StartupYard Partners with Accenture Digital for November Hackathon

StartupYard is pleased to announce the Accenture Digital Hackathon, November 26-27th in Prague, presented in partnership with StartupYard.

From the Accenture Digital Announcement:

“Today’s challenges are too complex to be solved by any individual person or nation. The solutions of the future will require the creativity and innovation of us all because only by working together will we be able to create a better world. This is the challenge that has been set for the upcoming Accenture Digital Hackathon, which will go beyond Czech Republic to also involve the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Turkey.
Experience the unforgettable thrill of coming together, for two days in an amazing setting, with peers who share the same passion for digital technology and innovation.”

About the Accenture Digital Hackathon:

This Hackathon invites young creative designers, developers and marketing specialists – both students and recent university graduates, to collaborate on projects along the following themes:

  1. Opportunity: increase access to employment and reduce the digital divide
  2. Mobility: eliminate physical and technological barriers that impede the productive flow of goods, people and ideas and improve the handling of emergencies
  3. Sustainability: promote sustainable lifestyles and boost awareness of the impact of climate change.
Check out the @AccentureDigi hackathon, November 26-27th in Prague! Prizes and mentorship! Click To Tweet

 

Why Join the Hackathon? 

It’s international: you compete against teams from 7 other countries

Attractive prizes:

  • 15,000 CZK voucher for each single member of the winning team (Prague round)
  • 1,000 EUR voucher for each single member of the winning team (international round)
  • Present winning idea (international round) to the World Expo 2020 organizing committee in Dubai

Inspiring mentors: Professionals from Accenture – leader among the FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” in the IT services category

StartupYard, Accenture Digital

Who Can Join? 

Participation is open to individuals (with any of the skills below) or teams of 3 to 5 people (each team having at least one member with skills below). Partipants should be junior in their professions, or recent university graduates.

  • Designers
  • Developers
  • Marketing Specialists

Organizers will set up teams from registered individuals without teams.

What Will You Accomplish? 

Generate: Prototype ideas, products and services that are able to create social and economic value.

Develop: Focus on the three themes which will be at the centre of the World Expo to be held in Dubai in 2020 (Expo 2020):

      1. Opportunity: increase access to employment and reduce the digital divide
      2. Mobility: eliminate physical and technological barriers that impede the productive flow of goods, people and ideas and improve the handling of emergencies
      3. Sustainability: promote sustainable lifestyles and boost awareness of the impact of climate change.

Get Mentorship: Experts from Accenture will mentor participating teams and individuals, helping to define and develop their project concepts.

Get Feedback: Projects will be assessed according to the strength of their concept, design and development, and each will be presented to a Jury

Win Prizes and Move Forward: Winning team in each city will be invited at the end of the day to compete head to head (via video conference) against the winners from the other cities in order to determine the top three teams overall.

Check out the @AccentureDigi hackathon, November 26-27th in Prague! Prizes and mentorship! Click To Tweet

 

 

Michal Hradil, StartupYard

Meet StartupYard Investor Michal Hradil, Founder of Hyperia

Just last week, StartupYard made final selections for SY 2016/2, our 7th round of acceleration overall, and 2nd in 2016.

With each round, we invite brand new investors, with new perspectives and experiences, to get involved with StartupYard as investors. This year we’re pleased to welcome Michal Hradil, Founder and CEO of Hyperia, a highly successful online marketing agency based in Slovakia. Hyperia, founded in 2013, focuses on lead generation, performance marketing, and affiliate marketing.

A serial entrepreneur, Michal is also the founder of online finance marketplace BezvaFinance, and renewable energy consultancy NetInvest.

Hi Michal, tell us a bit about yourself and your experience founding Hyperia. How did you get into online marketing? Where are you planning to go, business-wise, in the future?

I got into online marketing during my university studies. Working as an attendant in a copy center, I had plenty of time to browse the Internet. I found out I could earn more money by buying and selling domain names. So I gave it a try and it worked. And here is where it all began. I broadened my horizons about affiliate marketing, lead generation and ended up founding Hyperia.

 

Hype

What have been some of your favorite, or most successful projects at Hyperia? Do you have any interesting failures to talk about?

A: Our biggest achievement is, I think, that Hyperia, facing a very strong competition, became a leader in lead generation in financial sector within the Czech Republic and Slovakia which are two really competitive markets. Inevitably, we have made lots of mistakes. The one, I can easily describe, turned up when our webpages didn’t work for visitors using IPV6 connection. Having IPV4, we didn’t realize it and the mistake cost us around 30k euros.  

What makes Hyperia different from an average marketing agency? What is unique about your approach to your field?

Creativity brought even into more conservative segments and marketing psychology are our two biggest strengths.

In addition, we have never worked for individual clients. We are paid for tangible results by our partners so we must be really efficient in what we’re doing and we are able to achieve results the following day after making a deal. But specializing in our own projects also means that the success or failure are in our hands.


As an entrepreneur, how has the landscape changed in Slovakia (or Czechia), during your career? What have been the most important changes from your perspective?

A: In my opinion, it is more difficult to start any business without initial capital these days. The competition is very strong and the price of manpower has gone up. It means you should do more if you want to succeed.

On the other hand, information is made more available and there are much more opportunities. It is more simple to build a global business from the Czech Republic than ever before and people have more skills and experience with global products. Finding an investor became much easier as well.

You recently became a StartupYard investor. What got you interested in investing in startups, and why did you choose to invest through us? Have you invested directly in any startups before?

I do have some experience in the field. In case of StartupYard, I find your concept – to participate in something new – quite interesting. I also wanted to have a well-diversified portfolio and invest part of my earnings into startups.

As an investor, what do you hope to gain from your experience with StartupYard (other than a profit of course)?

Frankly speaking, it is more about me being able to see how the system works in details and to get first-hand information. I will be glad if I earn some money but I am keeping in mind that it might be the most expensive course I have ever taken :). I accept the risk.

How do you think you are uniquely suited to mentoring and advising early stage companies? What part of your own experience will most benefit our startups?

A: I think I keep track of marketing. I understand how PPC, ux, affiliate, domains, SEO and traffic acquisition work – I have experience with all of them. I was used to getting a lot of bang for the buck. From the point of view of marketing, there are no obstacles but challenges for me.

