Interview partner: Stelios Katsanevakis
Why did you start your start-up, which problem do you address and how do you solve it?
Nursing homes are under enormous pressure: the lack of nurses, cost pressure and the growing number of residents with dementia are just a few examples. We at nevisQ support nursing homes with intelligent room technologies - without compromising privacy.
Our sensor-based AI solution, nevisCura, makes the lives of nursing home residents safer and the care work more efficient. Critical situations such as falls, getting out of bed, and leaving the room or facility are automatically detected and nursing staff are notified. This is particularly useful at night when there are few nurses working in the facility. The activity analysis helps the nurses to provide more targeted care. It can be achieved by, for example, detecting a high number of daily toilet visits, a high level of nightly activity or changes in the aisle. By linking this information with data from other sensors and nursing documentation, nursing can be further improved to prevent critical situations and illnesses.
How did you get the idea to found your start-up?
The concrete idea for nevisQ was born at the end of 2014. Christian, David and Dennis attended a lecture at RWTH Aachen University, where they were to write a business plan for a business idea. The business idea was about intelligent baseboards that are able to discreetly monitor activities in nursing homes. The concept was initially developed as part of a research project at RWTH Aachen University.
Christian, David and Dennis had previously gained experience in the care industry and were therefore very interested in working on such a solution. After they had written the business plan, they decided to put the business idea into practice. I got to know them in mid 2015 after David had met my girlfriend by chance in another lecture. I was fascinated by both their vision and the technological challenge and decided to join them. At that point, the idea was mature enough and we were ready to start nevisQ and begin technical development.
What have you learned so far?
The lessons are truly countless. That's one of the great things about starting/working in a start-up; you have to constantly observe, adapt and learn. You gain experience in different areas and get a sense of the big picture.
If I have to summarize some of the high-level learning processes, this is it:
- Stay focused on your goal. The path that leads to your goal is formed "automatically".
- Acknowledge that there are many things you do not know. Only with this way of thinking you can start learning.
- Listen to others. You may find yourself trapped when you try to solve a problem. An out-of-the-box perspective often solves the problem within minutes.
- Be patient. External factors that you cannot control will surely appear and delay things. In a startup that is conquered by an extremely dynamic and agile environment, such delays can feel exhausting. However, the only sensible thing to do is to continue to react to the things you can control.
Why are you on Startbase
A crucial part of the success of a start-up is high visibility and a broad network of connections. These can be, for example, the right investor at the right time, production partners, sales partners, etc. We welcome and are grateful for initiatives such as Startbase, which aims to help young innovative companies to grow faster.
Who is the mastermind in your team and what is his superpower?
The mastermind is the team itself. Through the fusion of different personalities, opinions and abilities we achieve things that a single brain would consider impossible.
This is the superpower: to make seemingly impossible things possible by working together.
Where do you see yourself in three years?
Our aim is to play a leading role in improving the quality of care for the elderly and to support 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. We will probably have started to expand in other countries as well. We have already carried out several test installations with a partner in Spain.
Do you still have a real social life since the foundation?
Yes and no. My social life has changed dramatically since we started nevisQ. It's not trivial as a founder to separate work and private life.
Often there is not enough time left to go out with old friends as I used to do, and this sudden change has damaged some of my friendships.
Another example: The limited time also affects the holiday season. It always seems to be a bad time to go on holiday because there is always something important going on. I have found that it is responsible to just take a holiday when you need it, even if it doesn't feel right. Taking time off is essential to get my mind in order. In my experience it improves productivity and is therefore the best for the company.
My new social life consists mainly of the start-up universe. I get to know 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 and more aware of this change, I try to create a certain balance between the two worlds and get the best out of both; I expand my social life while taking care of my old one. It can be emotionally very challenging and it is something I have struggled with, but I have managed to come to terms with it.
What would you recommend to other founders?
As cheesy as it may sound before you start a start-up, be sure that you are really passionate about it. In my opinion, this is an important ingredient to stay strong enough to overcome difficult times. I am sure that all startups face such difficulties.
Another thing I would recommend is not to be overly cautious with your idea. This is something I often see in early-stage startups and I blame myself for this. What really makes the difference is the implementation of the idea. The magic ingredient for good execution is an exceptional team. To create an extraordinary team, you have to share your idea and try to motivate and convince great minds to join the journey.
What has really gone wrong since your foundation?
There have been many ups and downs since we started. However, I consider us to be quite happy, since nothing has really gone wrong until now (fingers crossed).
When we talk about happiness, I think it is an aspect that many underestimate, although it plays an important role in how things develop. Apart from that, it is our job to recognize good opportunities and to take advantage of them.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome in the beginning?
Personally, one of the biggest challenges was to learn and ignore the pressure from my social circles.
When I announced my plans to follow such a path, a lot of scepticism followed. Starting up your own company is considered unconventional and very risky. It is not the "safe" way. It leads to constant psychological pressure, which makes you doubt yourself and can reduce your effectiveness. Ironically, this well-meant concern from your inner circles can make this path even riskier.
A major exception is my girlfriend, who has been supportive and understanding throughout the journey. In general, I have been fortunate that after our first successful moments at the beginning, this attitude changed significantly and the people around me received much more support. Unfortunately I know that this is not the case with many founders.
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