How We Started A $25K/Month Company Developing Smart City Solar Products

$25K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
15
Employees
product
Seedia
from Kraków, Polska
started September 2016
$25,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
15
Employees
2.63M
alexa rank
448
followers
203
followers
44
subs
market size
$9.1B
avg revenue (monthly)
$12.5K
starting costs
$37.8K
gross margin
82%
time to build
12 months
average product price
$75
growth channels
Organic social media
best tools
Instagram, Verifigator, Twitter
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
45 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, My name is Piotr Hołubowicz and I am the founder of SEEDiA company.

At SEEDiA we are developing technologies for smart cities. What is interesting about our solutions is that they are based on renewable energy. Our solutions use this solar energy not only to be green but also off-grid, so we can put the product anywhere in the city without being connected to electricity. We address several urban problems. We have solutions for transport, waste management, and public spaces in general when it comes to landscape because these are solar benches that enrich this urban space.

The offer includes solar benches, trash cans, info kiosks, solar bus shelters, and smart hand sanitizers.

We have created a management panel that allows you to monitor the devices on an ongoing basis and sharing content in it. It is part of the smart city system. The municipal operator, through sound, displays, and Wi-Fi, can send public information, warnings, and other content to residents in real-time.

how-we-started-a-25k-month-company-developing-smart-city-solar-products

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The idea for our solutions came from a need. Once we were sitting on a park bench with our friends and our phones got discharged. We decided that it would be nice if standard park benches had the possibility to charge mobile devices. That was the genesis of everything we started with. I, as an engineer, came up with the idea at the time that this is cool, but it should be powered by energy that isn't plugging into the standard electricity, and so we settled on photovoltaic panels.

Every day we try to develop new solutions and develop existing functions. We research the market and introduce changes to our devices to make them as innovative as possible and improve the quality of life in society.

SEEDiA benches are benches that have a built-in solar battery so we can charge our equipment at any time, and they also have free internet access. The most important thing is that the products solve the problems of the residents. Because the city is the residents so we focus on providing the residents with what they need.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We start with the preparation of the concept - characteristics and customer expectations. In the next stage, we develop the design of the new devices. Then, SEEDiA engineers start creating 2D documentation as well as designing and modeling products in a 3D CAD environment. Another important design element are components based on hardware and software solutions developed by SEEDiA engineers.

The basis of each device is its own electronics and the cloud (the space in which the data is collected). SEEDiA benches are equipped with three electronic modules. They are of key importance in giving each of the benches a unique functionality. The most important of them is the distribution module - it is built into each bench. Its task is energy management, this module contains specific algorithms that allow you to control the properties of the product. It is responsible for how the individual elements of the bench are powered, how the battery is charged, here the priorities for individual elements are set.

Thanks to the appropriate parameters, the photovoltaic panel transfers energy to the battery, from which it is distributed to the individual elements of the bench. - We can program this module in such a way that in case of an energy shortage, it can disconnect functions with lower priority, e.g. display and induction charger.

When the technical documentation is ready, we start building a prototype in our production plant in Bielsko-Biała. We make most of the components ourselves - we started with using foreign electronics, but today we have proprietary solutions. We produce everything in Poland, where we care for both the quality of materials and the product itself. Logistics also has a great impact on this process - we are in the center of Europe and our product requires properly designed logistics and installation processes, so domestic production suits us very well.

how-we-started-a-25k-month-company-developing-smart-city-solar-products

Describe the process of launching the business.

The prototype of the solar bench was created in December 2015. In 2016, we made a pilot implementation of benches with the energy company Innogy and presented their solutions at the economic forum in Krynica. In the same year, it was recognized as the Ecological Company of the Year.

We reached for European Funds because in the early stages of enterprise development it is very difficult to obtain private funds. The nature of our project, its innovation allowed us to obtain funds to quickly and intensively develop what we do. European funds have helped us primarily in two things: on the one hand, internationalization, or funds that allow us to go to trade fairs outside the borders of our country and develop there, show our offer.

On the other hand: hiring engineers, creating new research and development projects, which we probably wouldn't be able to do without these funds due to the risk and capital needed to do these things, these projects. We have ideas related to various urban problems.

In 2017, the founders selected designs as the most creative in business by Brief magazine and introduced the new airline to the benches. In 2018, all integrated devices were introduced in the Smart City platform - panel.seedia.city, the company's technological solutions, and the implementation of the Pocket Park in Krakow was one of the 10 best Smart City solutions at Smart City Expo in Barcelona.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

A wide range of products, modern design, and more and more effective solutions to urban problems. The residents liked our products.

The most important thing, however, is that the users are satisfied and willingly use the products. For example, in the city of Szczecin, we have a bench that is used by 30,000 users annually. The scale is huge!

We have introduced a mobile application that makes it easy to find the nearest devices. SEEDiA City app is an innovative project that directly participates in the process of creating smart cities and public spaces. The application allows its users to find the nearest charging point in the area and use it to charge the device using solar energy. Some of the points also offer a WiFi hotspot.

Benches, placed all over the country, equipped with solar panels, convert solar radiation into electricity, which allows you to easily charge, for example, a phone. The battery is recharged and the choice of solar energy directly contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

All public charging points are marked on the application map, and each user can report their failure or request such a point in their area.

However, this is not all the possibilities of SEEDiA City app. We have also decided to provide our users with information about the current state of air in their area. The installed smog sensors provide information about the state of the pollution and the user who uses the charging function will be updated with data related to the level of air cleanliness.

The app allows you to take part in a city game and collect points that can be exchanged for attractive prizes or discounts in the future.

how-we-started-a-25k-month-company-developing-smart-city-solar-products

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

2020 was a very intense year for us. Already in the first quarter, we were faced with solving the problem of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The answer to the need to increase safety in public places was a modern line of solar dispensers, which met with great interest among residents and authorities. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, this year was a record year for SEEDiA - we sold 112% more products than in 2019.

Every day we try to develop new solutions and develop existing functions. We research the market and introduce changes to our devices to make them as innovative as possible and improve the quality of life in society.

In 2021, we present three new products that can even more effectively solve the problems of modern cities and reduce the costs of their operation:

  • New Urban Solar Bench
  • New Smart Trash Can
  • New Cloud platform (InCity.io) - for managing smart cities

how-we-started-a-25k-month-company-developing-smart-city-solar-products

how-we-started-a-25k-month-company-developing-smart-city-solar-products

Plans for the future - So globally, we would like our solutions to function as widely as possible in the world. And locally, that the public transport, which we are working intensively on now, is adjusted to the needs of users. For example, that the vehicle arrives when the user needs it, and that the garbage is well segregated and collected when the basket is full. We want people to live well in the city.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Marketing, sales and CRM products: Hubspot.

Slack channels for internal communication.

Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Analytics.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Piotr Hołubowicz ,   Founder of Seedia
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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