Case study: E-boat
E-boat was an event addressed to startups from all over Europe offering mobile solutions in the field of healthcare. EIT Health was responsible for this remarkable program. EIT Health is one of the largest health and innovation organizations in the world. All projects and programs organized by EIT Health are supported by the European Commission and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. EIT Health aims to innovate in the field of health. The main goal of the organization is to support startups offering innovations in healthcare. That’s why EIT Health tries to create appropriate conditions for startups that contribute to the effective development of their solutions. For this reason, most EIT Health programs include consultation and advice with experts, including in areas such as business, medicine, and new technologies.
In 2019 EIT Health organized an atypical event named E-boat for all European startups creating mobile applications dedicated to healthcare. All participants took part in an eight-week program, divided into 2 phases. The first phase of the program covered six weeks of remote learning. During this time, the participants took part in many training courses such as lean methodology, universal design principles, and customer service, among others. The second stage was a two-week hackathon in the form of a cruise on the Baltic Sea. The participants of the event, under the supervision of experts, verified their ideas, improved their products, and learned about introducing their products to the European market. Startup representatives then presented their ideas and products in five cities: Gdańsk, Klaipeda, Riga, Tallinn, and Stockholm. During the entire voyage, startuppers were supported by experts from business and the IT industry.
The E-boat event organizers asked us to participate as IT business experts. Grzegorz Papaj, one of the founders of the company, who is both an entrepreneur and programmer, and also a molecular biologist and bioinformatics scientist, fit perfectly with his competencies in the subject of the hackathon. Therefore, without hesitation, he decided to take a week-long cruise aboard the schooner Kapitan Borchardt to share his knowledge and experience with startups from the biomedical industry. Together with twelve teams from all over Europe, he voyaged from Gdańsk to Riga. Our mentor's task was to support the participants of the program, critically analyze their technological and business concepts, and evaluate the effects of their work at the end of the hackathon. During the cruise, along with three other experts, he watched over the proper development of startup products. The biggest benefit for startup teams was the opportunity to ask our mentor individual questions, which afforded them the opportunity to discuss innovative concepts in an informal atmosphere.
One of the main project purposes was to draw the attention of participants to the concept of universal design, i.e. adapting the application to the needs and capabilities of people with disabilities. This is particularly important in the case of healthcare services and products. The universal design concept supports planning and designing products that are accessible to all members of society, regardless of their disabilities.
It’s worth mentioning that startups who took part in the E-boat event had various areas of interest, were from different countries and were at different stages of development. Our expert advised both teams that are just developing their business concept, as well as startups that are at a further stage of development, e.g. looking for a way to enter a wider market. During the cruise, some teams improved their mockups or MVPs, and others presented already completed applications.
Our IT expert emphasizes that the week spent on board was a very educational time. Both program participants and mentors not only struggled with the problems and shortcomings of startup products but also with big waves and seasickness. During the cruise, both startups and mentors also acted as crew. Therefore, they had to fulfill the duties of the sailing ship crew. The operation of the schooner's sails, duties in the galley or night watches in the driving rain with the waves pouring over the deck were an integral part of the sea journey. E-boat Hackathon emphasized the importance of discipline and diligence.
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