UV Smart and PATS drones: Dutch tech startups show how survivors are real winners during COVID times

Health & Nutrition winners Blue Tulip Awards 2020: UV Smart & PATS drones

The judges have spoken, the results of the year-round ecosystem-driven program held in the Netherlands, the Blue Tulip Awards 2020 are in. In the health category, the quick and easy way to disinfect endoscopes in hospitals using UV-C light made by — Delft-based startup UV Smart — took the grand prize. 

While in the nutrition theme, the bat-like, bug busting drones of PATS, another startup from Delft in the Netherlands bagged the award. We spoke with both the Dutch companies about the present, future, and the Blue Tulip Awards. And just as the final event of the Blue Tulip Awards had to move online because of the current pandemic, we kicked off with asking how COVID-19 affected both businesses. 

UV Smart: Saves time for hospital workers during the pandemic

For Thijs Kea, co-founder of UV Smart, the pandemic is tragic, but it also brings an upside. “We have something that everyone wants”. That ‘something’ is a quick and easy way to fully disinfect anything. UV Smart won the Blue Tulip Award with their D60 disinfection station. The device is specifically designed for the medical world to thoroughly clean endoscopic devices after use. By reducing the time to clean from many hours to mere minutes, UV Smart can save hospitals a bunch of time. And because the endoscopic devices can be quickly turned over for the next patient, hospitals don’t need as many which reduces costs.

The D60 is UV Smart’s second device. It is currently in clinical trial and waiting for all the necessary certificates it needs as a medical device. It is scheduled to go on sale for May 2021. The D60 follows the D25, used for smaller medical equipment. This one, already on the market, is currently in high demand. With a global pandemic wreaking havoc, hospitals have to ration their PPE and ideally re-use whatever they can. A quick way to disinfect for example face masks could save lives. It didn’t take long for the phone at UV Smart to start ringing.

Disinfect masks with smart tech

“In the very beginning of the pandemic, we were mostly bummed out because it would mean certain parts from China were going to be delayed”, says Kea. “But when the virus landed here, it turned out to be a massive opportunity for us. For the past 2.5 years we’ve been talking to hospitals and we quickly heard they needed face masks. So we started to look for a way to safely disinfect the masks from the virus using our UV C-technology.” 

According to Kea, the first calls came in on March 5th after they scrambled to develop and test an emergency device. Based on the D25, the aptly called ‘Noodproduct’ (emergency device) was assembled by Kea and his team, and shipped to the first hospitals only two weeks later. 

The bat-effect of PATS drones

Meanwhile, for the winners in the nutrition category, the pandemic seems to have less of an effect. And while it is presumed that bats got us in a global pandemic, CEO and co-founder Bram Tijmons saw in them an inspiration for his PATS Drones. The drones can move around greenhouses like bats do, autonomously eliminating flying pests that could ruin crops. A sustainable way of pest control, considering the alternative is dousing the stuff in chemicals.

“The effects of coronavirus crisis are less felt in the nutrition category than it is in health,” says Tijmons. “We are still in development, so we’re not yet focused on revenue that we may lose. We do see that horticulture had its challenges. We were afraid that the will to invest was going to be affected, but now most growers are optimistic again.”

PATS drones on winning Blue Tulip Award for nutrition

Another reason for optimism is the fact that PATS drones won the Blue Tulip Award in the Nutrition theme. Tijmons: “It’s a great compliment, and it shows we’re on the right track. Winning the award also comes with a lot of attention and let’s be honest; we really don’t mind that. We think our product has the potential to be a game changer. It’s great to see that the judges, who know exactly how this world works, see this as well.”

According to Tijmons, the judges were mostly charmed by the sustainable approach of PATS when it comes to pest control, as well as the scalability and impact of their solution. “The world will need more food in the future with an increasing standard for safety. New rules and regulations will make pest control harder. Our solution can make the difference.” They did get some feedback from their mentor during the competition, Kees de Gooijer from TKI Agri&Food. “He really pushed us to jam our monetization model into that one minute pitch, and to highlight our scalability.”

UV Smart: A proud winner!

Kea is also proud to win the Blue Tulip Award in the Health theme. “Winning this has already given us some really good PR. And we made an agreement with Accenture, to use their knowledge. When it comes to business case identification, it is very valuable to learn from large corporations.” UV Smart also got the advice to adjust its pitch, to explain the D60 and its advantages in more simple terms. Kea: “We’ve been in deep for the past 2.5 years, which makes it hard to make a product sexy and explain it clearly in a couple of sentences. The validation always comes after you’ve created an image of the thing you’re selling. Luckily, the D60 is an easy sell, since it drastically reduces the time needed to get medical equipment ready.” 

