Success Story 03.09.2018

Forest Intelligence & 700 Years of Corporate History – a Case from Combient Foundry’s Venture Client Cycle

The all-time first Combient Foundry Venture Client Cycle led to a forest intelligence collaboration between Stora Enso, a global renewable materials company, with more than 700 years of history, and Overstory, a Portuguese machine learning company working on satellite imagery analysis.

In total three startups were selected from over 200 applicants to co-create pilots with Stora Enso and KONE. In this blog entry, Stora Enso and Overstory share their thoughts about Foundry and working together.

As part of the inaugural Combient Foundry’s Venture Client Cycle, Stora Enso looked for digitalization solutions under topics such as Virtual Forest, Smart Sales & Purchase and Information Flow & Market Intelligence. During the open call for startups, Overstory demonstrated concrete efficiency and environmental benefits that Stora Enso would gain when acquiring their forest intelligence solution. The new solution was about to improve Stora Enso’s purchasing process by taking advantage of satellite imagery and machine learning. Thus, the startup was selected from more than 200 startup applicants, coming from 34 countries, to join the Value Proposition Days held in Helsinki, Finland. The Value Proposition Days gathered 11 startups from all around the world for three days to refine their value propositions closely assisted by decision-makers and industry experts from Stora Enso. After the final workshop day, Stora Enso wanted to become a major Venture Client for Overstory and utilize their solution in their own processes.

Initially, Overstory decided to apply for Foundry as it offered a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with a global industry leader. Indra den Bakker, Co-founder and Deep Learning Engineer at Overstory, explains:

“The key in the Combient Foundry’s Venture Client Cycle is to pilot a solution with a global company and work together towards a financially sound new service and lasting partnership. The focus on direct value for both the startup and the client made us apply.”

Cooperation between a small AI startup and large corporate with more than 700 years of history sounds like a rough passage but Foundry’s structured Venture Client approach assisted in matching the expectations and smoothing out workflows. Antti Vuolli, Head of New Digital Businesses at Stora Enso, identifies that working with startups in a structured manner enables them to be agile and fast. As the focus is tightly on value creation rather than for example changing corporate culture, Overstory was able to spend most of the pilot delivery time outside of Helsinki as Foundry’s Venture Client Cycle does not impose location requirements for startups.

Overstory is currently part of the incubator Startup Lisboa. Indra agrees that the setup of the Venture Client Cycle is different than the setup of an incubator and they have proven to be complementary. Indra explains:

“In Combient Foundry’s Venture Client Cycle we co-create our service together with the customer, Stora Enso. This customer-focused approach makes the Venture Client cycle unique.”

Simultaneously, Indra is happy to recommend other startups to apply for Foundry in the future:

“We would highly recommend other startups to participate in a Venture Client Cycle. When you can address a real and concrete business need for the customer, we would not hesitate to apply!”

Overstory is on their way to becoming the standard in planet intelligence. Their roadmap includes developing forest intelligent features further in addition to creating new features related to soil and water intelligence. Stora Enso and Overstory have continued their business development together after the first pilot done during the spring. Working with the global industry leader fuels the startup’s growth and lets it benefit from economies of scale that would otherwise be out of reach for a startup. In parallel, Stora Enso has sped up Overstory’s access to new technologies and gained valuable insights into the future of the wood market.

When asked what was the most valuable about the Venture Client Cycle, Indra summarizes:

“By working at a concrete business case directly with Stora Enso, it has been possible to develop an MVP with feedback from Stora Enso’s decision-makers. This all done in 9 weeks, from the first introduction to the final presentation. We received helpful coaching along the way, for example validating the scope of our pilot and shaping our service model.”

The case of Overstory and Stora Enso strongly supports Combient Foundry’s view of Venture Client model being a win-win situation both for startups and larger corporates. As our next step, we are extremely eager to support the forming of the long-term business partnership as well as develop completely new MVP deliveries between top B2B startups and Combient firms.

If you want to learn more about Combient Foundry or our business opportunities, do not hesitate to contact