Soldigo, StartupYard

Meet Soldigo: An SY 2015 Alum with a New Brand

This week, on our trip to Romania, I caught up with one of our favorite StartupYard Alumni, Mathe Zsolt-Lazlo, known to us as Zsolt, founder and CEO of StartupYard alum Soldigo– formerly known as Shoptsie.

Soldigo has changed their name, but they’re still the amazing team they were when they joined us at StartupYard. I talked with Zsolt about what’s been going on at Soldigo since they left StartupYard last year:

StartupYard, Soldigo

Hi Zsolt, first let’s address the big question: your company has a new name: Soldigo. How did you pick the name, and why did you decide to rebrand?

Hi Lloyd. Indeed, we went through a rebranding so Shoptsie is now Soldigo. We got so many contradictory suggestions, many people told us we should change it and just as many said they loved the old name, but in the end we decided to change it after all.

As a result of many long brainstorming sessions we came up with nearly 100 new names. We did some research and because there is a lack in terms of .com domain name availability, we gradually reduced this number and arrived at Soldigo. We chose this name because it is short and sweet, in tune with the trend and somewhat catchy. Soldigo stands for “go with the e-selling flow”. It is intelligible in multiple languages and evokes optimism and fun.

What have been some of your biggest milestones since leaving StartupYard?  

Soldigo, StartupYard

Zsolt pitching Soldigo at StartupYard’s 2015 Demo Day

I believe our biggest milestones since leaving StartupYard were finding the right teammates and creating the new version of Soldigo. In our industry, technology and business development are often inseparable from one another and this is why we decided to change the platform to an improved version of itself. The new version of Soldigo is more intuitive, easy to use and fully supports the needs of small and medium businesses.

What about your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge and joy is to meet the needs of our existing and potential customers who are just as eager to perfect their online stores as we are to improve our service that allows them to do just that. We plan on introducing social selling and create a new plan called Marketing that will offer great marketing solutions for optimized selling.

Tell us what’s new in Soldigo. What are some of your newest features, and what have been some of the biggest changes to the product?

To meet all of our customers’ needs and requests, we added the following amazing new features and updates:

– we improved the product upload as well as the image upload features

– we enabled the possibility to add subcategories

– connecting the store with blogs is also possible now

– we re-thought the Designer and therefore the store owner will have more freedom with it, more customization options (possibility to add background images, more control over coloring the store, possibility to change font types and sizes, so an overall bigger freedom to be creative when it comes to the store’s look and feel)

– new server makes it all work faster and better

You’ve recently expanded your team. Tell us a bit about that process, and about the current state of the team.

The process of recruiting new team members was quite long since we had to make sure that the person joining us represented the same values and had the same goals and was enthusiastic enough to step out of the “8-hours-of-work-a-day” frame of mind.

We created a friendly work environment that is not about long hours but rather about focusing on work when needed and make it efficient. So we looked for people who fit into Soldigo’s team spirit and drive. While developing the new version of Soldigo, we expanded the team with a senior developer and a sysadmin. At the moment the Soldigo team is made up of 5 people.

Looking back, what has been one of the most important lessons for you and the Soldigo team coming out of StartupYard?

The most important lesson after coming out of StartupYard was to “get out of the building”, to engage with our customers and to allow their needs to shape the direction of Soldigo. We are constantly attending as many handcrafters’ fairs and exhibitions as possible and we aim at maintaining a constant contact with our existing customers.

You’re currently focusing on growing your userbase. What are some of the main challenges in doing that, and where do you hope to be in the next year or two?

That is correct. Since we finished the development of the new version of Soldigo, we are focusing on growing our user base. The main challenge of doing this our lack of experience in the marketing field.

Over 6000 customers are using Soldigo currently, of which 12% are generating an average 20-25 sales per day. To grow the number of our customers, we created a marketing strategy, both online and offline, but since we are not experts, we saw that we need help in this area. At the moment we are working with two really good marketing agencies and we got a lot of help from the StartupYard mentors.

The next two years are crucial for us. We want to put Soldigo on the map of the e-commerce world with hopes of it becoming one of the best solutions in helping small and medium size companies to succeed with their online businesses.

How have your ambitions for the company changed since you left StartupYard? Have you revised your vision in a significant way

When we arrived at StartupYard we wanted to reinvent the wheel and we felt that Soldigo was meant for everyone. We were really clueless in how to channel our ambition to get results.

What we learned there is that targeting everyone at the same time is really impossible, and so we chose a niche that would focus our energy in a more targeted way. Our vision became clearer and Soldigo became more consistent, in brand image as well as brand strategy.

We have an open call for Startups closing on September 30th. What would you say to a startup that’s thinking about applying to StartupYard?

I would say that applying to StartupYard was hands down one of the best things we did as Soldigo. It has taught us everything we know today and, most importantly, that you can achieve many things if you have a good team.

It gave us an immense perspective on where we were and also gave us a direction for the future. It was an amazing learning experience that truly defines us to this day and we felt really honored to be mentored by such incredible mentors.

I believe that StartupYard is an amazing platform for startups to grow and to learn and to find their true calling, so startups, do yourselves a favour and apply, asap!

StartupYard, Central Europe Accelerator

Workshop and Pitching with StartupYard- Cluj, Sep. 20

  1. logo-cluj-hub-01-300x111The final stop on our FastLane RoadShow will see StartupYard in Cluj, Romania, at ClujHub, on Tuesday September 20th!

We will host open hours, a workshop for startups, and then listen to pitches from some of the most interesting startups in Cluj, and hopefully select a few to be “Fastlaned,” through the selection process for StartupYard.

About The Workshop

Elements of a Killer Landing Page was hailed as Prague Startup Day’s most popular workshop in 2016. StartupYard community manager Lloyd Waldo will take a deep dive into the structures and processes that help startups build successful landing pages, as well as other types of written communication, in this funny and inspiring presentation, aimed especially at startups.

Want to know the science and the art behind a killer landing page? This workshop is for you.

