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EEPA – our introduction to the Jury continues

Each year, in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, an independent high-level Jury is faced with the difficult task of drawing up a shortlist of projects that will compete for the first prize during the SME Assembly. This year is no different – the EEPA Jury should select three shortlisted projects in each of the six project categories by mid-September, a task that is made especially difficult by the high quality of the participating projects.

The EEPA Jury is typically made up of a representative from the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions, the countries holding the first and second semester EU presidencies (this year the Netherlands and Slovakia), a European SME organisation, the Grand Jury prize winner from the previous year (this year Lisbon Micro-Entrepreneurship) and a representative from academia.

Last week we began with an introduction to the academia representative – Thomas M. Cooney, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland, and Thomas Wobben from the Committee of the Regions. This week we continue by presenting the representative of the Dutch first semester EU presidency and the representative from a European SME organisation which, this year, is UEAPME – the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

Pieter Waasdorp

Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs

pieter-waasdorpPieter is director of Entrepreneurship at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands and has been an EU SME envoy since 2014. He has over 25 years’ experience in policy-making and has worked at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in several management functions.

He was the manager of a joint programme of the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Education, Culture and Science. Entrepreneurship is a topic that runs through his curriculum vitae. As EU SME Envoy, he launched the TEDx Binnenhof Ideas from Europe platform. Pieter has been a member of many entrepreneurship competition juries.

 

Alban Maggiar

Vice President, UEAPME

Alban MaggiarAlban is in charge of European Affairs for CGPME, the French Association of SMEs. He is also vice-chair of UEAPME, the Brussels-based federation of European SMEs and chairs its Economic and Fiscal Committee.

For over a quarter of a century, Alban has been the head of Laboratoire CARRARE, a French company that specialises in probiotics, yeasts and botanicals-based food supplements. He was Chairman of the French association SYNADIET from 2005 to 2015, and of the European association EHPM from 2013 to 2016. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Law and an Advanced Master’s Degree in Tax Law.

 

 

The judging process

For the EEPA Awards, individual countries were invited to conduct national competitions to determine the best projects to represent their nation. Hundreds of projects competed in these national competitions in 2016 for a chance to vie for an EEPA. Countries were allowed to nominate a maximum of two entries per category to the European competition. Each Jury member reads and assesses every entry against defined criteria covering: originality and feasibility, impact on the economy, improvement of stakeholder relations and transferability. The Jury then meets to discuss their top entries in each category, before agreeing on winners, runners up and any special mentions. The shortlist is published shortly after the jury meeting and the winners are announced during the Awards Ceremony at the SME Assembly.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/support/enterprise-promotion-awards_en

Previous blog post: EEPA – Meet the Jury!

Everyone dreams of doing something that will stand the test of time

In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.

This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is.  Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.

But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….

“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”

Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about.  The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.

Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come?  My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world.  A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.

Gerhard Dust - Google Drive.clipular

Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated.  I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.

But we do not regret any of it.  Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process.  So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.

You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough.  These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference.  What could be more motivational than that?

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The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:

  1. Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
  2. Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
  3. Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
  4. Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
  5. Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
  6. Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.

I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.

And finally…..believe in yourself.

Gerhard DustI am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.  Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.

Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.

Best of luck to you all.

To read more about Polycare :

A mature entrepreneur talks about a life-changing event…

Gerhard Dust discusses the challenges he faces in his new business venture…

PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust responds to questions about his technology

 

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EEPA – Meet the Jury!

Each year, in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, an independent high-level Jury is faced with the difficult task of drawing up a shortlist of projects that will compete for the first prize during the SME Assembly. This year is no different – the EEPA Jury should select three shortlisted projects in each of the six project categories by mid-September, a task that is made especially difficult by the high quality of the participating projects.

This year’s Jury includes representatives from government, business and academia and also includes a representative from Slovakia, as Slovakia will host the SME Assembly in Bratislava in November as part of the Slovak EU presidency. There are two permanent representatives on the Jury, one from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs and one from the Committee of the Regions. The winner of the previous year’s Grand Jury Prize is also invited to sit on the Jury.

