Have you ever wondered how the startup ecosystem looks in South Eastern Europe? Belizar Marinov, Manager of Investment Projects at Eleven, an accelerator and venture capital fund based in Sofia, Bulgaria, gives a simple answer: “There are a lot of promising entrepreneurs.” Promising entrepreneurs? What does it actually mean? To answer that question, let’s look at some Eleven’s statistics:
To find out more about startups from South Eastern Europe, I have asked Belizar Marinov some more questions about Eleven’s work in the region.
How would you briefly describe the startup ecosystem in Bulgaria?
The startup ecosystem has been developing very quickly in the past few years. There were a few organisations which started all events and gatherings. With the help of young entrepreneurs and the introduction of funds of Eleven and others, the startup ecosystem saw a really big push and development.
Currently, Sofia is a very active startup place and it attracts entrepreneurs from all across Eastern Europe. There are many regular events and a number of organisations and NGOs that work actively in the field. We see that corporate sponsors support the ecosystem on a regular basis. We also have a few coworking spaces which gather startups and are venues for many events.
What inspired to launch Eleven?
Eleven was launched because we had belief that there are a lot of promising entrepreneurs in South Eastern Europe who can really benefit from having financial support, our accelerator programme and mentor network. Many of our founders are first time entrepreneurs and we really believe that we provide not only money but also support which is relevant for this startup stage.
In what ways has Eleven helped to improve networking conditions for Bulgarian startups?
The network that we create at Eleven is at the centre of what we do. We have a network of 250 mentors who participate in our mentoring sessions on a regular basis. Also, as an investor, we act as a connector between our startups and many contacts in relevant industries both here in Bulgaria and abroad.
In addition to that, the founders themselves are a big network. There are over 300 founders, 150 startups and 20 different nationalities. We also regularly organise business trips abroad, which help our startups to meet relevant contacts.
What local startup activities and events do you support? What are your own initiatives?
As an active part in the Bulgarian ecosystem, we support a lot of events such as Startup Weekend or other type of startup competitions. There is an initiative called Pre-accelerator, which is run by one of the entrepreneurship NGOs here. We support them by giving mentorship and fast access for their alumni to our selection process. Once in a while, we host events in our coworking space and provide meeting space for some organisations in our office. We are ready to help whenever there is a need.
What are the biggest challenges that Bulgarian startups face? How do you support them?
The challenges could be related to the small market of Bulgaria. We see our role in helping startups to accelerate and become international. The local market is not big enough to grow a prosperous technology startup so our support is needed.
In 2012 the European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIF) provided Eleven the Entrepreneurship Acceleration and Seed Financing Instrument, worth EUR 12 million, under the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) Holding Fund. What results have you achieved? What are your expectations for the future?
Currently, we are working on a 10-year mandate. This is a standard mandate for an early-stage venture fund like ours, meaning that during the first few years we are investing those EUR 12 million in about 100-110 projects. During the later years, we are going to manage their portfolios. Up to now, we have made nearly 110 investments. In May we are going to accept the 9th class of startups into our coworking space. This will be the last class for this EUR 12 million fund so in the future we are planning to raise another fund which will support and continue our work beyond 2015.
Our biggest achievement is a community that we have created by supporting over 100 companies. Half of them are Bulgarian teams, half of them are international teams. 2-3 years from now we expect to see some first big exits. We have not made a big exit so far since our first investments are just 3 years old.
What kind of support does the local startup ecosystem receive from the public and private sector?
There is no doubt that the equity instruments that have been created through the JEREMIE Holding Fund are the most notable public initiative. Apart from Eleven and our colleagues from LAUNCHub, there are a few other funds which target at investments in more advanced projects. These are instruments between EUR 50–100 million that are available to entrepreneurs. Some of them are entirely public money like ours, some of them are a mixture of public and private money.
In terms of private support for entrepreneurs, there is a number of tech companies that actively support events in the local ecosystem. These are some international companies like Microsoft and some Bulgarian technology companies like Telerik. Many of them also provide a lot of free services for our startups on a centralised level. For example, F6S.com connects accelerators across the world. All member accelerators have access to a lot of free perks and services for their companies such as hosting and cloud infrastructure. It could amount to USD 200 000 per year. Each year one of our startups can benefit from it.