 

StartupYard, ClujHub

WHERE: ClujHub, Cluj

 Looking forward to meeting @Startupyard Accelerator @ClujHub on Tuesday Sep. 20th! #startups #pitching Click To Tweet

How to Pitch StartupYard in Cluj

StartupYard FastLane is your chance to pitch directly to one of Central Europe’s leading seed accelerators for technology startups, and move straight to the final selection rounds for StartupYard 2016/2, kicking off in November 2016. StartupYard will visit 9 cities in September 2016, providing workshops, office hours, and answering questions from tech communities around Central Europe.

On September 20th, StartupYard will join ClujHub, to listen to pitches from interested startups, the best of which will be offered interviews with StartupYard’s Selection Committee.

Startups who are interested in Pitching at the event should sign up to pitch, and then come to the venue during our office hours, get a chance to meet us, and tell us about their idea first.

Event Details for StartupYard, FastLane: Cluj

Agenda: 

15 – 16h: Elements of a Killer Landing Page

16 – 17h: Open Hours and Q/A with StartupYard

17:00: Event starts – Info about StartupYard Accelerator

17:30 – 18:30: Pitching

18:30 – 19:30: Networking + refreshments

About Us

Two members of the StartupYard team will represent the accelerator at FastLane Cluj. Our Managing Director Cedric Maloux, and our Community Manager, Lloyd Waldo. 

What We’re Looking For

StartupYard accepts startups in the Idea Stage, all the way through to companies with their first clients, users, and revenues.

Are you a Data Focused Startup, working in Security & Trust, Iot & Big Data, or Machine Learning & Prediction? Then StartupYard is your chance to get funded, launch fast, and attack the global market with the backing of some of Central Europe’s leading venture investors, including Credo Ventures, and Rockaway Capital.

Applications for StartupYard close on September 30th, 2016 . Startups can apply directly for the program by clicking here.

Read More about the Open Call, and Find Out More About Our 3 Month Program Here.

StartupYard, Central Europe Accelerator

Workshop and Pitching with StartupYard, Bucharest, Sep. 19

imgresStop 8 on our FastLane RoadShow will see StartupYard in Bucharest, at TechHub, on Monday September 19th!

We will host open hours, a workshop for startups, and then listen to pitches from some of the most interesting startups in Bucharest, and hopefully select a few to be “Fastlaned,” through the selection process for StartupYard.

About The Workshop

Elements of a Killer Landing Page was hailed as Prague Startup Day’s most popular workshop in 2016. StartupYard community manager Lloyd Waldo will take a deep dive into the structures and processes that help startups build successful landing pages, as well as other types of written communication, in this funny and inspiring presentation, aimed especially at startups.

Want to know the science and the art behind a killer landing page? This workshop is for you.

Meet and Pitch to the StartupYard Team at TechHub, Bucharest

StartupYard, Bucharest

WHERE: TechHub, Bucharest

 Looking forward to meeting @Startupyard Accelerator @TechHubBuc on September 19th! #startups #pitching Click To Tweet

 

How to Pitch StartupYard in Bucharest

StartupYard FastLane is your chance to pitch directly to one of Central Europe’s leading seed accelerators for technology startups, and move straight to the final selection rounds for StartupYard 2016/2, kicking off in November 2016. StartupYard will visit 9 cities in September 2016, providing workshops, office hours, and answering questions from tech communities around Central Europe.

On September 19th, StartupYard will join TechHub, Bucharest, to listen to pitches from interested startups, the best of which will be offered interviews with StartupYard’s Selection Committee.

Startups who are interested in Pitching at the event should sign up to pitch, and then come to the venue during our office hours, get a chance to meet us, and tell us about their idea first.

 

Event Details for StartupYard, FastLane: Bucharest

Event Agenda:

14:30 – 15:30h: Elements of a Killer Landing Page

15:30 – 16:30h: Open Hours and Q/A with StartupYard

16:30: Event starts – Info about StartupYard Accelerator

17:00 – 18:00: Pitching

18:00 – 18:30: Networking + refreshments

About Us

Two members of the StartupYard team will represent the accelerator at FastLane Bucharest. Our Managing Director Cedric Maloux, and our Community Manager, Lloyd Waldo. 

What We’re Looking For

StartupYard accepts startups in the Idea Stage, all the way through to companies with their first clients, users, and revenues.

Are you a Data Focused Startup, working in Security & Trust, Iot & Big Data, or Machine Learning & Prediction? Then StartupYard is your chance to get funded, launch fast, and attack the global market with the backing of some of Central Europe’s leading venture investors, including Credo Ventures, and Rockaway Capital.

Applications for StartupYard close on September 30th, 2016 . Startups can apply directly for the program by clicking here.

Read More about the Open Call, and Find Out More About Our 3 Month Program Here.

Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem

What’s Special about the Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem?

StartupYard has embarked on a month-long, 8 stop tour of Central European tech capitals. We’ve already visited Slovakia, Poland, and Kosovo, and Hungary, and will be stoping in Romania (Bucharest and Cluj), Bulgaria, and Slovenia.

But before visiting each ecosystem for StartupYard FastLane, we wanted to get to know the ecosystems we will be visiting even better. While we’ve met a lot of startups from these countries, and accelerated some of them as well, we wanted to hear from local accelerators, investors, and entrepreneurs what they thought was special about their local ecosystem. Since we’re asking startupers to come to Prague, which we think is pretty special, we wanted to see what our neighboring ecosystems really have to offer, according to some of their biggest fans.

We asked a group of entrepreneurs and influencers in the countries we’re visiting to tell us their perspective on their own ecosystem, and we will share that learning with you in a series of blog posts, including posts about Poland, Bucharest, and Slovakia, we’ll explore what makes the Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem unique, ahead of our visit to CoWorking Space by Puzl, in Sofia, on Wednesday September 14th. 

What’s Special about the Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem?

Alexander Karadjian, Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem, StartupYardAlexander Karadjian, Founder and CEO of Speedifly
Born and raised in Bulgaria, Alexander Karadjian moved to the US at the age of 19. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in architecture from Harvard and went on to work at some of world’s leading architectural offices such as OMA and Studio Rafael Moneo. Alexander’s passion for travel and his adventurous nature led him to found SpeediFly, the first social travel platform for spontaneous last-minute travel, and a StartupYard Alum. A visionary and a believer, he is optimistic that SpeediFly will redefine the way young people think about travel and will inspire people go out and explore the world. Speedifly raised over 300,000 euros, from private investors and StartupYard. In addition to traveling, Alexander enjoys drawing, fishing and playing tennis in his free time.

