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?
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:
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.
There’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:
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
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.