The digitization of the food manufacturing chain to reduce waste in real-time is undeniably a global challenge. Food production will continue to increase and so will the staggering amount of food waste. The accuracy and usefulness of production data is key and who better than the Voltstone Team to reveal just how truly vital this is. Their solution combines AI and IoT technology to detect common production and tracking issues for the benefit of all… And it is no surprise that Demium’s Think Bigger Capital celebrates Voltstone’s contribution by granting them their pre-seed investment round for €100K.
Q: Tell us about Voltstone
Voltstone is a leading software startup operating in tracking and reducing waste in food factories. We use a combination of AI and IoT to detect common production problems and an easy-to-use, real-time dashboard to enable remote monitoring of production lines. Doing so, we’re capable of reducing industrial waste in a quick and cost-efficient way – saving our clients time and money, and reducing their environmental footprint.
Manufacturing is one of the core value creators in our society, but has been largely overlooked by the technological revolution. It’s mind-blowing to us that while almost every aspect of our lives has been digitalized, yet a sector so significant to society has not. Our team is changing that.
After visiting multiple food factories & talking with their stakeholders, we realized that a handful of common problems in food processing that lead to significant amounts of food and plastic waste can easily be solved with AI and IoT solutions. So we got to work.
When defining and building our hardware & software solutions, we focused on three pillars: cost-efficiency, universality, and time efficiency. In other words, we asked ourselves: what solution, one that we can create, applies to a wide range of problems, is produced at scale, integrates with existing production systems, and is easily installed by the factories themselves? Our laser-focus thinking in relation to these pillars has enabled us to build out-of-the-box waste reduction solutions – like IKEA. But for AI/IoT modules that offer our clients a 10x lower price tag, one-week integration, and a direct impact we have designed a different solution.
Q: How has been your experience in Demium so far?
Our experience in Demium has been amazing! It’s where we met our team. Throughout the journey of ideating & creating our MVP, it’s been really useful to be able to tap into the knowledge of the Demium team. Being part of the Demium community is also really valuable, as it immediately gives you access to a network of mentors, investors and other startup teams who are ready to help in every way they can.
Q: What was it like raising a round for the first time?
It felt very exciting and rewarding. The team worked tirelessly for months to create a product that was worth investing in. To finally reach that milestone – having seasoned investors not only believe in your vision, but also in the team’s ability to execute it, is an amazing validation to have accomplished. And now we can meet the expense of turning that vision into reality… Game on.
Q: What will you focus your initial funding on?
We’re currently focused on growing our existing product range to tackle even more problems pertaining to industrial waste (believe us, there are a lot!) and to add connectivity for robotic elements. Both features will help Voltstone become the all-in-one solution for waste reduction in food factories. To that end, we’ve recently hired a Product Manager and we’re in the process of expanding our technical team.
Q: What’s next for Voltstone?
We imagine a world in which reducing waste of primary resources in your factory is as easy as putting together a closet from IKEA. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to get up and running. We envision Voltstone as the all-in-one solution that will ensure this happens.
In order to get to that stage, we’re continuously iterating & expanding on our existing products. Our first product is a real-time plastic waste tracker allowing factories to get much better insights into how much waste they produce and where the waste comes from. It’s already installed and functioning in one of the largest snack factories in Spain.
As an add-on, we’re in the process of connecting our waste tracker with a computer vision camera that will be able to detect and prevent errors in date and lot code to greatly reduce the plastic waste those errors usually produce. Both products will work simultaneously to dramatically improve plastic waste management in food factories.
In a similar way, we’ll continuously be adding new products as add-ons, with the end goal of having everything working together seamlessly.
Q: What did you find investors valued most about your startup?
I think what they valued most is that we’re bringing technology to a sector that has been lagging behind significantly in technological innovation, and that we’re doing so in a way that directly, immediately and intuitively tackles the problems food factories are facing. Our product already functions, saving our beta testers a huge amount of money in plastic waste. Our commitment to being “lean” – to moving quickly and expertly, stands in stark contrast to the existing offering in this market: Pilot projects take an average of 6 months to be installed, or aren’t even completed at all. It’s an issue so famous that there’s a term for it – “the pilot purgatory”. With Voltstone, we’re taking the existing paradigm, and turning it upside down. Investors like that disruptive element.
They also like our “10x improvement” promise – which, funnily enough, was brought to our attention by one of our investors. One of the documents we sent him included a pricing comparison: One of our clients was quoted 500k euros for a solution we’re implementing for 50k euros. During a conversation, he asked: “So, Voltstone improves the current cost by 10x?” That’s the first time we heard the “10x improvement” part of our solution – and we’ve been using it ever since.
Q: What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs looking for first round funding?
We have two main pieces of advice:
Prioritize ruthlessly: Fundraising can feel, and often is, like a full-time job. But raising will only get more difficult if your business falls behind, so don’t forget what’s really important. Set your goals and achieve them.
Plan ahead: Long before you’re ready to raise your round, think about the people that you’d eventually like to work with. Investors are so much more than just people that give you money – they’ll literally become partners on your path to success (or doom), and if chosen wisely, will open up doors you didn’t know existed, through their network, expertise, and advocacy. That’s why you should begin to build relationships with these people well before you want to ask them to participate. As such, both parties have the time to get to know each other, and when you finally begin fundraising, the process will be much smoother because a previous relationship already exists.
Q: What role did Demium play in this first investment round?
Demium played a vital role. The team has vast experience helping startups raise their first round, and knows what investors are looking for. To that end, project leaders encourage startups to get their positioning done right – with a focus on communicating the value proposition clearly. As an entrepreneur, you’re excited about your product and want to tell every detail, but the truth is that investors are busy people, so you should quickly get to the point, and do it right. The Demium team does a great job at perfecting startups’ pitches – through lots of mentorships, practice, and feedback.