You operate not only in Bulgaria but also in the region of South Eastern Europe. Does your work in the neighbouring countries differ anyhow significantly from your local activities?
Our office and coworking space are based in Sofia but we are very active in the neighbouring countries too. We don’t have permanent team members there but we travel a lot and organise local meetups. We make some selection in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, etc. We organise many activities there with some local founders. They act as ambassadors to Eleven: they help and represent us in the local ecosystems and refer a lot of projects to us when it comes to selecting projects for investment.
Could you share any success story of a startup which took part in your accelerator programme?
We have a number of interesting stories. For example, we have one startup that works on software for human resource management. They use algorithms to process a lot of resumes. Their software tries to make a fit based on some job criteria and culture. This is something that is really recognised as being useful to HR professionals. They have received over USD 500 000 of funding, moved their office to New York and actively work with big clients. The company is called Match.io.
We have another interesting story of 2 founders. One of them was very young: he was only 16-year-old when we first invested in the company. The other founder was a serial entrepreneur. They created a company called Emailio, which aims to create a new mobile e-mail app. They got accepted to Y Combinator, a famous accelerator, received its funding and now are based in Silicon Valley. From over 100 companies it has supported in 10 years, the company is the first from Bulgaria and with the youngest founder ever.
How does the membership in the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) benefit Eleven?
Being a member of the Global Accelerator Network is very important and beneficial for us. It provides an opportunity to exchange the best practices and organise some events together with accelerators all across the world. This is very helpful because our industry is developing very quick: what was the best practice one year ago now is outdated. That’s why we want to stay on the [cutting – ed. note] edge of what is going on in our industry and to have a network which supports us in what we do and which we could extend to our founders.
Thank you for the interview.
Last week we informed you about the first IPP call for proposals for 2 accelerator programmes:
Today we would like to share with you the second part of the interview with Silja Leinonen, Innovation Expert at Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), an Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme financed by the Governments of Vietnam and Finland.
Both IPP Innovation Accelerators include the 6-month training programme Fast Track. It has a world-class curriculum adapted to the Vietnamese context. There will be mandatory, optional and tailored modules led by experienced international and local coaches. Could you describe in more detail the training curriculum? What topics will be mandatory for all participants?
It is a curriculum on innovation and entrepreneurship that is tailored to the characteristics and needs of the Vietnamese market and targeted towards the high growth company generation. The curriculum modules are currently under development. All teams will choose around 6 modules. Some modules like Disruptive Innovation will be mandatory. Others can be chosen freely based on the team’s specific needs and weaker knowledge areas. Say a team wants to brush up its international sales and marketing skills or needs to apply design thinking in its solution. Modules related to these areas will be available for selection. Tailored modules related to, for example, the needs of innovation system developers will be developed together with the teams and international experts.
The broader target of the IPP curriculum development is that after the curriculum has been tested with IPP projects this year, it could be offered as an open-source curriculum to local universities and training institutions. Vietnam is lacking curricula that combine innovation and entrepreneurship and are tailored for local needs, and the IPP is trying to respond to this need.
Could you reveal any names of the experts who will be coaching in Fast Track?
We have not selected these experts quite yet but we are bringing in both Vietnamese and international top-notch mentors, trainers and domain experts. Also, we’ll be using a pool of 10 young professionals who will go through the IPP curriculum before the project starts and will thus be a fresh training resource for the teams.
Graduates of the IPP Innovation Accelerators will be given an opportunity to pitch at the IPP Demo Day at the end of 2015. Could you provide more details about the event?
The Demo Day will be an opportunity for the teams to pitch in front of national and international investors and receive public exposure. Soon after the end of the year, the teams will have a chance to apply for a larger second stage grant, and teams that manage to attract external investment through the Demo Day or other competitions, events and channels will stand a better chance of receiving a larger IPP grant.
