An exit, first funding round, a transition from a service to a product company, strategic partnership with the biggest media group… These are some of the publicly announced milestones the entrepreneurs from the first cohort of Dare to Scale hit ever since they started their Endeavor journey.
After the successful pilot project in 2019, the Bulgarian office of the global entrepreneurial network Endeavor, launches the second edition of its growth program Dare to Scale. “This is our contribution to the development of the next generation entrepreneurs who have the potential to reach global success from Bulgaria,” says Momchil Vassilev, the managing director of Endeavor Bulgaria. The program is designed for entrepreneurs and businesses that are at the beginning of their expansion phase and aims to support them in growing sustainably. This year the program will emphasize also on coping with crisis and identifying opportunities for growth in difficult market conditions. The applications window is open until June 21st.
“Now is the time to re-evaluate your focus and potentially push the pedal elsewhere. Consumer behaviors evolved overnight so “digital everything” is becoming a new norm. During the next season, I would like to focus more on seeking opportunities in times of crisis. Both in terms of adapting and changing your product offering as well as the strategies for reaching the market. A crisis is like a reset button – everyone gets to a new start and the innovative ones can come out much stronger in the competition,” comments Svetozar Georgiev, co-founder of Telerik Academy and one of the key mentors of Dare to Scale.
Mentors and business leaders from the Endeavor network will conduct interviews and will select up to fifteen companies for this year’s program, which will be held in Sofia and will last for four months – from September to December 2020.
Who is it for?
Unlike many acceleration programs in the region, Dare to Scale is industry agnostic and open for entrepreneurs from all sectors. For instance, the first cohort featured food, interior design, and fashion innovators, alongside the traditional participants from the tech space. The conditions for pre-selection are: the company to be based in Bulgaria, 2019 annual sales between €100K and €10M, and up to 150 full-time employees. Global scalability potential is a criterion and the Endeavor team hopes that the 2020 cohort will again feature ventures from across the country (last year a company from Plovdiv – DNH Soft took part – watch the video below).
The program doesn’t feature direct funding and is not equity-based. Participation costs incubated companies a small fee of €1,000.
Real results that last longer than four months
During the four months of Dare to Scale, the founders will have the opportunity to participate in specialized training in four main areas: Marketing, Sales, Finance, Organization (take a look at the key takeaways from the workshops in 2019 here).
Each company will have an individual mentor from the Endeavor network, who will hold regular meetings with the founders and will contribute their expertise. Last year, more than 20 business leaders spent over 75 hours mentoring the entrepreneurs of the selected companies.
“Endeavor’s team picked just the right mentor for us, someone who had dealt with the exact same problems we were dealing with and this was crucial,” says Chudomir Delchev, the managing director of DHN Soft, a software development company focused on e-commerce, web and mobile apps and Amazon web services cloud-based solutions, that was struggling with transitioning towards a product business. Their mentor, Alexander Lefterov, the founder of Tiger Technology, helped them through sharing his own experience.
Of course, different mentors have different approaches. Some of them would rather ask questions, others – share stories:
“The brief which mentors receive to prepare for sessions often includes technical questions, e.g. lead generation or supply chain organization, etc. But I find it even more effective to question the initial assumptions. The innovation then goes into the definition of the actual challenge at hand. It may turn out that e.g. a new distribution of roles among team members will successfully resolve the technical aspects,” says Ruslan Papazyan, the Executive Director of Telelink Infra Services, who was also part of the mentors’ team last year.
When we asked Vladimir Davchev, the founder of BGMenu, which was his most valuable piece of advice last year, he said:
“Most companies in the initial stages of development or pivoting are too focused on setup or product issues and forget that you always need to push or pull depending on what’s your sales and marketing strategy.”
He saw that the biggest challenge entrepreneurs were facing was applying a common sales solution or sales success recipe for companies in various industries and stages of development. “What prevailed as a successful approach was that founder needed to start from day 1 to seek, listen to, and win customers. The way one does this is by developing a clear and differentiated value-based proposal, that is priced according to the value it adds, to competitors’ positioning, etc.”
Sometimes it’s a matter of who you surround yourself with
Endeavor Bulgaria is one of the 40 affiliates of the global non-profit organization Endeavor, that was created in 1997 to support high-impact entrepreneurs in developing economies. The local chapter was established almost five years ago to provide Bulgarian entrepreneurs with access to international markets, talent, know-how, and capital through the global network of the organization. So far, 26 Bulgarian entrepreneurs from 16 companies have successfully passed the selection process and have become part of the global network. The Dare to Scale program is in a way preparation for entrepreneurs at an earlier stage of development to later be eligible for applying for the Endeavor Global network.
Indeed, the network and the community around Endeavor is what brought most of the founders from the first cohort to Dare to Scale. Alongside the over 20 mentors, Endeavor partners also with companies and organizations like Postbank, fintech scaleup SoftwareGroup, Bulgarian Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Promotion Agency, , which also support the growth of the selected entrepreneurs. Community and access to some of the brightest minds of the innovation ecosystem in Bulgaria is what Ivaylo Hristov and Svetoslav Dimov from the biggest IT portal DEV.BG, and Oggy Popov, the founder of Prospecto highlighted (btw the funding round and the exit we mentioned in the beginning are their stories).
In a nutshell, Dare to Scale is a preparation for the big game, and the whole team of entrepreneurs, C-level executives, and partners that Endeavor managed to attract in the past five years, is dedicated to working for the future success of the companies that are ready for this step. The program formally ends with a Demo Day in December where companies present their companies/progress in front of the ecosystem’s creme de la creme. “Be ready to put your ego aside, admit that being an expert in your domain may not be enough and start thinking about business,” Chudomir Delchev has learned.
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