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Man holding a pen at the table

Acceleration written with a digital pen

Program: Technological Entrepreneurship Foundation – MIT Enterprise Forum Poland Accelerator (MITEF Poland)

Every year, more and more advanced technologies are coming to the market. They are meant to be more intuitive, innovative, faster, and at the same time should have a sophisticated design. Their goal is to improve efficiency and the quality of life. The challenge of creating such a product was taken by IC Solutions. However, it was difficult for the team to find a business partner, because it turned out that reaching a large corporation and launching an implementation was very demanding. To solve this problem, startup applied to one of Scale UP accelerators.

Invisible technologies

IC Solutions works on invisible computing products – the company offers intuitive solutions that are invisible from the user's perspective. Their flagship product – IC Pen is on the one hand an ordinary pen but on the other – a tool for the automatic digitization of documents. 

The idea of establishing a startup was created by team members during the doctoral studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. According to the CEO of IC Solutions, Rafał Witkowski: – "We wanted to create a company that will do something specific, change reality, optimize the world." The adventure with modern technologies started with a speech recognition project that allowed for the identification of spoken words by a computer. The market verification showed that the idea was not profitable enough. The scientists have therefore transferred their potential to a project based on recognizing script. They decided to revolutionize the basic activity of writing and transform the idea into a business. 

In 2011, IC Solutions team began working on a digital pen that allows to transfer written text to electronic form. It took three years to create and refine the product ready for commercialization. By that time the company started arousing interest of its first customers, but the ambitions of IC Solutions went further. The team therefore decided to join the acceleration program, which was designed to help them as well as to improve the proposed solution and establish cooperation with a large company. Achieving these goals was easier thanks to MIT Enterprise Forum Poland accelerator (MITEF) – one of the operators selected in Scale Up competition organized by Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP). 

Singed up for acceleration

Scale Up was created to combine the potential of startups with the experience and infrastructure of large enterprises and State Treasury companies. Thanks to the initiative 10 accelerators were created, including MITEF, run by Technological Entrepreneurship Foundation to which finally the IC Solutions team came forward. The accelerator offered usage of technical and technological facilities, expert knowledge and mentors, as well as co-financing in the amount of PLN 200,000 for business development and the possibility of implementations in partner branches. In addition, the best startups had the chance to participate in the weekly Bootcamp in Boston.

During the program, the IC Solutions team focused on gaining a serious, even breakthrough commission, which will allow them to achieve commercial success. For the company, it was also extremely important to test the product in the corporation and to establish valuable business contacts that will result in long-lasting business cooperation. From among five development paths, IC Solutions has chosen "Let's fintech with PKO BP" directed to fintech startups. According to Witkowski: – "The problem of storing and producing a large amount of documentation concerns especially the area of banking, where it is required to create multi-page contracts or forms, which must be archived for the next several years. We have always dreamed of implementation in a large organization. PKO BP was the best place to test our technology. " 

Cooperation at the highest level

Startup’s goal was to reach the banking sector with their product, that is why the team highly appreciates the cooperation with the bank. The representatives of IC Solutions had the opportunity to get to know the size of this organization thanks to the workshops during which they explored the internal structure of the corporation. As Witkowski comments: – "We are a startup, so some things seem simple to us, and when we faced a company such as PKO many things turned out to be very complex and complicated." The team had a great chance to see the organization of work in a large company and to meet with representatives of many departments – both at the managerial and assistant levels. What is more, the participants of the accelerator could consult lawyers who determined whether the project is compliant with all regulations. The team also had three mentors who provided advice and business experience. 

Cooperation with the bank allowed the startup to specify in which departments their product will be applied. At the same time, participation in one of the Scale Up accelerators brought IC Solutions PR benefits. According to Witkowski: – "For a small company from Poznan, participation in the acceleration program under the MIT brand name – a renowned American university, undoubtedly raised the rank and prestige of the company."  

An additional bonus of the program was that the company could establish contact with State Treasury companies – other than the partner of the chosen path, which also offered their development programs under MIT. 

The future signed up in the bank

The company is currently facing the challenge of internationalization. They are planning to create a structured sales activity abroad and Scale UP was a good step to prepare for it. The program fulfilled its role in accelerating the commercialization and establishing cooperation with a serious player. For IC Solutions, this acceleration program was a milestone towards a big business world. During our conversation with the company, the initative was still ongoing. Today, we know one of its effects: IC Solutions product is implemented in four bank branches.

CEO of IC Solutions, Rafał Witkowski, at the end of the conversation shared advice for young companies that are just beginning their adventure with business: – "You need to believe consistently in what you are doing and not to let the prose of life deprive you of the success of your project."

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