Over the next few weeks we will introduce you to all of the people who make up this year’s EEPA Jury. This week we start, in no particular order, with a representative from academia and the representative from the Committee of the Regions.

Prof. Thomas M. Cooney

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Dublin Institute of Technology

Thomas-Cooney-2-thumbThomas is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland) and Visiting Professor at the University of Turku (Finland). He is also Academic Director of the Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship, a Board Member of Startup Ireland and works in a supportive capacity with a number of businesses.

As an expert in entrepreneurship policy, he has worked with the Irish Government, the European Commission, the OECD, the European Training Foundation and other international organisations. He has published widely on the topic of entrepreneurship and full details of his career can be found at www.thomascooney.com.

Thomas Wobben

Committee of the Regions

téléchargementAfter studying Economics and Politics, Thomas worked for voluntary sector organisations. In 1993 he joined the European policy services of Saxony-Anhalt and in 1995 he began working in the Liaison Office of Saxony-Anhalt in Brussels taking over as Director in 2000.

Since March 2012 he has been Director for Horizontal Policies and Networks and, later on, for legislative works at the Committee of the Regions.

 

 

The judging process

For the EEPA Awards, individual countries were invited to conduct national competitions to determine the best projects to represent their nation. Hundreds of projects competed in these national competitions in 2016 for a chance to vie for an EEPA. Countries were allowed to nominate a maximum of two entries per category to the European competition. Each Jury member reads and assesses every entry against defined criteria covering: originality and feasibility, impact on the economy, improvement of stakeholder relations and transferability. The Jury then meets to discuss their top entries in each category, before agreeing on winners, runners up and any special mentions. The shortlist is published shortly after the jury meeting and the winners are announced during the Awards Ceremony at the SME Assembly.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/support/enterprise-promotion-awards_en

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PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust responds to questions about his technology

In his previous posts [1] [2], Gerhard Dust outlined the events that led him to his current career path and described some of the challenges he has encountered as his new business develops. In this third blog post, Gerhard deals with some of the main questions that his new technology has raised and explains some of the concepts involved.

In my previous blogs I have tried to convey the huge advantages that the PolyCare system offers when building structures of up to three or four stories. However, some of the responses I have received recently have led me to understand that some of you are still struggling to accept that much of this is actually possible.  How can you have a building with no real foundations, and how is it possible to build with blocks that are not cemented together?  What’s more, doesn’t capillary attraction mean you still get rising damp, and can completely unskilled people really do all the building work?

These and many more questions have been continually raised and, if you think about it, with good reason.  For over 2000 years there has been a standard way of building and we all understand it fairly well.  The problem is that when something totally new arrives our immediate reaction is to compare it to what we know and the standards we are familiar with.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always give us a clear picture.

Below I explain the building process with pictures taken on-site when my colleague Ramon Gray constructed a small Quality Control building for TATA in New Delhi, India.

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The start of a PolyCare build requires a flat, level base of wet sand.  This is usually accomplished by making a small 150-200mm channel in the ground, filling it with sand and then levelling it carefully.  In this first picture (left) this wasn’t possible as the construction was being carried out on an uneven concrete base. However, the building system is simple and it can be adapted to practically any situation.  Here, instead of making a channel, our team used some waste materials (the granite strip on the left and the steel box section on the right) to form a flat and level frame for the wet sand base.

The picture on the right shows the start of the build itself.  On the right you can see that base lates have been simply laid on the sand base and bolted together with small steel plates.  These continue around the building and form the base level.
Steel connecting rods are then screwed into the bases and these run right through the blocks, once they are laid on top, and connect to a similar set of plates at the top of the building. Once the connecting rods are in place work can start on laying the blocks.

The laying of the blocks continues with the blocks being placed over the rods and with the rods themselves being extended using simple screw thread connectors.  Gaps are left for windows, doors etc.  When the blocks reach the top of the building the top plates are added and the rods are bolted to them, giving the whole structure immense strength.

