What the startup ecosystem of eastern Slovakia misses the most, is a systematic guidance and support for experimental early stage teams, that want to commit to their startups and become eligible for seed funding.
We decided to start building new startups ourselves, putting everything we learn into Košice's own incubation program, that will organically grow stronger with every new team.
We started with exploring our network for young local entrepreneurs that could become the founders of new local startups. At the same time we studied and discussed the key aspects of investor pitch that helped us decide what we are looking for. After 12 weeks of individual consulting we have onboarded 9 cofounders with total of 6 startups to work on.
From among our friends, we focused on the ones that are already successful entrepreneurs. This collective experience we plan to use for building startups in the markets we already know. Together we came up with the first 6 pre-seed stage SaaS concepts and with them we are attemting to become the new living core of Košice’s startup community.APPLY FOR THE NEXT BATCH
After we got more or less prepared, we all agreed to meet for 2 weeks in order to do some intense work on all 6 of our concepts. We already have a perfect camp site and through our network we managed to collect an amazing set of mentors that share our desire for startup culture rising in our region.
One of the strong advantages in founding our startup program is our own coworking & hackerspace. It has been established in May 2018 as foundations for startup incubator, we believe Košice needs. For more than a year we used it as a hub for gathering local community and during these 2 weeks it proved to be a perfect incubation space.
All of our mentors are either growing startup founders, former Google guys or investors. Each of them joined us at our camp for a day, explained how they build, sell or fund businesses and then spent rest of the time challenging what we are building.
Dalibor has been recently fundraising himself for GymBeam, so he came in and showed us how his deck works and what we can take from it.
We all knew that we need to validate our ideas, but what comes before is that we need to state it first. Marek gave us tools to tell what we are after.
Pavol has been leading tech teams for a while and he brought interesting angle to the well-known Hacker-Hipster-Hustler team setup.
From his VC background, Jano was able to share with us how investors actually read the pitch decks and what can make them drop the deal.
Another first-timer for Košice was a startup barbeque evening as a deserved break for our teams after the first week of our camp. Since it is a great opportunity for networking, we invited all the contributors of local ecosystem to join us - our mentors, partners, other local program managers, coworking owners and founders of other local startups. With around 30 people attending. we wrapped up at 2am.
Szabi has explained to us how marketing works, shared his stories and showed us tools to validate our idea in very cheap and effective ways.
Martin spent with us one whole week of our camp in Starport, consulting each of our starutps individually and challenging their concepts.
Majo attended all 3 phases of our camp, explaining what startups need to legally resolved inside their teams and how Sparring helps with it.
Sharing his direct experience, Slavo described, what tends to happen, when a complex product comes before validation of market’s needs.
The most important factors for startups are the product validation, customers’ reactions and their willingness to pay. Starport is a good starting point for tech startups that struggle in their beginnings. It will teach them to reach out to potential customers in practice and overcome fear from the first launch.
To keep our startups alive throughout the whole program, we decided that it will all finish with a public startup conferrence, where everyone will come to see what they do. We designed it for 200 people, 10 speakers and a lot of networking space aftwerwards.
Together with our guest speakers we decided to dig into all topics that are important when considering a startup form of entrepreneurship - from basic understanding of the market to funding options and pitching. Again we picked successful startupists, investors and business owners to share their knowledge.
Dalibor brought to our attention why understanding competition is necessary when building startup from Košice.
Slavo explained why MVP exists and how RAT model is even more efficient when validation a new business model
Martin reminded us about some great entrepreneurs from human history and explained how great businesses are developed and executed.
Since we don’t have a marketing agency focusing on early starups in Slovakia, Pavol inspired us with notees from UI42’s ecommerce accelerator.
Majo explained what startups need to legally resolve inside their teams, from initial company setup to employment share schemes.
Andrej gave tips to raise funds and set up a good relationships with future investors, especially how to avoid fatal mistaked while doing so.
Michal described how Crowdberry helps it’s startups to calculate financial projections and what factors come into consideration.
In this panel we have been discussing the experience of Neulogy Ventures with investing in our region over past years and what is the importance of startup’s location. We followed with Crowdberry’s brand new model of financing startups and introduction of currently establoshing family-house of investors called ZAKA.
Even though we got barely prepared to go for funding with all the startups, there are many more reasons why to go out with a public pitch - hooking up with first adopters or new team members. Startup Fair's pitch sessions are not a competition with a winning pitch, it is simply a space for new startups to reach out for the community.
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After the final pitches have been presented, the jury evaluated their performance and commented each of the startups individually. The discussion then escalated to some interesting points about how our program should get better and what we need to achieve in our ecosystem to build a good environment for early startups.
I spent a week with Starport and six startups in the accelerator. The teams profited very much from the program, and even within this one week I experienced the progress they made. All of them worked towards the final milestone, their pitch at the “Startup Fair” at Tabačka. The event itself was well organized and really exciting: valuable topics, great speakers, fantastic networking. If I had come from Munich only for this one day it would have paid back already.
Stanley & Peter managed to lay down firm foundations of a much needed vibrant startup hub in Košice, Slovakia. I believe that many local entrepreneurs will empower their growing businesses through the startup infrastructure they established. I hope it will flourish in the days to come!
The most of our startups have been approached by some of the investors, partners or potential customers right at the Startup Fair or on later days. Each of the teams we rewarded with 1000 EUR cash for finishing the camp and presenting their final pitch at the event. Now we are looking into next steps and building teams to continue our work.
Even though we decided to run our program even in case we won’t find any support, we managed to get covered far better than we expected. Slovak American Foundation and Bestcena.sk joined us as our golden partners and provided financial resources for both the incubation program and the final event. Community partners Hagedorn Informationsysteme, HubHub, Sparring and GymBeam helped us bring in mentors, speakers and jury members from networks we wouldn’t reach ourselves.JOIN AS PARTNER
We’ve been introduced to each other in 2017 due to our shared drive for creating a startup incubator in Košice. We both have strong experience in startups, interesting network of people and we both share a will to invest effort into the entrepreneurial potential hiding in eastern Slovakia.