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Slimmer AI collaborates with the RUG University Entrepreneurship Minors to develop new business ideas with applied AI

The tech ecosystem in The Netherlands has gained incredible traction the past few years, with a record $1.4bn invested last year alone. This is in large part due to the incredible entrepreneur spirit with ambitious and inventive founders coming from university and industry alike.

Slimmer AI, a B2B venture studio specialising in developing projects, products and ventures powered by AI, is focused on finding and supporting the next founders and entrepreneurs in order to help them build successful software businesses. The Dutch university system, including the world-renowned University of Groningen, has a wealth of budding entrepreneurs with creative ideas that simply need the right environment to reach their full potential.

Slimmer AI is proud to have long-standing close ties to the University of Groningen and to the north of The Netherlands. More than 10 years ago, Slimmer AI was a spin-off from RUG, and the university has been an incredible source of talent and collaboration since those early days. Slimmer AI continues to retain a close relationship with the university, contributing to the research and growth in the Dutch innovation sector.

Slimmer AI strongly believes that collaboration and knowledge sharing provide great potential to support the development of new talents and businesses. A recent talent development initiative relates to the RUG University Entrepreneurship minors. Giuseppe Lacerenza, Slimmer AI's Managing Director of their venture program, coached a group of five Entrepreneurship Minor students with researching and validating their business ideas for a new AI venture.

The collaborative Entrepreneurship project started in November 2020 and final deliverables were submitted in February 2021. The project’s key objective was to find a new problem-solution fit for Slimmer AI’s technologies that support decision-making and predictions. The rest was open to students' creativity.

We sat down with Daan Hazewinkel, Emil Ekens, Emy Smit, Kristyn van der Veen and Richard Schipper to talk about their experience working with Slimmer AI and this is how it went:

As an introduction, could you please walk us through the project you were developing in collaboration with Slimmer AI?

RUG Students: We are a young and driven team of five students, with diverse educational backgrounds, from the University of Groningen. As a part of our Entrepreneurship project assignments, we had to develop a business plan from scratch. We had a choice to do it ourselves or to cooperate with an existing company and learn from their experience.

The choice was easy. We decided to work with Slimmer AI and Giuseppe Lacerenza. Their expertise in developing new products and ventures was a perfect base for us to come up with something meaningful.

How we would shape this idea was totally up to us, which made experimenting and researching a lot of fun. As a result of our cooperation, we developed the idea of tackling online fraud on customer-to-customer selling platforms in the Netherlands with the use of AI. Online fraud is an ever-increasing problem, and we can counteract it with our solution.

It seems like you made the right choice to cooperate with Slimmer AI and Giuseppe. How did you find working with an external company while creating your business concept?

RUG Students: It was exciting, but also a new experience for us as students. We had no expectations at first, and we wanted to start the collaboration with an open mind. We immediately felt respected and appreciated for our willingness to cooperate on a real-life project together. It was encouraging to see that our input as students could be so valuable to a company with over a decade of experience in AI and tech.

You said it was a new experience for you and that you had no expectations. Now that the project is finished, do you think this approach could be useful for your studies and for your professional development?

RUG Students: Having the opportunity to bring our entrepreneurial skills into practice with a modern, respected, and progressive company like Slimmer AI, was quite beneficial to our educational and professional development. Obtaining a new skillset is useful for a future professional career, and being granted the opportunity to test these skills in the real world together with an actual company is even more so.

What was the skillset that you could test and what else did you learn?

RUG Students: We obtained insight into the systematic processes Slimmer AI uses to build a business case from scratch. For both parties, it was nice to see that we use similar techniques to systematically work towards a promising and innovative idea. It was an insightful experience to create a promising business idea together and to establish a routine of having meetings and consultations that suited the company and us. Also, considering current world situation with the pandemic, creating an online environment in which we could align our ideas and findings with Slimmer AI turned out to be quite energizing and inspiring.

What, beyond the remote cooperation related to global pandemic, did you find most challenging?

RUG Students: The fact that we had zero experience in working with technologies such as AI was a bit of a challenge. Furthermore, the goal was to construct a SaaS (Software as a Service) model for our solution, which was also something we haven't done before. There were lots of unknowns for us, such the development costs of AI technologies, or how a SaaS model would be marketed. Nevertheless, having access to Giuseppe Lacerenza and his colleagues’ collective expertise throughout the collaboration ensured we always had the right answers and continue the project with confidence.

Having the inside expertise must have been extremely helpful. What was the thing or two that you liked the most about the experience?

RUG Students: It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to join forces between the students (a diverse and newly formed project group) and a well-established company like Slimmer AI. It was both an educational and enjoyable experience. We think it’s safe to say that both Slimmer AI and our supervisors are proud of the results.

What did you like the least about the project?

RUG Students: We'd hoped that we would have enough time to work on a first prototype together with Slimmer AI. Unfortunately, that turned out to be impossible considering the limited time. If we get a similar opportunity in the future, we would like to learn more about the technological aspects of utilizing AI technology. It is always interesting to know more about the intricacies of a specific technology that you are working with.

How do you think this experience could influence the future of your career?

RUG Students: As was mentioned before, this collaboration was a great learning experience, both on a personal and professional level. We believe that we will be able to utilize the gained experience in our respective future careers, when we work for either a professional organization or start our own companies. With these important learnings, it will be easier for us to begin our professional careers.

Slimmer AI is on the lookout for both companies and talents to collaborate with on new venture ideas and to build business-changing B2B AI products. Having entrepreneurial, business and tech expertise in-house, Slimmer AI develops new concepts from scratch and supports companies achieve their growth potential. Slimmer AI's most recent successful venture is an automated transaction monitoring powered by machine learning – Sentinels. To learn more about both Slimmer AI and Sentinels, please go to https://www.slimmer.ai/.