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Robin Weis

Robin Weis

Robin Tim Weis serves as a project manager in OSTA in Washington, DC. Previously, he served as a policy analyst at the International Narcotics Control Board in the United Nations. As a former Europe correspondent for FrumForum.com and foreign commercial assistant for the US Embassy in Brussels, he has been a strong proponent of bolstering transatlantic relations. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinTimWeis.

Engineering teams use them, kids use them, and we all have all made the unpleasant mistake of stepping on to them at least once in our life: Legos.

Long touted as a staple toy for the kids around of the world, the colorful bricks have garnered more and more attention in recent years for their varied applications and benefits over the past years.

Research conducted by the American Marketing Association has shown that Legos foster our creativity. And a separate study in the peer-reviewed journal, Early Child Development and Care, shows that they enable success in mathematics as well.

Richard Moser, an Austrian soft matter physicist at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has now enhanced our understanding and application of Legos with his latest research.

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Crowdfunding can take ridiculous measures as Kickstarter’s 2014 potato salad campaign demonstrated. However, the necessity, and economic impact of crowdfunding remains undisputed.

The World Bank in its 2013 report highlights the rapid 524% compound annual growth rate for rewards-based crowdfunding between 2009 and 2012. This is due to the fact that crowdfunding remains one of the cheapest and easiest forms of capital formation till date.

Despite the tremendous market and potential of crowdfunding, its success has largely been reserved and focused within North America, the region raising 59% of worldwide capital in 2012.

To foster entrepreneurial growth in Austria, the Austrian Council of Ministers recently approved a new crowdfunding bill, considered to be at the legislative forefront of crowdfunding legislation in Europe. In recent years Austrians have warmed up to the idea of crowdfunding. A 2013 survey show 56% of Austrians surveyed as being positive about crowdfunding and the idea investing small amounts of money into concrete projects in return for interest or revenue shares. 

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, underlined that crowdfunding is considered to be a “meaningful complement to traditional credit financing” and aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit in Austria. Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner believes that crowdfunding platforms provide startups with immediate, “…feedback on their product ideas directly from the market, and that at a very early phase”.

 

 

Austria is ready to embrace this new legislation change with local platforms such as conda.at, 1000x1000.at wemakeit.com and greenrocket.com complementing the international platform leaders; Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

 

 

The following changes have been reflected in the new Austrian crowdfunding law:

 

  • In the future, the obligation to publish a complete capital market prospectus will first apply starting with an issue volume of EUR 5 million. At present this limit is EUR 250,000.
  • The requirement to put together a prospectus for issue volumes between EUR 250,000 and EUR 5 million has also been changed. In the future, only a simplified prospectus (prospectus requirement light) is required for an issue volume of between EUR 1.5 million and EUR 5 million.
  • One investor can invest up to EUR 5,000 per project.
  • This EUR 5,000 limit can be surpassed if the investor earns a net salary of more than EURE 2,500 per month. In this case, the investor is allowed to invest double his net monthly earnings.
  • One option is for investors to invest ten percent of his or her financial assets if this amount exceeds EUR 5,000 
  • Similar to the Consumer Protection Law, investors have the right to withdraw within two weeks.
  • Issuers may not raise more than EUR 5 million in capital over a seven year period, less the amounts already paid back to investors. If this threshold is exceeded, the company is required to issue a capital market prospectus.
  • The investment is made with the issuing SME or via crowdfunding platforms. 

 

Similar legislative initiatives have been conducted on a local level in the US. The District of Columbia amongst others passing a novel legislation change in October 2014. The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking approving crowdfunding rules that allow entrepreneurs to raise as much as $2 million from city residents and businesses. The maximum amount a funder can invest varies

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Posted by on in Moves & Milestones

 

Snapchat, the video messaging app of millennials? Think again!

Doctors today use WhatsApp, and Snapchat to share pictures, and medical information with each other in hospitals. This fun Challenge Festival trivia told by the the Irish startup Medxnote might have caused chuckles yesterday, however, underlines the larger dichotomy between digitalization, and healthcare, that was stressed throughout day three of the 1776 Challenge Festival, which highlighted the health sector its national, as well global challenges.

