The coronacrisis may have changed and turned upside down most of the things we knew, but one thing may not change anytime soon: the US is still one of the main technology markets, and definitely the holy grail for European founders and Bulgarian ones in particular (at least according to serial entrepreneur and investor Bogomil Balkansky – watch the interview with him). So Bulgaria Innovation Hub (BIH), the Silicon Valley-based hub founded by Bulgarian entrepreneurs, which aims to help younger founders set a foot overseas, has opened up applications for their next semester. Interested founders who want to participate in the Summer Acceleration Program in June can apply till the 30th of May.
The goal of the program is to help founders polish and adjust their Go-to-Market strategy, get to know the US legal environment, make valuable connections and meet potential partners, clients, and investors.
Who is it for and what are the potential benefits
The Summer Acceleration Program of BIH is targeted at high potential startups that need entry to the US market – meet clients, establish legal entities, talk to investors. After a successful pilot last year, when five companies spent a month in San Francisco, this year the program will be conducted online between the 8th and the 25th of June and features 27 modules, the last of which is a “Shark-Tank”- like pitching in front of Silicon Valley VCs the team of BIH has selected. Among the mentors of the program are Boryana Straubel – former Director of Programs at Tesla and founder of Straubel Foundation, Jenn Wei – the Product Director of Rubrik, a Palo Alto based cloud data management company with $500M+ funding, Jerry Chen – partner at leading VC firm Greylock, Villi Iltchev, partner at Two Sigma Ventures.
The program is equity-free (which is expected to change in future – ed.n.), but requires a financial commitment of between $2K per participant from a startup for the basic Go-to-Market polishing package, to $5K for two people from a startup, the full package features also access to VC and potential clients network of BIH. The package includes also $15K in Amazon AWS technology credits for two years.
The hub, by design, provides particular services and aims to institutionalize and put into process the established and not so effective ad hoc support approach. For startups, the new center provides office space, access to legal and tax advisors, intros to mentors, potential partners and clients, and VCs. The idea is that founders stay for several weeks, use the office spaces rented by the hub, and plan accordingly, but also get prepared to speak to investors and clients. In the context of the current situation, the team of BIH has decided to conduct the whole program in an online environment, which could also save founders’ costs for travel and accommodation. Given the new remote order, this would probably not harm the establishment of connections to potential partners overseas as the video chat is already a norm in the (post)pandemic business world.
Last October a selection of five companies took part in the pilot edition of the BIH acceleration program. The “zero” cohort featured information security company LogSentinal, coworking management startup OfficeRnD (raised $3M seed in November), online marketplace for IT courses CourseDot, air cargo digitalization platform Frontline Dynamics, and Enhancv, the platform for modern resumes.
100% private and paid initiative
Having a representative office of this kind is nothing novel: Germany, France, the Nordics, the Czech Republic, etc., already have similar structures. The interesting detail is that unlike the other hubs that are backed by the local governments, the Bulgarian hub is a 100% private project, initiated by the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center and funded in the startup way.
The first two years of the project are aiming to validate the concept and eventually transform the center into a for-profit entity. The target is to raise $500K for the first two years of operations from the local VCs, who are also willing to benefit from the services BIH offers, and the team is still fundraising. For the companies that go through the tailored acceleration, the program will be paid from the second cohort on.