Mobility is a recurring theme for us at Pioneers and in the wider innovation world. This year Pioneers has already celebrated two startups changing the game, with MOTIONTAG crowned winner of Mobility.Pioneers in February and then ONO reaching the Top 8 final at Pioneers ’19 as winner of our Moving the World pitching contest.
Our next opportunity in the mobility space comes from Mercedes-Benz, one of the original innovators in ‘horseless carriage’ transport. This is the Sprinter Start-Up Challenge, as announced by Gottfried Vallant of Mercedes-Benz Austria on the Arena Stage at Pioneers ’19. The entire process will be managed by our consultancy arm, Pioneers Discover – and it’s one of the more innovative concepts we’ve been involved with.
First up, there’s a seriously valuable hardware prize in the shape of a state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, complete with the Mercedes Pro fleet management and connectivity solution. The MBUX multimedia system, which enhances the experience to its full potential, will also be installed. Altogether it’s worth over €22,000…
Secondly, applications will depend on some creative video work and storytelling on the part of the startups. Those who want to take part will receive a goodie box containing all the information they need to make a short movie about their business and why they should get the prize. And if they want to include said prize in the production, all they need to do is approach their local Mercedes Van dealer for help.
More fun than filling out a form or tweaking another pitch deck, right? And with the upload deadline three months away on August 31st, there’s a whole summer of creative time to really nail it! After an online vote, five finalists will then advance to pitching at the Tabakfabrik in Linz on September 20th.
As an initiative of Mercedes-Benz Austria to support early-stage local entrepreneurs, this opportunity is only open to Austrian startups who’ve had a product on the market for less than five years and/or are less than five years old. On the other hand, however, the connection to mobility doesn’t necessarily have to be your core technology. The reward will go to the most ‘innovative transport use case’, so a travelling workshop or a mobile pop-up store can have just as good a chance as a ‘classic’ mobility startup. It’s all about telling the story of why your business needs a Sprinter and Mercedes Pro.
For more on how the Challenge works, check out this instructional video (in German) here.
We really like the way in which Mercedes-Benz is creating awareness of what its commercial van and Mercedes Pro is capable of. A raft of growing businesses in Austria will have it on their radar by the time the application phase is over, and they get the chance to win some five-figure value in return.
Visitors to Pioneers ’19, where the Challenge was launched, already got the chance to experience the full package thanks to the exhibit just inside the entrance to the Hofburg (see below). Whilst the Sprinter name goes back to 1995, the latest generation of this commercial van represents an industry-leading leap forward in connectivity and fleet management terms. That’s because Mercedes Pro and the third-generation Sprinter are closely intertwined, having launched concurrently last year.
Technological progress had called for a ground-up rethink of what might be possible for fleet management interfaces. Launched last June, Mercedes PRO is the result of just such an effort. What strikes you when you get a tour around all aspects of the system is that it’s not the quick-fix or add-on some manufacturers still offer. The key ingredient to this comprehensive solution is the LTE communication module, which forms the interface between fleet manager (via web tool) and driver (via app).
And while the startups applying for the Sprinter Start-Up Challenge might not have a fleet at their disposal, a number of the benefits are clearly worthwhile even when you’ve only got one vehicle to look after. The winner of the Challenge can rest assured that their Sprinter won’t drink more fuel than necessary (saving pennies always matters to founders!) if the pay attention to the driving style analysis features, improved navigation and tools to find available parking spaces. And they can sleep easy in the knowledge that it will be virtually impossible to steal thanks to mobile vehicle access, locking and geofencing.
Other benefits include optimized assistance, efficient fleet management and digital record-keeping of driving hours – including separate tracking for business and private trips.
For drivers, all of this is best enjoyed via the optional MBUX system, with its pleasingly vast screen display and its ability to respond to voice commands. (‘Hey Mercedes!’ is the magic phrase) And in a neat tie-up with this year’s Mobility.Pioneers event, it also understands the what3words address system that so intrigued the audience in Munich when it was introduced by keynote speaker Claire Jones.
Startups can apply for the Sprinter Start-Up Challenge via the Pioneers Discover Open Calls page here.