Startups are redefining the world of work, and never has that been more evident than at BETAPITCH Challenge organized by betahausX team, as attendees sipped Club Mate to the throbbing beat of an improvised DJ set. The pitching contest aimed to shine a light on the groundbreaking work happening in developing tech startups. And this year competition was tighter than ever; out of 269 entrants, 12 finalists from 9 countries were selected to pitch their product to an expert team of judges and investors. Prizes up for grabs included a spot at BETAPITCH Global 2019 and six cash prizes amounting to a total of 12,000€, as well as the grand prize: developing a Proof of Concept (PoC) with some of the leading public transport companies in the Berlin-Brandenburg region: BVG, DB, VBB and ViP.
For the occasion betahausX teamed up with the Toyota Mobility Foundation, a company on a mission to build a more accessible world for all. Together, we developed a programme to support startups in optimising public transport for individuals with reduced mobility. Collectively, these individuals make up a large, often overlooked group when it comes to infrastructure, but the competing startups are set to change all of that. From wheelchairs to pushchairs and beyond, our finalists were responsible for developing smart solutions to a host of mobility problems.
We kicked off with a high-energy DJ set that aimed to bring people together through music. Layering abstract samples over a thumping techno beat, Diego had the crowd on its feet within minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the day. Music was followed by a speech from moderator Wibke, who highlighted the key themes of the day and introduced the jury members. Two prominent Heads of Passenger Information were among the judges: Alexander Pilz from VBB and Timo Kerssenfischer, representing BVG. They were accompanied by Fabiola Hochkirchner, an investor in tech startups, and heading the jury was Shin Aoyama, President of Secretariat of The Toyota Mobility Foundation.
We enjoyed a diverse series of pitches, but one recurring idea was navigation solutions for indoor spaces. Apps like Proximi.io and UK-based Pointr and Briteyellow took different approaches to contextualising spaces in order to guide users seamlessly to their destination. Beesonix combat this problem using their internet of sound to create beacons, constantly relaying inaudible announcements between the transport and the user’s phone to create a more efficient travel experience.
Data science was the driving force behind Motion-S S.A., which contextualises geolocation data. Meanwhile, Counterest provide ultrasonic tracking software that detects crowd density, enabling travel companies and passengers with mobility issues to make informed decisions about their routes. Here Counterest’s representative demonstrated the implementation of their prototype in Barcelona, which successfully evened out the peaks in demand.
Assistance for visually impaired passengers was another big concern, with Be My Eyes and Guide Me by Bischof Innovation & Technology both offering user-friendly apps that allow users to request immediate assistance via video calls. This concern was shared by Dutch company Flow.ai, who have developed smart conversational AI technology that can act as the eyes and ears for travellers with reduced mobility.
We also heard from companies who are taking revolutionary approaches to mapping like Vesputi, an advanced public transport platform that tailors routes to the users’ needs, creating a more streamlined experience. Other innovative products included apps that allow users to plan a route that works for them. Berlin-based Walkingmoms provides a community platform for parents to plan their routes by diagnosing barrier issues on public transport and suggesting alternative solutions. Meanwhile, iGeolise suggests routes and calculates travel times for wheelchair users in order to make travelling more manageable.
At the end of a long day of pitching and networking, it was up to the jury to crown the winning startups. This time, Bischof and Beesonix took the top spots, with Bischof winning the opportunity to implement their Proof of Concept (PoC) for Guide Me with DB and VBB. Beesonix, meanwhile, will work with BVG to develop their software into a PoC.
6 startups also won cash prizes sponsored by the Toyota Mobility Foundation: Bischof and Be My Eyes both took home 3000€, while Beesonix and Counterest each won 2000€. Vesputi and Walkingmoms were each awarded 1000€ to further develop their product. A special mention goes to Briteyellow, who won the chance to pitch at the BETAPITCH Global finals here in Berlin. To round the day off, betahausX awarded a bonus prize of 3 months free coworking at betahaus: Neukölln to all 13 finalists.
The 10 Years in beta party was also the official opening of betahaus | Neukölln. Spring was the perfect time for our new project to start growing. The Club Lounge started filling, amazing new teams joined the community such as LAUDO, Obst Digital, Wonderwerk, Trybe and The Zeitsprung Project. Our Gil became the Lord of the house, giving hugs to everybody, fixing all kinds of problems in the ‘haus and keeping it run smoothly with the rest of the Front Desk team. This was also the month when we launched our beloved weekly yoga classes guided by our dear Cynthia from Arrive Yoga.
" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’
In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.
In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ.
Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture.
Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails.
This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.
‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)
''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’ - Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus)
This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.
Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.
One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.
This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.
We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.
Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.