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Prewave wins risk & resilience and audience vote categories at DEMO 2021

29 April, 2022 | By DPW

More than 100 startups joined us at DEMO 2021, powered by EcoVadis, DPW’s signature startup pitch event showcasing the industry’s most exciting and disruptive emerging technologies and “the next big thing”.

The showdown’s Grand Finale, broadcast live at DPW Conference 2021, showcased the top 10 startups pitching their solutions in five key categories, each one ranking high on the priority list of global procurement organisations.

The winner of the category for risk and resilience as well as the overall audience vote winner was Prewave, a company which utilises AI to find, understand and categorise risks facing suppliers around the globe, sending its clients highly specific and relevant alerts as a result.

Here, Harald Nitschinger, tells us of the impact DEMO 2021 has had on the company and how Prewave has evolved during a period dominated by risk and supply chain disruption.

Interview with Harald Nitschinger, CEO and co-founder, Prewave

With everything going on in the world at the current time, are you seeing a growing number of companies placing risk at the top of their agenda?  

Nitschinger: A lot is happening in the world right now and we’re seeing a lot of requests and a lot of clients suddenly gaining an understanding of how they’re exposed for example to the Ukraine and Russia situation. Some aren’t exposed within their first-tier suppliers but within their second, third and fourth tier suppliers. We can help them figure that out. 

How did the idea for Prewave come about? 

Nitschinger: Prewave started as a research project at the University of Technology in Vienna. It was led by my co-founder, Lisa (Dr. Lisa Smith). We were researching how we could use public data to gain more insight into risk and supply chains. We founded the company in 2017 as a spin-off and, since then, we’ve scaled our operations. We currently have close to 50 employees based in Austria.

DEMO was huge for us. We reached a level of awareness that we wouldn’t have otherwise gained, or a level that would have cost us a lot of money to achieve.

Harald Nitschinger, CEO and co-founder, Prewave

What kind of technology is Prewave based-on – and what kind of insight does it allow? 

Nitschinger: Prewave is fundamentally based on artificial intelligence technology that allows us to analyse media data – social media, news media – in more than 50 languages. It really goes to the source, and enables us to understand what’s happening in the supply chain of a given company. It might be residents based near a certain supplier complaining about air pollution – they would be doing that in the local language, in Indonesian or in Chinese, for example. We would pick up on that and feed that back as a risk signal to our customers, enabling them to take action. We’ve been working on this for 10 years, starting in 2012 as part of our PhD research at the University. We’re still finding new and additional applications for this technology, the possibilities are endless. 

Do you come from a technical background?

Nitschinger: I personally do, although currently I’m in charge of sales, marketing and customer projects – I took a side-step from that career! Like many of the founding members of Prewave, I went to the same computer science high school in Austria, where you start at the age of 14 and continue until the age of 19. I still do some of the hardcore tech stuff occasionally, but my main focus is on product, customers and sales. I think that’s one of the real benefits that I bring to the table, I still have one foot in each department. Maybe that’s quite rare but I think it’s invaluable. For any startup, you need to be able to provide feedback from customers and understand what the market needs – that’s a key element of product development.

How has the company evolved since 2017?

Nitschinger: We’ve seen some incredible things happen over the past five years. We’ve had the pandemic and now we’ve got a military conflict. But what really took us by surprise was the ESG and sustainability side of things. That was really something that we always believed in but, in 2018, when we were fundraising, investors told us it was a ‘nice to have’ but wasn’t something you could make money with. Now, with the regulatory landscape changing in Germany, with the supply chain act, and on the EU level, that’s not the case. The consumer consciousness around those things has really changed too – people are buying electric cars, not just because it’s the best choice but because it’s the most sustainable choice, and obviously the supply chain is a key part of that. That’s a huge shift. The younger generation are hugely conscious of this. 

How important was DEMO to Prewave? 

Nitschinger: For us, it was huge. It really gave us global exposure. Up until then, we had really been focused on the German speaking region of Europe, that’s where our main customer base is. We’re now expanding into the rest of Europe and, potentially, into the United States. The exposure we got from those markets, in the US, in the UK and also other regions of Europe, DEMO played a really key part in that. We reached a level of awareness that we wouldn’t have otherwise gained, or a level that would have cost us a lot of money to achieve. We have a bunch of flagship clients from the US, and they’ve really emerged from the coverage we had as a result of DEMO. A solution like ours is a really interesting proposition when your supply chain is a truly global one.  

Do you predict that the pace of technological change will continue to increase as we move through 2022 and What advice would you give those entrants for DEMO 2022?

Nitschinger: I would tell them to really work on it, and to really refine their pitch and get it done! I would also say that you need to take the time to set-up the technical equipment so it’s as snazzy as you can possibly make it. It makes a real difference to have a clear, professional and to-the-point pitch.

Watch Prewave’s award-winning pitch at DEMO 2021

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