What a year: On 18 July 2018, Neohelden GmbH was officially registered. So, it’s about time to review the year that was, and see where we’re headed to.
One year translated to KPIs
547,000 new business registered in Germany last year – one of them being us, Neohelden GmbH. A ton has happened in the past 365 days since our incorporation: We sent 51,984 Slack messages, had a total of 41,684 e-mails and published 33 articles on our blog (including this one). However, we’re not simply “talking”: With 2,516 commits and a total of 4 technical iterations, we made some impressive progress product-wise.
What we can’t add up is the distance traveled – but it’s been quite a distance: We participated in events on 3 continents in 8 countries and build exciting relationships from them.
The most important and meaningful aspect to me: We have grown from three founders to 11 Neohelden, fully bootstrapped from revenues. Although German’s don’t like to admit it: We are a little proud of this 😉.
One year filled with awesome people and organizations
We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we’re at if it weren’t for our network of supporters and partners. Every intro, every discussion, and every impulse has taken us a little further. Although each of them was precious, there are a few we would like to highlight:
February 2018: Kicking it off with M.TECH Accelerator
A total of 5 months prior to our incorporation – when it was just the three of us, an idea and lots of enthusiasm, we were admitted to M.TECH Accelerator in Stuttgart. The program is designed for early-stage startups and offers the ideal platform to get in touch with exciting companies. With M.TECH, for example, we were also introduced to our first pilot customer – Gebrüder Weiss from Austria – with whom we still maintain a successful partnership.
April 2018: “Homebase” at CyberLab Karlsruhe
In April, we moved into the IT Accelerator of the state of Baden-Württemberg – CyberLab – and had our first office in a castle (what a location!). We spent that time working on the business model, validating assumptions and talking to potential pilot customers, always with active support from the Cyber team. Thank you again 👍
May 2018: EXIST Scholarship
In May 2018, we were awarded the EXIST scholarship, for which we applied with the University of Applied Sciences Pforzheim and GründerWerk. The scholarship secured basic financing and the ”survivability”: In addition to “just money”, there was also manifold support from this side through coaching.
The German government is often criticized for a lack of startup-support – yet, we can’t fully agree with that: Especially the early stage of startups and entrepreneurs is supported in many ways, which paved the way for our initial steps into Neohelden. Nevertheless, you can always do “more” – but literally, any initiative can be of great help in the early stage.
July 2018: Incorporating our business
In July it was official: On July 2nd, 2018, we traveled to Munich (long story…) to sign the paperwork – and 2 weeks later, we were officially registered as Neohelden GmbH. Doing so, we had created the foundations to be able to build customer and supplier relations. Although especially in Germany, there is a certain amount of paperwork involved, you can absolutely take this hurdle with a little work and dignity.
August 2018: We are a supplier of a DAX company
Wait, that was quick: Just a few weeks after our official incorporation, we were a supplier of a DAX company. If you hit the nail on the head with your product and offering, even large companies have the infrastructure and processes in place to act quickly. We were lucky enough to find the right people and teams within a large automotive group in Stuttgart, and there it was: Only 4 weeks after incorporations, we received a nicely printed letter with our supplier ID in the (physical, of course) mail; and that’s how we – as a small startup – had secured our first enterprise customer.
September 2018: Innovation grants for the “Ländle”
Another measure that benefited us from the state level: With the help of the innovation grants (Innovationsgutschein A + Hightech), we were able to make our first 5-digit investments as a company into research for our technology with partners. From an economic point of view, this funding program is particularly exciting: You’ll only receive a grant if you’re willing to invest money yourself, which in turn grows the entire ecosystem. We were thus able to collaborate on a research study with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and develop our AI-assistant with an experienced IT-company.
October 2018: Growing the team
In October, we added the first two new members to the Neohelden team. I was pleasantly surprised to receive support in the marketing area (albeit for a limited time) and our one-man-development-“team” gained a genius Flutter Developer, Norbert, who (luckily) is still working with us today.
November 2018: Neo goes international
From November on, it suddenly became international: With Gebrüder Weiss we had won our first Austrian pilot customer and started an exciting pilot project to deploy Neo in logistics. At the same time, we went to Web Summit in Lisbon – probably the largest trade fair for startups and tech in Europe – and, almost overnight, Neo was used internationally.
