Scaling VAMPIRE through WFP’s Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp

Derval Usher, Pulse Lab Jakarta’s Head of Office, pitching VAMPIRE to investors, friends and partners of WFP.

Pulse Lab Jakarta and our good friends and colleagues from WFP Indonesia not long ago had the opportunity to spend a week at WFP’s Innovation Accelerator bootcamp in Munich, Germany putting VAMPIRE through its paces. VAMPIRE, our early warning system for drought prototype was selected along with another six WFP and three external fabulous teams from around the globe, all sharing the goal of getting dedicated support to take our ideas or prototypes to impact and scale.

From the Monday morning kickoff with a deep dive into user research, it was clear that this week of bootcamp in Munich wasn’t going to be a holiday in the European sunshine! WFP has amassed an amazing repertoire of partners including technical mentors from Google Launchpad, and during the bootcamp we were very privileged to have a cadre of skilled advisors and mentors on hand to guide us through the week’s activities of taking our ideas and early prototypes to a more mature stage.

Some of the takeaways from the bootcamp:

Design with the user in mind

Considerable effort was spent in defining and identifying the users of our prototype. The key in developing new ideas is understanding who the users are, which is also important where transformational change through process automation occurs, as end users may not be completely apparent at the start of the design process.

“Technology is not an asset, it’s a liability.”

That was probably one of our favourite quotes of the week (Thanks to Tim from Google!). Technology is a critical component of any business and increasingly so in the development and humanitarian sectors. Prioritising resources, specialised skill sets and management of business processes helps to minimise risk of failure and subsequent cost and disruption to business operations. Therefore, clear technological leadership is important at the helm of any organisation.

Define your value proposition and build the business case

Even though we were all working on development or humanitarian issues, we were repeatedly advised to never forget about the business case for our project. A reasonable advice considering at some stage we all need a sustainable home for our projects and without understanding the business case around who will pay for it, what technical capacity is required and who will maintain a system, there is really no point in building a prototype in the first instance.

It’s all about the networks

Possibly our biggest success of the week was the opportunity to liaise with other bootcamp teams and WFP advisors and mentors. VAMPIRE is demand driven in the Asia Pacific region, but we were less aware of the value that automation could contribute to internal WFP processes. The opportunity to meet directly with WFP staff working on vulnerability assessments and geographic information system (GIS) globally was very powerful and eliminated any doubts we had that VAMPIRE may only be an Asia-Pacific region solution.

We created partnerships and mapped out collaborations with like-minded start-ups. We identified synergies, particularly with teams behind the Humanitarian Logistics platform and Cloud to Street who map flooding around the world. Parts or all of the VAMPIRE prototype can be incorporated into other projects, plus the VAMPIRE code as an open source tool can be shared far and wide.

Sharing a smile with colleagues from WFP during the bootcamp

The culmination of the bootcamp week was the opportunity to ‘pitch’ in front of an audience of 200 investors, friends and partners of WFP. Condensing our whole progress into a three-minute pitch outlining the problem, our proposed solution and investor request was extremely worthwhile as was the opportunity to follow up with interested partners and investors after the pitch. Kudos to the Innovation Accelerator team for getting us all pitch ready and for the wide ranging partners attending Google’s office in Munich to hear 10 awesome and innovative pitches.

The next stage is to produce an application for WFP’s sprint programme (an intensive 3–6 month acceleration that helps projects and start-ups reach proof of concept and/or develop prototypes ready for implementation) which can catapult emerging prototypes into scalable solutions which is currently beyond the scope of our prototyping lab and WFP’s country office. But with dedicated support from the sprint programme, we could really scale the Vampire platform so its becomes a regional platform.

It is our hope that based on the knowledge that we gained over the productive week in Munich, we have gathered the acumen and proficiency required to take us to the next stage. We will keep you informed….


Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Australia.