UV Smart: Looking for new investors

The tweaked pitch might come in handy for Kea and UV Smart, as they are currently on the lookout for new investors. “We’re looking for the right investor to make the D60 available worldwide.” The company currently sells its D25 to hospitals in The Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Italy, Canada and even managed to sell a few in the Philippines. “The safety we offer, needs to be available everywhere. It’s not just about money. We’re looking for the influence an investor can have.” 

If they find one, then Kea is confident the future for UV Smart looks bright. In about two years he hopes to be a household name in European hospitals, but also to be ready to make the jump to the USA. Not counting the current emergency device, he also hopes to have a third product in the portfolio: a D60 that can also disinfect different types of endoscopes that require cleaning on the inside. 

PATS: The green alternative

For PATS, the future looks just as sunny. Especially when new EU regulations are set to outlaw pesticides even further. “Our indirect competitors are the chemical giants, but we offer a green alternative”, says Tijmons. For the foreseeable future, his company will focus on rolling out in the Westland area of The Netherlands, where the majority of horticultural activity is concentrated. But foreign adventures are likely. “We regularly have Koreans, Americans or Chinese dropping by, for instance when they visit the World Horti Center in Naaldwijk. They often ask us if we can already deliver our solution, or whether it works on different crops.” 

To answer that question with a ‘yes’, PATS has some work to do. Tijmons: “Nobody is doing what we are doing. But to develop both hardware and software takes a lot of time. It’s very hard to pinpoint the right moment to launch in the market, even when you’re not hundred percent ready. But you have to keep on taking steps.” To enable them to keep stepping up, they are shopping around for a new investment, although not too serious yet says Tijmons. “We’re looking around. But we’re a high-risk high-gain project. Very exciting, but also tricky to find a good match with investors.

This article is produced in collaboration with Accenture. Read more about our partnering opportunities.

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[MigVax in The Times of Israel] Their best shots: Israeli efforts to invent a coronavirus vaccine, explained

In what is believed to be the first appearance for Israeli scientists on the “landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines,” the Israel Institute for Biological Research and the Weizmann Institute of Science got a listing for their joint work on a vaccine design.

Read more here.

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[Lemonade in The Times of Israel] 5 Israeli-founded companies ranked in CNBC’s list of 50 Disruptor tech firms

Lemonade, an insurance technology firm that recently filed a Nasdaq IPO, is ranked 17th in CNBC’s list. Founded by Israelis Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, the firm has created a new business model for insurance, powered by artificial intelligence, to eliminate conflicts of interest between insurers and the insured, with a bot rather than an agent guiding customers applying for insurance.

Read more here.

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[Freightos in The Stat Trade Times] Alibaba, Freightos team up for new service on B2B ecommerce platform

Alibaba is partnering with Freightos, the online freight marketplace, to integrate freight procurement into its business-to-business e-commerce platform, the company announced. Alibaba Freight had been in a pilot phase for a couple of months and will now be available to buyers on certain trade routes.

Read more here.

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[Alpha Tau in The New York Times] Israeli Medical Device Maker Alpha Tau Raises $26 Million to Fund Trials

Israeli medical device maker Alpha Tau Medical said on Thursday it raised $ 26 million in a funding round from investors including Shavit Capital, Medison Ventures and OurCrowd to help finance global clinical trials.

Read more here.

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[Beyond Meat in Business Times] Half of Americans want meat-free options after industry’s crisis

Soy-based burger maker Impossible Foods and pea-based meat imitator Beyond Meat have spread into grocery stores across the US, and buying of meat alternatives had tripled from a year earlier in the eight weeks ended April 25, according to Nielsen data.

Read more here.

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[Kenna Security in Forbes] Why Customer Experience Pays Dividends In Times Of Crisis

In September, my company, Kenna Security, made a conscious decision to prioritize our customers’ experiences.

It was always important, but as our company rapidly grew, we wanted to make sure it was firmly ingrained in our culture. So, we created an entirely new role — vice president of customer experience — that reported directly to our CEO. This role has a broad mandate and philosophy, touching on everything from IT support to marketing to sales. The role is about making sure everyone in the company knows how their job impacts the customer’s ability to realize value with our product.

Read more here.

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[Pandemic Innovation Fund in Times of Israel Blog] Coronavirus challenge: Why OurCrowd is starting a $100m Pandemic Innovation Fund

Today, OurCrowd announces the launch of its Pandemic Innovation Fund. We plan to raise $ 100 million for investment in urgent technological solutions for the medical, business, educational and social needs triggered by global pandemics and other health emergencies.