What do you see as the greatest advantage of your tech ecosystem, particularly for young technology startups and entrepreneurs?

There is no doubt that the greatest asset of the Bulgarian Tech Ecosystem is the access to talent and the relatively low price (in comparison to the rest of Europe and the US) at which entrepreneurs can gain access to this talent. It is impossible to think of a thriving technology startup environment where there is a noticeable shortage of developers. In Bulgaria there are plenty of extremely talented developers, and the local economy is actually adjusting to the growing need for more specialists in this field – new IT academies pop up in Sofia every year. The challenge for startups, of course, is that big corporations from the US and Western Europe outsource a lot of their IT work to Bulgaria, which especially during the last couple of years, makes it more difficult for startup founders to make competitive enough offers to the top developers available in the ecosystem.

Alex Karadjian of @speedifly: outsourcing to Bulgaria a challenge for local startups seeking… Click To Tweet

What about its most important current weaknesses? How would you like to see them addressed?

Well, the greatest weakness, I believe, is the access to smart money. There are a lot of very rich people in Bulgaria who indeed want to invest their money, but they do not have the necessary experience to add much more than the money to the startups they can potentially invest in. It is simple – there are almost no people in Bulgaria who have done this “startup thing” successfully in the past so as to provide guidance to entrepreneurs. Most of the Bulgarians who have this experience stay in San Francisco, New York or London. Incubators such as LAUNCHub and Eleven try to bring such people to the ecosystem, but it’s not easy. This is a process that will take a lot of time. And to be honest, for startup founders who work on their first businesses it’s extremely difficult to be competitive without adequate mentorship.

Alex Karadjian of @speedifly: Biggest challenge to #Bulgarian #Startups is access to smart money,… Click To Tweet

What speciality would you say your ecosystem is most famous for, in terms of technology or business?

I would say that the development of games is thriving in Sofia. I do not follow this branch so closely but I talk to so many people who turn out to be developing games – it’s crazy. These kinds of startups are usually not under the spotlight, but some of them are doing really well.

Would you say the local ecosystem is dominated by more copycats, or by original, innovative solutions?

Well, “copycat” sounds quite offensive, which is why I do not want to use this word, but at the same time, having studied and lived in the US, I cannot say that our ecosystem is a birthplace of significant innovative solutions.

Let’s face the reality, having great ideas and a lot of developers in the same place is not enough. Most of the local founders don’t have the necessary academic background to even imagine what real technological innovation means – if I have to abide to my definition of word innovation, of course. If one goes to Y Combinator, one can see startups building new types of airplanes – this is unimaginable in a country like Bulgaria. Yes, there are Bulgarians studying engineering and physics at MIT, Harvard and Stanford, but those people do not come back to our ecosystem. Let’s not forget that in the early 2000’s the US was investing something like 17 times more money in research and technology that all the countries in Europe together. The consequences are quite clear, I think.

Alex Karadjian of @speedifly: Bulgaria needs its best minds to come home. Click To Tweet

What would you say your locally grown entrepreneurs are best at? What is their greatest strength in international business?

I have never thought about this. Maybe they are best at building beautiful solutions, and by beautiful I mean visually compelling. If only they were as good at sales!

Alex Karadjian of @speedifly: Bulgarian startups build visually compelling products Click To Tweet

In your opinion, does the local ecosystem look abroad for opportunities enough? Too much? What would you encourage local entrepreneurs to change in their approach to global business?

I don’t think local entrepreneurs are open enough to embrace global opportunities and this is indeed a problem because the Bulgarian market is too small not only to capitalize on, but also to be used as a test ground. Some B2C products can be tested locally, but most of them, as well as all new B2B solutions, should be tested against much bigger markets. Only then can our local entrepreneurs adequately evaluate the potential and the weaknesses of their products.

What does your ecosystem offer that others can’t? What is your local “killer feature?”

Corporate tax is 10%! And as I said before, cheap access to top-shelf talent is still a big advantage.

How would you describe your government’s relationship to startups and tech? Is the government helpful or is it out of touch?

At this point the government is indifferent, which is not too bad. I say this because in Bulgaria many politicians have “invaded” local small and medium sized businesses using political power. Fortunately, technological startups are too complicated for them – there’s no easy money there, which is most probably what keeps them away from negatively interfering with the startup ecosystem.

Alex Karadjian of @speedifly: Bulgarian gov is hands-off with #startups and that's a good thing Click To Tweet

What about Angel investors? Do you have an active community? What types of people are doing angel investing in your ecosystem?

Yes, there is an active Angel investor community in Sofia. Actually, I recently heard that a guy in Sofia is making an Angel investment platform to facilitate the presentation of pre-screened startups to this community of Angels. This opportunity to bring angels and startup founders close together is vital for our ecosystem, as most of the angels in Bulgaria don’t have prior experience with startups. They usually come from the financial industry, from the construction industry or from various business related to reselling goods/building materials.

In your opinion, what have been your greatest local successes, and in what areas do you think the ecosystem has the most potential to grow in the next few years?

Telerik was without any doubt the biggest success story in Bulgaria. In 2014 this company offering software tools for web, mobile and desktop application development was sold for $262.5M to Progress Software, which made the acquisition one of the biggest deals ever in Central and Southeastern Europe. Two years later, it still appears that the greatest potential of the local ecosystem is related to offering tools for the development of various IT platforms.

What would you say to an entrepreneur or a startup thinking about relocating to your city? Any Warnings? Hidden advantages? Quirks?

Be careful with the freelancers – you cannot really rely on many of them. And mess with the local institutions as little as possible. The legal system is still a mess, which is the major obstacle to bringing more investments to Sofia.

Can you highlight any startups to watch for 2017 from your local ecosystem? Why would you highlight them?

I would follow with great interest the Peer2Peer investment platform iUVO group. It provides investors with the opportunity to invest in diversified portfolios and respectively brings something really fresh to the market. I would be very curious to see how they grow.

