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Intro: this post has been triggered by an innocent DM from Zuzanna Stanska of GammaRebels, asking me nicely if I would like to write about their increased funding news. So I spent the whole day pulling together interview notes, bookmarks and emails to prepare this post, which was long overdue.
My personal view is that the accelerator programs have become MBA2.0 for entrepreneurs. Compared to a standard MBA degree, which covers generic topics from macroeconomics, to general management and corporate finance, accelerator programs have a more focused approach to teach and prepare tech entrepreneurs to do one thing very well: build and grow their tech businesses. Of course they are as good as their mentor network.
While Seedcamp is well known for its efforts and results of accelerating european startups (30 per cent of which come from eastern Europe), other accelerators, such as Startup Sauna and Springboard have began to visit eastern European locations in search for the most promising technology companies.
Startup Sauna has been scouting Poland, Russia and Baltic countries a couple of months ago, and will have its demo day on the 15th of December. The Finland-based accelerator has recently decided to go global and open source (with the support of the Finnish government). This means that its mentors and resources will be available to the best tech startups from all over the world for free.
Springboard’s Jon Bradford is working his way into Russia via affiliation with TexDrive, the accelerator run by Andrey Kessel (ex-Amadeus Partners). TexDrive’s mentors include Russia’s most notable tech entrepreneurs and investors, although it is still unclear how much time committments those mentors have made to the program.
A unique initiative in Russia is a pre-seed organization called Greenfield Project, sponsored by Russian Venture Company amongst others. Its founders Renat Garipov, Mikhael Korneev and Peter Tatischev organize free educational seminars, networking events and Greenfield Project has become a platform to share business ideas, develop them into the real projects and even put together a team. Over the past 2 years Greenfield has enabled creation of 250 startups, over 25 started selling, found investors and are alive and well.
Greenfield Project partners with InCube accelerator which was launched this fall. Incube gives away $20 000 per startup in exchange for 10 per cent of the equity. It is funded by Yandex, Runa Capital and business angels.
Another Russian accelerator Farminers does not believe in open institute of mentors, and has a closely knit team of exports who work closely with the startup companies. The accelerator has selected 15 startups earlier this month for its first edition. It offers up to $150 000 for the project execution for 40 per cent equity. The demo day will take place in the beginning of 2012. The teams are physically located at Farminers’ offices, and the mentors are based either in the same building or nearby.
Silicon Valley accelerator Plug and Play Tech Center has recently also selected 5 Russian teams for its programs. The startups will remain in Russia but will benefit from the Plug and Play global network of mentors and investors.
In Poland, the most notable accelerator is privately-funded GammaRebels, which launched earlier this year and had a demo day a month ago. According to Zuzanna Stanska, the accelerator has recently upped the ante, now investing up to 12 000 Euros in exchange for 10 per cent of the equity. The accelerator is currently collecting applications for its next edition. Notable companies from the earlier edition include Busyflow and ARNav, the only eastern European finalist of LeWeb 2011 startup competition, as well as Game Disrupt, which came second at the Startup Sauna Warmup Warsaw. GammaRebels’ program is international, and has no application deadline: this means that the program will start when 10 top-notch teams are found.
Other accelerators in Warsaw include AI Not (up to 200 000 Euros for up to 50 per cent of the equity) and Technoboard (up to Euros 240 ooo for up to 49 per cent of the equity), but unlike GammaRebels, these are funded by the EU.
In Hungary European Entrepreneurship Foundation, headed by Peter Záboji, has been running its Venture Accelerator program since 2009, and is, according to Záboji, “the mother of all accelerator programs in Europe”. The model works on a paid fee basis (Euro 350 for the entire course). The program has accelerated hungarian startups such as Gravity, Dragontape and Joszaki. Its next demo day, called Jeremie Venture Contest, will take place on the 5th of December 2011.