Read more here.

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Cybersecurity in COVID-19 times: Join the PwC Cybersecurity Day 2020 (Sponsored)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic opens a new era for remote working and collaboration technology. This also leads to new challenges related to cybersecurity. The smartest approach businesses can take is to boost their cybersecurity, because this crisis is also an opportunity for the cyberattackers to thrive.

The PwC Cybersecurity Day on October 29 will provide many valuable insights from the latest international developments in cybersecurity and privacy. The event will focus on helping CISOs, DPOs and CEOs ensure they keep their organisation secure in a digital society. There will also be a pitch competition, and applications are open now!

In the lead-up to this event, today we’re already sharing some thoughts about Cybersecurity in COVID-19 times. More info can also be found directly on the PwC blog.

Cybersecurity in COVID-19 times

The entire globe has come to a halt by a tiny organism. Sure, some crisis plans may have considered pandemic related measures since the beginning, but a sizable majority didn’t or they underestimated the situation. Needless to say, all most plans were quickly outdated when the social distancing mandate came, and the use of office buildings was off the discussable options.

These days the pandemic has accelerated the remote-working adoption in business, fueled by both the fear of infection and running out of business. In a rush, companies have looked out for quickly-deployable solutions. These solutions range from buying electronic devices in retail shops to equip employees, deploying software for staff to work from home, setting up remote systems to work with such as Citrix, to name a few. Any measure has had to be deployed in a very short time frame.

But once the COVID-19 quick-and-urgent action stage is gone, businesses have to think through their current cybersecurity measures and how they have to be adapted or advanced because of the generalised implementation of remote work.

From panic to stability and what it means to cybersecurity

A common crisis denominator is panic. Oftentimes, the decision or methodology put in place to manage a crisis is motivated by fear and anxiety. But, if there is one thing that countless business stories have taught us, it is that both factors rarely help.

After severeal weeks of lockdown, people have surely started adopting certain habits, have started setting expectations and even think more creatively of what the weekends will look like even under the obvious limitations.

Somehow, the situation is reaching a certain stability, apart from the fact that the increased vigilance in the city remains and the anxiety around getting contaminated hasn’t really diminished. Stability means that, to some degree, there is acceptance of the situation. This is a critical time point: before convenience sets in, you need to reassess the technology that has been deployed, and rethink the security measures already taken and the ones that should be implemented throughout the crisis timeline.

This relatively more stable situation gives the opportunity to look back more comfortably. With less urgency to be attended, but still with the chance to get enough management attention, it’s time to get the much required cybersecurity budgets. And, this is also time for reflecting on the importance of the CIO and CISO at organisation level. This event is clearly demonstrating how companies are becoming increasingly dependent on digital technologies.

Assessing what’s at stake now and in a back-to-normal situation

During a crisis, decisions are taken at a rapid pace, obviously. The focus is on getting things up and running and a lot less on how secure the outcome of implementing the new measures will be. That’s understandable and even justifiable when time is against us. However, doing an inventory of the actions taken, the systems deployed, the accesses given, the software implemented (whether it has been a Bring-Your-Own-Device measure or not), etc, is key to thinking more thoroughly and defining a strategy around the current circumstance.

What if we never entirely get back to a situation like prior to the COVID-19 crisis? It will be one thing to regain mobility in the city or between countries but, will employees easily accept the fact that they will be dragged back into traffic jams, the rushy wake ups, the dress code, and being social after months of isolation or reduced physical interactivity?

Going back to “normal life” won’t happen overnight because it’s unlikely that the new reality will look like the one we had before COVID19. Both the positive and negative consequences of this crisis aren’t fully understood at this stage.

Understanding the risks of remote work & creating an adopted roadmap

The devil is in the details and details must surface when businesses have a clear overview of the situation and a sound inventory of the implemented measures, not only in terms of cybersecurity.

Since we all are still running against time, businesses need to define an acceptable risk level. In reality, any additional risk considerations that one would add to a remote work situation should be almost identical to risks in “normal” working environments. But, quite frankly, many businesses aren’t quite there yet. Instead, they’ll need to map the new risks and the mitigation measures to take, and document residual risk.

Once the mitigation actions are clear, the company can define priorities and create a roadmap to increase the security posture and reduce the risk exposure. Paramount for success is prioritisation and looking for mitigation measures that are beneficial in the long run, not only for the current situation. One big caveat is that it must be done remotely: project management, design stage, solution selection, vendor interaction and even deployment. And everything must be able to roll out without physical intervention.