StartupYard, Central Europe Accelerator

Workshop and Pitching with StartupYard in Ljubljana, Mon. Sep 12th!

Stop 6 on our FastLane RoadShow will see StartupYard in Ljubljana, at ABC Accelerator, Ljubljana, on Monday, September 12th. 

We will host open hours, a workshop for startups, and then listen to pitches from some of the most interesting startups in Ljubljana, and hopefully select a few to be “Fastlaned,” through the selection process for StartupYard.

About The Workshop

Elements of a Killer Landing Page was hailed as Prague Startup Day’s most popular workshop in 2016. StartupYard community manager Lloyd Waldo will take a deep dive into the structures and processes that help startups build successful landing pages, as well as other types of written communication, in this funny and inspiring presentation, aimed especially at startups.

Want to know the science and the art behind a killer landing page? This workshop is for you.

Meet and Pitch to the StartupYard Team at ABC Accelerator, Ljubljana

ABC Accelerator, StartupYard in Ljubjana

WHERE: ABC Accelerator, Ljubljana

 Looking forward to meeting @Startupyard Accelerator team @abc_accelerator on September 12th! #startups #pitching Click To Tweet

How to Pitch StartupYard in Ljubjana

StartupYard FastLane is your chance to pitch directly to one of Central Europe’s leading seed accelerators for technology startups, and move straight to the final selection rounds for StartupYard 2016/2, kicking off in November 2016. StartupYard will visit 9 cities in September 2016, providing workshops, office hours, and answering questions from tech communities around Central Europe.

On September 12th, StartupYard will join ABC Accelerator, to listen to pitches from interested startups, the best of which will be offered interviews with StartupYard’s Selection Committee.

Startups who are interested in Pitching at the event should sign up to pitch, and then come to the venue during our office hours, get a chance to meet us, and tell us about their idea first.

Event Details for StartupYard, FastLane: Ljubljana

Event Agenda:

15h: Elements of a Killer Landing Page with Lloyd Waldo

16: Open Hours and Q/A with StartupYard MD Cedric Maloux

17:00: Event starts Info about StartupYard Accelerator

17:30 – 18:30: Pitching with Startups

18:30 – 19:30: Networking + refreshments

About Us

Two members of the StartupYard team will represent the accelerator at FastLane Ljubljana. Our Managing Director Cedric Maloux, and our Community Manager, Lloyd Waldo. 

What We’re Looking For

StartupYard accepts startups in the Idea Stage, all the way through to companies with their first clients, users, and revenues.

Are you a Data Focused Startup, working in Security & Trust, Iot & Big Data, or Machine Learning & Prediction? Then StartupYard is your chance to get funded, launch fast, and attack the global market with the backing of some of Central Europe’s leading venture investors, including Credo Ventures, and Rockaway Capital.

Applications for StartupYard close on September 30th, 2016 . Startups can apply directly for the program by clicking here.

Read More about the Open Call, and Find Out More About Our 3 Month Program Here.

Slovak Tech Ecosystem

What’s Special about the Slovak Tech Ecosystem?

StartupYard has embarked on a month-long, 8 stop tour of Central European tech capitals. We’ll be visiting Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovenia, and have already been in Kosovo, Albania, and Krakow, Poland as well.

Getting to Know The Slovak Tech Ecosystem

But before visiting each ecosystem for StartupYard FastLane, we wanted to get to know the ecosystems we will be visiting even better. While we’ve met a lot of startups from these countries, and accelerated some of them as well, we wanted to hear from local accelerators, investors, and entrepreneurs what they thought was special about their local ecosystem. Since we’re asking startupers to come to Prague, which we think is pretty special, we wanted to see what our neighboring ecosystems really have to offer, according to some of their biggest fans.

We asked a group of entrepreneurs and influencers in the countries we’re visiting to tell us their perspective on their own ecosystem, and we will share that learning with you in a series of blog posts, starting with this week’s post about Poland. Today, we’ll explore what makes the Slovak Ecosystem unique, ahead of our upcoming visit to The Spot on Tuesday, September 6th.

 

About Our Respondents:

Praha, Andrej Kiska, Credo venturesAndrej Kiska Jr, Credo Ventures: Kiska is a StartupYard Mentor, and a Partner at Central European tech VC firm Credo Ventures, where he has been since 2011. At Credo, Kiska sources and evaluates potential investments, while actively supporting existing portfolio companies in fundraising and growth. Though Kiska is based in Prague, he has deep ties to his native Slovakia, where his father has been President since 2014. Kiska was educated in the United States at the University of  Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, where he studied finance and management.

luptak1_0

Jaroslav Luptak, Neulogy Ventures: Luptak is an investment manager at Neulogy Venturesm a Bratislava-based early-stage VC fund. He’s a co-founder of www.startupawards.sk, the largest startup event and the most prominent startup competition in Slovakia. He graduated with a degree in finance from the Rotterdam School of Management.

What’s Special about the Slovak Tech Ecosystem?

What do you see as the greatest advantage of the Slovak tech ecosystem, particularly for young technology startups and entrepreneurs?

Luptak:  This greatly differs per company, but in general I’d say its the availability and quality of technical talent.

Kiska: So the standard response to this question goes somewhere along the lines of “we are great technologists who can’t sell themselves. ”Up until recently I had no idea whether that claim can be true or how to measure it. But after the first year of operations of our non-profit Starlift (organization we started last year with Lenka Kucerova with the aim of sending prospective young people from Central Europe to year-long internships in startups in Silicon Valley), I can stay that early data does not validate that claim at all.

Data doesn't validate the claim at #slovak #entrepreneurs can't sell themselves: @kiskandrej… Click To Tweet

We received over 150 applications, out of which roughly 100 were engineers or designers. There were more than 30 interviews of of 16 candidates (so most applicants didn’t have a profile interesting enough even to be invited to an interview) by 14 startups and so far we placed one candidate, with most candidates not passing technical interviews. That might not necessarily mean that they are bad at coding, perhaps they were not ready for the kind of coding interview that U.S.-based startups conduct or we just didn’t attract the right talent, but in my opinion it does show that our young technical people might not be as competitive on the global startup market as may want to think.

