethink their models and often to downsize and take a step back in their path to growth. But, now more than ever, we need the dynamism and fresh culture, as well as the ability to bring about positive change and to create new jobs that are distinctive of startups. That’s why we have decided to be on hand to founders that want to make a difference in any area of the public sector in the next year, through our growth programme GovStart starting in October in London and Berlin. GovStart is the right platform for GovTech companies to grow and scale. So far, we have worked with 36 companies from Pre-Seed to Series C across UK, France and Germany, helping them close £16m in government contracts and raise 53m in investment. For the next cycle, despite being open to work with any solution applicable to the public sector, we are particularly interested in:
> Solutions for remote healthcare monitoring and self management of COVID-19 and long term health conditions. We want to work with healthtech companies that enable health workers to monitor patients affected by complex conditions while adhering to social distancing measures and that empower users to be in control of their own healthcare, with the ultimate goal to reduce unnecessary A&E and hospital attendance.
> Digital interventions to support young people and adults’ mental health. There is a huge unmet demand for mental health services, which is growing during the pandemic. We want to back solutions that provide access to or deliver personalised mental health services at scale, particularly at a time when people are struggling to access their counselling services as usual. > Training and coaching for the jobs and workforce of the future.We are looking for digital solutions that can help people that have lost their jobs or have been furloughed because of COVID-19, to get ready for their next employment opportunity by developing key skills that employees will require in a digital and fast changing world.
> Data solutions for safer and smarter transport networks. The pandemic has posed a set of new mobility challenges and has changed the way people can access public transports. We are looking for solutions like data analytics and visualisation tools to aid public sector authorities plan for and implement smart transport networks for a socially distanced society.
> Smart solutions for safer and better prisons. COVID-19 has shed a light on how prisons are often inadequately equipped to deal with emergency situations like the one we are currently experiencing. We are on the hunt for companies providing prison staff with tools for better internal operations, from communication to case management, as well as for digital solutions that can improve offender rehabilitation. Applications are open until August 24th. Apply now. Let’s transform public services together.
With applications for GovStart 2020 now open, in this article we’ve taken a look at the journey of one of the startups from last year’s cohort, Cyan Forensics. Cyan Forensics is an online safety tech startup which was founded in 2016 by Ian Stevenson.
Cyan Forensics joined GovStart as part of the 2019 cohort and is a startup helping police investigators find evidence faster. The Edinburgh-based company helps law enforcement, social media and cloud providers to find and block harmful content from paedophiles and terrorists.
Cyan Forensics’ technology helps the police to quickly find evidence of child abuse, radicalisation or terrorist activity on suspects’ computers, giving investigators the ability to make better decisions to safeguard the public.
Their GovStart Journey:
After joining the GovStart cohort in September last year, Cyan Forensics went on to secure £1.5m worth of funding from a consortium of investors in December, bringing the total raised so far to £3m. The GovStart programme allowed the team at Cyan Forensics to meet with senior government officials and experts in the Online Safety sector.
“We joined GovStart because we realised we didn’t know very much about working with the government and we needed to learn. Joining the program helped us to meet senior civil servants, advisors and politicians in a friendly environment and to understand about their jobs, the things they care about and sometimes the constraints they have on how they work. That helped us to understand how to build more constructive relationships with government”.
Ian Stevenson, Founder of Cyan Forensics
Online Safety Tech Association:
In November 2019, PUBLIC organised an online safety roundtable bringing together a range of innovators and stakeholders from the online safety community to meet in PUBLIC Hall. The roundtable was organised in order to position Cyan Forensics at the heart of the debate and discuss the challenges and opportunities in front of them with experts in the field.
PUBLIC introduced Cyan Forensics to Baroness Shields (previously UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security, and now sitting in the House of Lords) who chaired the session, which included representatives from a number of innovative companies, as well as government and charitable organisations working in this area, including IWF, Securium, Yoti, Censorpic, Crisp Thinking, Safe to Net and NSPCC.