There is no sticking, gluing or anything else involved; the blocks are simply laid on top of each other.  This is why our system has often been called “big boys’ LEGO” – for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure that this is an accurate description… the LEGO most ten year olds do is much more complicated!

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So let me explain some of the concepts.

In this system no foundation is generally used (see note) as the structure itself is many times stronger and more resistant to bending forces than a brick or cement concrete wall.  This is due to a combination of the huge strength of the polymer concrete as well as the way that the blocks lock together.  This strength is further enhanced by the tie bar system that produces a very strong box-like structure.  But there are further considerations.  This structure is completely resistant to water, so foundation frost and capillary attraction occurs without any consequence.  The wet sand technique is a copy of the system the Egyptians used to build the pyramids.  While it may seem somewhat crude and primitive, no one can say that it hasn’t stood the test of time.

So, lastly, let me provide some assurances for anyone looking at this system for the first time.  The Bauhaus University is one of the most respected institutions worldwide for architecture, design and materials testing.  They have been working with PolyCare now for over four years, testing and officially certifying practically every aspect of what we do.  They are so confident in our system of building that one of their professors recently assisted PolyCare in presenting and discussing its merits at an international exhibition.  The efficacy of the system is therefore not in doubt and it is currently undergoing full building type approval in Germany.

[Note:  PolyCare fully understands that, in some circumstances, extremely weak or unstable soils will need some level of foundation, whether strip or corner piles, etc.  Site testing will determine where this is necessary.]

Polycare

Learn more about Polycare

Previous EEPA blog post on Polycare: 

A mature entrepreneur talks about a life-changing event…

Gerhard Dust discusses the challenges he faces in his new business venture…

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New roles required to allow people continue in the workforce

Speaking at The Third Act Conference in Dublin, Anne Connolly, CEO of ISAX, the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange, said that new roles need to be invented to allow people to continue in the workforce.

In an interview given at the conference, the ISAX CEO said that the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange is looking at ways to increase opportunities for people wishing to continue longer in the workforce, adding that this would require inventing new roles to accommodate them and allow them to design their own futures.

Populations are ageing very rapidly across the world – due to increases in life expectancy. This means that the number of people over 60 will more than double from 895 million (12.18% of the world’s population) in 2015 to 2.1 billion (22%) by 2050. Those over 80 will increase from 143 million (1.85%) in 2010 to 379 million by 2050 (3.9%).[1]

This new global economy is projected by Merrill Lynch to be worth US$ 15 trillion (EUR 13.5 trillion) by 2020. The aim of ISAX, and other such initiatives, is to develop solutions for the global smart ageing economy that allow the elderly to continue to be economically active. Another key aim of the initiative is to inform them of the opportunities that are available to them and to guide them in their choices.

Mature entrepreneurship is one such area of opportunity, and ISAX actively encourages people to think about starting their own business as an alternative to retirement. Connolly noted that, with this in mind, ISAX is implementing a joint programme with the Bank of Ireland that aims to promote entrepreneurship among the elderly and allow them to tap into the smart ageing economy.

Connolly said that the Third Act Conference provided the Exchange with an opportunity to tell people about this programme, to show them some of the evidence as to why they would make good entrepreneurs and to get them to think about possibilities that they hadn’t considered before. She noted that setting up a business would allow elderly entrepreneurs to put the accumulated life experience and industry-specific expertise that they had acquired to good use.

The theme of the conference, which was held in Dublin in April, was ‘Gearing up for Your Third Act’. At the conference, breakout groups with speakers and panel members addressed Transitioning to the Third Act, Employment and Purpose in The Third Act and Health and Wellbeing in The Third Act, amongst other topics.

The ISAX exchange is one example of a national initiative aimed at the smart ageing economy. You can find information on ongoing EU actions related to the Silver Economy here. If you are interested in information on national initiatives, you should check with your local labour or social welfare departments or with business intermediary organisations in your region to see if they have support programmes aimed at the mature entrepreneur.

