Thanks to an amazing idea of Wells startup it is much easier to know how much water you drink during a day. Any standard plastic bottle or smartphone app can fit with a ´smart cap´. The startup Wells is founded by successful Slovak students: Martin Ferianc (Hardware Design), Daniel Zvara (SoftwareEngineer), Miroslav Gasparek (Biomedical Engineer), Filip Stollar (Design) studying at Imperiall College London and Alzbeta Dlha (Business & PR) studying at University College London. They have won the first place at a Cisco Switch-up challenge and are going to represent their startup in central CISCO HQ in San Jose, California.
You have participated on Hack Cambridge. What was the first impulse to get there and why ?
Martin F.: I personally always wanted to learn coding to do something useful, so when hackathons come along, I am always keen to go. HackCambridge seemed like one of those great opportunities to get the whole team together and fully focus on Wells. We had the idea for a while, but having everyone sitting at the same table, working for 24 hours straight and engaging really sparks some great ideas. It was quite intense, but a great opportunity to test the strengths of our team, bond and progress with the product.
What is the biggest challenge before entering to the market?
Martin F.: We are now in the product development stage, improving and testing our prototype and planning the launch. The biggest challenge we are expecting is finding the appropriate user group. We have now iterated through several segments and need to establish where our product brings the most value.
Alzbeta D.: In second that, definitely finding the right user segment. Positioning ourselves on the market will allow us to develop a valuable product around what the users want and need and also build our brand name. Once we manage to do that, we will need to commit to constant innovation to keep ahead of the competition and build lasting relationships with our users. It’s definitely challenging with so many great products already on the market, but it’s a challenge we are excited about.
Your startup Wells is based on specific kind of technology in regards to water intake. What is unique about your technology?
Martin F.: Current solutions on the market are full smart bottles equipped with sensors that aid the tracking of the amount of liquid leaking through its seal. However that makes the bottle expensive (around $60) as it has to be made as only one of a kind.
Alzbeta D.: Our idea was that we could create just a bottle cap that could fit all the sensors at a simpler principle and a cheaper price. The main advantage of the bottle cap is its convenience and cost. The Wells bottle cap is usable on any standard PET bottle, so the user can have a smart experience for a fraction of the price.
Miroslav G.: Also, the app we are building automatically calculates the recommended daily intake for a user depending on few simple physical parameters and on the overall level of his physical activity. The bottle cap can communicate with the app wirelessly and user’s water intake is automatically tracked. Customer can display his water intake in the real time, so that he knows how much he or she should drink. The app can also send push notifications that would remind him that he should drink again, so nobody can have excuses not to drink enough anymore! Data from the app can be also exported and used for further analysis. For example, doctors can monitor the water intake of their patients in diseases where optimal water intake is crucial.
What are major problems in your business coming to address in the lives of your target customers?
Miroslav G.: Unfortunately, many people either do not realize the importance of water intake or simply do not know how much they should drink. Dehydration can contribute to an array of medical complications. Drinking enough helps a balanced body and mind, increases both physical and mental performance and makes it equally important for athletes, scholars and patients alike. People are lacking the habit of tracking their water intake and it is going to be a real challenge to make the tracking rewarding for the users. Our aim is to make this process as user-friendly as possible, so that they keep doing it and they will see a purpose in collecting data.
Be the best one takes time. What are your strengths over other startups?
Miroslav G.: Our main strength is that we assembled a wonderful team of people with various backgrounds and abilities and therefore we have all the aspects of development of our product covered. I am a biomedical engineer who focuses on invention of the quantitative models that are used in our product. Daniel is a “computer guy” who deals with development of the wellsApp and software in general. Martin constructs the hardware and the bottle cap. Filip takes care of a graphical design, and Alzbeta is responsible for business and marketing. I believe that this unique combination of skills will allow for quick development of the bottle cap.
Daniel Z.: In addition we have covered IP protection from the beginning and we have already submitted a patent application in Slovakia for the construction of the cap and the way how the volume of leaking liquid is being measured. Another advantage of the product is significantly lower price than the price of similar solutions offered by the competition.
Filip S.: Last, but not least, it is the first mover advantage on Slovak market, as nobody currently provides the same solution/device, which has a large span of applications, not only in a personal healthy-lifestyle.
From your point of view what is the biggest problem for startups as they grow ? Competitiveness, leadership, sustainability or something else?
Martin F.: The biggest problem in our opinion is the sustainability of the project. From what we have experienced it is very difficult to progress at university at the same time as you are trying to build your project. The time in a day is very limited and precious – and coursework, exams or jobs simply must be done. Now I am not talking about university students but if you are building a startup you basically start from scratch. Therefore you usually have to keep your job to finance your idea and it is always very difficult to handle the priorities and critically evaluate amount of effort to be put into one or another activity.
From your perspective what should be startups focused on? Do you still see market-gap in Slovakia or globally?
Daniel Z.: We think that (as our project focuses on this topic) one of the greatest potentials bears the concept of Internet of Things and interconnection of every-day items with the user via a large reaching network. Currently there are only a few applications of this concept and there is a space for larger growth and wide interconnection of existing solutions.
Alzbeta D.: The market gap that we see is for example the processing of data about a Slovak citizen. Let me explain. In other countries it is pretty standard that you have your health insurance ID or your state ID which has a chip in it and stores all the necessary data about you. This way you don’t have to carry around all the heavy documentation. It would be cool to see a similar solution, interconnection of multiple state bureaus and hospitals, e.g.: other state facilities. It would make any bureaucratic processes so much faster, simpler and last but not least cheaper for the government.
Miroslav G.: Furthermore, from the “scientific” point of view, such devices provide large amount of data that can be further investigated. I think that analysis of this data would reveal new facts that can bring discoveries in the field of medicine and therefore improve lives of many people.
What is the greatest achievement of your project so far?
The greatest achievement so far is the first place at a Cisco Switch-up challenge. As Cisco describes in their news article: The concept of embedding real-life objects (including the likes of tools, vehicles and buildings) with technology and wiring them up to the Internet, is quickly becoming a central facet of today’s world.
From mobile phones with apps that enable you to turn your heating on from a far to toothbrushes that can tell you how well you are brushing your teeth, it’s clear to see, more and more of our every day objects are becoming tech savvy. This was why Cisco focused on the Switch-Up Challenge in mid-February, designed to get teams of undergraduates to think about the ways that the Internet of Things can benefit lives and the workplace. As pioneers of networking technology, it comes as little surprise that Cisco launched the competition that focuses on UK university students, setting them a number of tasks, including using creative mechanisms to overcome social and environmental issues. Knowledge of these areas is likely to become increasingly important in the future as technological advancements are made.
The prize is a trip to CISCO HQ in San Jose, where we will present our idea to the CISCO board.
What is your marketing strategy ? Actually, do you think startups need to do marketing?
Alzbeta D.: A cynical part of me says the majority of success of a product lies in how much you push it. I’d like to think that is not our case and we have developed something of value that will sell itself. But of course, marketing strategy is a big part of the whole startup journey and a good one can get you far. As to our own marketing strategy, it’s something I am personally very excited about, I think we found a good mix. I will leave details of our marketing execution for your readers to experience themselves later on 🙂