The IPP covers 70% of the project costs related to human resources, expert services, travel and training fees. Why is there this 70% limit? Why is there no reimbursement of costs for the technical development of projects? Could applicants expect to receive any kind of assistance from the IPP team in attracting extra funding for their projects?
The 70% level derives from the idea that the project teams should have sufficient financial viability and backing themselves. By securing 30% by themselves, the teams demonstrate that they are serious and committed to the project.
Innovative solutions which the IPP is looking to support require a lot of work and human resources. The teams need money to commit their staff to work full time on their projects, acquire new skilled staff or external world-class expertise, and to travel abroad to research the market and make necessary connections. The development of a product or service requires technology and often the development of technology. The IPP supports human labour needed for the development work. Money is of course needed for equipment and other technology costs. Luckily, there are other sources of potential funding available for that.
Part of the grant from the IPP can be used for efforts related to attracting more growth funding. The IPP will also do its best in connecting the teams with potential Vietnamese and international investors and other supporters, although the teams themselves are running their show and are responsible for their networking efforts.
In 2015, the IPP also runs a training programme for future Innovation Champions in Vietnam. It is 8-month full-time intensive training for 10 talented future innovation coaches, mentors, trainers and consultants from the private and public sector. Could you provide more information about the training?
The Innovation Champion training is a two-part practical training programme. Talking with startup teams in Vietnam, we’ve noticed that the trainer pool for growth companies in Vietnam is very limited and relies on a small number of individuals and companies. We’ll help to grow this pool by training 10 high-calibre young professionals this year and more later. The attendees will go through an intensive two-month course based on the IPP curriculum and then move on to coach IPP projects through this curriculum under the supervision of experienced mentors. Upon graduation from the programme, I’m sure these individuals will be a wanted resource in the innovation system here.
The IPP will be implemented between 2014–2018. At the moment, it is in its second phase. What are the IPP plans for the future?
The IPP will end in 2018 and at the same time the Finnish direct development assistance comes to a close. By that time, we hope to have created some long lasting impacts as already mentioned before: deeper business and innovation partnerships between Finland and Vietnam, increased innovation capabilities in Vietnam through better I&E education and training resources as well as positive socio-economic impacts through successful, next-generation Vietnamese startups that will hopefully conquer the world.
We also hope some of our funding and support instruments will be transferred to Vietnamese innovation funding agencies such as the newly established National Technology Innovation Foundation (NATIF). In that way, IPP work would not end in 2018 but would continue in a sustainable way through local agencies.
We are also focusing a lot on organising many events. These will hopefully create new and long-lasting connections within Vietnam and help to connect Vietnam to the world.
Is there anything else you would like to add about the IPP Innovation Accelerators or any other IPP projects?
I’d like to encourage all readers of this article to connect with the IPP for further talks and collaboration. Please visit our website, write us an email or come visit our office when in Hanoi.
Thank you for the conversation.
Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), an Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme financed by the Governments of Vietnam and Finland, has announced the first call for proposals for 2 accelerator programmes:
The first programme is addressed to new innovative Vietnamese high growth companies which work on their first products or services for international markets. The second programme is meant for consortiums registered in Vietnam which develop services (incubators, accelerators, etc.) to support local high growth startups. Both programmes reflect the main IPP aims: (1) to boost sustainable economic growth in Vietnam, (2) develop a strong local innovation ecosystem and (3) support Vietnamese efforts to become an industrialised middle-income knowledge economy by 2020.
Applicants selected for the accelerator programmes will receive the following support:
All proposals must be written in English and submitted by 4 May 2015.
In order to get more detailed information about the IPP Innovation Accelerators and some other projects, I have asked Silja Leinonen, Innovation Expert at Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), some questions.
Applications for the IPP Innovation Accelerator for New Innovative High Growth Company Projects will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
• project team • collaboration • need for the solution • the solution • benefits of the solution • competition and positioning • business logic • financing of the project and the company • project plan • project budget and finances, including financial feasibility.
To which selection criteria should applicants pay special attention in your opinion and why?
