The top reason for startup failure in around 40% of the cases is the inability to identify a real market need. Founders often focus their efforts on building products they believe would work, instead of test possible scenarios with a potential client. And it gets even more complex especially when the assumed client is in the enterprise segment. In order to succeed one needs good mentorship both from business and tech consultants. MIT Enterprise Forum CEE, a Poland based affiliated acceleration program to the worldwide recognized Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building on the years of expertise in working with startups all over the world and global resources, has developed a proven approach that makes the scale-up process fast and truly efficient for founders.
“There’s something cool about this program – it appears that a startup is only accepted when one of the corporate partners has explicitly expressed interest to work with it. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in the program and I’m already working with a large insurance company that picked us. They had a defined need and wanted to test it out, so we have a clear plan and milestones for the project,” says Petar Zhivkov, the founder of Airlief, a Bulgarian based startup which developed an air quality monitoring mobile app.
The Bulgarian entrepreneur is among many other founders from CEE a participant of the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE’s acceleration program that takes place just now.
MIT Enterprise Forum CEE, however, has already opened the application window for the next program, which starts in Autumn 2019. The Program Founders, Business Partners, and investors are looking to attract more applicants from this part of CEE region and Bulgaria in particular. The deadline for the applications is June 30.
MIT Enterprise Forum CEE is an equity-free accelerator that provides financial, legal and consultancy support to startup founder and their businesses helping to scale up. The organizers are looking for startups that already have at least an MVP, users and revenues.
Clear verticals and desired outcomes
“We invite technological startups from Bulgaria and CEE countries, which develop technologies that can be used, among others, in the pharmaceutical industry and Industry 4.0, energy, insurance and financial sectors as well as in the Smart Buildings sector,” says Łukasz Owczarek, Head of Acceleration at Foundation for Technology Entrepreneurship, the organization that has alredy implemented, among others, five editions of the MIT Enterprise Forum Poland program for Polish and CEE tech startups.
After the applications are submitted, the 25 selected companies that will enter the accelerator in November, will be announced on October 11. The new cohort will undergo a comprehensive three-month acceleration process and will receive co-financing for the development of activities in the amount of up to €50K. All of them will gain the chance to establish commercial cooperation with leading Polish and international companies, which is the end goal of the program, but they also will get training from top-notch executives and entrepreneurs from Europe and the US.
“Probably the most memorable workshop so far was the pitching one. I really thought I’m good at it, yet when listening to our trainer from the accelerator I realized that there is still a long way ahead of me,” says Zhivkov. In the first phase of the program, and before getting down to serious work with the corporate partner, startups go through six intensive workshops. The opportunity to work alongside and receive feedback from top professionals, motivated Zhivkov to embrace the challenge and travel frequently between Sofia and Warsaw to participate in programs different training modules – adds Zhikov.
The first step towards global business
The MIT Enterprise Forum CEE program is part of the global MIT Enterprise Forum network, which has branches in several US states, as well as in Greece, Spain, Israel, Turkey and Pakistan. Its reach covers Poland and fourteen other countries from CEE, including Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine. The project is focused on broadly understood internationalization.
“Our goal is to accelerate the development of companies which want to develop on international markets, primarily in the United States. As part of each acceleration edition, the five best startups are given the chance to participate in the week-long bootcamp in Boston. During the trip, they have the opportunity to learn about the innovation ecosystem around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” says Łukasz Owczarek.
The US, however, is not the only market where the accelerator is well connected. According to Owczarek, more and more connections to companies in the Far East, which are interested in cooperation with startups from Central and Eastern Europe, are being established. “Participation in the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE program can thus become a chance for young entrepreneurs to expand into those markets,” he adds.
“In our case, the best scenario would be signing a contract with the company we are working right now and implementing our solution. But even if this doesn’t happen, this program has already brought me several steps forward,” concludes Zhivkov. In only a month as part of the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE, he got to understand the demands of the European market better, considers a pivot, and extended his international network. How will his company evolve, remains to be seen. Until then, the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE continues to scout for the next high-potential Bulgarian projects to accelerate.