Veniam ’Works Wins International Entrepreneurship Competition

VENIAM WORKS The spin-off Veniam ’Works won the first place at the 3rd Edition of Building Global Innovators, an international entrepreneurship and innovation competition promoted by ISCTE – IUL and the MIT Portugal Program. The company will transform cars into hotspots.

Veniam ’Works was born in 2012 as part of the research project DRIVE-IN carried out in the scope of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. Veniam ‘Works was created by João Barros, former national director of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program and faculty member at the Faculdade de Engenharia of the Universidade do Porto, and Susana Sargento, faculty member at the Universidade de Aveiro. The spin-off’s team also includes two U.S. entrepreneurs, Robin Chase (who created Zipcar, the largest car sharing company in the world) and Roy Russell (Chief Technology Officer at Zipcar), and several doctoral students.

The spin-off’s new technology allows vehicles to connect to each other and to existing mobile communications networks, whether they are cellular or Wi-Fi. “The system helps vehicles connect to other vehicles and access points, and quickly cover a city, offering a transmission radius ten times higher than the usual Wi-Fi,” said Susana Sargento. The goal is twofold: to reduce traffic in the mobile network, and to share information on vehicles and traffic. In the case of the former, the telecommunications operators and their customers can relieve data traffic in traditional mobile networks. This innovative technology that enables vehicle-to-vehicle communication opens endless possibilities in applications ranging from data sharing to traffic safety or even entertainment.

Currently, the city of Porto, in Portugal, has a unique vehicle-to-vehicle testbed where this technology is being tested. More than 450 taxis, from the fleet of RadiTaxis, are equipped with a kit that enables vehicle-to-vehicle communication using the technology developed by Veniam. “We expect to have the technology on the market in about 18 months,” said João Barros.

The competition’s grand finalist had already been awarded one hundred thousand euros in the final stage of the competition, as a track finalist. As the grand finalist, among 132 candidates, the company earned a further one hundred thousand euros. The award will allow Veniam ’Works to evolve and continue improving the vehicles’ Internet connection. “This award is an acknowledgement that this company has everything to be successful and that everyone involved in organizing this prestigious competition is committed to making us move forward. That is fantastic,” stated Susana Sargento. The funds will serve as a valuable resource for the spin-off. However, the amount can be doubled if the company successfully implements its Go-to-Market plan.

Veniam ’Works wants to be the leader in connecting vehicles to the Internet. The solution provided by the company is affordable, unlike similar technology on the market. “We offer robust and cost-effective ways of providing in-vehicle Internet access and seamless connectivity to your car or fleet. Since we develop our own wireless routers and communication protocols for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, we can equip large fleets in a cost-effective way,” explained João Barros.

Exporting the Solution is the Next Step
Working in Portugal and in the United States, Veniam ’Works already has business angel investment in New York, Boston, London and Lisbon, and is connected with a project funded by the European Union, through the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN). Exporting the solution will be the next step, and therefore the company is already preparing a capital injection in order to complete the proof of concept, develop the final product and enter in international markets later this year. The plan also includes a capital increase of about three million euros by the end of 2013.

Building Global Innovators is a global innovation and entrepreneurship competition that identifies and rewards strong embryonic or early stage projects focusing by design on global markets. The competition is sponsored by the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), in partnership with the MIT Portugal Program, the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation and the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

March 2013