The Startup Myth of “I Don’t Have Enough Time”

In advance of StartupYard Batch 7, we invited finalist 13 startups to join us for a full day of mentoring in Prague at our Startup Day. We do this every year, not only to evaluate and help decide which of the startups we will invite to the accelerator, but also to provide some value to startups that have taken the time and energy to apply, and to engage in the process with us.

What’s notable is that without exception, whether they are accepted to the program or not, when asked whether the day was valuable to them, startups tell us that it was of great value. Founders often go out of their way to let us know they’re grateful for the opportunity, no matter the outcome.

The Startup Myth: Not Having Enough Time

But every year, we invite one or two startups to the accelerator that don’t end up joining us. The number one reason? “We don’t have time for it.”

This reasoning is sometimes a little baffling. Yes, an accelerator takes time, but on the other hand, as we take care to stress, it is an accelerator. The program is about moving faster than a company would normally move on its own. This doesn’t just mean doing more work in a shorter amount of time. It also means doing more important work, and doing it at the right time.



When founders consider StartupYard, they sometimes start to see it as a kind of zero-sum proposition. If you spend 6 hours a day talking to mentors for a month, that’s 6 hours a day you can’t spend coding or selling. But let’s be real here- you aren’t going to code for those full six hours. You’re going to have your daily routine- the one you follow because nobody is telling you to do it differently. The one nobody challenges.

Being challenged on your everyday decisions by people who don’t know your company the way you do is sometimes frustrating, but it is also highly motivating. The time spent meeting with mentors is not wasted time. Just today, one of our founders told Cedric Maloux, StartupYard’s CEO, that every mentoring session so far had led to an actionable item for the team.

We have never had a startup come to us after the program, and say that the mentorship period was a waste. Even when they become frustrated at the constraints it puts on their schedule, in the end, they always see the value that it brings as being far beyond the time invested.

What happens instead, most commonly, is that startups simply work harder and better, accomplishing more meaningful progress in the limited time they have to actually build stuff, because they are responding to a constant flow of feedback and advice from people who bring them new ideas and new perspectives on what they’re doing, and what they aren’t doing.

Creative Destruction


The fact is that startups waste a ton of time on things they don’t need to be doing. It’s a fact of life, and it’s not a failing. Every engineer and creative knows that a huge amount of their work never sees the light of day. It’s not a mistake to waste time, because you need to make mistakes and do things that eventually won’t work out. Risks are necessary.

And yet, there are things that founders just never need to do, and never would do, if they had access to the right mentor at the right moment. We’ve seen countless examples. Startups operating without complete information just do things they don’t need to do, or that are doomed not to work at all. Mentors often know this, and know how to avoid these time wasters.

Is it a waste to talk to someone for an hour if he saves you 50 man hours of wasted effort? How many such meetings would justify one month of mentorship? Not that many, really.

A mentor driven accelerator is set up to save startups from wasting time in ways that truly don’t help them. The hours spent mentoring are usually spent stripping out many of the things that founders are wasting their time on, and prompting them to move faster in areas they are less comfortable with.

If you imagine your daily tasks piling up while you attend mentoring sessions, then consider also that the mentoring sessions are meant to savage those plans, and eliminate most of them anyway. Mentorship is not just about kicking around ideas- it’s about creative destruction.

Time Compression

Startup Myth, StartupYard

The other aspect of acceleration that is frequently overlooked is that of time compression. Acceleration puts startups in a position of having access to processes that usually take weeks or months, and having them happen in days or hours.

A startup on their own may wait a month to get a single meeting with one of our busy mentors. A follow up may be weeks more. But while they’re with us, these meetings happen as soon as they can be practically arranged. Our mentors place our startups higher on their list of priorities, and when they connect startups with other advisors and contacts, that urgency shifts to those contacts as well.