 

Medxnote looks to create a safe, secure app that will allow doctors to exchange information in a much more simple, yet effective manner. Source: Medxnote

Digital solutions such as provided by Medxnote highlight the larger trends in healthcare, which are looking to marry data and devices. Successful cross-pollination even has the capacity to increase revenue, and decrease work for doctors. A good example being the DC-based startup Babyscripts, a prenatal focused startup, which via wireless hardware captures weight, blood pressure, and app data, which is communicated to doctors, and consequently allows providers to appropriately tailor the way they deliver care to each of their patients’ specific needs. 

 

Babyscripts wireless hardware, which is sent to expecting mothers. Source: Babyscripts 

The take-away of the day were bold, candid, and straight-forward: healthcare will become personalized, it will become digitalized, however, we need to make sure that this added value is shared with all patients alike. With this in mind 1776 choose two healthcare finalists, which both equally showed a strong social impact, paired with a scalable, and sustainable revenue model. 

 

 

 

The winners...via 1776

 

Unima — Unima is a biotechnology startup that developed a fast and low cost diagnostics technology that allows health data collection globally and analytics in real time. Mexico City, Mexico

 

ReliefWatch — ReliefWatch is an inventory management platform targeted at multinational non-governmental organizations operating health clinics in developing countries. Chicago, Illinois

 

 

 

Quote of the Day

 

"The killer app in fighting Ebola was human beings." Ronald Klain, Ebola Response Coordinator for the Executive Office of the President.

 

Tweet of the Day

 

The Ambassador of Australia to the U.S. personally welcomed the two Australian entrepreneurs competing at the Challenge Festival.

 

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Posted by on in Startup Corner

Chances are, you are throwing money out of the window, no really you are! 

The second day of the 1776 Challenge Festival devoted itself to energy, and the deficiencies that persist, and the solutions we need to "power" the future with. Within these discussions the flawed domestic household played a central role. From the cracks in our windows to the rigid heaters in our buildings, despite our testimony to being sustainable, our households are far from being so, building and apartments still being unable to adapt and learn our energy needs and behaviors. 

In effect, it does not come as a surprise that one of the two winners of the Energy semi-finals, Radiator Labs tackles old, wasteful buildings and, via a unique patent-pending product offering, improves their heating efficiencies up to LEED standard levels. 

 

The Cozy shell that promises to end inefficient radiators. Source: Cozy

 

Startups like these are part of a larger process in which entrepreneurs are looking to shift consume behavior, as Philips, one of the main sponsors of the Challenge Festival has noted.

 

 

This shift will come in gradual increments as more household products move towards becoming sustainable, and versatile agents. One of these items is MIITO, a sustainable alternative to the electric kettle. The demand for these energy efficient items is underlined by the $100,000+ funding MIITO was able to generate within the first twelve hours on Kickstarter.

This demand is in part fueled by the fact that, "....smart meters and smart rates [are] being deployed nationwide [which] give[s] customers more options" as Brian Wolff, Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs, at Edison Electric Institute notes. With more dashboards at out disposals users are realizing the sheer energy wasted on households items such as electric kettles. Nils Chudy, co-founder of MIITO notes that, "...the amount of energy wasted on electrical kettles in the UK on a daily basis, is enough to power all of its street lights!"

 

MIITO, innovative induction plate "kettle." Source: Kickstarter

 

Unlike MIITO or Radiant Labs, Base Trace is looking to the source of energy to revolutionize the way energy is generated, and monitored. Ever since Fukushima, the nuclear industry has lost a key resource, namely trust. Base Trace is rebuilding this trust, by providing "tools for trust", which trace industrial fluids, how they move, where they come from, and where they are going. "Tracing these fluids is a key element for everything from environmental monitoring to optimizing existing processes" as Base Trace notes. In essence, nuclear and energy companies will be able to detect, and monitor leaks, earlier, better, and in a digital manner, which will bolster transparency for companies, and the civil sector alike. 