The outcome of the roundtable was an agreement that there was a need for a body that represents those creating technology for online safety, to facilitate and promote opportunities for collective voice, influence and networks. From this roundtable an Online Safety working group was formed and chaired by Ian Stevenson the CEO of Cyan Forensics.
Leading on from the roundtable and formation of the working group, in April 2020 Ian founded the Online Safety Tech Industry Association which is the UK’s membership body for the online safety tech industry, delivering a voice of hope, collective influence and efficient networks.
In May 2020, Cyan Forensics was featured in a UK Government report ‘Safer technology, safer users: The UK as a world leader in safety tech’ as a startup championing online safety.
Next steps for Cyan Forensics?
Cyan Forensics is working on expanding internationally and demonstrating capabilities for online safety. The company already has customers in Germany and has closed its first sales to a law enforcement agency in France. Cyan recently signed a partnership with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington to explore the potential for their technology in the US too. Cyan has been involved in some really exciting work to demonstrate the positive impact tech can have in online safety, you can find out more about the company here.
Today PUBLIC launches GovStart, our six month growth programme to help tech startups transform the public sector, taking place in London and Berlin from October 2020.
Now more than ever, the government needs new, secure, and scalable technology to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. GovStart is the right platform for startups to make a difference in any area of the public sector, from healthcare, to transport, to cyber security, and more.
So far, we have worked with 36 companies from Pre-Seed to Series C across UK, France and Germany, helping them close £16m in government contracts and raise £53m in investment. GovStart alumni have deployed products in diverse public-sector environments across health and social care, citizen engagement and local government, employment & recruitment as well as cyber security and online safety.
We are open to any solutions that can be applied to the public sector, but we are particularly interested in technologies that can help the public sector deal with the current challenging times, including:
Health Tech: solutions for remote monitoring and self management of Covid and related conditions;
Mental health: digital interventions to support young people and adults’ mental health;
Future of work: digital training and coaching applications for people that have lost their jobs because of Covid, to get them ready for the jobs of the future;
Transport & Mobility: data solutions to help transport authorities plan for a safe transport network; and
Prisons and Rehabilitation: smart solutions for safer and better prisons, from internal operations to offender rehabilitation
Améliorer la gestion des collectivités : entretien avec la start-up Manty
Nous avons échangé avec Mathieu Nohet, CEO de Manty – une start-up que l’on accompagne dans le programme GovStart qui vient de lever 2.4€m.
We spoke to Mathieu Nohet, CEO of Manty – a startup that we are supporting as part of our French GovStart programme which has just announced a funding round of 2.4€m. Scroll down to read the interview in English.
Pourquoi avez-vous décidé de vous lancer dans cette aventure?
Nous avons choisi de lancer Manty en janvier 2017, à la fin de nos études. Toutes les administrations publiques génèrent énormément de données, sans avoir les ressources pour les exploiter correctement. Ces organisations sont extrêmement importantes, et le fait qu’elles aient besoin de prendre des décisions avec peu d’informations est un énorme problème, qui impacte l’ensemble des citoyens.
Nous avons construit la première version de l’outil en s’installant physiquement, pendant près de 6 mois, chez nos premiers clients, deux mairies de la région parisienne, Clichy et Courbevoie. Cela nous a permis de mieux comprendre leurs enjeux et leurs problèmes.
Cette co-construction a permis d’adapter des technologies appliquées dans le privé et de coller au mieux aux besoins spécifiques des collectivités. Nous travaillons aujourd’hui pour plus de 50 collectivités en France – des villes comme Rambouillet, Biarritz ou la métropole de Clermont-Ferrand.
Comment la solution Manty rend-elle service aux collectivités?
Les collectivités territoriales gèrent des aspects essentiels de la vie quotidienne : écoles, cantines, voirie, État-civil, transports… Pourtant, elles manquent cruellement de ressources et d’outils pour analyser leurs données. Les décideurs publics sont souvent contraints de prendre des décisions complexes avec très peu d’informations.