The greatest advantage right now in the ecosystem in my opinion is the availability of capital. There is a lot of capital available already, and there will be more of it with the launch of state funds or some other planned initiatives. For young technology startups and entrepreneurs this is great news: startups that would not get funded in more mature ecosystems like London or Silicon Valley can get funding in Central Europe. In Slovakia the situation is changing because the EU Jeremie program that financed most of startups in the past two years has recently expired, but there is a new government initiative launched already to replace it.

What about its most important current weaknesses? How would you like to see them addressed?

Luptak: The greatest weakness of the Slovak startup ecosystem is lack of success stories and hence lack of expertise in scaling tech companies globally. However, as the local ecosystem grows and there are several exciting startups with the potential to get global scale, these companies will eventually produce a new breed of entrepreneurs with such experience under their belt.

Kiska: There are very few entrepreneurs with global operating experience, resulting in few companies that truly have global potential. I think too many entrepreneurs want to build a global company with very little understanding of how to actually go about it.

Organizations like Starlift try to explain to young potential entrepreneurs that it might be beneficial to first acquire some experience from global startups in more mature ecosystems before starting your company and taking advantage of the local ecosystem. This is more difficult to explain in such a favorable local investment environment, because even entrepreneurs with a below excellent track record and ideas can get funded, so their natural question is to ask why would they go work for a startup in the Valley if they can get funding for their own ideas here.

The problem is that the stuff you learn from your own mistakes and local investors’ money will not necessarily increase the odds that your next venture will be more successful, because you haven’t learned how to build a successful startup. You have just learned one of the many ways how not to do it. That’s why I believe it is better to learn the skill set from an experienced team in a mature ecosystem, as opposed to learning it from your own mistakes.

Failure doesn't prepare you for success. Success prepares you for more success @kiskandrej Click To Tweet

What speciality would you say your ecosystem is most famous for, in terms of technology or business?

Luptak: Probably the flying car. I would also mention www.startupawards.sk, which gained considerable recognition over the years. If one wants to meet the entire Slovak startup ecosystem in one place, that the go-to event.

Kiska: Slovakia is pretty famous for software security and heavy manufacturing.

Would you say the local ecosystem is dominated by more copycats, or by original, innovative solutions?

Luptak: Slovak domestic market is rather small, so copycats don’t really have much space in Slovakia. It actually one of the advantages of Slovak startups as they are forced to go international early on.

Small size of the Slovak market keeps startups from staying local @jaroslavluptak Click To Tweet

Kiska: I think it is easier for local execution businesses to find a sustainable business model and thus break even, so I guess you can say you see more of them lasting longer. But a lot more value gets created by original innovative solutions with global solutions, even though they are few and far between. Take the example of Eset: its valuation is higher than most local copycats in Slovakia added together.

What would you say your locally grown entrepreneurs are best at? What is their greatest strength in international business? ‘

Luptak: I hate to generalize on such a heterogenous group of people, but I’d say that Slovak entrepreneurs are much better at the technology part and not so much with marketing, sales and business development.

Kiska: They are hungry. They might have very little idea of what they are doing when it comes to building global businesses, but boy Slovaks have huge ambitions, drive and aggressiveness.

In your opinion, does the local ecosystem look abroad for opportunities enough? Too much? What would you encourage local entrepreneurs to change in their approach to global business?

Luptak: Those entrepreneurs that are not looking abroad barely stand a chance of success. Slovaks are in my view quite humble and often underestimate their skills. It often happens that founders hesitate with releasing a product as they believe its not good enough, but then get confronted with the competing products that get a lot of media hype while being technologically inferior.

Kiska: They definitely don’t look abroad enough, for experience, hiring or inspiration. I would encourage them to listen more and be willing to learn: too many entrepreneurs here believe they know it all, and if things go south they blame it on everyone from customers to employees or investors.

What does your ecosystem offer that others can’t? What is your local “killer feature?”

Luptak: I’d say that Slovakia is a great test market. Many multinational corporation actually use Slovak customers to test their new products and services. For a startup it is quite easy to get media attention or get connected to decision makers as the market is relatively small and interconnected market.

Kiska: The hunger. I see it even when I compare Slovaks to Czechs or Poles. I think Slovaks are more driven, ambitious and aggressive.

Killer feature of Slovak tech #startups is hunger @kiskandrej Click To Tweet

How would you describe your government’s relationship to startups and tech? Is the government helpful or is it out of touch?

Luptak: The government has recently started to push agenda related to startups. There are several legislative updates being underway, primarily focused on decreasing bureaucracy in setting up businesses and ability to implement standard VC terms within contracts. The government is thus far also the biggest single investor in startup companies via several different investment schemes.

Kiska: I think the government is sincerely trying on certain levels. The problem is that they are not sure how to help, and thus their efforts often end up being counterproductive, low impact at best. Even if they tried their best, there is very little in how they can help improve the ecosystem. That’s why I believe government should just leave the ecosystem alone and try to contribute indirectly: by improving education system or attract top international talent to our country, as opposed to driving them out of the country.

Slovak government needs to mostly get out of the way of innovation: @kiskandrej @Jaroslavluptak Click To Tweet

What about Angel investors? Do you have an active community? What types of people are doing angel investing in your ecosystem?

Luptak: There are still very few angel investors active in Slovakia. However, more and more successful entrepreneurs are getting involved with startups as mentors and/or investors. This is in my view the evidence of the ecosystem starting to work as the know how and capital gets recycled through early-stage investments.

Kiska: Yes, one of Slovakia’s strengths is its angel community. Compared to say the Czech Republic, there are more angels who are founder friendly and very supportive. This skill set is very hard to come by in angels in other countries in Central Europe, especially the Czech Republic and Hungary.

In your opinion, what have been your greatest local successes, and in what areas do you think the ecosystem has the most potential to grow in the next few years?

Luptak: Typically, people would mention companies like Eset, Sygic or Pixel Federation, which are the role models for this generation of entrepreneurs. From more recently established companies, I’d mention Piano.io (one of our portfolio companies) which is currently the biggest provider of media paywalls in the world. I believe the potential for growth is in industry 4.0. applications and companies working on innovations in design. This is in particular due to strong manufacturing tradition (#1 per capita car producer in the world) and number of Slovak companies innovating in this space. There is also a strong design tradition in Slovakia and several companies are innovating not on products, but on how products are being designed.