We will be performing a qualitative evaluation of the proposals focusing on those criteria. All aspects are important and what counts is the applicant’s ability to produce the complete package convincingly. It takes a lot of time and many iterations from project teams to tell concisely about market needs, their specific solution, its benefits for the customer as well as competition, and to gather the right team members and adequate financial resources to go through with the project. However, time taken to plan, iterate and make a good proposal will pay off in the end.
The eligibility criteria for IPP support are quite strict. All business proposals which fall into the following categories will be rejected:
• basic improvements to existing products, services, processes and business models • innovations that lower the production costs of existing products • direct copy of something that already exists • exporting something that already exists • ideas in research or a really early stage of the development of product / service • not able to find needed financial resources.
It seems to be quite a difficult task to offer an innovative business idea and at the same time have enough funds to develop it into a valuable business project. Could you give any useful tips for applicants for the IPP Innovation Accelerator on how to become one of the 20 (or less) selected ones?
It is indeed a difficult and challenging task. We expect IPP projects to demonstrate a disruptive approach to innovation and an appetite for fast growth that also attracts other investors besides the IPP quite quickly. Although important, the IPP is not supporting long R&D projects and basic improvements to existing products. We want to challenge project teams to grow into next-generation Vietnamese success stories.
You also mentioned the challenges of finding proper financial resources. That’s a common struggle for all startups and growth companies. The IPP first stage support focuses on a short time frame of 6–9 months and a relatively small project budget. We are asking the applicants to convince us about their liquidity during this project only.
External international independent evaluators will have at least one remote face-to-face interview with each applicant to collect more information about their project proposals for both IPP Innovation Accelerators. During these interviews, the projects will also be evaluated in terms of
Although the IPP does not give priority to any of these areas in the application evaluation process, which area from your personal observations would be of special importance to improve the socio-economic situation in Vietnam?
Being an ODA programme, the IPP focuses on the creation of positive socio-economic impacts. Many of these impacts won’t be visible until the programme ends or long after. We expect the companies we support to generate tax revenue and create new jobs in Vietnam. The innovation system development projects aim at creating better support structures for Vietnamese startups and young high growth companies, and in that way help the economy and make entrepreneurship in Vietnam easier and accessible to more people.
Similarly, we expect that the IPP activities related to innovation and entrepreneurship training and education will in time contribute to increased innovation capabilities in Vietnam and through that increased competitiveness and wellbeing for all.
The IPP, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – the donor – and the Vietnamese Ministry for Science and Technology – our host organisation – will be following how the Finnish and Vietnamese Governments’ focus themes and cross-cutting objectives are reflected in IPP projects and other activities. Based on the interaction we have had with companies and innovation system development teams this spring, I believe many of the projects that will be submitted in this call will focus on solving a pressing problem or challenge in Vietnam, Southeast Asia and on the global scale. This seems to be a natural part of thinking of many entrepreneurs in Vietnam. The IPP is trying on its part to underline that business can truly have a positive impact and can help in solving wicked problems from climate change to inequality.
The objectives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, one of the sponsors of the IPP, are clearly indicated (see the previous question). The programme could benefit the Vietnamese society a lot as it targets at new innovative Vietnamese companies and developing a local innovation ecosystem. How about Finland: in what ways could the Finnish society directly benefit from the programme?
Given that the Finnish development aid to Vietnam is coming to an end in 2018, one of the important tasks of the IPP is to help in the creation of sustainable business and innovation partnerships between Finland and Vietnam. The IPP can be seen as a bridge programme between the Official Development Assistance (ODA) and future business, innovation, research and education based co-operation between Finland and Vietnam. We are trying our best to get Finnish companies and organisations involved in our accelerator projects and organisations, either as project and business partners or as sources of expertise for the teams. We will be connecting our projects with Finnish and other international experts and companies whenever relevant. We are also working as part of the local Team Finland network to promote closer business ties between Vietnam and Finland.
In addition, I’d like to highlight that Finnish and other foreign companies that will establish a daughter company, joint company or spin-off in Vietnam are eligible for IPP direct grant support. We hope to see more interest towards Vietnam in the Finnish and other international business communities.