La plateforme Manty se connecte à l’ensemble des sources de données de la collectivité et les standardise, les agrège et les organise au sein d’un seul entrepôt de données. Elle fournit ensuite des tableaux de bord et des visualisations aux décideurs, élus ou agents publics. La plateforme permet une exploitation simple et efficace des données, sans formation technique, et fait remonter les informations pertinentes aux bonnes personnes. Tout est fait pour faciliter la marche de l’administration et la prise de décision par les élus.
Quelles sont les prochaines étapes pour Manty?
La levée de fonds va servir à accélérer notre développement commercial. Prochain objectif : déployer la plateforme sur une centaine de territoires d’ici l’année prochaine.
Nous allons également investir dans de la R&D pour étoffer notre produit, notamment avec des modules prédictifs. Nous voulons en particulier aider les collectivités à construire leur budget, en leur présentant des scénarios de dépenses et des analyses sur l’impact de chaque dépense.
L’objectif est toujours le même : apporter la bonne information au bon moment aux décideurs publics.
Why did you decide to embark on this adventure?
We chose to launch Manty in January 2017, at the end of our studies. All public administrations generate a huge amount of data, without having the resources to exploit it properly. These organisations are extremely important, and the fact that they need to make decisions with little information is a huge problem, which affects all citizens.
We built the first version of the tool by physically installing, for almost 6 months, with our first customers, two town halls in the Paris region, Clichy and Courbevoie. This allowed us to better understand their issues and problems.
This co-construction made it possible to adapt technologies applied in the private sector and to better match the specific needs of local governments. Today we work for more than 50 local governments in France – cities like Rambouillet, Biarritz and the metropolis of Clermont-Ferrand.
How does Manty’s solution serve local governments?
Local governments manage essential aspects of daily life including schools, canteens, roads, civil status and transport. However, they are sorely lacking in resources and tools to analyse their data. Policymakers are often forced to make complex decisions with very little information.
The Manty platform connects to all of the local governments’ data sources and standardizes, aggregates and organizes them in a single data warehouse. It then provides dashboards and visualizations to decision-makers, elected officials and civil servants. The platform allows simple and efficient use of data, without technical training, and sends relevant information to the right people. Everything is done to facilitate administration and decision-making by elected officials.
What are the next steps for Manty?
The funding will serve to accelerate our commercial development. Our next objective is to deploy the platform to a hundred territories by next year.
We will also invest in R&D to expand our product, in particular with predictive modules. Specifically, we want to help communities build their budgets, by presenting them with spending scenarios and analysis of the impact of each expense.
The objective is always the same: provide the right information at the right time to public decision-makers.
Conversations with founders: How to build a GovTech startup
Ever wondered how startup founders decided to build their company? Or what experience they had in that industry that made it possible? As part of our research for PUBLIC’s upcoming report on the background of GovTech founders we interviewed 8 startup founders to explore some of the challenges and successes encountered when building a GovTech startup. To ensure a diverse cohort of experience and expertise we interviewed founders of startups across multiple sectors including HealthTech, PoliceTech, EdTech and CivTech.
While founders had differing experiences working within the public sector, most had attended business school and had previous experience as a founder of a startup in a similar sector. Those that had worked in the public sector before founding their startup had learnt from the challenges that they came across and used their experiences to build a solution. Here are the first four startup founders that we spoke to!
Slava Kremerman founded EdTech startup Zen Educate in 2017 after meeting his co-founder in business school. Zen Educate helps schools cover staff absences – a problem which was first identified by a family member. Having worked in banking and consulting, Slava had no relevant public sector experience although he had previously helped to build FinTech startups.
How to break into the EdTech market? Schools have autonomy that most public authorities don’t have and so are able to procure many products and services on the spot. Roughly 30% of their clients come through referrals from other schools that use their products. Having raised three rounds, Zen Educate currently has about 50 employees and Slava argues that prioritising values and passion over skills when hiring is something that he found to be important during his journey as a founder.
