Filip Zastavnik is used to find solutions: as a Ph.D. in engineering, he always looks for the most efficient way to do things. He applied to the Boostcamp because he thought he had a very good solution that could become a business. After weeks of hard work, coaching and training, Filip pitched in front of the jury during the Final and won the Grand Prize of the Boostcamp 12 edition.
His project, called Massim.io, is a computational platform in the cloud that gives access to high-performance simulations at an affordable price. In this interview, he tells us a little more about his project and how the Boostcamp helped him turn it into a business.
How would you explain your project to a 3-year-old kid?
Massim.io is a tool that engineers can use when they make new things like a toy or a car or a building. Using it, they can find how strong they are to make new things, to make sure it does not break.
This is probably already a bit much for a 3-year-old. For an approximation of ELI5 (explain-like-I’m-5), I would also add that Massim.io is different from existing such tools because it doesn’t run on the computer that is in front of you, but the difficult parts of the calculation run on the computers in the cloud. Because of that, you don’t need to buy the expensive powerful computers and software in advance, but you pay only as much as you use them.
How did you come up with the idea?
I first started thinking about it during my Ph.D. I had difficulties because the algorithm I was developing needed a lot of computing power which I didn’t have access to. I estimated that it would take several years on my desktop computer to do one run of it in the most complex state. I had to reduce the complexity of the input data so that it can run in a few days. But it got me thinking how much I would be willing to pay to distribute the workload over several thousands of computers in the cloud to get the result in minutes or hours instead of months or years. In cloud computing, it costs the same if you rent one computer for thousand hours or thousand computers for one hour.
“The Boostcamp is challenging and requires effort,
but so does anything worth pursuing”
You have been working on the project for two years, at what stage was it at the beginning of the Boostcamp? And at what stage is it right now?
Well, for two years I had the idea for this project, but I was working much less on it. At the beginning of the Boostcamp, I was still in the conceptual phase – I did some experiments on the cloud platform to make sure it could be executed as planned.
At the end of the Boostcamp, I was close to finishing the version 1, which is intended only for my early adopters. They will begin testing it probably next month.
Some weeks ago, you won the Boostcamp 12 edition Grand Prize. What does it mean for you?
First of all, I was already super grateful to MIC Brussels for organizing the Boostcamp because of everything that I learned throughout it. By engaging with business experts and talking about my project helped me greatly and was super motivating. Winning the Boostcamp, of course, was the icing on the cake! It made me much more confident that the project is valuable. I can also use the fact that I won the Boostcamp as a badge of honor when I talk to potential customers and later when I need to talk to investors and if I apply for grants.
What would you highlight of the Boostcamp experience? How has it helped you?
I think the best thing about it is that you get access to a group of coaches that know the startup world in Belgium and the best practices from living in it for many years. Through the Boostcamp they get to know you and what are you doing. They are great for bouncing ideas on how to make your project better. They poke you every couple of weeks to make sure you are on track. They are like your own advisory board to get you going in the initial phases.
It’s also great being surrounded by other Boostcampers who are all like-minded people with super interesting projects. You learn a lot from them as well.
After having successfully overcome this challenge, what’s next?
I still have a decent amount of development and testing before I can give it to early adopters to test it and use it for themselves. I want to be able to deliver a platform that does not matter, it is important that it does it reliably. This tool is intended to help with some expensive decisions, which means that mistakes or failures would be very expensive.
I am still looking for additional developers to help me build things related to the user interface and in the future help me add functionality.
When do you plan to launch Massim.io?
For the early adopters, during March. I am still searching for more early adopters, that have needs that this initial version will be able to fulfill. Public launch, where companies and engineers will be able to sign up for it and use it ‘out-of-the-box’, will be in the second half of this year, maybe even only in the start of 2019.
As you know we already have a new date for our next Boostcamp. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to those who want to take part in it?
Probably the best piece of advice for anyone who is thinking about Boostcamp is just apply for it —just jump in and try it. You literally have nothing to lose. The worst thing that can happen is that you realize that either startup world is not for you or that maybe there is something wrong with your project. In the first case, it’s better you know it as fast as possible. If there is something wrong, the Boostcamp will help you identify it early and pivot your project into something more feasible.
The whole Boostcamp is challenging and it requires effort, but so does anything worth pursuing. However, all the effort goes directly into making your project better and more polished.