Apostar: need and competence combined
When Fredrik Sebek and Oliver Petri started studying computer science at KTH, none of them had becoming startup founders on their to do list, but that changed when they got in contact with Taraneh Shojaei and her idea.
In less than a year, KTH startup Apostar has gone from idea to finished product. They’ve also managed to sign several clients, and have more on the way in. In a few weeks, they launch the first version of the Apostar app, which will raise the competence of employees at Swedish pharmacies.
Pharmacist Taraneh Shojaei saw that there was a need for a solution like Apostar, but she needed help in making her idea reality.
- I called KTH Innovation and talked to one of the business development coaches. I told them that I’m a pharmacist with a great idea, and that I’d like to get in contact with KTH students. I thought that someone had to address the issue, but I couldn’t do it myself.
Through KTH Innovation, she found a course in software construction at KTH, where she could pitch her project. When Computer Science students Oliver Petri and Fredrik Sebek picked her idea over 50 others, the Apostar team was formed.
- Apostar is an elearning company aimed at pharmacy staff, says Taraneh. Our mission is to make it easier for them to learn about the products they sell at their pharmacy.
Taraneh is a pharmacist herself. She’s headed a pharmacy, and has also worked with sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. She saw the need for Apostar for several reasons: a lot of the medicine that doctors prescribe is used in the wrong way, left forgotten in a bathroom cabinet, or is never picked up at all, which both expensive and not particularly environmentally friendly.
Pharmacies are responsible for telling patients how to use the medicine that they’re prescribed, but finding the right information to share can be tricky. Also, according to Swedish law, all pharmacy staff, including people working with sales or on the register, must spend one hour every other week on training.
- All the information we need is out there, says Taraneh, but often half of the hour we have is spent on finding what to read. Before the industry was deregulated in 2009, pharmacies spent a lot of time on training, but now our schedules are much tighter. We started Apostar to make it easier for pharmacy staff to raise their competence. In the app, they can read about products, take courses, collect points and compete against other pharmacies. We want using the app to be fun!
After the course ended, Taraneh, Oliver and Fredrik reached out to KTH Innovation, by filling out a simple form on the website . The answer came from Daniel Carlsson, Business Development Coach focused on Medtech and materials, who was the right person to take on their case. After that, their idea has developed rapidly. In just a few weeks, they launch the first version of the app, built in React Native.
- It’s not impossible that we would have gotten this far without KTH Innovation, but it would have taken a lot longer, says Taraneh. We’ve avoided mistakes and saved a lot of time and money.
50 000 SEK in funding helped Apostar to quickly get control over their contracts and agreements. In September, 2018 they entered the KTH Innovation pre-incubator program together with fifteen other, early-stage KTH projects. During one year, the projects develop towards the market, get access to office space 24/7, extra support from their business development coach, and participate in weekly workshops to develop their ideas and themselves as entrepreneurs.
All the projects in KTH Innovation’s pre-incubator program are run by current students, researchers and employees at KTH, in parallel to their studies, research or work.
- Participating in the KTH Innovation preincubator program while studying at KTH hasn’t been a problem, says Oliver. The program is very flexible, so during exam periods we just spend less time on Apostar to focus on our studies, and when things calm down, we focus more on developing our startup.
- The program also adds structure, so it’s easy to know what our next step is. It’s also great to sit in the same office as others who are in the same situation. We have similar challenges, and we can always learn from each other.
An additional 150 000 SEK in funding is now contributing to perfecting the app before the launch in the beginning of February. Demand is high: the team gets several messages a week from people who want to know when they launch. During a beta test this summer, they could see that demand in real-time: users would log in at any time of day, even late on Saturday evenings.
When cooperating with large companies, there’s a lot to keep in mind. KTH Innovation’s legal support comes up multiple times.
- KTH Innovation’s preincubator program teaches you so many things that are important when starting a business, but the support we got in looking over our contracts has been extra important, says Taraneh. If we hadn’t gotten support in that process, we would probably have given up a long time ago. Your chance of succeeding increases so much when you are supported by KTH Innovation. We really recommend everyone to apply to KTH Innovation’s pre-incubator program.
Want to know more about Apostar? Visit their website !
Have you got an idea of your own that you would like to develop? Now is the time to apply for the KTH Innovation pre-incubator program, where a year of structured support, office space 24/7, workshops and a lot more is waiting for you!