Supporting good ideas and promoting young entrepreneurs is what EXIST start-up grants are all about. They are awarded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and co-financed by the European Social Fund. In order to be selected, innovative start-up projects must either plan technology-oriented projects or science-based services with unique selling points and that have good prospects for economic success. Two Konstanz-based start-ups, Craftomatic and textada, have now started receiving this funding. The start-up initiative Kilometer1 at the University of Konstanz advises and supports both teams throughout the start-up phases.
Better control of time recording
During their studies in Kaiserslautern, Anna Brückner and Ivan Kostov developed their software idea: Craftomatic is designed to ensure fair and transparent time recording for work assignments outside the company building, for both employees and employers. After moving to the Lake Constance area, Brückner and Kostov continued to develop their software, with technical support from Professor Bastian Goldlücke (professor of computer vision and image analysis at the University of Konstanz), and decided to start a company here.
"We are developing a digital time clock for construction sites with attendance checks that use GPS," says Anna Brückner. "This makes working hours fair and transparent, both for the employee and the employer. Every minute worked is paid, no more and no less. Location information allows work schedules to be accurately determined and assigned to the corresponding projects." This in turn supports project cost planning. Initially, the product will be offered as a service, and, in the future, as a highly scalable software solution.
"This grant gives us the opportunity to fully focus on our start-up and develop our prototype to market readiness," explains the co-founder. "The valuable feedback from the university and the start-up initiative especially helped us with the application process, and it has opened doors for us to a great network."
Through the jungle of annotations
In times of digitalization, data and especially texts often have to be annotated first in order to use the information they contain. Texts need to be read extensively and predefined categories are assigned to relevant passages. With ever-increasing amounts of data and a growing need for annotated texts, this process is becoming more and more expensive and time-consuming.
Dr. Felix Hamborg, Franziska Weeber and Moritz Bock experienced that during their studies, before Hamborg developed methods to automate the time-consuming text analyses as part of his doctoral research. Based on his award-winning research and Weeber's master's thesis, the three – supported by mentor Andreas Spitz, junior professor for data and information mining at the University of Konstanz – are developing the annotation software textada, which they plan to offer in the form of software as a service. What is so special about textada? The software uses modern AI technology and suggests further annotations based on only few manual annotations. It can even annotate on its own once the AI reaches a certain level of quality.
"The monthly funding from the start-up grant not only gives us basic financial security while we are working on our project," Weeber emphasizes, and continues: "It also helps us hire experts and freelancers on a project-by-project basis, as well as purchase the hardware we need to implement our software as a service. Support in the form of coaching resources and start-up workshops also facilitates the transfer from scientific research to a business start-up."
- EXIST start-up grants are a funding programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, and they are co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF). All university members and graduates up to five years after graduation are eligible to apply.
- The start-up initiative Kilometer1 at the University of Konstanz advises and supports both teams throughout the start-up phases.
Founded by Anna Brückner (physics) and Ivan Kostov (computer science)
EXIST start-up funding begin: 1 May 2022 (duration 12 months)
Total funding amount: 105,000 euros
Mentor at the University of Konstanz: Professor Bastian Goldlücke
Founded by Dr Felix Hamborg (computer science), Franziska Weeber (social and economic data science), Moritz Bock (computer science)
EXIST start-up funding begin: 01 April 2022 (duration 12 months)
Total funding amount: 141,000 euros
Mentor at the University of Konstanz: Junior Professor Andreas Spitz
- The grants include funding for the founders as well as material and coaching resources.