Competing against more than two thousand projects, two UFSM students won the Empreenda Santander 2017 award in the Entrepreneurial University category. Fernando Ferreira and Jader Stefanello are students from the Automation and Control Engineering course who created the Startup Lunix, which aims to reduce energy consumption through a system that identifies the ideal lighting in an environment, based on the amount of natural light and pedestrian and vehicular circulation.
Their proposal competed with projects in the areas of health, management, energy and parking control. Jader believes that winning first place was related to a number of factors, saying that “Intelligent consumption was the difference. Energy prices are increasingly high and this is likely to worsen in coming years. We will have to consume less and less. Plus, the potential of our team and the size of the market were also important”.
Glossary of Entrepreneurship
Startups: new companies that seek to explore market innovation. They aim to develop a business model that is scalable and repeatable, i.e., use a single economic model to reach a large number of customers and generate profits in a short time without a significant increase in costs.
Incubation: a process in which entrepreneurs seeking to develop projects, products and services based on innovative technology are temporarily provided with a physical space and guidance to establish and structure themselves.
Acceleration: accelerators follow each startup with a focus on goals and metrics in a collaborative model.
The light of the idea
The business plan for Lunix was hatched in the UFSM class “Entrepreneurial Attitude,” taught by Dr. Hélio Leães Hey, director of UFSM’s Agency for Innovation and Technology Transfer (AGITTEC). The Agency helped to polish the original idea and has followed up on its progress since leaving the classroom. As a result of the partnership, Lunix was incubated at UFSM’s PULSAR incubator –which means the Startup was provided with temporary facilities and technical support to take its first steps as a company.
Lunix’s proposal drew on the team’s different experiences. Jader had worked in a junior company for a year and a half and was focused on business administration and management, while Fernando was in charge of the automation technology side. Both saw the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge acquired throughout their academic careers. Felipe Wilke Neu and Jeann Carlo Raguzzoni are team members with academic and research experience in the area that are responsible for providing technical support. “Seeking diversity of perspectives and people who complement each other in a project is a good tip for entrepreneurship,” says Jader.
Lunix won one hundred thousand reais and a scholarship to enroll in an immersion course in the area of entrepreneurship and management at Babson College, in the state of Massachusetts, United States. Babson College is ranked number one in the area of entrepreneurship by Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review (2018). The entrepreneurs spent 15 days at Babson in July 2019 and were awarded a six-month startup acceleration program at the ACE accelerator, which helped them to develop the project.
Change of plans
After winning the award, the Startup changed directions to serve a different market segment. Lunix now offers people flow analyses for shopping malls, supermarkets, pharmacies and retail stores, which ultimately leads to reduced costs and improved sales results. The change of direction was prompted by discussions with potential clients when the team was in the phase of implementing a pilot of the earlier project. Jader explains that they spoke with many people, both from the public and private sectors, and in these conversations, they became aware of this emergent demand.
The technology works by detecting the cell phone signal of people passing by or going into the store and then transmitting the data, such as peak times and recurrence, to a cloud platform. With this information, the Startup performs analyses that compare people flows and sales figures, which can provide insight into ways to improve sales strategies. “When you tell the business owner that they can make more money, they are ready to listen,” says Jader.
Lunix began providing the service in April 2019 and by the end of the year they already had 13 points of operation, as well as some surprising results. In one case, they detected a connection between low sales in the winter due to the cold weather. They suggested scheduling a clearance sale during this period and this worked to boost sales. In another case, they detected a drop in sales after a certain time in the early evening and the solution was to reduce the number of employees on the sales floor after that time. The employees were happy, because they got to go home earlier and the owner was happy because it reduced costs, increasing profits.
Reporter: Bibiana Pinheiro;
Illustration and infographic: Pollyana Santoro;
Graphic Design: Taynane Senna.