Kiska: Eset for sure. Sygic & Piano are apparently doing well. But the successes of global startups in Slovakia are much smaller in quantity and quality compared to, say, the Czech Republic.

What would you say to an entrepreneur or a startup thinking about relocating to your city? Any Warnings? Hidden advantages? Quirks?

Luptak: I think in the coming years, Bratislava will increasingly attract entrepreneurs from around the globe. The city is improving rapidly in terms of infrastructure and culture and the startup ecosystem is really vibrant. The ecosystem is also getting really international and I’d say Slovaks are very welcoming.

Andrej: Let’s say my city is Bratislava [Kiska is currently based on Prague]. There is a lot of capital, some talent, great party scene and good quality of living. If you are a foreigner though, Slovakia is a very homogeneous country that does not know how to treat foreigners or expats, so you will have a hard time digging deep into the ecosystem, e.g. for hiring purposes.

Can you highlight 3 startups to watch for 2017 from your local ecosystem? Why would you highlight them? –

Luptak: As for a VC, its really hard to highlight my favorite companies and not to brag about our portfolio only, but I’ll give it a try. I believe www.gadrilling.com will be doing their first commercial applications in 2017 and this is definitely a disruptive hard-core technology to watch. In 2017, www.photoneo.com is also expected to come to market with their new 3D camera that should significantly expand the array of task robots are able to perform in an industrial setting. Vectary.com is already opening beta accounts to first users and is expected to be in full swing in 2017, ready to democratise 3D modelling experience.

Kiska: I will try to focus on the breakouts, not the household names.

I am for sure biased, because it is in our portfolio, but Photoneo for me really stands out. These guys build an incredible piece of technology, and are generating revenue way ahead of when we expected they could even start monetizing. These guys are simply crushing it.

I have also heard Vectary is up to good things, I think their product is timed well and hear good things about the team.

Then the RF Elements guys. These guys have balls. It is a very cash-intensive business though. If they don’t raise a big round in the next 12 months, it will be tough. If they do, they can go big.

9 Things Not to Do When Talking to Investors

[Updated August 2016] We talk to a lot of startups, and we’ve talked to a lot of investors too, particularly since we published this piece way back in 2014. In that time, our portfolio companies have raised upwards of 4 million Euros, and many of the tips we’ve given them have been refined through their experiences, and our own.

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017

 

 

We’ve seen people make every single one of these mistakes, and we’ve made some of them ourselves. Live and learn. So here, updated for 2016, are 9 things not to do when talking to investors.

9 Things not to Do When Talking to Investors

Talk About Exits

Perhaps your dream is to found a startup, get some investment capital, pump up the valuation for a nice fat IPO, and blow town with a suitcase full of €500 notes, headed for a major tax haven. A noble dream, to be sure, but not one that inspires a great deal of confidence.

9 things not to do when talking to investors

Your investment opportunity sounds lucrative, if a little violent…

 

No, investors like to see that the stake you keep in your newly minted company is going to keep you properly motivated. And motivation is more than dollar signs: it is derived from satisfaction with your position, passion for your product, camaraderie with your team, and, of course, also money. So focus on those intangibles that you have that will keep your business moving forward. Don’t count the profit that someone’s investment is going to bring you, when you leave them holding the bag in 2 years. That’s not nice. And as the old adage goes, no investor wants to give money to a company that needs the money. They want to give money to a company that can use the money well.

Investors don't want to give money to a company that needs it. They want to give to companies who… Click To Tweet

Be Oblivious and Don’t Listen

In StartupLandia, obliviousness can be a good thing. Who would start a company like yours without being at least somewhat unaware of the potential drawbacks, the sleepless nights, the stress, the headaches, and the thought of near certain failure? Obliviousness can preserve your sanity while you attempt to do something that most ordinary people consider to be basically insane.

The thing is, while that kind of youthful naiveté can even be attractive to investors, it so often comes with a far less attractive trait attached: you don’t listen. Investors at least like to think they have some advice and experience you can learn from. Certainly, they want to you to fully understand what taking their money entails, concerning your responsibility to them and to your company. So you need to listen carefully to what investors say.

You don’t have to follow their advice, and you don’t have to take their money, but you do have to listen- now, and into the foreseeable future, until such a time as your leadership and the product you make have proved themselves repeatedly.

Ask for an NDA

Don’t ask for an NDA. You’re probably not working on anything sensitive enough to warrant this annoyance to an investor. I’ve written a more extensive piece on this, and you can read more about it there. But really, unless you’re dealing with technology so sensitive and valuable that some level of paranoia is truly healthy (cure for cancer, for example), then an NDA is not going to do anything but waste time.

Don't ask an interested investor to sign an NDA. It's pretty much never worth it. Click To Tweet

Say: “I have no competitors.”

We’ve all heard this: ‘if you have no competition, you have no market.” Besides, if your product asks for anything from a customer, be it money, time, or attention, you are by default in competition with all of the other things a customer could be doing with that money, time and attention. All businesses compete for customers. If they don’t, they aren’t businesses at all.

No, more often saying this is actually saying that you haven’t thought much about your market, your users, or your potential challenges. This past week, I ran a product positioning workshop with all of our startups. I asked them to position themselves against competitors based on relevant vertices for their market. The values on the X and Y axis are less important than the insight the teams can derive from comparing themselves to other businesses in the context of customer needs, wants, budget, or other factors. For example, a graph might look like this:

9 things not to do when talking to investors

Your graph has impressed us. Would you like that money in a suitcase, or do you prefer a novelty sized cheque?

As I noted, the values on the vertices can change to fit your market situation: is it about price, or time investment, or is it about the annoyingness of ad-support, or about some other value on the Y axis?

The X axis is also dependent on the market needs. But a successful business needs to find a suitable position graph that places their product somewhere that the competition isn’t competing well. In the above graph, the competition can offer good quality, but at the price of convenience. So my product has to be convenient and high quality. That is my market opportunity.

