EIT Digital, the European digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organisation, has announced the winners of its EIT Digital Challenge scaleup contest 2021.
This year’s 20 finalists were chosen from a record number of 409 scaleups from 33 countries who applied in this 8th edition of the EIT Digital’s flagship contest for digital deep tech companies. The companies applied in one of five strategic innovation areas: Digital Tech, Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Finance and Digital Wellbeing.
The winners of this year’s competition have raised on average €7M funding, have an average revenue of €1.4M, and an average team size of 45 people.
Speaking on the development, Maxine Roper, co-founder of Connecting Food, says, “I was really impressed by the level of the companies that I saw pitching, really promising companies, we are very proud that Connecting Food was chosen. We have really great work to be doing, and we are thrilled to be accelerated by the EIT Digital team.”
All three companies will receive 12-months of international growth support from EIT Digital Accelerator worth €50,000. The winners will also be supported in scaling up their business in Europe, securing international customers in target markets as well as in raising growth funding. Additionally, the first prize winner will also receive a cash prize of €100,000.
A record number of 409 scaleups from 33 countries applied in the 8th edition of the EIT Digital’s flagship contest for digital deep tech companies.
“We do not organise the EIT Digital Challenge for the sake of having yet another startup competition,” states Chahab Nastar, Chief Innovation Officer at EIT Digital.
Nastar further adds, “Our ambition is for Europe to build global dominant companies. The 20 finalists are the top 5 per cent among 409 submissions that we have received. The popularity of the EIT Digital Challenge makes the competition extremely selective. All 20 finalists have the potential to become European Unicorns. The jury saw outstanding qualities in the three winners. We now welcome them into the EIT Digital Accelerator and will give them hands-on dedicated support for pan European fundraising and customer acquisition.”
The 20 finalists presented their innovative digital solutions to juries composed of tech specialists, investors, and c-suite level executives of European technology corporations. After thorough analysis of the scale-ups, their technology and market success, the jury selected the 3 winners.
First prize winner: Connecting Food
Founded in 2016 by Stefano Volpi and Maxine Roper, Connecting Food is a French startup that offers a digital platform based on blockchain technology, capable of tracing products batch by batch as they pass through the production lines, and auditing them in real-time.
Passionate about the food industry for over 40 years, co-founders Maxine and Stefano have held marketing roles for some of the biggest international food brands, including Nestle, Danone, and Panzani for Stefano and Mars, Maison Du Cafe, and Andros for Maxine.
In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the company raised a new round of funding, bringing the funds raised to over €5M. This was an important step that allowed the company to accelerate its technological and commercial development as well as to continue asserting itself as a leader in the food transparency market – both in Europe and abroad.
Maxine Roper, says, “It is important to promote sustainable agriculture and food in Europe, and doing it through digital technology is the way forward. We are planning to grow our clients and scale in European countries. To do that, we will be raising a Series A round and we are counting on the support of EIT Digital Accelerator team to go forward.”
Cubbit was born in 2016 from an idea of four university students – Marco Moschettini, Stefano Onofri and Alessandro Cillario, joint-CEOs, and Lorenzo Posani, advisor and PhD. They were united by the ambition to create an important provider of distributed cloud services in the world, guaranteeing the highest level of privacy by design and without the use of expensive and polluting data centres.
Cubbit is the datacenter-less cloud provider, recycling underutilised internet resources into the most privacy-guardian, 2x cost-efficient, and and 10x greener cloud services available on the worldwide market. Notably, the company has achieved international recognition and got financed by the European Commission.
Cubbit claims to be the first cloud provider that does not store users’ files in centralised, proprietary data centers. Instead, the company’s distributed technology offers users the opportunity to store data in a 100 per cent private and secure cloud space which avoids 40,000Kgs of CO2 emissions each year (per PB stored).
Co-CEO & co-founder of Cubbit, Stefano Onofri, says, “After being invited to become member of Gaia-X earlier this year, this victory acknowledges how the European Innovation ecosystem in EU recognises the importance to scale such an enabling technology, in order to compete with hyperscalers and enforce Digital Sovereignty by protecting the environment. This is a strategic priority both for businesses and public institutions.”
Talking about how the scaleup plans to use its collaboration with the EIT Digital Accelerator, Onofri explains, “The overall strategic goal for Cubbit is to scale and spread our technology to gain competitive edge with the non-European innovators in the distributed cloud space. It is vital that we lead the way, and despite the much fewer resources that have been invested in this industry here in the EU so far, we can make it.”
“In particular, the first goal is to scale Cubbit’s Next Generation Cloud Pioneers – the b2b solution we are implementing now with a selected cluster of Italian companies – with more companies all around Europe very soon,” he adds.
The company has raised €3.3M from multiple investors and grants, supporting deep tech R&D. It counts Techstars and Barclays amongst its global partners.
Founded in 2017 by Benny Bennet Jurgens and Carlo Ulbrich, NECT brings people and technical innovation together. It offers identity verification and biometrics solutions using Robo-Ident – an AI-powered, patent-pending technology. The company delivers the self-service future of identity verification as a service which it claims is easy to use and comes with military grade security.
When asked about what this win meant to the scaleup, Jürgens says, “Due to the fact that we have just started our expansion into other European countries, it is an important signal that our idea has been recognised at European level. This heavily encourages us to continue on the path we have started with a lot of energy.”
“Scaling our business to Europe is a particular challenge. We are fortunate to have support from EIT Digital Accelerator at this time. Especially important for us will be the access to markets and potential customers. This will bring us closer to our goal of becoming the leading European identity wallet, including identity verification and eSignatures,” he adds.
EIT Digital and EIT Digital Accelerator
EIT Digital is a pan-European organisation aimed at promoting innovation, education, and entrepreneurship in digital technology. It aims at global impact through European innovation, boosted by entrepreneurial talent and digital technology. It helps businesses and entrepreneurs to be at the frontier of digital innovation by providing them with technology, talent, and growth support.
Since its launch in 2014, the EIT Digital Challenge has attracted more than 2,900 entries from all over Europe. Prominent award winners include KONUX, Medicus.AI, or SidekickHealth, digital technology scaleups that have become internationally successful companies.
EIT Digital Accelerator provides tailor-made growth support by helping them raise capital, find customers, and scale up internationally. This is done through a distributed team of business developers and fundraising experts operating from 10 European countries.
Since 2012, the EIT Digital Accelerator has supported startups and scaleups from 20 countries that have raised over €1B in investment. The Accelerator has also been recognised as the world’s top public Business Accelerator by UBI Global, and as one of the top three accelerator brands in Europe, according to Startup Heatmap Europe.