We ensure this happens by only retaining mentors who consistently engage with startups, and keep our startups high on their own priority lists. Try and get a C level executive at a Telco, a Bank, or a major software company to not only respond to a request, but to do you a personal favor. We’ll wait.

The biggest time waster for early stage startups isn’t having meetings. It’s waiting for meetings. And with an accelerator, the waiting is not a major factor. Startups frequently tell us that they accomplish more in 3 months, as a business, than they expected to accomplish in 2 years on their own. That’s the power of acceleration- we save time, we don’t waste it.

Get the most out of your mentors

5 Tips to Get the Most out of Your Mentors

As we welcome our Batch 7 startups for their month of intensive mentoring with StartupYard’s community of over 100 mentors, we start as always with a focus on two things: product positioning, and mentor relationships.

Product positioning, as you can see from our piece on that above, is essential to building the communication tools a team needs to communicate what they’re doing, and get the right advice at the right time. But being able to get the most out of your mentors is equally as important. Here are a few tips for that:

Get the Most out of Your Mentors:

Focus on Clarity, not Accuracy

One of the hardest things for founders to do early on, is to start speaking in the language of an evangelist for their ideas and work. It pays to keep in mind the difference between “clarity” and “accuracy.” A mentoring session can go fantastically wrong if the team starts leading the mentor down the garden path of fine-grained technicalities that distract, rather than enhance, the big picture.

get the most out of your mentors

Founders are likely, for example, to describe their competitive advantages in technical terms, rather than strategic ones. They are more likely to provide more detailed descriptions of their technology and its features, rather than talking about what bigger problems they solve, and what customer outcomes will look like.

Not only does this leave less for mentors to weigh-in on, but it also puts much of the conversation on the founder’s side of the table, keeping it on subjects where they are experts. It’s important to be clear about what you do, but to moderate the information you share to only that which is relevant to the mentor. Don’t defeat the mentor in detail; instead focus on helping them to understand what you do in their own terms.

Every Meeting is a Sales Opportunity

In a sense, mentors are a kind of customer. Either they’re going to buy into your idea and want to help you in whatever way they can, or they aren’t. Your job is to sell them on your potential, and to keep them on your side, helping you accomplish your goals.

Startups sometimes treat mentorship as some sort of an audition: “tell me what you can do for me”. Mentors sometimes do this too, and it’s generally not very useful. The more constructive angle is to spend the first few minutes of a meeting working to get the mentor into your thinking, and help them see the logic and opportunity in what you’re doing. A mentor that feels comfortable with your ideas and believes in them will be much more ready to help.

Mentors do become customers, but more often they become references for potential customers. We see this time and again. A mentor isn’t a customer, but knows the perfect customer, and a friendly recommendation from a trusted colleague is worth many times more than the best marketing in the world.

Do You Know Someone Who…

Mentors need help finding out what you need. Mentoring is partly about gathering advice, and partly about gathering contacts. This is a consistent point of failure for startups at StartupYard, and at every other accelerator where I’ve mentored personally.

Startups usually love the productive work of getting actionable advice, but they shy away from asking to tap into a mentor’s network. And yet this is a huge part of a mentor’s value. The advice you can get from anyone with enough experience, but each person’s network of connections is unique, and has its own strengths to consider. Don’t waste that opportunity to find out how a mentor can connect you with people you need to meet.

For the love of God, Follow Up

It never fails that when I run into our mentors or see them at our events, they will ask me about startups that they wish had stayed in contact with them. It’s usually something like: “Hey, how is [Startup] doing? I haven’t heard from them. I offered to get them in touch with [Important Person], and they didn’t follow up.”

This is prototypical, particularly among newer entrepreneurs. Failing to leverage offers from mentors is understandable, but it needs to be a strong point of focus. A mentor who promises something, and then doesn’t reach out, is not a flake. Usually, the mentor doesn’t really know how important the contact is to you, and doesn’t want to force you to waste time talking to people you don’t need to talk to.

