Eazy Oil – How it all started?
First a disclaimer: we are a team of four engineers and as you already assume we have little knowledge of business and economics. But we are very enthusiastic. Just a few days ago our coffee meeting turned into an embryo of this project: Eazy Oil. We quickly developed a proof of concept for our idea that we have here and will show you a demo later…
This was the start of our pitch last weekend on the 24h-develop-your-project contest called GEWathon (Global Entrepreneurship Week hackathon). Teams of 4 people compete in this ruthless, junk food and caffeine fueled marathon with only one winner to step into the hall of fame. A true test of ingenuity, endurance, and fast-development skills. Your pitch must contain clear business plan and market strategies as well as work done in the last 24h on the product itself. In the end, just participating in this event improves your business and tech skills.
A few days before the event we were sitting in the local pub enjoying a few drinks. Just around the third round, we decided to apply for GEWathon. Ideas were pouring in faster than the beer and whiskey. Imagine a gas station where you don’t have to enter inside to pay for the fuel. You don’t even need to reach for your wallet. Just refuel and go.
A new way of payment using car license plates on gas stations. Our camera detects a vehicle approaching the pump and using OCR reads the license plate. We check the customer is in our database. The display near the pump notifies the customer of automatic payment. After the refueling is done, we charge the customer for the fuel and again he gets notified by the display. The customer is then free to leave.
Of course, some details had to be covered, like cases where a customer has no resources on his debit card. Or how to protect your self from fraud and stolen license plates.
Only 1/9 of the project
Somewhere mid-contest, around midnight, our second group of mentors were visiting and giving advice. Until now we were focused on programming and hardware. We had developt more than half of our demo (proof-of-concept), we had a camera, a working OCR service, self-hosted backend server, raspberry pi running as a pump simulator and a display. It was pretty impressive and people were reacting well. However, our last mentor had some important input for us.
Guys, you’ve done an amazing job of creating this product, but what do you wanna do with it? Win? Just have fun? Start building a real business? You gotta realize something. Take a look at the lean business model canvas. It has nine items and you have been solely focusing on one: the solution. There’s more to a business than just the product…
After this, he raised a few eyebrows by throwing around some business terminology we had no chance of understanding. But the message was clear: start building a business model. He also gave us a few good tips on how to write a VC presentation. That is a presentation for venture capitalists. Yeah, I know, I also had to google it.
We had to divide into two groups: one was gonna finish the demo and the other one was going to prepare the presentation. Matko and I then sat down for about 8 hours googling insanely and writing the most poorly designed presentation ever. It was not easy digesting all that information so fast, even harder at 5 am.
We made final changes to the presentation and submitted it around 10 am.
Show me what you got
There were 3 judges on the committee. All experienced businessmen, authors, pitch coaches and co-owners of successful companies. I was standing in front of them ready to impress. Even though other teams already had presented and their presentations were prettier, to say the least. The adrenaline rush was the only thing keeping me awake.
In about 5 minutes I went through the slides, which turned up to be quite good. But the demo at the end was the jaw-dropper. Matko was holding the license plate (that we took earlier of my car) in front of our camera. Josip was our cameraman streaming a close-up to the TV. Filip was pushing buttons on our “black box” pump simulator where we hid all the wires and the raspberry pi. All this commotion attracted the attention of the other contesters and judges who were now leaning over the table to get a better look. Finally, our display printed out “Payment complete!”. Applause.
That day we learned so much and made many useful connections. This is after all the point of GEWathon. Some mentors have shown interest for further cooperations and we are continuing to work on our project.