The second part of the interview will be published next week.
Singapore has been ranked as one of the best places for startups in Asia and around the world. It is well-positioned geographically, offers great infrastructure and logistics, as well as diverse, well-educated talent pool. Singapore is strategically located within hours from fast growing economies such as China and India and consistently attracts the best and brightest minds from different parts of the world. Venture funding, government support and developed startup ecosystem, together with features mentioned above makes Singapore an attractive place for entrepreneurs. more than 50. Let’s have a closer look at some incubators and accelerators in Singapore.
1. Golden Gate Ventures
It is an early stage incubator helping internet startups build and launch successful companies across Southeast Asia. Golden Gates Venture’s founding partners share a rich background building successful Silicon Valley startups and managing investments in Silicon Valley and Asia.
What is interesting: For startups at their Ideation and Concepting stages, Golden Gate Venture offers 100 Day Bootcamp Program, which is run once or twice per year. Since March 2012, Golden Gate Ventures has been accredited as a Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS) incubator by Singapore’s National Research Foundation.
Results: Last year Golden Gate Ventures invested $10 million into startups in their first year. The portfolio includes RedMart.com (online grocery), Coda Payments (mobile payments), and Nitrous.io (web dev tools in the cloud).
2. The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator
The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator is recognized as the most successful in Southeast Asia. It is also the oldest among the pack, which should highlight why the company has the most comprehensive, systematic and consistent programs for a wide range of startup companies. The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator piloted its startup accelerator programme in 2012. Over two years JFDI startups raised over $ 7.2 million in seed funding.
What is interesting: consistently achieving 60%+ success taking startups to investment in 100 days. Typical startups raise around $ 550 000. In exchange for a minority stake every team, who has been selected for the program is offered a package including cash investment, mentoring, working space.
Results: 38 startups have graduated, out of those 34 are still active.
3. Jungle Ventures
Jungle makes seed to early Series A investments across Asia Pacific and also operates an early stage accelerator in Singapore. Founded in 2011 with focus is on early stage investments into Singapore, India, South East Asia and other regional hotbeds of innovation.
What is interesting: Startups through the seed fund accelerator can look to get: S$50-500K in startup funding, co-investment by 500 Startups, a leading SV based fund, and more.
Results: Current portfolio companies include micro-lending platform Milaap, mobile commerce app ShopSpot, and vacations rental site Travelmob which was acquired by Homeaway last year. So far 27 investments has been made, 24 startups still active and 3 successful exits.
It is very typical to measure mature of startups ecosystems in terms of new startups, growing startups, investors, investments, exits, etc. and it makes sense as cities use these statistics in the best possible way to communicate their economic growth at high level and to attract other relevant people, investors, big companies, more entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.
These indicators are however the result of many smaller activities present in a startup ecosystem that contribute to these higher level results - as any startup ecosystem is the sum of multiple variables of an unbalanced equation inherent to the interactions of the startup ecosystem itself.
So, as you can figure out, you need much information to talk about matureness of startups ecosystems. But most of all, you need a good understanding and analysis of your startup ecosystem at different levels and mapping it usually is a good starting point to set up new strategies and achieve a better economic development.
But the thing is that properly mapping a startup ecosystem is more than just to create a good map to show who is who in your city or region. It is crucial to work at different levels and in more detail:
We truly believe everyone should work on this model, as it makes the investments to growth and innovation truly visible and measurable - as only the things that can be measured can be improved. And the faster the feedback loop, the faster things can be improved.
Actually we are working with this model with few key cities like Helsinki at ecosystem level and even more broadly with independent organizations and we are clearly seeing that it is possible to build a vibrant startup ecosystem in a city in three to five years, what is half or less, compared to known average.
Future entrepreneurs and current startups deserve this new scenario that we at Startup Commons are creating and we encourage others to contribute and develop innovation, better, faster and with less resources.