For more information:

http://isax.ie/ 

thethirdactconference.com

A Venture Capitalist’s View: Business plans that net investment

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is particularly true when seeking investment to grow your business. In this guest post, venture capitalist, Dr David Demetrius, sets out how to write a plan that will grab the attention, and the investment, of a potential backer.

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Why do so many promising ventures never get the capital they need?  In the vast majority of cases, it is due to the business plan not having made a good enough case for investment.  So what does a good business plan entail?  Here is what I would be looking for.

It should start with an executive summary, preferably of a single page, but certainly not more than two.  This summary needs to grab the potential investor’s attention in the first five lines.  Don’t start with background waffle.  Make it immediately clear what the products or services of the business are, or are planned to be.  Make the executive summary exactly that: a summary of the whole document including highlights of the market opportunity and the team and ending with a clear statement of what you are looking for and what you are offering in return.  For example, “We are seeking an investment of 100.000 Euros in return for a 30% share of the company”.

After the executive summary, you can go into more detail on the venture.  Excluding appendices, this should run to about 15 to 20 pages.  You need to describe the products or services in some detail, but try not to get bogged down in technical jargon which at best will bore the investor and at worst will totally put him off.  Of more importance is to show clearly what the market opportunity is and what competition exists or could appear in the near future.

You also need to give profiles of the team, their skills and their experience, and indicate what finances they are themselves investing in the venture.  Be honest and point out what gaps there are in the team’s background and skills.  Hopefully the investor will be able to help fill these gaps.  

What investors will be very interested in is what they are likely to see as a return on their investment.  For that you need to have detailed financial projections.  However, there is no point in burying 30 pages of financial spreadsheets into the main body of the document.  By all means have lots of detailed tables as an appendix, but in the main body simply have a page or two showing the key performance indicators (KPIs), such as graphs of projected cashflow, profitability and revenue growth.  Then make it easy for the investors to find the detailed backup to this information, If they so wish, by guiding them to the relevant pages in the appendix.

It is also important that the summary pages on financials includes some “What if?” analysis (preferably displayed graphically).  For example, it can be very reassuring to investors if they can see that, even if actual revenues achieved are only 80% of your projections, the company will nevertheless not run out of cash.  This should not be achieved by simply asking for an overly high injection of funds, but rather by indicating savings in expenditure such as administration costs that would be made in the event of lower sales.   Similarly show the optimistic growth figures for the venture if revenues significantly exceed your projections.

How far ahead should you forecast?  In most cases, I would recommend three years with monthly figures, but in some industries a five-year forecast can be realistic.  (In the oil industry, even 25 year plans are common). Basically you should only project revenue and costs as far forward as you can reasonably see.  Don’t simply take ‘month 1’ and add x% per month to it for 36 months ahead.  Any potential investor will realise that you have no real idea what is going to happen.  Think it through carefully.  For example, will there be months of the year when revenue will be lower due to holiday periods?

I am not saying that following my advice in this post will definitely get you the investment you seek, but I am fairly confident that ignoring these pointers will not improve your chances!

Dr David DemetriusDavid Demetrius is the founder and President of Emadin and specialises in working with companies to achieve strategic growth. He has over 25 years experience in management of and consultancy to companies (from SMEs to large multinationals) throughout Europe, the United States, Middle East, Australia and Asia. With a colleague, he founded a group of companies specialising in management support and consultancy services for complex or large programmes and projects, building it to annual sales of over $ 100 million with approximately 500 professional staff by the time he sold his shareholding in the group.

 

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At times like these we need the greatest mentors in the world: Children.

Born in Transylvania, Andra Matresu is a cross-media video and film producer who has studied in some of the best film academies in the world (La Fémis, NFTS London, Ludwigsburg Filmakademie and HFF Potsdam). She was selected for the Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris training programme for budding European film producers and was awarded an Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Scholarship at the age of 24. Andra is the founder and creative producer of ‘2030, WHENiGROWUP’ a project that uses audio-visual media to foster children’s personal development and help them get one step closer to achieving their dreams. In this blog post, Andra tells us about her project and how she got to where she is today, and gives some advice to other young entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own businesses.

andra matresu_profile pic_promoting enterprisesOriginally from Sibiu, Romania, I started out on my entrepreneurial journey with nothing more than a camera, a laptop and a dream. My goal is to help children get one step closer to their dreams, using film-making to support them on their road to fulfilment.