Formula for success? Attention to execution – constantly improving and delivering a high quality service.
One of the greatest challenges Zen Educate faced was the limited access to funding for GovTech companies, combined with lack of procurement opportunities.
Iraklis Bourantas, Co-Founder and COO of Novoville
Iraklis Bourantas worked for a software company, a tech institute and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs before co-founding CivTech startup Novoville. His family was deeply embedded in local government and his father and aunt were both Deputy Mayors. Being a politically active citizen, the idea for Novoville came out of his own frustration in engaging with the local government, and through his own connections he pitched it to newly elected, younger mayors, who loved it. Iraklis found that the best knowledge and experience came through working with the first couple of client’s and they adapted the product to these challenges. Through scaling into different countries they learnt that 80-90% of the challenges local authorities face in different countries are roughly the same.
Iraklis and his co-founder Fotis Talantzis personally funded the development of the prototype and raised funds after their first few clients in order to grow. They approached a local VC that was partially funded by the European Investment Fund; it took about 6 months to convince them to invest because they were weary of the GovTech sector and had a mistrust towards the public sector. For the second round they wanted an international range of VCs, and once again struggled to convince VCs about the viability of the sector.
Despite having won 56 contracts across 3 countries, Novoville’s biggest challenge was continuing to grow in new markets, and managing remote teams across countries. Iraklis told us that understanding the local realities of new countries often feels like starting a new startup from scratch and every time you have to convince new local stakeholders of the business’ viability and the sector’s potential.
If you could go back – what would you do differently? Iraklis said he would change their approach to hiring and prioritise hiring people who would fit in with the culture and mentality of the company. When it comes to investors, they regret wasting time on VC’s that were not serious which caused delays in the company’s plans.
Advice to new startups? Start small with one client, adapt your product based on the feedback from this client, and only then try to scale.
Daniel Mohamed studied urban planning and regeneration before founding Urban Intelligence. He previously worked as an urban planner for 3 years during which he observed many opportunities to change things. He claims he wouldn’t have known the the problem which his startup solves existed if he hadn’t worked as a planner.
Daniel didn’t have any networks in technology, venture or finance and admits that being self employed was difficult. To finance the business initially he took out two loans, one from a bank which he personally guaranteed, the other he received from UCL as a result of winning an entrepreneurship award. It took him a long time to find the right investors. When the company made it onto an accelerator, they weren’t VC ready by the time they graduated from the accelerator, and so had to go hunting for angels. Daniel argues that accelerators are good at putting you in touch with VCs but not with angels. He met an angel through luck at a networking event, who then introduced him to further angels.
The biggest challenges Daniel faced were having to rely on 3rd party public sector data, recruiting the right people with the right skills and building a good team dynamic, and raising funding. If Daniel could go back and do things again he said he would take a much leaner approach to building a startup as he regrets spending too much time on spec when they could have got an MVP out of the door much faster.
Most important skill gained? Emotional intelligence – to deal with the shocks and unpredictability of founding a startup.
How could the public sector change for the better? Move away from document based systems and turn plans into models that are constantly updated with the latest data so you can track things in real time and make predictions for the future.
Before founding Cyan Forensics, Ian worked as an engineer, consultant and CTO. After having spent time in business school, Ian worked with startups to help create businesses, raise money and facilitate university spin-outs. He was called in by Napier University in Edinburgh to assess some research to see if it had potential for commercialisation.
After deciding that the research did have potential he chose to spin it out with Bruce Ramsay, a key member of the research team, and Cyan Forensics was born. Ian found that his network contributed strongly to getting Cyan going and he knew where to look for professional services, legal and financial advice, recruiters, office space and other support. Cyan Forensics has won a major contract with the Home Office as well as several contracts with individual police forces, including some in Europe.
