A VivaTech first: WheelKeep, the Ukrainian cycling startup

30 Jun 2022

The VivaTech 2022 conference, one of the largest European events in the field of innovation, was held from 15 to 18 June in Paris. This year marks the first time Ukrainian startups have joined the VivaTech ranks. One representative is the bicycle security system “WheelKeep”, a project of the Noosphere Engineering School. Given the interruption of in-person event opportunities with the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheel Keep is excited to share the experience of this first “post-covid” event.

The Wheel Keep system is built into the steering column and, since it is completely invisible from the outside, it can update the owner for every movement of the bike, as well as record its geolocation with an accuracy of 2 meters. Like most such projects, WheelKeep was born out of the founder’s love for bicycles and, consequently, an understanding of the need for cyclists to Keep their Wheels. The infrastructure for cyclists in Ukraine had only just begun to be established before the war, but for Europe, such projects are very relevant. Shortly before the start of the full-scale war, Wheel Keep launched a pre-sale of its product in Ukraine and began preparing to enter the market of the Netherlands, a country leading in the number of bicycles per capita. For example, the student city of Groningham has a population of 200,000, and almost half the population relies on a bicycle as their means of transportation.

The startup joined the Ukrainian delegation at VivaTech, having been selected by a tender commission headed by representatives of the Ministry of Digital Transformation. “The trip to VivaTech 2022 was very important for us because it opened up opportunities to present our product to both potential investors and consumers. We are grateful to the European partners and organizers for the opportunity to take part in an event of this magnitude”, commented the founder of WheelKeep, Pavlo Herman.

Pavlo’s 5 key observations and recommendations for young startups participating in similar events:

1. Test the value proposition of your hypothesis on the guests of your booth. This is a large sample that will clearly show what works and what doesn’t;

2. Gather as many contacts as possible. We managed to collect about 90 lids. Of course, how useful they are will become clear in 3-4 months after the event, but this is a good base;

3. Plan your time: Determine in advance the lectures you should attend, because it is impossible to cover everything. Make appointments in advance as well;

4. A conference of this scale (VivaTech has over 500 speakers, as many startups and more than 25,000 visitors) should be attended by a team of several people. After all, you will need to staff your booth as well as attend lectures, and inspect the booths of other participants to “feed” on ideas;

5. Pay attention to the trends, this is what will be at the TOP in a few years. At VivaTech, the trend was sustainable development. In European countries, circular business models and a focus on environmental friendliness are becoming increasingly popular. The stands at the exhibition were even decorated with fresh flowers and trees! Being responsible for nature is becoming increasingly popular, and we think startups like WheelKeep will help develop this trend.

What the WheelKeep team took away was that their focus on the “complexity” of the product was quite justified. In Europe, the project has many competitors, but none of them is able to provide complete protection for the bicycle. And the key is in the technical: a small device often needs to be “decorated” with a large number of antennas, which often refuse to work together. WheelKeep has managed to find an engineering solution that makes everything work. According to Pavlo Herman, this was made possible by professional mentorship from the Noosphere Engineering School.

And for the WheelKeep team, as for any Ukrainian abroad now, it was important to emphasize their identity: “It was an opportunity to show the world and Europe that Ukrainians, despite the war, remain ‘on top’ and develop the IT sector. One of our tasks, in addition to direct business, was to tell as many people as possible about the war and the heroism of Ukrainians’, said Pavlo Herman.