CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE • SEEDSTARS WORLD
MARCH 19, 2021
The Central and Eastern European region has been a case of growth over the last decades, with an increase in market openness, low levels of unemployment and living standards catching with those of Western Europe. The region recorded an average growth of 114% in GDP per capita between 1996 and 2017 according to Mckinsey, compared with an increase of just 27% in the European Union’s “Big Five” economies: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. This context has turned the region into an attractive location for investments.
The region seems to have developed resilience and it is powering through the pandemic better than the other regions: the annual GDP of CEE countries contracted by around 5.3% in 2020, compared with 8.9% in the euro area (data from the FX Empire). Safeguarding this resilience may pass by an added investment in digitisation, that will in turn increase productivity. The population of these countries is now deeply engaged in digital channels - 12 million new users of online services appeared in CEE, according to Mckinsey’s survey - and CEE’s digital economy has already surpassed traditional models. But its full potential has not been reached yet and the possibility for expansion is high.
As contributors to this growth and its safeguarding, the region needs entrepreneurs and companies that use tech and innovative ideas as their bottom line. Workers need access to knowledge and skill development platforms that will empower them to use such ideas. They all need each other to bring real sustainable development for an ever growing region. And Seedstars is happy to reveal the Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 local winners for the CEE region.
The Payze team
There are 700 mil Muslims worldwide that are young and digitally connected, but they don't use banking products (credits or deposits) due to a lack of Islamic products. IMAN creates a digital gateway between Muslim investors based in developed markets and Muslim shoppers based in frontier markets.The platform from Uzbekistan is a full-stack halal finance solution for investors, merchants, and shoppers. Headed by Rustam Rahmatov, IMAN offers a PoS lending solution to online & offline retailers allowing them to launch online sales and offer instalment financing to their customers.
Helping bridge companies’ transition into the digital scenario and facilitating businesses’ conversion into a more sustainable eCommerce ecosystem is fundamental, at a moment when digital sales are at its peak. PAYZE comes into the game as a one stop shop for all e-commerce related online payments for CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. “By providing automated payment management tools, we are empowering companies involved in electronic commerce to grow by 30% and decrease time spent by accounting teams by 80%," says Gega Topadze, the CEO of the platform based in Georgia. On the matter of saving time and easing procedures, Flipful has a say: it is usually complex and time-consuming for companies to issue a salary advance to its employees, particularly in bigger companies. When providing a salary advance gets easy, employers can give freedom to their employees to access their earned salaries and pay their unexpected bills on time. Employees can then avoid expensive payday loans and increase their financial wellbeing. And it’s with that in mind that Flipful, the winner from Latvia, created a solution for companies to motivate their employees by enabling the payment of their salaries whenever they need it.
When it comes to online investing in general, the market is saturated and the options can be confusing. In the particular case of investing into properties online through property crowdfunding can be difficult because platforms are short on trustworthy information about its accounts, along ceaseless registration processes and liquidity issues. BrikkApp from Czech Republic comes into the market to make property investing easier for everyone. BrikkApp is a platform that collects, analyses, and aggregates data for the property crowdfunding industry and hosts them all conveniently in one marketplace, enabling investors to access independent and concise market data, while cooperating with platforms to bring transparency into the market. With this offer, users are able to invest in multiple platforms, all from one convenient dashboard, making it the only “one-stop-shop” for real estate crowdfunding investing on the market.
The TomYo team
Studying abroad is commonly perceived as a farfetched possibility for low income families. A global perspective and language learning have become most in demand skills, but it’s the segment in education with the biggest gap, owing to financial and geographical constraints. Tomyo makes it easy and relevant for everybody to have the opportunity of studying abroad. With a few simple questions, TomYo's recommendation engine (AI model) matches prospective students with their most optimal learning journey on language courses, adaptive tests, mentors and agencies, based on the user's learning pattern. The company from Mongolia and headed by Eja Batbold empowers peer to peer learning and teaching through their platform, making it intuitive and easy for everyone.
And to help teachers save up to 20 hours per week by automating grading and advanced analytics, OKOO from Kazakhstan conceived an online educational platform that helps teachers conduct better CS classes. With the current model, teachers spend a lot of time on paperwork and students don't receive personalised and adaptive learning to their unique learning capabilities.
In a moment marked by lockdowns, that often include school closures, ABC Planet is pioneering the concept of Remote Preschooling in order to ensure continuity of learning in the event of a prolonged school closure or as consequence of distinct personal handicaps (e.g. disability, injury, regional or cultural obstacles). The platform from Azerbaijan delivers a complete preschool curriculum virtually, revolutionising early childhood learning with the magic of gamification in education, personalised learning and progress tracking, all factors powered by AI. In short, ABC Planet strongly believes that teachers should be teaching, students should be present, and technical issues should be gone. Simply put, their remote schooling tools organise everything in the background while education happens.
Staf Online Team
Staf Online is a global job board based in Moldova that connects employers and job seekers in a transparent and accessible way. “The main problem that we identified is that jobs published on many platforms don’t provide enough information and safety to job seekers to make an important decision in life. Thus, employers and job seekers lost a lot of time in the recruitment process, to understand at the end that they don’t match with each other”, says George Teaman, the founder. Staf Online enters the market to find better employment opportunities, to facilitate more efficient communication between companies and candidates, and to make the recruitment process more friendly and pleasant. All in an ecosystem where people can find a job based on location criteria, directions, surroundings, public transport, the main living indicators, salary, reviews, and other useful information.
