Veli - The path to the founding of a company

Since its founding in 1971, the University of Kassel has been characterized by a high degree of practical orientation: Here, people do not teach and learn in the proverbial ivory tower, but carry scientific findings into industry and society. This is reflected not least in the numerous spin-offs by students. The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in particular has enabled and encouraged numerous young people to put their ideas into practice and become self-employed with their start-ups.

In this article, we will report on the Veli team surrounding Tim WeiƟ and the start-up project Veli. We asked them: With which idea they would like to start their own business, what their daily work is like and what tips they have for potential founders.

The business model

With Veli, Tim, Jan-Peter, Manuel, Max and Cornelius and their student employees want to help older people cope with their everyday lives. To do this, they equip their apartments with simple sensor technology on the central electricity and water meters. Veli's artificial intelligence is fed with the measurement data already collected in the households and learns to interpret patterns in energy and water consumption. The system uses this data to identify hazardous situations. For example, a lack of activity in the morning, a hotplate left on for an unusually long time or a running shower may indicate that the senior has fallen and needs help. In such cases, Veli informs family members or a care service, who can then check on the senior. Tim in particular has a very personal connection to this emergency mechanism: "Some time ago, my grandma fell in the kitchen and her alarm button was out of reach in the bedroom. In such situations, Veli can be an important addition to existing safety concepts and call for help when the people concerned are unable to do so themselves. In this way, our product enables older people to lead autonomous lives for longer and thus creates added value for society!"

The path to the founding of a company

After studying at the University of Kassel, Tim and Jan-Peter initially worked in the course of research projects at Daimler and VW. Independently of each other, they were both involved in projects aimed at identifying energy-saving potential in the companies' production lines. In this way, they acquired extensive knowledge in the field of sensor technology and software-supported pattern recognition, and the idea of using the electricity and water consumption of senior citizens as a hazard early warning system was born. Max also worked in the automotive industry before joining Veli and gained know-how in robotics and autonomous driving. However, he quit the secure and well-paid job in Munich to make a difference: "Sure, autonomous driving has great potential, but with Veli, an entire product is designed to help people; I find that more fulfilling. Plus, I want to build something myself!" Manuel has been part of the Veli team for some time. He also brings with him extensive knowledge in the field of IT and sensor technology, which he acquired during various internships and Hiwi jobs - for example, at Lufthansa Technik. Recently, the Veli core team has been complemented by Cornelius, who - similar to Max - was recruited by Jan-Peter. Cornelius has already completed an apprenticeship as an electronics technician at SMA prior to his studies at the TU Braunschweig and was thus able to gain important practical experience. Together with their student assistants, the five engineers are working on Veli's sensor technology, server structure and software.

In the start-up phase in particular, there are all kinds of organizational tasks to be performed in addition to the technical work: The official founding of the company has to be prepared and investors and cooperation partners have to be found. The Veli team can already point to a number of successes in this area, such as funding from the Distr@l support program and further support from the state of Hesse and the federal government. However, in addition to a good idea, the success of a company also depends to a large extent on the people who put a vision into practice. That's why the young founders invest a lot of time in recruiting, personnel selection and onboarding measures: "We pay a lot of attention to a good team culture. Of course, it should be a good human fit, but at the same time we also need expertise in different areas," says Jan-Peter.

Top tips from founders for founders

The path from the business idea to the actual start-up is not always easy. That's why Tim advises all students who are eager to start a business to take advantage of the support services offered by the University of Kassel at an early stage. For example, UniKasselTransfer (link) and the Science Park offer individual start-up advice, funding opportunities and scholarships, premises and various networking formats. Jan-Peter particularly recommends the CoCreation startup regulars' table: "It helps immensely to talk intensively with other founders. You can network, get feedback and then refine your idea."

In addition to these central offerings, the Veli team benefits significantly from the extensive support of the Institute of Environmentally Compatible Products and Processes and Prof. Hesselbach, who provides them with advice, support and, not least, a large network, and also provides them with premises to work in.