The EiR Program: A Venture Development Retrospective

Lessons Learned From Our First EiR Cohort

We were completely blown away by the response to our EiR program launch in September 2020.

Hundreds of applications streamed in from entrepreneurs across the globe. From this, we narrowed down the applications to just 80 initial interviews. After a thorough vetting process and a series of exploratory interviews, we selected final candidates to form part of our very first EiR cohort.

Each candidate brought high-caliber industry knowledge and extensive insights to co-innovate a new venture for the Machine Economy. These candidates were selected because we felt that they demonstrated the best alignment to NBT’s overall portfolio strategy and technology fit.

Since this was our very first experience with the EiR program, we are viewing it as a ‘work in progress’ and taking it as an opportunity to constantly learn alongside you — the visionary, entrepreneur, and future founder.

With this mindset and agile approach, we aim to offer the very best EiR program out there to fast-track the development of IoT, ML, or DLT ventures.

💡EiR Program Recap

Next Big Thing AG established a four-month EiR program for entrepreneurs to build, test, and refine new ideas into venture-funded companies. The program itself is divided into 6 stages of venture development, where EiRs will need to achieve predefined objectives by the end of each sprint.

The link below takes a look at the inner workings of the EiR program if you would like to learn more 👇

All program participants receive a package that includes salary, office space, VD support, and expert advice from different services teams. At the end of the EiR program, selected projects will get founded and receive an initial investment of €100k + 2k hours of services.

As a true testament to the nature of venture studios, we would like to share our EiR program success by highlighting the value of our efforts and plans for the future by conducting a venture development retrospective.

🧗‍♀️ Why Do A Retrospective?

First and foremost, a retrospective is an opportunity to learn and improve. It’s a look back at past events, processes, or works that were produced. A retrospective is intended to reveal facts or feelings which have measurable effects on future performance. This establishes a benchmark against which to measure success and helps with constructing ideas for improvements based on these observations.

Retrospectives can take many different shapes, however, in their simplest form they should answer 3 core questions:

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well?
  • What can we improve on going forward?

While a retrospective could cover the overarching venture development process, we have instead taken a more granular approach in doing an analysis of each EiR and their respective venture.

👋 Meet Our EiRs

📈 EiR Metrics

Looking back at our first EiR program experience, we have found that using a retrospective technique provides a basic framework for keeping the team focused on the most important aspects of the business case and combining our strengths to solve problems and achieve goals.

Below is a high-level overview of NBT’s first EiR cohort. Here’s what we discovered👇

🧪 Vitreo — Max Drechsler

About: Vitreo optimizes the management of IBC supply chains with IoT sensors.

Ropes (What helped us reach our goal?): Vitreo had a very clear value proposition to begin with. Even in the initial stages of product discovery, there was a clear use case and existing customer base.

Boulders (What stood in our way?): During the early stages of product development, we focused on eliminating bad bets and making sure to achieve the right product/market fit.

First Aid (What help was needed along the way?): The product is still currently in the development stage and is undergoing further testing. In parallel, the growth strategy is being developed and future milestones are being mapped out.

Next Peak (What do we have our sights set on next?): We are working toward piloting the product.

Industry Insights (What industry-specific takeaway was unearthed?): Currently, supply chains in the chemical industry are highly complex and there’s a critical need for a better overview to increase supply chain efficiency and accuracy.

Words from Max ✍️

What was a highlight during the EiR program?

  • It was an eventful four months of intense work with a skilled and knowledgeable team. There was a perfect balance of support offered by NBT and the autonomy and accountability to explore and validate the business case. One of my core highlights was during the program’s final month, where we needed to pitch to the board and deep-dive into the financial and legal implications of the venture. The EiR program was a guided crash course in founding a venture with expert support along the way.

What did you find most challenging during the EiR program?

  • It was challenging to deliver a business case within the four-month time constraint. However, it was a valuable lesson to learn about all the contributing factors that exist when running a company.

What is a unique insight you can share about your experience?

#1. NBT’s EiR program created an environment for entrepreneurs and mentors to exchange valuable knowledge and ideas, with support at every stage of the venture development process. For anyone looking to gain access to the tech space with a company that can drive success and valuable industry change, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

Learn more about Max Drechsler and Vitreo.

💰 Skytale — Enrico Mariotti

About: Skytale develops a holistic plug&play API solution to deposit, stake, swap, and invest in decentralized finance.

Ropes (What helped us reach our goal?): We experienced an enthusiastic market response to the use of DLT technologies. Enrico had a lot of meaningful customer discovery discussions and derived many product-defining insights from them.

Boulders (What stood in our way?): For many DLT companies, finding the right use case is often challenging as the technology offers a variety of opportunities. We experienced this to some degree and ended up pivoting in the middle of the EiR program and completely changed the use case.

First Aid (What help was needed along the way?): Support was needed during the EiR program to fine-tune and finalize the go-to-market strategy.