And once a mentor makes an offer that is not followed up on, he or she is much less likely to ever offer such help again. Making mentors feel valued by following up on their offers, even if it just to be polite, leaves the door open to more constructive future offers.

Of any type of mistake startups make in mentoring at StartupYard, failing to follow up with mentors is the least forgivable. At best, it’s a symptom of shyness, and at worst it’s lazy and disrespectful to mentors you may well need in the future.


Simple, but disproportionately important. You need mentors to like you. You need mentors to want to introduce you to their colleagues, or to think of you when an idea or an opportunity strikes. You want them to feel like they can give you a call; that they aren’t bothering you, and that you like them.

It’s simple, but still, it’s hard to do consistently. Projecting your enthusiasm is a skill that entrepreneurs have to learn, and for that, I recommend one of my favorite books, the legendary How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

Spoilers: it’s not really that hard. But it takes more than superficial manners. It takes focusing on how you view others, so that you treat them better and consistently focus on their needs and their interests. If you can do that, with a smile, you can build a productive relationship with almost anyone.

StartupYard Batch 7: Visualized

StartupYard is getting ready to welcome 7 startups, with founders from at least 7 countries next week, for the start of StartupYard Batch 7.

As we did before our last round, we find it very useful now to look back on the applications, and see what’s changed this time around. Where are people applying? What are startups working on? What are the hottest buzzwords? Previous experience has shown us that StartupYard applications can be revealing about the key trends to watch for in the next 6-18 months.

Here we’ll give you a visual trip through our applications for this round, with our analysis, and comparisons with previous years.

StartupYard Batch 7: Who’s Applying?

StartupYard Batch 7 will be the first time that StartupYard does two rounds of acceleration in one year. Given that, we expected a lower overall number of applicants. What surprised us in fact was that we had effectively the same number of qualified applications for StartupYard as in the previous two rounds (2015 and 2016).

In the previous two rounds, StartupYard shared an application pool with 5 other accelerators in Central Europe, in which startups could indicate their “first choice,” and “second choice” accelerators. Many startups that applied to StartupYard had begun their applications with another accelerator, sometimes closer to them geographically.

We were not sure whether there would be enough demand for a wide range of qualified applicants to apply, particularly given that this would be our second round in less than a year, and our reach would be reduced as we recruited alone. However, Batch 7 garnered virtually the same number of applications as the previous round did of “first choice” applications for StartupYard.

And the quality of applicants from that pool, again surprising us, only went up. Our selection committee invited around 40 applicants to interview with StartupYard, using the same criteria as in previous rounds. This means that out of the 120+ applications for Batch 7, about 30% were invited for interviews, a significant increase in overall quality from a year ago, in which less than 15% were invited.

Anecdotally, we detected that startups were much clearer on the focus of this round than any previous round, and more applications were within our area of focus than outside it. When comparing with previous years, when some 60% of applications were eliminated right away because they were too far outside our domain, this round, eliminations on those grounds were well below 40%.

This means that more startups seem to understand the acceleration process better, and to apply for programs that fit them- or at least not apply to those that don’t.

Where are Applications Coming From?

Startupyard Batch 7

As you can see, Czechia remains our largest single source of applications. Not surprising as in our experience, our name recognition among startups based here is near total at this point. We also saw a strong backbone of quality among Czech applicants, and a bigger overall interest in our current emphasis on the Data Economy.

Slovakia, somewhat surprisingly, continued to recede into the background, perhaps because of Bratislava’s own burgeoning tech scene giving Slovak startups more reason to stay put for now. 2 years ago, Slovakia generated more applications for StartupYard than did Czechia, today it barely registers.