What needs to change? Startups need investors who understand the benefits of public sector markets – this could be achieved through greater dialogue between the two. If the public sector wants innovation it needs to be willing to listen to new ideas, and learn that they will not always be presented with final products.
Public sector bodies need to be willing to try new things, run pilot programs, and to become a good customer, because people won’t innovate if there is no reward. Investors will not back companies that are trying to sell to the public sector if the process is so convoluted that ultimately there is no return. A problematic public sector mindset is that ‘things must succeed when you do them’, which is incompatible with the startup mindset of ‘try something and see if it works’. Success emerges from failure – risks shouldn’t be taken in all areas of government, for good reason, but there need to be dedicated spaces for risk-taking if the public sector wants to support innovation.
Interested in hearing from more startup founders? Stay tuned for Part 2!
Solving the NHS staffing crisis: An interview with Patchwork
We spoke to Anas Nader, co-founder of previous GovStart company Patchwork, to hear about how they’re getting on since leaving the cohort and their plans for this year.
What is Patchwork and why did you embark on this venture?
Patchwork is on a mission to unlock effective flexible working in healthcare to solve the staffing crisis. With the rising tide of staff leaving the NHS in search of better work-life balance, vacant shifts are being filled by temporary staff from expensive recruitment agencies. This is costing the NHS billions it can’t afford.
As doctors and NHS managers, we’ve lived this reality ourselves. So we decided to bring our extensive knowledge of the sector and combine it with cutting-edge technology that we’ve built. We’re now helping fill hundreds of thousands of vacant shifts faster, easier, and cheaper, whilst empowering clinicians to work flexibly and give them back the work-life balance they deserve.
How are you solving the healthcare staffing problem?
For healthcare organisations, our bespoke service and tech saves money, time and effort, offers greater control, and creates an empowered and happier workforce. For healthcare workers, our app offers better work-life balance without impacting the NHS. Addressing both sides of this issue is essential if we are to retain the clinicians we need and prevent them from burning out, as well as protect the viability of the NHS for the next generation.
How far do you think you’ve got in solving this problem?
10,000+ clinicians across over 30 hospitals already use the Patchwork app, with over 1 million shift hours booked since launch. We worked with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on the launch of our initial pilot and the results were staggering. Chelsea & Westminster Hospital saw an incredible 90% of shifts filled directly through the hospital’s own staff bank as a result of the Patchwork platform, compared with 35% when using legacy systems. This meant a cost-saving of over £1.2m per year. If you think about the cost-saving implications of that when scaled across the whole of the NHS, it’s a game-changer that could dramatically improve NHS finances.
Tell us what’s new since leaving the GovStart program
2019 was an incredibly important year for the business. We were delighted to welcome new investors in recent months – raising £3m from Praetura Ventures, BMJ, and existing angel investors. This will provide the fuel needed to drive our next phase of growth. We’ve expanded our team to 37 and are proud of the talent, passion and commitment that the Patchwork team brings to healthcare. We’ve also launched new product features. We’re particularly excited about our new platform Patchwork Insights which enables Trusts to have true oversight of their staffing data for the first time.
Looking forward, what are your plans for 2020?
We are working with more and more NHS Trusts and other healthcare organisations every month and are implementing our technology with other staff groups as well this year. We take each new partnership incredibly seriously and work closely with each healthcare organisation to ensure our solution is tailored to meet their unique needs and goals. New products and features will also be launching, to ensure our solution continues to add value as the NHS’ journey evolves.
What advice would you give to early GovTech startups?
It makes a massive difference if you have lived the problem you are trying to solve. Our experience on the frontlines of the NHS means we understand the nuances and challenges facing healthcare staff and NHS management. That means when we speak to users or organisation, we can speak from a place of empathy and understanding. If you haven’t had that grassroots experience, take all steps possible to truly understand the lived experience of those you are advising and building tech for.
Want to join our next accelerator programme? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!