The EU-Startups Conference, one of the most important start-up events in Germany, was held in Berlin on 14 March 2017. Among those in attendance was the Czech start-up Actijoy, which was named one of the fifteen best European start-ups. We sat down with the company’s founder, Robert Hašek, and asked him what made the conference so exceptional.
Q 1: First of all, what is Actijoy?
We operate on the smart-pet products market. Actijoy is a system of three smart devices that support the healthy lifestyle of not only dogs, but of the whole family. The system is composed of a fitness tracker – a sort of Fitbit for dogs that measures all activity, relaxation and various levels of your dog’s activity throughout the day. Another part of the system is a set of smart WiFi food and water bowls that record your pet’s total intake of food and water. The last part of the system is an application that combines the data from the bowls and the tracker.
Thanks to the fact that our system knows your pet’s daily habits, we can detect anomalies before they become serious health issues and warn the owner about them. We believe that smart devices can be beneficial not only for people, but also for household pets in preventing obesity and related disorders.
Q 2: What makes your start-up exceptional, enabling you to come so far?
Due to the fact that we are long-time pet owners and breeders, we know that proper care can significantly extend your pet’s life. We’re primarily targeting the American market, where a lot of pet owners are not familiar with proper care. According to the latest surveys, a full 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight and have problems because of that. Up to now, there have only been individual devices on the market that monitor either activity or only food intake. Furthermore, those devices don’t motivate owners to maintain their pets’ healthy lifestyle over the long term. Our system is the first device on the market that maps not only activity, but also food and water intake. It thus offers all information in a single step, on the basis of which it can adjust the daily amount of food in relation to activity. At the same time, it incorporates data from human pedometers and thus involves pet owners in competitions and challenges. Our system is about playfulness, fun and shared experiences. That is how we are different.
Q 3: How would you describe the conference?
Sharing ideas is the path to improvement. That, in my opinion, could be the motto of the EU Startups conference, which annually presents the most promising European projects, so we didn’t want to miss it!
Q 4: How did you come to participate in the conference?
Out of more than 140 registered start-ups, we were chosen by an expert jury as one of only 15 projects that could take part in the competition for the most innovative European start-up. Start-ups from the whole European Union presented their original ideas in a pitch competition.
Q 5: How was the conference beneficial for you?
We highly value the opportunity to take part in this conference. The most important thing for us was the possibility to present our project to the expert public, investors and specialists. Another important aspect was establishing a lot of new contacts in the networking part of the programme.
Q 6: What was the most powerful moment for you?
That’s easy; of course it was our appearance on the stage and presenting Actijoy to the conference participants. Imagine that you’re standing on a stage in front of a hall full of people. The lights are shining, stop watches are counting down the precisely measured time. You can’t succumb to emotion and you have to flawlessly present your project in English.
I have to say that everything turned out great. In the end, we enjoyed it. The subsequent positive response assured us that our work makes sense! The lecture part was also very inspirational for us, as we had the opportunity to listen to the inspiring stories of speakers from the ranks of successful entrepreneurs. We were most captivated by Peter Vesterback, founder of Rovio (Angry Birds), and Jesper Buch, who conversely presented in a very original, even vulgar way. His presentation was very heartfelt and enlightening.
Q 7: How would you rate the conference?
Looking back, I rate it very positively. It was extremely beneficial and interesting for us. Good organisation ensured smooth running and a pleasant atmosphere, which we fully enjoyed. The diverse spectrum of participants opened up new horizons for us and we are even more motivated to continue our work.
Q 8: To conclude, please tell us about your plans for the immediate future.
This month we reached a planned milestone in our project and it’s about time to start actively seeking a strategic partner, which of course doesn’t have to be only from the ranks of investors. In a few days, we’re going to New York for TechCrunch Disrupt, where we hope to get an opportunity to meet with a suitable partner for our further development. TechCrunch Disrupt is a major event in the start-up environment. It is an exhibition at which start-ups from around the world present their new technologies. It is a place that shows you where current innovations are heading. The event is primarily attended by investors, the expert public and everyone who is interested in today’s tech world, so participation in such an event is a dream of many start-ups.
Thanks to CzechInvest’s support within the CzechDemo project, our journey to TechCrunch is easier. We believe that we will get the maximum out of it and come back with a lot of useful contacts.