  

 

Base Trace as a result joined Radiation Labs as the second winner of the Energy semi-finals at the 1776 Challenge Festival. Both will compete along side the education, healthcare, and smart city finalists on Saturday for a share of the $650,000 Challenge Festival pot, which will be distributed as funding to the startups. 

Be sure to check back for more Challenge Festival news, as well as post-coverage of the Challenge Festival, which will look at the bigger picture when it comes to transatlantic entrepreneurial cooperation, and the innovation being born out of Austria.

 

Quote of the Day

 

"Running your properties smartly is now the rule" Patrick J. Tyrrell, CEO of Vornado

 

Tweet of the Day

 

The 1776 Challenge Festival is creating national ripple effects, however, is DC the 'East Coast Silicon Valley'? Donna Harris, co-founder of 1776 answers on the Kojo Ndami Show.

 

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Posted by on in Startup Corner

Its not everyday, and anywhere that you are promised to “...watch an awesome cartoon then when you're done you have a superfast brain."

The annual 1776 Challenge Festival, however, is one of those places.

Drawing in startups from all around the world, the Challenge Festival is the final culmination of the Challenge Cup, a 16-city, 11-country international pitch competition, which identifies the most promising, and stellar startups in education, energy & sustainability, health and transportation & cities.

Having traveled the world, 1776 has assembled some of the best, and young entrepreneurs, who promise nothing less than for example to hack your brain, and revolutionize, and gamify the way your brain learns. Meet B-Genius from Bangalore, India, which wants to use cartoons amongst others, to give you a superfast brain!

Trina Das, CEO of B-Genius. Source: 1776

The topic of education launched the first day of the Challenge Festival, and saw amongst others the recurring topic of exorbitant tuition fees being emphasized. Hours of policy wonk exchange revealed that while higher education might not yet be predestined for the dustbins of history, it must undergo serious scrutiny and review, in order to compete with, and address the real educational demands of the 21st Century. As a result modern proprietary school such as General Assembly will continue to serve as an alternative to young educated millenials.

To address these, and other educational demands twenty international startups got their minute of fame, as they delivered their elevator pitches in front of a packed crowd, and esteemed jury.

In true startup fashion, the jury decided to deviate from the classic setup, which sees each day of the Challenge Festival feature an industry-specifc semifinal that identifies two startups per industry to advance to Saturday’s Global Finals. Instead three startups got to advance to the finals, which is a testimony to the “really strong educational field of this year” as Evan Burfield, co-founder of 1776 underlined.

Read Morgan Gress, Editor at 1776 announce the three Eduction winners of Mondays Challenge Festival Education Semifinal:

Congratulations to today’s THREE education winners! It was such a tough decision the judges couldn’t just choose just two. Meet the three headed to Saturday’s Global Finals below.

 

LearnLux — LearnLux creates online learning tools to teach people personal finance when they need it most. The company allows companies to empower their employees to become financially autonomous by giving them the skills and knowledge they need to make the best financial decisions. Boston, Massachusetts

 

Cognotion — Cognotion identifies talent, delivers functional utilization of knowledge, and decreases employee churn rate using gaming and video tools designed for entry-level millennials. They use emotion and context to teach hard and soft skills to entry level employees. New York, New York

 

Handsfree Learning — Handsfree helps students, teachers & institutions in learn-by-doing disciplines by supporting instruction, practice, assessment & feedback. By applying a range of hardware and software solutions to the process of technical skills acquisition, the Handsfree platform expands possibilities in subjects like dentistry, medicine, culinary arts, fine arts, cosmetology, and lab sciences. San Francisco, California

 

Check back for more Challenge Festival news, as well as post-coverage of the Challenge Festival, which will look at the bigger picture when it comes to transatlantic entrepreneurial cooperation, and the innovation being born out of Austria.

 

Quote of the Day

 

"You watch an awesome cartoon then when you're done you have a superfast brain."