As a kid, I was always coming up with new inventions and creating different things: from clothes, movie scenes and poetry to various events and activities. Later on, as a student I used to work for the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that’s where I realised that Romanian politics was more about preaching, and less about truly taking action. It was then that I figured out I could use audio-visual tools, the power of cinema, to educate and help people take action. I chose to use my talents not to chase after trophies and parties in Cannes, but to try to improve people’s quality of life, through cinema.

This is why I created an interactive participatory film-making platform where children can express and create their dreams and visions about their future through the power of cinema. The first of their kind in Luxembourg and, who knows, maybe the rest of the world, I organise and conduct “eduTational” DIY participatory film-making workshops for children, under the name of ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’, which was selected as one of the 10 projects livestreamed at the national stage of the Ideas from Europe Competition 2015, held in Luxembourg. I’ve coined the term “eduTational” because I believe that entertaining, personalised learning and interactive participatory education are values that our future generations will evolve on.

andra matresu_kids 5_promoting enterprisesUsing a camera, paper, toys, household objects, pens, mom’s make-up, dad’s necktie and whatever they can lay their hands on, children learn how to reach their dreams through the art of narrative film-making. Using these materials, they create a small web series in which they offer their creative solutions to everyday adult life… All of this in the hope that, once they are grown-ups, let’s say in 2030, they can refer to these stories and find guidance from their inner child.

Why do I do what I do? Because I strongly believe that we all – parents or not – have a moral responsibility to establish creative foundations for future generations to evolve on. Children, in particular, need support in expressing themselves and becoming the best versions of themselves that they can be. They owe it to themselves to live the life they have dreamed of. Not the life that their parents predicted for them. Not the life that the media tries to sell them. Not the life that society forces them into. But the dream life they once expressed as children. And that’s why ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’ is there to provide long-term support to these kids in creating and pursuing their own journey. The children who participate in ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’ are already playing a vital role in creating their own futures.

The best part of my journey as a founder and producer of ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’, is that I engage in these activities more as a child than as an entrepreneur. I’m the children’s voice. Unfortunately, there are children around the world who have no voice. So how can we expect them to turn into well-rounded adults if they don’t even have healthy creative foundations to express and start their hero’s journey? That’s where ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’ can make a difference and change lives.

2030 WHEN i GROW UP posterI am not enamoured by the idea of entrepreneurship. My purpose is not to be an entrepreneur, but to live my dream through entrepreneurship, while using cinema for educational and personal development purposes. What I like about being an entrepreneur is that I feel the excitement, the adrenaline and the fulfilment every time the stories I produce inspire somebody. As a film producer, I measure the quality of my work by the response of my audience. This is my greatest reward: to use storytelling clips and videos in order to inspire viewers on the Internet and beyond to become the best versions of themselves that they can be.

You get to experience the joy and pride of a great success achieved through hard work and discipline. And you can only work hard if you believe in your business and love what you do. Otherwise, I could not do it. What I like and dislike about being an entrepreneur is that I can work constantly without a break. I let everything in my life slide in order to work on my business all day, every day and, if possible, even late at night. I really enjoy all aspects of ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’ and when I immerse myself in the business, I tend to completely neglect my life outside, because I love what I do. So, if you’re planning to be an entrepreneur you need to have the sense to ease up and balance out your life: love life, money, health, activities, family, friends, and sport. Otherwise you’ll lose control over your life.

My top advice for all young entrepreneurs out there is to fall in love with the process and look at working hard as part of a “luxury lifestyle” instead of as something you have to force yourself to do. Think about why you are doing what you do: is it because of the process or because of the result? Enjoy the process. Don’t fantasise too much about the result, otherwise you might end up on the wrong path.