Another Hungarian initiative is run by a tech incubator Colabs. It has just launched its first seed accelerator program which currently accepts applications for its first edition (deadline on the 30th of November 2011). It will invest 3200-16000 Euros into selected projects, and will take place from January to April 2012.
In Ukraine there is GrowthUp accelerator, co-founded by tech entrepreneur Denis Dovgopoly (co-organizer of IDCEE). The format of GrowthUp is based on mentorship and education of the preselected startup teams in exchange for a small fee. Its most notable incubated ventures can be found here (in Russian). Its next demo day will take place on the 20th of December (the exact date may change).
Another Ukrainian accelerator EastLabs hasn’t launched yet. It is supported by EastOne Group, whose founder the billionnaire Victor Pinchuk is one of the most successful Ukrainian businessmen. EastLabs, run by the New Yorker Hrish Lotlikar, Brazilian Eveline Buchatskiy and Ukrainian Olga Belkova who are currently reviewing applications, and finalizing the list of its mentors and experts. The details of the funding on offer has not yet been revealed.
Startup Yard in Czech Republic is run by Lukas Hudecek (Jon Bradford of Springboard is involved as a mentor). The accelerator offers Euro 6000 in exchange for 10 per cent of the equity, or takes 5 per cent for mentorship only. Its first demo day takes place in Prague on the 28th of November and in London on the 1st of December 2011.
There is also TechSquare in Prague, but this entity operates more as an incubator, offering a co-working space, support services and access to the busy Czech venture capitalists Credo Ventures in exchange for a flat monthly fee.
Startup Highway is accelerating tech entrepreneurs in Lithuania, whose co-founder Rokas Tamošiūnas is preparing his first batch of startups for a demo day on the 16th of December. Each startup receives up to €14,000 in seed funding for 10% of the equity, as well as free office space and admin support. Bradford is an advisor there.
In Bulgaria there is Startitsmart, the entrepreneurship club which organizes a program called 3Challenge. The program is split in three stages: idea, seed and grow. Out of 18 business ideas 9 are selected for the seed stage and get 2500 Euros as well as Euro 120 000 worth of mentorship hours, and upon a completion of 6-months-long accelerator course, three teams are selected for the growth stage. Seed funding is still a problem in Bulgaria, as venture investment ecosystem is underdeveloped.
And last but not least is VentureConnect in Romania, although not quite an accelerator but it might go that route. VentureConnect organizes pitching sessions, bringing together Romanian entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. Having launched in 2010, presentations of its current edition take place today in Bucharest. VentureConnect has teamed up with the local tech investors such as Radu Georgescu and Marius Ghenea to offer seed funding to the strong teams.
So, I think this is a complete list but please leave comments if I have missed an accelerator or two out of the list. Most of the initiatives are not even a year old and it is hard to keep track. This December will be a busy month for investors looking to connect with freshly-accelerated teams in eastern Europe.
Update: I have missed Moscow-based Glavstart which offers up to $100 000 to the startup teams (skype interviews to take place on the 29th of November 2011, Investor day in January 2012) and Business Incubator HSE also from Moscow.
Update 2: How could I possibly forget HackFwd when I made a point in my TechCrunch post that Eastern European teams featured prominently amongst its HackBoxes? The accelerator takes 27% of the equity (3% goes to the mentors) in exchange for Euro 91 000 to Euro 191 000 per investment depending on the number of founders. HackFwd has over 30 introducers across most of the eastern European countries. The talent Geek David Bizer is present at almost all eastern European startup events either via Twitter, following the live stream or in person.
Update 3: There is also an accelerator Garade.md in Moldova. Now, I haven’t expected that because based on my earlier analysis of the competitiveness of eastern European countries, Moldova is still at the lowest stage of economic development, competing primarily on unskilled labour and natural resources. Garage.md invests up to $40 000.
Update 4: One more incubator / accelerator in Poland is called Beast Fund which invests up to Euro 11 000 and contacts in exchange for up to 60 per cent equity. It focuses on mobile apps and games, covering CEE region.
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