Startups, do you want to test your solutions on the biggest physical and virtual infrastructure in Slovenia?

Day 7. May 2018 posted Stanislava Vabšek

Optimisation of parcel delivery, smart and sustainable logistics, e-business and modern information services – all of these are priority areas where Pošta Slovenije will systematically look for strategic connections with startups. As said by Iztok Renčelj, director of sales and development of IT services in the biggest provider of postal services and one of the biggest providers of courier and IT services in Slovenia, they are newly also providing financial investments for startups. For the most ambitious teams, the priceless fact is that Pošta Slovenije doesn’t only offer support with global marketing, access to domain knowledge and business mentoring, but can also give them access to their network of 500 post offices with almost 2,500 postmen, 1,600 counter clerks and 1,200 vehicles. The company, which has actually built the biggest physical and virtual infrastructure in Slovenia, is thus providing startups with the ultimate environment for the development and testing of new services!
Last year at PODIM, you were interested mostly in first and last mile solutions for receiving and delivering parcels. Have the sought-after fields for startup collaboration changed this year?

True. Last year, we were mostly looking for solutions in the field of parcel delivery, which would improve the user experience in the segment of first and last mile delivery. This year we are, in accordance with our strategic development plan, still focused on parcel delivery, but we are adding the fields of logistic services and smart logistics, e-business, and information services.
How does blockchain technology encroach on the mentioned fields, considering blockchain is the cohesive thread that’s present with all our corporate partners this year?

Considering the trends and predictions, we are expecting blockchain technology to have the biggest influence on these mentioned fields. That is why in the future, completely new business models will be developed, which will influence bigger transparency of business operations, significant improvement in the user experience, and decrease in service prices.
Can you list use cases for the fields that interest you, so that the teams and individuals coming to PODIM this year will find it easier to imagine what kinds of solutions can be interesting for you?

In the field of mobility, we are looking for innovations with which we could optimize delivery, especially in cities. We are giving emphasis to sustainable logistics – for example to electric vehicles of all types, charging stations with a booking system, self-driving vehicles for work optimization in business logistic centres, car sharing, rolling stock optimization and similar. We are looking for new ideas and solutions in 3D printing connected to post business operations, medicine etc. The field of e-services is also incredibly important for us, because our modern IT infrastructure can support various services that the market needs.
The need to ensure sustainable revenue growth is also one of the key reasons for big companies to collaborate with startups. How do you see this challenge in Pošta Slovenije?

Today, most established companies realize that in the future, they will be able to grow with help of collaboration with startups. This realization has been triggered by the external environment, which has been changing rapidly over the past couple of years and is generating new technologies in very short time periods. These new technologies are then consequently developing completely new services, based on advanced business models. Corporations can’t handle all development on their own, so they are connecting with external startup and development teams in various ways, and they can gradually include their verified products and services in their regular business operations.
You used the word gradually … What do you think are the biggest challenges that big companies face when introducing novelties?

Established companies are generally very good at implementing existing services. Problems arise when it comes to the development and introduction of new innovative services, where there is fear of novelties and too slow introduction of business operation changes. Risks can also stem from the external environment, which is sometimes slow to accept innovative services. That is why introducing innovative services too quickly and too extensively causes unexpected business risks, company UBER can serve as an example.
How exactly will you address these risks in Pošta Slovenije?

In order to successfully manage all above-listed challenges, Pošta Slovenije has established a POSTARTUP team that we first suitably trained for working with startups, which in many ways work using different methods than established companies. We also set clear goals. As such, we are trying to establish an effective ecosystem that will enable rapid further development to startups, and growth of business to us. Pošta Slovenije is intensively investing into development, and part of this development can be carried out in a controlled way by external teams. At the same time, Pošta Slovenije has many resources that are completely unattainable to beginner teams – for example trust, delivery channels, support services and processes, certain technologies, money as well. That is why we are connecting with successful research institutions and groups in Slovenia and across the world, building a comprehensive ecosystem of innovative practices and products, connecting with startups, and trying to offer comprehensive and global support to Slovenian knowledge.
How are you otherwise looking for startups suitable for collaboration with Pošta Slovenije?

Besides activities within the PODIM Conference, this is the first year that we have embarked on meeting startups supported by the Slovene Enterprise Fund. We are actively collaborating with other Slovenian corporations that are also looking for opportunities in the startup world. We are trying to be a reliable and stable partner to the Initiative Start:up Slovenia and the Start:up Maribor community, where they are also helping us establish contact with startups as well as evaluate potentials and educate. Our goal for this year is to process 20 times more opportunities directly on the market, not on paper. Besides this, we will very soon launch a website, which will serve as a contact point between Pošta Slovenije and startups.
And what are you offering to startup teams? How do you ensure attractiveness of Pošta Slovenije as their potential strategic partner? Are you also now offering direct financial investments into startups?