December 2018: Pilot projects in the Ruhr area
As part of the RuhrSummit, we were able to win two pilot customers from the Ruhr area and started the project with Kolumbus less than 4 weeks later: Neo is assisting them to schedule meetings for a total of 6 months (and counting!). Our pilot project with Siemens was already in the starting blocks for next year. Both pilot partners are very cooperative and uncomplicated – we were (again!) lucky with our customers. Today, we are excited to be piloting Neo with both companies.
January 2019: Neo continues to grow
The pace picked up right at the start of 2019. Thus, we secured further support for our team: Since mid-January, Sebastian is actively supporting us in testing, support, and operations, and also enriches the team on a human level with his humor and kindness.
At the same time, we moved into the Karlsruhe Technologyfabrik – just across the street of CyberLab: Since January, we found our home of choice with the new “Heldenoffice” in Technologiefabrik. The cooperation with the Technologiefabrik is not your typical tenant-lessor relationship: The team of the Technologiefabrik supports us in every aspect, which is why we are also organizing our first startup-conference with them in September 2019: Zukunftstüftler!
February 2019: Pilot project in banking
We have also been using Neo in the financial sector since February 2019: Neo is to provide support in consultations between customers and banking advisors can thus take over the documentation obligations and generate data-driven, customer-specific recommendations. Here, too, we have found a highly respected and really pleasant partner (we appear to be really lucky with our customers 😄).
March 2019: Neo welcomes our 1st full-time employee
Cathrin has been working with us since March and has promptly taken over the management of HR and events. Pascal also joined our team as Flow-Engineer and coined our product from his first day onwards.
At the same time, we were able to celebrate being accepted in the renowned Startup Autobahn Program with our partner Mercedes-Benz /developers. In addition, the pilot project with Siemens officially kicked off. At Siemens, we identified an extremely exciting use case: Neo supports employees in maintenance and inspection processes by guiding them through the inspection list via Neo, whereby users can enter their findings directly via voice.
Neo also traveled to the US, to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. With a German delegation, we were able to gain initial sales experience in the US, and, among others, visited Oracle’s operation in Austin.
April 2019: Neo in Japan
日本に行きましょ – off to Japan. We were invited to visit Softbank in Tokyo and introduce our AI assistant at Plug and Play Tokyo. Softbank is excited about the fact, that our Neo Enterprise Assistant Platform can also be used with the humanoid robot Pepper, and also sees the opportunity within using Neo for internal use cases. However, this was not the first contact with Softbank: Already in July 2018, the DIZ Karlsruhe put us in touch with Softbank during their visit at CyberForum. At that time, we were already able to establish a good relationship with Softbank, which we will now gradually expand further.
May 2019: From project to product
By May 2019, our first pilot project has been successfully completed and changed to a product-based model. This might appear to be a small step for outsiders, but it truly is a quantum leap for us: Neo is a product accepted by the market.
Since May, Fabienne has also been supporting us in social media and events, enriching the team with new perspectives.
Around the same time, we were able to announce our acceptance in the Telekom TechBoost program in May 2019. Deutsche Telekom is truly doing pioneering work here and has created an exciting program, in which Deutsche Telekom meets its startups at eye level and develops joint business models and projects.
June 2019: Apprentices with Neo
Since June 2019, we have been a “Dual Partner” of the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University Karlsruhe for the study course Entrepreneurship. And with Cathrin, we also have our first dual student from October.
July 2019: 365 days with Neo
In our anniversary month, we had the pleasure of welcoming two new employees: Jani as Senior Full Stack Developer, who quickly worked his way through the code base and got involved directly; and Leo as Flow Engineer and, as it turned out, young sales talent. We were also able to successfully complete the pilot project with Siemens as well as the Startup Autobahn Program – and can now go full throttle on product development with a total of 11 Neohelden in the summer.
And what’s next?
Learning to crawl, to walk and then to run – in that order. In our first year, we achieved far more than we held possible. But we also had to realize that there’s much more awaiting us. As a company, we may still be in our infancy, but the professionalization and development in the product-area are anything but naive.
The future awaits those with the courage to create itErwin McManus
As mentioned, in July and August, the focus will be on product development and conception, so that after the summer holidays – which will also be quieter for most enterprises – we will be well prepared for new projects and customers. We also have a very special event in the making: On September 18, 2019, we are organizing the “Zukunftstüftler” conference together with Startup Autobahn and Technologiefabrik Karlsruhe: Startups, corporates, students, and scientists are jointly working on future challenges.
In this respect, we would like to thank you once again for the support received – especially to our families and partners – and with you maximum success from the entire Neohelden team. Keep it up!