Trina Das, CEO of B-Genius outlining her use case scenario.

 

Tweet of the Day

 

@angiejusino captured the great pitch humor of @PermissionClick, which generated the loudest laughs of the night.

 

1776 Takeaway of the Day

 

Whether at the Challenge Festival or not, keep in mind these seven factors that define the success or failure of your potential six-figure pitch! Donna Harris & Evan Burfield, co-founders of 1776 outline the magic that needs to happen for startups to walk away with the bulk share of an $650,000 investment pot for example, which will be distributed at this years Challenge Festival.

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indoo.rs  Logo. Source: indoo.rs

Maps have been at the focal point of history since mankind acquired motoric skills. Visionaries like Vasco De Gama travelled the world seas with them, and the travellers of the 21st century equally rely on them. The nature and platform of maps have changed as smartphones today have become ubiquitous. In effect, we fret when we are not able to go online, and navigate our surroundings. 

Indoo.rs, an Austrian startup founded back in 2010 decided to account for these nuisances by striving to become nothing less than the indoor positioning and navigation technology leader in the US!

indoo.rs technology in action. Source: TNW

The startup which moved to the Bay Area in April 2014 strongly believes localization inside buildings (In-Location) to be the, “…next evolutionary milestone for the positioning and navigation industry.” As a result indoo.rs is working hard to get indoor location-based services available on every device.

Its innovative software is currently tested at San Francisco Airport (SFO), aiming to make life easier for the millions of passengers who pass through San Francisco International Airport (SFO) every year! The prototype smartphone application it revealed at SFO helps visually impaired passengers navigate Terminal 2.

indoo.rs SFO Project. Source: indoo.rs 

This is made possible due to indoo.rs innovative positioning algorithms, Bluetooth low-energy beacons, Wi-Fi access points and a mobile app, which helps guide passengers. In addition, routing-by-voice is available through the use of the smart phone’s accessibility feature. Watch the SFO app for visually impaired in action to find out more.

The press has deemed indoo.rs a pioneer in the indoor mapping field, since it has added, “…a level of fidelity to navigation that a blind passenger might never have had otherwise.”

The contemporary element of indoor maps was recently underscored when Apple introduced its new indoor positioning functionality. Businesses who wish to use the new feature, however, need to be accessible to the general public, and have annual visitors in excess of 1 million. Additional corporations such as Google and Nokia have also released similar indoors-positioning tools.

indoo.rs supports Apple's new development platform for indoor maps: iBeacon. Source: indoor.rs

Indoo.rs has embraced the ascent of these new players in the indoor mapping arena, as it recently announced its support for Apple’s iBeacon platform, which gives, “iOS apps the ability to determine its proximity to iBeacon-enabled hardware with Core Location APIs.”

The ascent of indoo.rs has just begun. After its initial pilot project success in California, the Austrian startup has now also equipped the international Amsterdam Airport Schipol with its technology. The exclusive cooperation with KLM can be viewed here.

Be sure to keep an eye on indoo.rs, the Austrian startup might soon be guiding you to your next gate, restaurant, or restroom.

 

 

 

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Train Your Pitch Days NYC - OSTA Breakfast Session

From March 11-13, seven Austrian startups descended upon New York City to take on the bustling hub of Sillicon Alley, to explore the tech community that has raked in over $4.12bn in 2014, according to the National Venture Capitals Association.

The startups visited under the auspice of the 'Train Your Pitch' days program, an initiative launched by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, and supported by the Office of Science & Technology Austria, Washington DC.

Upon arrival, the startups were immediately given the full Techstars treatment, the mentorship-driven startup accelerator dissecting the individual startup decks, and advising the founders on how to best portray, outline, and advance their business in the US. Since a good product never sells itself, the startups were later briefed by David Simpson, partner of KitchenNY, and serial entrepreneur Borahm Cho, founder of Kitchen Surfing on how to compile a narrative, and brand that will resonate with Americans. Both speakers outlined their experience in launching and often re-launching startups.

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