We can support ambitions of good startup teams with our big testing polygon, domain experts, business mentoring as well as money. With our physical network, consisting of around 500 physical postal locations, almost 2,500 postmen, 1,600 counter clerks and 1,200 vehicles, we represent a unique environment for the development and testing of new services. Five days a week, we are actually physically present in all homes in the country! Through the PostEurop and Universal Postal Union network, we can ensure global scalability of promising products and services!
So far, Pošta Slovenije has successfully integrated various startups into its business operations. Can you give a more detailed description of these projects?

Years ago, we started business cooperation with the then-startup company Poštar which had developed an advanced service of electronic notification of documents. Today, the mentioned service is marketed by Pošta Slovenije under the brand PostAR, while the company Poštar is taking care of the service’s tech development. Despite the initial problems, we have been detecting great demand for advanced services of electronic notification of documents in the past year, mostly because many companies are in the stage of introducing paperless operations. As such, the services of electronic notification are one of the building blocks for introducing paperless operations, which Pošta Slovenije is offering in the field of e-commerce with services from subsidiaries EPPS and APS+. Last year, we have also successfully included a 3D printing services into the group, so we can offer highest quality services of 3D printing for various segments – industry, medicine and others …
What about the projects where you are collaborating with previously mentioned research institutions?

Years ago, Pošta Slovenije started collaborating with the Jožef Stefan Institute, especially with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Centre for Knowledge Transfer in Information Technologies, in the field of developing and introducing AI technology into existing and potential new postal services. This is why we are collaborating with partners of the initiative Opening Up Slovenia, encouraged by the Jožef Stefan Institute, to build a support environment for open education. In September last year, we worked with the Jožef Stefan Institute and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, and obtained the first H2020 project for automatically collecting, processing and translating open education sources X5GON in the joint amount of three million euros. As such, we are actually setting up a global infrastructure for opening education, collaborating with UNESCO, and competing with global players such as Amazon and Microsoft.
You are also active on projects that introduce innovations to the level of public administration …

Yes. The second set of cooperative activities with the Jožef Stefan Institute is running on the integration of innovative services for supporting public administration, based on controlling large amounts of data, predictive analytics, planning, and optimizations. Pošta Slovenije has reached agreements with partner posts across the world, is an active partner in the European Post Association PostEurop and in the global Universal Postal Union, which significantly eases our penetration to the global market.
Artificial intelligence is also rapidly becoming part of the transport and logistics field. Do you or how do you include it in the business operations of Pošta Slovenije?

For now, it’s the third segment of our cooperation with the Jožef Stefan Institute, namely for introducing AI into transport and logistic services. For a number of years, the Jožef Stefan Institute has been successfully collaborating on EU development projects in logistics, where they developed a range of services, from predicting the state of traffic, optimizing multimodal logistic channels to completely new cognitive logistics concepts and solutions. In January this year, the Jožef Stefan Institute and Pošta Slovenije together obtained the second H2020 project CogLo, or COGnitive Logistics Operations through secure, dynamic and ad-hoc collaborative networks. It’s a project in the joint amount of five million euro, intended to develop a cognitive logistics method, namely intelligent parcels that will choose, arrange and pay the costs of transport with the goal of speeding up and automatizing transport, decreasing costs, and building an integrated transport information system amongst European posts. That is why we attracted Croatian and Greek post as well as the Association of European public postal operators PostEurop to collaborate, with the project’s beginning planned for this June.
For the Slovenian Startup of the Year, which we traditionally award at PODIM, Pošta Slovenije this year nominated the company Event registry. Why?

All above-mentioned development projects are developed on the cloud platform of Pošta Slovenije. This way, Pošta Slovenije is strengthening its role as an advanced infrastructural provider in the field of data centres and cloud services. For this purpose, we started collaborating with the startup Event registry, so that today, most of their services are already carried out on the cloud infrastructure of Pošta Slovenije. Excellent business collaboration and the advanced innovative services of Event registry were the main reasons for our nomination.
How would you summarize your concrete expectations and what is the key message you wish to give to startups that are coming to the PODIM Conference this year?

We wish to present the ambitions and activities that Pošta Slovenije has regarding open innovation. We wish to establish contact and start collaborating with at least ten domain-suitable and competent startup teams. And, of course, we wish to exchange experiences with other participants and guests from abroad as well as learn about specific knowledge and tools for easier and more effective innovation. So startups, become part of our POSTARTUP team, and develop and test your services on the biggest physical and information infrastructure in the country!
Get in touch with Pošta Slovenije!

If you wish to present Pošta Slovenije with your innovative idea in logistics or mobility and transport, we invite you to write to the POSTARTUP team at the email address and arrange for a meeting at this year’s PODIM Conference.

Iztok Rencelj Posta Slovenije PODIM 2018
Communications and PR Start:up Slovenija
Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.