This sort of position graph also helps illustrate your market strategy. You wouldn’t market yourself as top-shelf quality if a competitor already holds that reputation- your quality would be a help, but it would not be enough to justify your product. If you can’t find a graph that shows a worthwhile market opportunity in concrete terms -something nobody and nothing else yet does well- then you may not have a viable product idea at all.

Tl;dr: If you can’t be better, be cheaper. If you can’t be better or cheaper, then you’re going to need a very good market strategy.

Don’t Have a Plan to Use The Investment

One VC I spoke to recently put this problem in terms of ambition. Wanting investment doesn’t make an entrepreneur particularly ambitious, except in the sense of possibly being greedy. Instead, a poorly laid or incompletely laid plan for go-to-market based on a number of possible investment outcomes is a sign that you don’t really care enough about your product and its future. If you did, you would have plans for any contingency, including a way to bootstrap your product.

Approaching investment this way, with an eye towards showing investors exactly what their money is going to do, also gives a founder much more leverage. It is a much more attractive argument to an investor that a founder *could* launch without his or her support, but that this support would only stoke the fire of success further. Being dependent on investment means being dependent on investors, and few investors want a founder who can’t stand on their own. This means being responsible, and having a solid, and detailed plan for how you would use money invested in your company.

In “A Unified Theory of VC Suckage,” which I recommend as good reading, Paul Graham theorizes that VCs suffer from perverse incentives to invest too much money into startups that don’t need it, and can’t properly use the investment. What can make such a situation doubly more dangerous (and frequently did in the late 90s and in the 2000s), is that founders also believed that a bigger valuation was actually going to make them rich. Which it did, at least on paper. This has caused more than a few companies to IPO when they shouldn’t have, and to crash spectacularly. It has also caused many worthwhile projects that needed much smaller seed-funding to struggle to get it.  But having a plan for what to do with the money you take in will show an investor that you’re ready for a big investment, or for a smaller one.

A high valuation does not make you rich. It makes you accountable. Click To Tweet

Project Your Growth Based on a Similar Product’s Success

Everyone knows a “me too” product when they see one. A “me too” market strategy may be no better than that. The old saying: “if it was easy, everyone would do it,” finds a perfect fit here. The success of another product, and that product’s similarities to yours, doesn’t mean much to the success of your product. Investors invest in people, just as much as in products, and execution, despite what we hear in the news, is 10 times as valuable as innovation for any company in the long term.

We often hear about innovation in the media, as if it were the sole distinction of success in technology. In fact, that isn’t remotely the case. While big companies that innovate create magnificent splashes and sell lots of their products, it takes just a bit of scratching at the surface to discover that the majority of that success is ensured by a strong execution of whatever plan the company has. That was as true a century ago for the Ford Model T as it was 10 years ago for the iPod. As true for Microsoft as for Facebook. These companies were not creating products that hadn’t been thought of before. But the background processes that they put in place to execute, reliably and efficiently, won them their market positions over time.

Think the Investors Must Be Smarter Than You

Our director Cedric Maloux told me a great story about an idea he had way back in 2008. He wanted to form a company to develop and market casual games for the newly launched iPhone. This was a market at that time, was worth much less than just a few years later. He discussed his idea with a VC he knew and respected, and the VC advised. “Video games need to be immersive and mobile phones don’t give this experience. Nobody wants to play games the way they used to [with the GameBoy],” the investor argued.

Cedric believed him and gave up on the idea. And today, the mobile games sector is worth 28% of the games market, according to ISSU. The market is worth some $13 Billion, which makes it bigger than the entire music industry. Growth in this sector has yet to slow since the release of the original iPhone. Investors are not necessarily visionaries.

Don't confuse smart money investors with visionaries. Click To Tweet

Last month, Techsquare hosted a meeting with StartupYard and another local accelerator. Its director and host listened to pitches from their startups, and from ours, and nearly without fail, addressed every single team with the same feedback, in sum: “I knew some people who tried what you’re doing. It didn’t work.” Experience is doubtless valuable. But failure in the past is in no wise a predictor of failure in the future. If that were true, the world would not know of most of the revolutionary products it has encountered in the past 30 years. Virtually every single one of them was tried without success, usually long before they were tried and succeeded. Listening to negative feedback like this is good. Letting it stop you is a shame.

Don’t Be Ready

Be Prepared. Always. Having and being prepared to share your financials, your projections, info about your team and your market is essential.

You can’t just chat up investors as a means of figuring out what they want to hear- that’s not the way the dance works. Your vision, your plan, and your goals are what the investors are buying into, so if you try to sell them their own ideas, they’ll know you don’t have a plan you really believe in. Having that plan, and sticking to it, only changing it for strong and valid reasons, is key to getting the right investors involved. So you need to be ready for what the investors might ask of you.

Luckily, there are plenty of investors who will tell you exactly what they would want to see from a potential investment. A great example is our own investment partner, Credo Ventures, and their own Andrej Kiska, who shares excellent tips on exactly that topic. He lists the number one failure point for startups as not building business forecasts ahead of a funding round.

in Kiska’s words:

The most frequent reason I hear for not building a model is that it is either too difficult or it just doesn’t make sense. But that makes me wonder what would happen if your startup will run into challenges that you consider too difficult or your market will desire a product you don’t believe makes sense and don’t bother to test it.”
 

There’s another pretty full-proof way of finding out what investors want to know before the meeting starts. Ask them. If the investor is a serious person you might actually want to cooperate with in the future, then they should be invested in you doing a good job, and making the best possible impression. The investor has a boss as well, in many cases, and needs to find justification in talking with you, just as you need to find justification in talking with them. So ask what they expect to find out from you, and plan accordingly. There’s no secret handshake. No checklist- every investor is different, and it’s ok to seek guidance.

Talk to the Wrong Investors

This seems basic, but it’s a mistake a lot of people make. You should know which kinds of investors you want to talk to. Don’t talk to a growth fund if what you need is seed money. Don’t talk to a VC firm unless you’re ready to do due diligence. Don’t talk to an Angel unless you’re looking for an Angel style investment. Each type of deal has its place, but not all money in investment is created equal. Each type of investment carries its own advantages and drawbacks, and you shouldn’t waste your time talking to investors who don’t have experience with companies in a similar situation. Andrej Kiska also has a lot to say on picking the right type of investor.