Summer of Startups is a 9-week full-time program which is targeted for ambitious people to help them get started with their own businesses. Every team get a grant of 5000€ so you team members will be fully focus on the program. Team also get a place to work, coaching and the support of Aalto Entrepreneurship Society's community.
Participants get coaching from experienced coaches on a variety of topics. Summer of startups is place to learn, work hard and have fun.
This time we talked to Panu Paljakka, Vice President at Aalto Entrepreneurship Society and one of organisers of Summer of Startups.
What is Summer of Startups and how has it started?
It is 5th time we organise Summer of Startups.So this programme has been started in 2010. Before that there was programme called BootCamp (back in 2009), later on has been separate into Summer of Startup and Startup Sauna.
Summer of Startups is a programme for early stage teams, so the criteria to be part of this programme are as simple as, you have an idea and a team. The basic idea behind Summer of Startups is that young people (student and recent graduates) get opportunity to discover what is entrepreneurship, learn more about startups, see if their idea flies (if not, maybe their second or third idea going to work out). So usually we are working with teams at their ideation and concepting stages (learn more here). However there have been few teams with existing prototypes, but it is not our criteria.
What is the main goal of Summer of Startups?
The goal of the programme is that teams get their prototypes (MVPs) ready by the end of the programme. Our aim is also to educate people and give them opportunity to try what entrepreneurship is. So even if at the end of the programme no business has been establish those people might start company later on (even after 15 years). This is a long term impact of the programme.
Who does organise Summer of Startups?
Summer of Startups is organised by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. It is all student-run organisation based in Aalto University (Finland), how ever we have reached a certain level of professionalism. We have coaches who are continuously involved in Summer of Startups and Startup Sauna.
What is the main method you use to support participants of Summer of Startups?
The most valuable method we use is coaching. There is a bunch of coaches (around 60 this year), who present some ideas on a certain topic (through lecture) or talk about their own story. Some of our coaches deliver workshops or have one-on-one meetings. Moreover, participants get space to work (it is open 24/7) and support of our community (Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, SLUSH, Startup Sauna). In this way it is easy to get in touch with right people.
You are based in Espoo and are part of Mentropolitan area (Cities of Vantaa,Helsinki,Espoo). Are there any industry clusters in the startup scene in this area?
Population is spread around the country, so there are some industry clusters in different cities (f.e. Turku has good and big gaming scene). Helsinki also has many gaming startups, but there is no focus. I do not know if Helsinki should be focused on specific industries.
If you’re an early-stage startup that’s looking for a little help to get your business off of the ground, look no further than the recently established Founders Space accelerator and incubator. Founders Space, which was just opened a week ago, has already made it a point to provide some of the best perks and opportunities for its participants, including seminars, networking events, pitch competitions, and access to amazing set of experienced advisors, VCs, and angel investors.
In San Francisco, startup accelerators are fairly easy to come by – just Google it. However, few offer their participants the comprehensive package that Founders Space has put together. Thanks to founders Steve Hoffman and Murray Newlands, Founders Space has managed to assemble an impressive experience for early-stage companies that focuses on the development of their brand, their product, and achieving their business objectives.
The way it works is really quite simple, too. Startups can apply to join Founders Space, and once they’re accepted, they will go through an intensive 4-week “Boot Camp” where they will attend sessions taught by experienced industry professionals, along with networking events where they will be introduced to relevant VCs and angel investors.
“We are looking for companies that we truly believe in to join Founders Space because we have a dedicated and experience group of advisors and investors who are ready to take on the next big thing,” Steve Hoffman said. “Our goal is to teach these early-stage companies everything they need to know and introduce them to the right people to help them get things going and become the next major enterprise.”
For early-stage startups, the Founders Space location couldn’t be in a better location, either. The co-working space is situated in the heart of SF’s tech industry at SOMA Central, the same building where Instagram, Twilio, and a handful of other successful companies originally got their start.
