VAARHAFT is the first start-up from the joint start-up support of the Wedel University of Applied Sciences Startup Bridge and Startup Port to receive an EXIST start-up grant from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection. The company’s goal is to secure digital images with a certificate of authenticity and thus make fraud more difficult, especially in connection with increasingly convincing deepfakes.
“In a time when generative artificial intelligences have been made accessible to everyone and deepfakes are becoming more and more convincing, we can no longer blindly trust the authenticity of digital images,” explains co-founder and CEO Linus Kameni, who studied aerospace engineering at TU Braunschweig. “This creates room for the most diverse forms of fraud and targeted manipulation, such as insurance fraud, identity fraud, fake news or fake profiles.”
Securing and certifying digital images as they are created
The three-member team of VAARHAFT, consisting of Linus Kameni, Paul Franken and Anne Patzer, has developed an innovative solution to this problem. With the help of a novel algorithm, digital images are already secured and certified during their creation. A special image capture and a multi-stage server-side verification process guarantee the authenticity of the image’s origin. Only guaranteed “genuine” images receive a certificate of authenticity to make their credibility visible and comprehensible to all.
Paul Franken, who is responsible for the technical development and is currently completing his studies in business informatics at Wedel University of Applied Sciences, and Anne Patzer, who studied business administration in Wedel and is responsible for the start-up’s business development, complete the founding team.
Startup Port helped with the EXIST application
When applying for the EXIST start-up grant, the start-up was intensively supported by Startup Port and Startup Bridge at Wedel University of Applied Sciences and TU Brauschweig. During the funding period, Startup Port and Startup Bridge advised the team on organisational tasks as well as budget planning and management. In addition, they clarify with the team the content-related questions on the topics of founding, organisation and company development.
The EXIST start-up scholarship has been supporting VAARHAFT since June 2023 for a period of exactly one year. The scholarship offers a very good opportunity to further develop the business model under attractive conditions and to prepare the founding of the company with extensive support. The support includes a monthly salary as well as a coaching budget of up to 5,000 euros and a material budget of up to 30,000 euros.
Focus now on the Minimum Viable Product
The founding team gives an outlook on the next steps in VAARHAFT’s founding process: “In the coming months of EXIST funding, our focus will be on the further development of our Minimum Viable Product. We want to test it as quickly as possible in order to optimise it in a user-centred way. In talks with industry experts and the first potential customers, we want to get initial feedback on our solution. We will also start working on a financing strategy and apply to potential investors in order to secure follow-up financing for the time after the grant.
The University of Applied Sciences Wedel
The University of Applied Sciences Wedel is one of the few private, non-profit universities of applied sciences in Germany. The sponsor of the state-recognised university of applied sciences is a non-profit limited company, which is financed by tuition fees, a state subsidy and third-party funds. The FH Wedel offers its approximately 1,300 students 13 Bachelor’s and nine Master’s degree programmes in the fields of computer science, engineering and business. The campus is located just outside Hamburg in Wedel.
Startup Port cooperates with Startup Bridge
The start-up and innovation platform Startup Bridge is the start-up support of Wedel UAS and cooperates with Startup Port. Since August 2020, the team has already advised and accompanied around 60 teams on the path to their own start-up. Wedel scores points with its location in the Hamburg metropolitan region. Here, Startup Bridge takes on an interface function in start-up promotion between Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
Startup Port bundles the start-up activities of a total of ten universities and research institutions in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region under a common brand. Together, another step is being taken towards effective networking of the actors in Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein to strengthen the start-up ecosystem in the metropolitan region.