Rising Star | Francisco Duarte, Pavnext

Why did you set up your company?

A: To transform the technology that I have developed during my PhD into a product that not only will change the road safety industry for good, but also the way energy is produced and consumed within cities.

Did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ (i.e. something which led to you starting your business, or which triggered a change in the way you did things)?

A: I had that moment during my PhD - I was developing a technology to implement in the road pavement surface which converts vehicles’ kinetic energy into electricity.  During the technological developments, I've realised that when vehicles passed over the device I've created, they were slowing down without any driver action; at the same time, they were doing so without receiving any impact and without inducing any discomfort to its occupants.

That was when I realised that this could be a very interesting solution: not only to produce electrical energy, but mainly to promote road safety by reducing vehicles' speed in critical areas where they really need to slow down and move at low speeds, without depending on the drivers' behaviour.

Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?

A: Yes, that's our key support – we are currently a beneficiary of the SME Instrument programme (phase I). Also, the EIT Climate KIC programme and Climate LaunchPad were very important for us – not only in terms of funding, but especially when it comes to mentoring support.

How would you describe your progress so far? Are there any significant challenges you have had to overcome?

A: Our technical progress is being done with very limited resources, but we were able to validate our technology and prove the concept in a relevant environment last year; these were very hard milestones. It required a big effort, and the very limited budget was a big challenge to overcome, but fortunately we were able to do it.

What do you see as the key trends/disruptors for 2018 relevant to entrepreneurs?

A: There are several key trends at this moment. Blockchain is definitely one of them, but it's not my field, so I will talk more about my specific area. Smart mobility and transportation solutions are a key trend – not only autonomous vehicles, but also new business models in this field, vehicles connectivity, flying vehicles, among many others.

Rapid fire round

Which is better: partners or go it alone?

A: Partners.

War and Peace or The Great Investor?

A: War and Peace.

Backing Unicorns or backing Micros?

A: Backing Unicorns.

Who would you rather have as a mentor: Steve Jobs or Sheryl Sandberg?

A: Steve Jobs.

Tempura or sauerkraut?

A: Tempura.

Which is best: something cheap that people have to buy repeatedly or something expensive that they buy once a year?

A: Something expensive that they buy once a year.


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