“We’ve got a great co-working space in SOMA that encourages and inspires collaboration, but also enables our startups to have the meetings and business events that they need to,” said Murray Newlands. “Once we start our accelerator program, we plan on having regular networking events and seminars to give our startups the opportunities to learn and connect with other people in the industry.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Founders Space or applying for their program, be sure to visit their website for more information.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Chandan Raj, CTO at YourStory. Apart from tech -learning and sharing about founders, innovators and changemakers psyche and natural system evolution. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
NewCo Factory, the public accelerator from city of Helsinki, is one year old and we wanted to talk with them to review what has been an intense year full of activities and challenges. Due to their amazing results, NewCo Factory is amongst nominees for "Best Service Provider" category by Nordic Startup Awards, an event to recognize and celebrate the startup ecosystems based in the Nordic region.
This time we talked with Jaana Pylvänen, a startup advisor in NewCo Factory. Her strengths are in building professional, committed teams which have clear strategy and capability to test the innovative concepts with customers. Jaana has Master of Econ. and she has long career in Nokia Networks as recognized innovation driver and execution focused project leader in all the continents. Jaana has also experience in running design oriented business in three continents and passion for digital marketing.
What is NewCo Factory and Why did you start NewCo Factory?
NewCo Factory accelerates growth business in Helsinki. It is a public service with intention to increase entrepreneurship to new audiences, such as people with lot of international business experience and university education. There is a growing need to get advice and coaching on your business ideas, team building and commitment as well as for MVP validation in the market. This development phase of a startup contains a lot of risk, which leads to lack of private interest from financing and/or advising.
32 startups in your Acceleration Program, 5 foreign startup companies moved to Helsinki, 100+ persons work in NewCo Factory startups, 70 persons work in co-working space, 111 startup events organised – 1020 persons attended, 95 persons coached for sales or investor pitching, 650 person profiles in Statup Commons web community, Startups raised early stage funding 1,7+ Meur, NewCo Startups finalists in many European statup comptitions (code_n, Apps4Europe, Red Herring TOP 100 Europe etc). Amazing metrics after one year of hard work: very active community, attracting international people, job creation, etc. Which is your secret?
We are target focused, execution driven and willing to make a difference. Our people are professional, with long career in international business. It does not bother us if all the pilots do not succeed, it is better to try and see, what is working and then scale that. It is also beneficial, that we do not have much money, so it means we have to concentrate on actions we can do ourselves. All activities and materials are only in English, which enables people with very little or no knowledge of Finnish to join us.
What methodology are you presently using to support startups?
We are still on piloting phase, but our idea is to utilize lean type of methodology, where startup should test they business scenarios with customers. We are focusing on the strengths of the startups teams and developing the team as committed and professional as possible, not forgetting the agile methods.
What stage do you look for companies at?
We are looking for the startups, which have committed teams with competencies in producing the MVP within the team, i.e. in Phase 0 in Startup development phases. The company does not have to be registered yet, but we require a shareholder agreement between the corefounders.
You are part of a great startup ecosystem in Helsinki. What makes it unique?
Helsinki and metropolitan area is very small in size of geography and population. We cannot compete internally, but we rather focus on networking, partnering and helping the others to succeed. It is vital for an ecosystem to work. If you give, you will receive.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs considering an accelerator?
Test your first ideas with potential customers several times, before you start to build our product. Typically entrepreneurs are building the solutions for themselves, but real, paying customers might have different problems, which require a solution. It might take a lot of time to understand the need for the pivot, if you build your product on one customer only. Accelerator can help you with building your solution, work in organized way, help you with pitching, and funding.
Is there a “bubble” of startup accelerators?
I think that accelerators are the schools for entrepreneurship, can we have a bubble of that?
There's a clear shift towards crowdfunding in startup scene. What are you doing to adapt it in NewCo Factory?
We are considering crowdfunding with each of our customers separately. The readiness of the team, solution and funding for that particular industry need to be carefully considered as well as with all the other funding options.
Apart from the move towards industry specific (‘vertical’) accelerators, do you see any other big trends?
There is big trend to fish for the best startups from the accelerators to the neighbor cities and countries and utilize public funding as a bate for the reasoning.
Which is the best accelerator in the world?
That depends on what you are looking for, but we can be very proud of our accelerators in Helsinki.
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