The work-related changes due to the COVID-19 situation are likely to be here for a while. It comes with setbacks and opportunities, but if we manage it correctly we’ll come out safe and sound. If you want to learn more about cybersecurity during COVID-19 times, make sure to sign up for the PwC Cybersecurity Day 2020.


Social distancing in times of COVID-19: How Aura Aware ‘smart device’ has the world turning towards Amsterdam?

Dealing with a pandemic is tough but simple measures can definitely go a long way. While the governments of the European countries are now easing the lockdown and people are slowly getting back to work, it has become an important goal for all the tech companies to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Several tech startups have already come up with inventive solutions to ensure that people are safe from the ongoing pandemic. Aura Aware is one such startup! The Amsterdam-based company has recently developed a ‘smart’ device to help businesses maintain safe social-distancing for themselves and their customers.

A ‘smart’ social distancing device 

Aura Aware is basically a social distance sensor that warns if customers do not maintain a separation of at least 2 meters. Companies like IKEA are already using it. According to Janneke van den Heuvel, co-founder & CEO Aura Aware, “it is a great idea to maintain healthy social distancing during the pandemic.” 

The smart device is basically an LED panel that has a laser depth sensor at its base. It is capable of alerting people via audio-visual cues when they break the social distancing norm of 6 feet. It changes from green to red, to warn the person that they are too close. And if the person is not looking at the sign, in that case, if you approach less than 90 centimeters, a beep sound alarm goes on.

LIDAR tech: More accurate than Bluetooth and GPS

Aura Aware employs LIDAR technology, which is commonly used in self-driving cars to detect environmental objects and its quite a practical solution because it is not violent for the merchant or for the customer. Besides, distances can be customised from the mobile app, and also the activation of the audio alarm.

The company has already shipped 10,000 orders worldwide and is now ready to manufacture 200,000 more in the coming months. 

In an exclusive interview with Silicon Canals, Janneke van den Heuvel, founder & CEO Aura Aware says, “Since the device leverages LIDAR technology, it is also more accurate than Bluetooth and GPS. It can be synced via an app, which enables two additional functionalities. The first one is adjusting the distance. For example, one can set the device to go off at less or greater distances in case it is being used in another country where social distancing rules are different. Secondly, there’s an audio beeping notification as well, which can be turned on or off via the app. It is also a plug-in device, which means you can either plug it into a standard power charger, or a power bank.” 

Aura Aware: How it all started?

Aura Aware as an idea was conceptualised by Van Den Heuvel and her co-founder Steven Kroon. Van Den Heuvel is also the CEO of TryLikes, that develops software and hardware-based solutions to measure customer satisfaction on the shop floor. 

Talking about the origin of the product, Van Den Heuvel says, “At TryLikes, we help a lot of retail real-estate companies with optimising their customer experience. And we do that with various system solutions including hardware and software. For example, we help several supermarkets and large retailers with queue management, so they can open and close cash registers in a better way.”

She goes on saying, “With the COVID-19 outbreak, companies needed to address a new kind of situation. While providing a customer-friendly and service-minded experience is important, the first priority in the upcoming times is the creation of a safe environment for both, employees and customers. We thought about how we could implement our knowledge and solutions to meet this new demand, and how to pull this off in a smarter way instead of putting out some stickers and signs that are not interactive. And that’s how the idea was born.”

About five weeks ago. Soon after, the company built a prototype, tested it and things took off from there. 

‘Producing in the Netherlands’

Van Den Heuvel also reveals the current challenges Aura Aware is facing right now. “There is currently a notable shortage worldwide on various components for measuring distance. The challenge right now is to receive all components in time and perform fast deliveries. However, we are doing a good job in this aspect. This is mainly because of the various TryLights connections we have from the past. In order to ensure full quality control, we are producing the devices in the Netherlands. We have known this company for a long time, and they can do up to 200,000 units in a very short period of time.”

While Aura Aware is being sold in the Netherlands, it is also being shipped out for international orders. Van Den Heuvel says, “While we couldn’t yet find time to reach out to other countries yet, we’re getting on that as well. Already companies from all over the world ordered Aura Aware and we are shipping it to them. We expect the Aura Aware to be made available soon in the US, UK, Germany, Dubai, Australia, and a lot of different areas.”

One can buy Aura Aware from the company’s website and it will be shipped to you from the Netherlands. Available in different types of wood and colours, the device starts at €129 and can be customised to blend in with your home’s decor. Companies such as IKEA, Sodexo, and Jack’s Casino have already commenced using it in their stores and warehouses.

This article is produced in collaboration with StartupAmsterdam. Read more about our partnering opportunities.

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