Next Peak (What do we have our sights set on next?): Finalizing the core founding team and bringing onboard Enrico’s co-founder, Michal Geci.

Industry Insights (What industry-specific takeaway was unearthed?): Blockchain technology is on the radar of most companies, however, many have difficulty in choosing a specific use case to explore and develop.

Words from Enrico ✍️

What was a highlight during the EiR program?

  • I developed a solid business relationship with Simon Bernard, the VD assigned to my case. His cleverness and data-driven approach made him the best sparring partner an EiR could hope for.
  • At every stage of the program, I felt completely trusted and supported by NBT’s VD team. NBT’s venture approach was personalized, flexible, and they adapted to my needs.

What did you find most challenging during the EiR program?

  • Since the EiR framework is still in its infancy, greater clarity is needed around the approval chain, and when certain processes should begin (e.g. customer discovery).
  • NBT is an industry leader in the field of IoT but is fairly new to the DLT space. There’s an opportunity to look into leveraging additional existing blockchain cohorts.

What is a unique insight you can share about your experience?

#1. It’s crucial to validate a blockchain business case by exploring customer discovery from day 1 since the market is already crowded.

#2. VCs require a strong USP (unique selling point) and many potential customers still need to be educated about blockchain technology.

#3. EiRs should create a map of competitors, user needs, and value chains that is constantly referred back to and challenged frequently.

Learn more about Enrico Mariotti and Skytale.

🚘 Smartire — Irfanul Haque

About: Smartire aims to achieve maximum tire life by making use of digital twin technology and actionable insights.

Ropes (What helped us reach our goal?): Customers that were interviewed recognized the current problems and costs associated with tire maintenance.

Boulders (What stood in our way?): Challenges arose when defining the product, its features, and developing the first version (PoC).

Why was this business case halted? After extensive market research, we observed that the intended target audience (mining facilities and mining fleet owners) is an extremely difficult market to target in the current economic climate.

What happens when a business case is halted? Halting the development of a business case is a possible outcome that is clearly communicated from the beginning of the hiring process and founders are aware that it might be how the journey ends. However, even if it’s not the result we had initially hoped for, we believe that the four months we spend working together with a founder is an enriching experience that supports the candidate’s development, business acumen, and future career path.

Learn more about Irfanul Haque.

👓 Makula Technology — Mohammad Khan (Emkay)

About: Makula Technology aims to help manufacturing companies improve their line/machine overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) with secure guided maintenance and analytics via a ‘smart vision’ solution.

Ropes (What helped us reach our goal?): Speaking to potential customers significantly helped us learn what we needed to do to communicate a complex technology into a workable product that answers specific user needs.

Boulders (What stood in our way?): Fine-tuning the pricing structure and the financial planning.

First Aid (What help was needed along the way?): Clearly defining the target market by looking more deeply into which strategy would result in the highest customer acquisition(bottom-up/top-down approach).

Next Peak (What do we have our sights set on next?): Currently, Makula Technology is in the legal stages. The next step is getting the venture founded.

Industry Insights (What industry-specific takeaway was unearthed?): Maintenance work in packaging facilities is still an extremely cost-intensive exercise and many companies are still at the very beginning of the digital innovation adoption curve.

Words from Emkay ✍️

What was a highlight during the EiR program?

  • The EiR program felt like a hands-on crash course or MBA-style program for learning how to rapidly establish a successful tech startup. The opportunity to speak and learn from experienced professionals within the NBT network (spanning across tech, growth, and recruitment) was the highlight of my EiR experience.

What did you find most challenging during the EiR program?

  • The most challenging aspect was reaching prospects to discuss their challenges and current practices. As outreach began toward the end of 2020, most prospects were busy or on vacation, which put a constraint on the customer discovery sprint. Ultimately, we were able to overcome this challenge, but it took longer than expected.

What is a unique insight you can share about your experience?

#1. The business case that I initially proposed was dramatically redefined to the solution that it is today. The credit for this improvement goes to all the internal (NBT experts) and external (potential customers) discussions that ensured that we are building a solution that is feasible, desirable, and viable for our target customers.

Learn more about Mohammad Khan and Makula Technology.

🏁 Get Involved: Join NBT’s EiR Program

Although our EiR program is still fairly new, we have already discovered unique insights on what’s working well and what can be improved upon to build new companies in record time.

Based on the first EiR cohort, we have adapted our sprint deliverables and the overall shape of the EiR program. What’s even better is that we are taking submissions now!

If you’re inspired to work on a new idea in the fields of Construction Tech, Proptech, Industry 4.0, DLT, Pharma, or the Machine Economy — apply to our EiR program today!

Curious to know more about NBT? Learn about us here👇



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Next Big Thing AG

Next Big Thing AG

Europe’s leading venture studio for the Machine Economy that co-founds deep-tech companies with aspiring founders & corporates.