Learn to accept rejection, to target the right clients and look at your pitfalls and hardships as a privilege and not as a chore. And, if you want to grow, keep your eyes and ears open and never stop learning. If you are truly willing to battle through the hardships and if you enjoy this thrill, then you have the right stuff to be an entrepreneur.

 

Andra Maria MATRESU

Film Producer and Online Video Marketer

www.andramariamatresu.com

Founder and producer of ‘2030, WHEN i GROW UP’

www.2030whenigrowup.org 

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Gerhard Dust discusses the challenges he faces in his new business venture…

In his previous blog post, Gerhard Dust described how an international humanitarian crisis caused him to re-evaluate his retirement plans and led him down a completely new career path. In this second post, Gerhard tells us about some of the issues his company encounters as his business develops.

You will have seen from my previous blog the huge advantages that our construction system can bring, and these were naturally of significant interest to our visitors from China. The Chinese delegation was keen to see if it would be possible to use waste residue from a gold mine as the main filler constituent in our polymer concrete and if the end product conformed to Chinese building standards.  We demonstrated that not only could we use this waste material but that the resultant PolyCare polymer concrete was anything from 6 to 10 times stronger than required by their standard.  This advantage was further enhanced when they discovered that just 1m3 of this material actually makes 3 to 4m3 of walling.  Consequently, we have made significant progress with this important Chinese company and their delegation left acknowledging that our process could make a major contribution to meeting Chinese housing needs.

Meeting with the Chinese delegation at our R&D plant in Gehlberg Germany

Working on the world stage with a breakthrough technology like ours doesn’t always attract such commercially aware and serious-minded approaches as that of the Chinese delegation.  It can be frustrating at times, and sometimes quite amusing.  Practically every week we are approached by individuals who claim to be close to, or related to, or a friend of, a king or queen, the president, the minister, etc. etc.  In circumstances like these, naivety soon gives way to experience and the realisation that often these people only know someone who operates the lift in a building where someone else who works for the government lives.  The bottom line is always that either they want something for nothing, or a payment in order to “oil the wheels.”  On occasions, of course, our contacts are genuine, but there are also frustrations in what we do.  This is almost an intrinsic part of the process.  When you have something new, and especially when it is a disruptive technology, files seem to get left gathering dust on desks far too often.

For us, though, the world has so many bright imaginative people who are able to look to the future and can see what is needed.  In July, I was invited to the Biennale Architettura 2016 in Venice.  This is a biennial meeting of architects from across the world.  In his keynote speech, the Director of the Biennale Alejandro Aravena described the current world situation in terms of the Urban Age.  This term is used because the current generation will build more cities than all previous generations combined.  By 2050, 70% of the entire world’s population will live in cities and globally there is a desperate need for housing.  Alejandro quoted some startling figures from the US government, estimating that the world needs to build 1,000,000 houses a week at a cost of less than $10,000 (EUR 8,900) each and this needs to be achieved to prevent a further global security threat.  In this regard Alejandro’s opinion was insightful, and possibly goes to the core of what it is that PolyCare is trying to achieve.  He said that this rate of building could only be achieved by adopting new technologies that use new materials and new building methods.

This, of course, is where we at PolyCare started six years ago.  At that time we were only looking at disaster reconstruction, but the same analysis was true for that situation as it is for global housing.  We needed a new technology for slum development and to build low-cost refugee housing, which is precisely why we developed the PolyCare system.

We continue to work to improve the lives of the millions of people who are currently either homeless or living in wretched conditions and continue to work towards achieving the ambitious targets outlined by the US government and described by Alejandro Aravena.

To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0

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SME Week Newsletter: Issue #4

Learning from a generation of mature entrepreneurs

Gerhard DustThe focus this month is on mature entrepreneurs. This group of entrepreneurs has what is perhaps the most valuable asset of all when it comes to creating a successful business – experience. Throughout August, mature entrepreneurs will share their stories on the Promoting Enterprise blog, allowing young entrepreneurs to benefit from their experience and know-how, and inspiring their peers, who may also be considering branching out into a new business venture.

If you know of any mature entrepreneurs with inspiring stories to tell, let us know and we’ll do our best to feature them on the blog and across our social media channels.

