On Monday 23rd September 2019, twelve early-stage entrepreneurs gathered in Aarhus, Denmark, for the first Lean Startup Academy organised by the AAL2Business programme. The goal of the Academy was to guide young startups that are working on solutions to improve quality of life through their first steps in validating their business idea and developing robust business plans and objectives.

How does a company transform a great idea into a commercial opportunity? The key is to validate its business model by testing the assumption against the market. The AAL2Business team used the Lean Canvas method to show the participants how to test their business idea against the market.

Lean Canvas aims to step by step, define, test, and refine the company business concept looking at the customers, their needs, alternative offers, and appropriate approaches. The idea is to ensure minimal loss, but maximise potential gain. The results will be precise and concrete: either a viable business opportunity or no-go.

Dario Mazzella, a trainer and innovation expert from META Group, described the approach as an action-focused process, saying: “Our aim is to push (the entrepreneurs) to get out of the building, select one segment and contact potential customers to validate their assumptions.”

The participants were mainly from non-commercial backgrounds. Oana Cramariuc, founder of the Integrated Solution for Innovative Elderly Care, a tech company that plans to use ICT to help elderly people maintain their independence, said: “I moved from the academic field to industry. The support we received from AAL2Business is very important from the business perspective, I’ve learned a lot from AAL2Business.

The “Positive” project, an initiative of Maggioli S.p.A. and coordinated by Armend Duzha, aims to reduce loneliness in seniors through mobility solutions and social engagement. They also had a “positive” (pun fully intended 😉) experience with the training. Duzha said: “I have learned to use tools to create a valid business model for our products to be ready to take up in the market.”

The overall guidance provided to young companies under the framework of AAL2Business will comprise three face-to-face workshops and one individual online session intended to guide selected AAL project teams through a process of validation, and assist them in the development of goal-oriented and well-planned business models.

The aim is to facilitate the transformation of excellent research funded by the AAL programme to tangible, marketable results. AAL supports research that aims to improve quality of life and to strengthen industrial opportunities in the field of healthy ageing technology and innovation. By working together with elderly people, new solutions can be developed that can improve living standards for everyone.

Birgit Morlion of the European Commission’s DG CNECT said, “Technology, products, and news services should be co-created with elderly people. Co-creation and co-design with elderly people and caregivers make these products fit better to their needs.”

 Marco Carulli, AAL Programme Operations Manager, said, “The focus on market uptake is definitely something that AAL programme looks at. AAL2Business is a support action launched 4 years ago which provides a set of services for AAL funded projects in order to strengthen the commercialization and increase the market readiness of these solutions.”

Next steps:

All the participants are now hard at work developing their lean canvas before the second workshop, which will be held in Brussels on the 21st November 2019. They are being supported by dedicated coaches and are required to submit their first versions of a Javelin Board with the main hypotheses and plans related to their business idea.