Here is our pool of applicants, minus Czechia for comparison:

Startupyard Batch 7

Again, the UK and Bulgaria, along with the USA, Hungary, and Russia are among the top sources of applications. We also saw a strong uptick in applicants from Kosovo, Poland, and Ukraine. Hungary also was strongly represented (3 companies from Hungary were finalists for StartupYard Batch 7), and Romania continued to be a strong source of applications as well. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the sudden rise from Bulgaria. It may be the recent success of StartupYard Alum SpeediFly, which is based in Bulgaria and the UK, or the rising appetite among local entrepreneurs for acceleration, but our reception on our visit to Bulgaria, and the application pool demonstrated a growing interest from the country, particularly from Sofia, the capital.

Also of note was the smattering of applications from the near east, with applicants coming from Yemen, Jordan, United Arab Emerites, and Azerbaijan as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Baltic states are not heavily represented, possibly because of strong startup scenes already in Estonia, and Lithuania.

What Startups are Interested in

As with last year, the tags startups’ own descriptions, in the aggregate, say some very revealing things about the direction of the whole industry. Using the tags startups provided for themselves, we’re able to visualize the areas that startups are emphasizing in their applications. Keep in mind too, that startups use many different terms- these are those that appear most often.

StartupYard Batch 7There’s a clear emphasis here on Marketing, Data, and Management, along with Analytics, Development, Media, and Mobile.

There’s nothing that surprising in this word cloud, until we take a look at previous application rounds. Here is StartupYard Batch 6, for comparison. Notice what is emphasized in the older group, compared with the most recent one: 

A breakdown of keywords from the previous application round.

A breakdown of keywords from the previous application round.

If you noticed, a few terms have completely fallen off the map. Education, Advertising, and Media have been submerged completely.

Last year, we noted a big uptick in the number of advertising oriented applications, particularly Ad-Tech. This year, that blip disappeared, and was replaced by a re-emphasis on marketing as a whole, particularly on marketing tools that combine machine learning and big data. There seems to be much less appetite for media related ideas, including those in education or advertising.

This shift makes sense, if taken in context with recent moves by the biggest telcos to consolidate content and services into one platform. Verizon recently acquired Yahoo, with its advertising and content business, while AT&T is attempting to merge with Time Warner, putting content delivery and creation under the same roof there as well.

The jury is out  on whether that trend is good for consumers, however it is definitely real. If that trend continues, it means that a relatively fewer sources of content online will be increasingly bundled directly with broadband and wireless services- a trend that is probably not good for startups that work with 3rd party advertising or content creators. If fewer companies are competing with each other for audiences, instead bundling their services together and focusing on subscription businesses, that bodes poorly for the future of 3rd party content and advertising-based business models. 

At the same time, major tech incumbents are all pushing hard for advancements in consumer facing AI, and AI enabled technologies. Facebook has made a strong bet on VR, and Apple, Amazon, and Google have all bet heavily on the future of machine learning to bring advancements in their services. Magic Leap has also garnered increasing attention as it showcases how AR can transform our understanding of the role of computers in daily life. All this means a much bigger industry focus on Big Data, which is needed now more than ever to allow useful AI and AR/VR products to reach consumers.

Social remains a strong keyword, but anecdotally, we’ve seen that it now focuses on the big data implications of social media, including marketing and services, like chatbots, AI plugins, machine learning, and other tools to leverage data. 

What Startups are Working On

StartupYard Batch 7

Here is an overview of the words most used in candidate startups’ own descriptions of what they do.

This chart looks very similar to previous years, however it is much broader and less specific. Few terms, other than the obvious ones like Business, Platform, Data, Manage, and App, are given special emphasis. This is somewhat different from last year, in which terms like Marketplace, People, and Mobile were big standouts along with the most common tech terms like Platform and Data.

Is the way startups are describing themselves changing? Is there less emphasis now on mobile, or has it simply become an assumption that all products have mobile implications? Mobile may be taking its place alongside other words that are now seen as redundant- it may be shifting from an emphasis, to a more broad category that is easily understood, and thus little mentioned.

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! Share on X


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! Share on X



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.



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.