It’s not all about mature entrepreneurs though – there is still time for young entrepreneurs to submit entries in the SME Youth Essay Competition and tell us what the EU can do to encourage more young people to become entrepreneurs (details below). If you know anybody who might be interested, please spread the word. Read more >>

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A mature entrepreneur talks about a life-changing event…

This month our EiR is PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust. Following a successful career in business, Gerhard was looking at a life of cosy retirement. However, things were to take an unexpected turn. A humanitarian crisis forced him to re-evaluate his position, with major consequences for his future. In this blog post, Gerhard tells us about his motivation, his experience and what it was that led him on his current path.

Gerhard DustThis morning I am driving from my home in Gummersbach to Gehlberg in the German Thuringian Forest. It’s 350 km and a minimum three-hour drive. It’s quite tiring but I have been doing this each week, sometimes twice a week, for 6 years. Today, we are meeting a delegation from China that is interested in our breakthrough technology for building houses. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Gerhard Dust, the Managing Director of PolyCare Research Technology GmbH. We have invented a new way of building that uses essentially waste materials and unskilled labour to make houses and other structures. But inventing something radically new, something that has even won international acclaim doesn’t automatically mean success. Success ultimately relies on being able to enter the market and having the market accept what you do. So today’s meeting with the Chinese delegation is another critical step on the long road often faced by inventors and developers.

For us at PolyCare, and for me personally, this all started six and a half years earlier. It was another bright and sunny day in Florida. The most difficult decision I had to face that day was whether to play another round of golf, go for a swim, or just walk the dog. Life in retirement looked so good then – I had previously stepped down as the General Manager of Europe’s largest book wholesaler business.haiti

But not too far away from where I was at the time, people’s experience of this day would be totally different. There, Mother Nature would lift her head and wreak havoc for millions. By the end of that day, more than 100,000 people would die and millions would lose their homes, their jobs and many – their loved ones. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this would also be a turning point in my life. From then on I would also be inextricably linked to that disaster. Haiti and its consequences had set me on a different course.

In the weeks following that terrible tragedy I had a constant feeling of futility. I had little to offer. Moreover, it seemed that the entire international community could not do much better. Relief in these circumstances relies on food, water, medicines and a tent, if you are lucky. But for me, rebuilding lives, rebuilding families and communities means so much more. It must involve building proper homes, homes that can stand the worst of the weather, and building them quickly. Having all those people sitting around with no work and nothing to do was such a waste of talent and positive energy. And that’s when I started to think…

Why do we continue to use a building process very similar to that used by the Romans two thousand years ago? Why can’t we bring modern technology to building and do something different? What if we could make super concrete from local materials and use it to make components for houses that fit together like LEGO? Wouldn’t that enable the ‘unskilled’ survivors to build their own houses? Can’t we all build with LEGO? If we could, wouldn’t that massively improve the building speed? At the very least this would provide just a chance of motivating and stimulating those survivors who had thought that, for them, all hope had gone.

PolyCare

A few months earlier I had a chance meeting with Gunter Plötner, a former builder and developer who told me of his idea to turn ordinary local/desert sand into a super form of concrete. This concrete was much stronger than ordinary concrete and was completely impervious to water and frost and could be set in extremely accurate shapes.

The memory of that meeting, and my determination to do something to help those unable to help themselves, led me to the path I am now on.

The meeting I am driving to will demonstrate just such a building technique. However, it has developed so quickly and to such an extent that it is no longer destined just for disaster relief and reconstruction. With a massive worldwide deficit in housing construction it is just as relevant for ordinary housing in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK as it is in Africa, India, South America etc. It provides super strong, very fast build homes for all markets, together with schools, medical centres etc.

So far the building industry has shown ‘interest’ but not much more. Nevertheless, since becoming a winner at the recent TEDx Binnenhof EU invention competition, the world has started to come to Gehlberg to see what we are doing. The Chinese delegation isn’t the first nor, judging by the enquiries we are receiving, will it be the last.

To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0

 

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