Startup of the Month
Interviewpartner: Stelios Katsanevakis
1. Why did you found your startup, which problem do you address and how do you solve it?
Nursing homes are under huge pressure: the lack of nurses, cost pressure and the growing number of residents with dementia are just a few examples. At nevisQ, we support nursing homes with intelligent room technologies - without compromising on privacy.
Our sensor-based/AI solution, nevisCura, makes the lives of nursing home residents safer and nursing work more efficient. Critical situations such as falls, getting up from the bed and leaving the room or facility are automatically detected and nurses notified. This is especially useful at night when there are only a few nurses working in the facility. Activity analysis helps nurses to provide more targeted care. It can be achieved e.g. by detecting a high number of daily visits to the toilet, heavy nighttime activity, or changes in the gait. By linking this information with data from other sensors and nursing documentation, care can be further enhanced to prevent critical situations and disease.
2. What gave you the idea to found nevisQ?
The concrete idea for nevisQ was created at the end of 2014.
Christian, David and Dennis attended a lecture at RWTH Aachen University where they had to write a business plan for a business idea. The business idea was about intelligent baseboards capable of discreetly monitoring activities in nursing homes. The concept had been developed initially as part of a research project at the RWTH Aachen.
Christian, David and Dennis had previously gained experience in the care industry and therefore had a great interest in working on such a solution. After writing the business plan, they decided to put the business idea into action. In the middle of 2015, I met them after David happened to meet my girlfriend in another lecture. I got fascinated by their vision as well as the technological challenge and decided to join them. At this point, the idea had matured enough and we were ready to found nevisQ and start the technical development.
3. What are your learnings so far?
The learnings are truly countless. This is one of the great things about founding/working at a startup; you constantly have to observe, adapt and learn. You gain experiences from various fields and get a sense of the bigger picture.
If I am to summarize a few of the high-level learnings, these would be:
• Stay focused on your goal. The path leading to your goal will form "automatically" by doing so.
• Acknowledge that you don't know a lot of things. Only with this mindset, you can start learning.
• Listen to others. You might find yourself trapped trying to solve a problem. An out-of-the-box perspective often solves the problem within minutes.
• Be patient. External factors that you can't control will certainly come up and will delay things. In a startup which is conquered by an extremely dynamic and agil environment, such delays can feel exhausting. However, the only rational thing to do is to continue acting on the things that you can control.
4. Why are you on Starbase/VZ?
A crucial part of success for a startup is high visibility and a broad network of connections. These might be e.g. the right investor at the right time, production partners, sales partners etc.
We welcome and are grateful for initiatives like Startbase/VZ that have the goal to help young innovative companies to grow faster.
5. Who is the superbrain in your team and what is his/her superpower? The superbrain is the team itself!
By merging different personalities, opinions and skills we accomplish things that a single brain might consider impossible.
This is the superpower: making seemingly impossible things possible by working together.
6. Where do you see your startup in 3 years?
We aim to play a leading role in improving nursing care quality for the elderly and in supporting the hard-working nurses in Germany until then. We want to achieve this by distributing our existing solution to a constantly growing number of nursing homes but also by extending the functionalities of our solution. Probably we will have started expanding in other countries too. We already have deployed a few test installations with a partner in Spain.
7. Do you still have a proper social life since the founding?
Yes and no. My social life has been drastically changed since we founded nevisQ. It is not trivial to separate work and personal life being a founder.
There is often not enough time to go out with old friends as I used to and this sudden change has damaged some of my friendships. As a further example, the limited time also affects vacation time. It always seems like a bad time to take a vacation since there is always something important going on. I came to realize that the responsible thing to do is to actually just take a vacation when it is needed even if it does not feel right. Taking some time off is essential to de-clutter my mind. In my experience, it improves productivity and thus it’s best for the company too.
My new social life is mostly existent around the startup universe. I get to meet other eager and inspiring founders when I have the chance to participate in exciting startup events. This can sometimes lead to new friendships.
As I become more aware of this shift, I try to bring some balance between the two worlds and get the best out of both; expanding my social life while taking care of my old one. It can be emotionally very challenging and it is something that I have struggled with but I have managed to come in terms with.
8. What would you recommend other founders?
As corny as it may sound, before founding a startup, be sure that you are really passionate about it. In my opinion, this is a major ingredient to stay strong enough during difficult times and be able to overcome them. I am certain that all startups face such difficulties.
Another thing I would like to recommend is to not be overprotective of your idea. This is something I often observe in early-stage startups and was also guilty of. What really makes the difference is the execution of the idea. The magic ingredient for a good execution is an exceptional team. In order to create an exceptional team, you need to share your idea and try to motivate and convince great minds to join the journey.
9. What went really wrong since you founded?
There have been many ups and downs since we started. However, I consider us pretty lucky since nothing went really wrong so far (fingers crossed).
Talking about luck, I believe that it is an aspect that many underestimate even though it plays a significant role in how things turn out. That being said, it is our job to recognize good opportunities and act on them.
10. Which were the biggest challenges you needed to overcome in the beginning?
Personally, one of the biggest challenges was to learn and ignore the pressure from my social circles.
Once I announced my plans to take such a path, a lot of scepticism followed. Starting your own company is considered unconventional and very risky. It is not the "safe" path. This leads to constant psychological pressure that can make you doubt yourself and thus reduce your effectiveness. Ironically, this well-meant concern from your inner circles can make this path even riskier.
A big exception is my girlfriend who has been supportive and understanding during the whole journey. Generally, I have been fortunate enough that after our first successful moments early on, this attitude changed substantially and people around me got much more supportive. Unfortunately, I know that this is not the case for many founders.
Check the company's profile here.