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We all have heard of a chance encounter between two like-minded people, which later turned into a successful startup story. However, we rarely get to see the difficulties they face and the complications taking place behind the scenes.
The French AI startup DriveTrust is one such company that came into existence with tech and entrepreneurship fans Roman Prytkov and Tolga Varol meeting at the EIT Digital Master School. Now, the company has secured €1.5 million in funding to realise their goal of making driving a safer activity and here, we will tell you about what happened behind the scenes in turning an idea into reality.
How it all began?
As mentioned earlier, the two founders met at the EIT Digital Summer School, which is mandatory for students at the EIT Digital Master school. Realising that they share similar entrepreneurial passion, Varol and Prytkov started working on a smart tracking device that would note driving behaviours and help drivers improve. The idea was named DriveTrust and it turned into their summer school project, which they worked upon with two other members and pitched it at the competition but unfortunately, it was not selected.
“We wanted to think about how to prevent pollution and promote environmentally-friendly driving. That was too complicated. We then came up with a smart tracking device that could analyse driving behaviours and help drivers to improve in order to support traffic safety and eco-friendly driving. I don’t like hot headed drivers who cut corners,” says Prytkov.
EIT Digital Innovation Activity
Braving on after not being selected at the pitch meeting, the founders continued working on their idea and soon, the co-location manager of the EIT Digital satellite office in Rennes, Alvaro Pina Stranger, suggested to Prytkov that their idea should be put forward for an Innovation Activity at EIT Digital.
The Innovation Activity calls for proposals to advance innovation in Europe and those who participate can put in fresh ideas for a startup, product or a service. If approved, the person taking part in the EIT Digital Innovation Activity get co-funding and have a year to show progress and results. Prytkov took a chance and pitched DriveTrust at the EIT Digital headquartered in Brussel and it was selected.
The next challenge for DriveTrust was to find partners since one of the conditions in the application process is submitting a joint innovation plan. Additionally, one needs to find at least two partners, who are complementary organisations from the EIT Digital ecosystem.
Receiving the funding!
After going through about 200 European companies, Prytkov and Varol were able to submit their proposal with Belgium headquartered IMEC, the University of Rennes in France and CRF in Italy. The proposal was approved and as a result, DriveTrust raised €1.5 million in funding from the three other partners and EIT Digital. The leading European accelerator will be a shareholder of 25 per cent after the legal startup creation.
“I also got accepted into the Incubator, a programme within the EIT Digital Master School in Rennes in which you can work on an idea and develop a business case. The time spent there can be counted as an internship. I got help from other students – including the one who won the summer school pitch. I am happy that EIT Digital and its partner universities offered these opportunities,” Prytkov adds.
The story of DriveTrust is an inspiring one and if you want to hear more about their ideas and their startup, you can catch them at the upcoming EIT Digital Conference on September 10 and 11 to be held in Brussels. The two-day event will also host well-known speakers who have their own success stories to share, along with a wealth of wisdom on how one can make their idea a reality in this uber-competitive times. Participation in the event is free and you can register for it here.
Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more updates in the tech startup world.