Hiring is just the first step. But it’s common knowledge that generating an open and easy communication with employees is crucial to get good results and happy teams. HR KIT® is a mobile app where employees can see and interact with company news and announcements, message all levels of management, be part of work groups, educate themselves and receive performance feedback. Gallup estimates that 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work, while HR departments are limited in doing administration instead of assisting on employee development. Georgios Pantoulas and Elias Letsios, the founding members from Bulgaria, have seen throughout their career how a bad working environment is detrimental to a company and so they built this app to solve engagement problems they experienced throughout their working life.
Empowering large communities and teams to sum up minor contributions and achieve major goals - that’s what Zelos from Estonia wants to help with. Zelos is a management app for gig work and communities that want to launch a private talent marketplace. Communicating and task dispatch for large volumes of people in the ways of gig economy is a major management overhead.
The Alter team
There are no doubts on how digitation and how tech can help with health matters, democratising the access to health care, therapy and assistance, whenever, wherever. In the field of special needs, the number of specialists worldwide doesn’t meet the demand. Sadly, many children can be waitlisted for years before getting any help. And noomee was born to offer a solution that aims at filling the gap of therapists by combining new technologies, professional and industry skills, all to revolutionise therapy. By tackling the issue of scarce resources with disruptive tech and providing support to more children, the company from Armenia works to increase impact, inclusion, and accessibility. noomee is a digital tool that helps turn special needs children into special abilities, by offering therapy options at home. The tool provides solutions to the main issues faced by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their parents and any specialist working with them. The app can be customised to each disorder’s specification and cultural differentiation.“More special needs families will have daily access to affordable occupational therapy methods and tools for increased progress toward independence”, says the founder Gayane Hovhannisyan.
Healthcare professionals need to regularly attend seminars and training, often physically, which can represent a logistical and time disturbance. With the idea of offering free and fast mobile solutions that will boost professional knowledge and informational awareness of doctors and pharmacists, PharmBonus Application connects all types of medical professionals in an educational, informational and communicative mobile platform, developing a global educational and networking process among healthcare specialists. The platform from Belarus gathers information from partners, aggregates international researches and publications and creates its own media content, allowing healthcare professionals to have everything they may need easily accessible on their mobiles - news, webinars, presentations and other resources.
What if you could have an AI psychologist? In times when the psychological health of populations has been put at stake, as a consequence of several pandemic related reasonings, such as loss of family members, lockdowns or loss of jobs, there are platforms offering trustworthy and accessible help online. Elomia is an AI that replaces a psychologist. It listens, understands, and provides psychological support 24/7 while being 40 times cheaper. The company estimates that 500 million people all around the world are struggling with depression. But 96% of those who seek help will never reach out to a psychologist. The reason being the stigma, high price of psychological services and the fear of privacy violations (70% of clients lie to their psychologists with fear of being judged). “Our mission is to make psychological support accessible for everyone no matter their location, income or time on the clock. We do truly believe that, in the future, a virtual psychologist will be the main way to get basic psychological help. And Elomia gives the first step to revolution in the field of psychology”, says Taras Pohrebniak, the founder from Ukraine, who leads a team of psychology and AI specialists. Alter, from Russia, is on the same boat, providing access to effective and safe psychotherapy for people in need while offering standardised quality of services, legal protection, and automation for psychotherapists and their clients. The objective is to promote mental well-being, while increasing the awareness of mental health and the de-stigmatisation of psychotherapy.
And while treating any disease is of the utmost importance, prevention should be the key, allowing healthcare facilities to focus on real health emergencies, particularly in markets where health facilities are scarce or overused. In Romania, Andrei Vasile created SanoPass, a platform that connects, digitises, customises and integrates medical prevention services. The beneficiaries have fast and close access to quality medical services, using the latest technologies in the medical field, integrating AI medical providers and Telemedicine, always ensuring transparency, flexibility and adaptability in providing health benefits.
Offering an online-like customer experience on an offline reality is the challenge of many retailers. And that includes predicting purchase patterns, directing customers to their desired products, saving them time and also importantly, collecting information about the buyer. Scan and Buy helps traditional retailers reach out to customers the same way online retailers do, based on user data, predictive analysis, and targeted marketing. The platform founded by Vadim Titov further provides mobile shopping user experience to the offline retail, using image recognition, augmented reality and mobile self-checkout.
Minimising economic loss in agriculture is fundamental, being by predicting pests or diseases, or by increasing the output value of productions. Fresh Agriculture Technologies, Inc. aims to create a digital revolution in the world of traditional fruit growing by arming the growers with the tools that will help them make better and more precise decisions. The company, based in Serbia, developed MapMyApple, the first AI-powered digital agronomy consultant that helps individual apple growers, agronomy consultants and apple production companies to predict pests or diseases on time, to save money, by optimising the number of spraying activities, and to make more money by achieving higher yields. For both individual apple growers and big companies, MapMyApple pests and diseases predictions and recommendations for spraying help them save up to EUR 655 per hectare. Time and money is the key problem that MapMyApple focuses its quest on: helping minimise losses and save money with the same or higher output quality. “We believe that MapMyApple can change how fruit growing is done around the globe," says David Blazevski, the founder.
The CEE is a thriving market: thriving with economic opportunities, but also with talent, know-how and will to push forward. Always with the spotlight shining on people, communities and companies’ needs, the winners of the Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 change peoples lives in various forms: either by bring health to the front row, pushing for groundbreaking solutions, or by fostering the access to education by anyone, wherever, whenever, or by creating tools that allow businesses to perform better and grow faster, boosting wages and living standards. But most importantly, they inspire, thrust development, change and progress.
17 startups from the CEE region will compete to represent their country at the Regional Finals. Tune in on February 22 to catch these innovative startups go head to head in the Seedstars Regional Stage. Follow Seedstars on Facebook to watch the broadcast online.
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