Corporate hackathons are an increasingly popular model of open innovation. However, doubts remain about the actual impact of these types of events. Skeptics complain that from many ideas that get generated during this type of event, only very few translate into long-term outcomes. Is it possible to shift the outcome of corporate hackathons from generating ideas to making them happen? In this case study, we interview Michael Bertel, co-founder of LiMix, an innovative juice mixing machine, to get his perspective on how to leverage the InnoDays to kickstart the entrepreneurial journey.
The story of LiMix
Michael Bertel is a student of the HTL Dornbirn, who joined the InnoDays Rheinthal 2018 with his co-founder Linus Albrecht. At that time, LiMix was not in their plans. Michael and Linus learned about the InnoDays from their instructors and they were inspired to tackle the Rauch Fruchtsäfte challenge. Rauch asked: “How might we reimagine the fruit juice experience of the future?”
“We did not know how, we did not know why, but we wanted to mix juices.”
Reflecting back on the beginning of his adventure, Michael recalls: “We did not know how, we did not know why, but we wanted to mix juices”. The initial idea involved a web interface to allow customers to create their preferred juice mixes online and transfer the orders to Rauch. After discussing the idea with mentors and company partners, Michael and his team soon realized that the complexity and costs involved in execution would pose substantial challenges. Therefore, they changed their mind and opted for a juice mixing machine that could be independently operated by consumers.
“We said: ‘let’s do this’ and people started laughing at us.”
Michael remembers the enthusiasm for the new idea and the skepticism of some of the mentors: “We said: ‘let’s do this’ and people started laughing at us and said ‘ok, you can try, but there will be a lot of challenges’”. The warnings were not show-stoppers, instead, they motivated the team to learn more about the challenges that professionals who had experience in building juice machines envisioned. “The most useful thing during the InnoDays was the feedback from Rauch experts and other mentors. We got a lot of advice from people who previously tried to make a juice machine and did not manage to solve these problems” — says Michael. Hygiene posed the biggest challenge, but after several iterations of the prototype and presentations at innovation events such as the Smart City Dornbirn competition, the first fully automated, hygienic and functioning LiMix machine was ready. The result of several months of hard work and trial and error paid off.
“Now the machine works, but we need to see how the customers interact with it so that we can make the perfect product.”
Michael and Linus had the opportunity to showcase their progress at the InnoDays Bregenz 2019. In Bregenz, they met Rauch experts a second time and were further advised to develop their machine for the bar and cafeteria market segment rather than for industrial production. “Now the machine works, but we need to see how the customers interact with it so that we can make the perfect product” — comments Michael, who plans to improve his business skills in the near future — “My co-founder and I have a technical background, therefore we live in a tech world, but sometimes we tend to overlook the customer and the business model. These will be our next focus.”
“Just do it! You can’t make anything wrong if you start to make things, because even if they do not work, you can transform the feedback into learnings”
Michael concludes sharing his advice to future InnoDays participants: “Just do it! You can’t make anything wrong if you start to make things, because even if they do not work, you can transform the feedback into learnings”. The story of LiMix teaches us that the InnoDays could be a good place where to kickstart the entrepreneurial journey. We summarize three important take-aways from this case study as follows:
- Be persistent: If you believe in an idea, just go for it. Until you try to make the idea happen, you won’t discover whether it works or not.
- Keep a learning attitude: Use feedback constructively. Listen to experts and seek constant opinions that will help to make your product better.
- Don’t be a stranger: Stay in touch with the InnoDays beyond the event, provide updates, and ask us how we might support you further.
Good luck to Michael and Linus and we hope to see you at the next InnoDays event!