In Autumn of 2012, we set down with the Partners to discuss what can we do to increase the chances for success of early stage stage startups. Between 2011 (when Innovation Nest was launched) and end of 2012 we met with many entrepreneurs (startups) at conferences, meetups, and workshops. We spent many hours discussing business models, potential market strategies, customer segments. We also spent hours and hours, talking about products, their minimal viable versions, development roadmaps and viral coefficients. The time spent with entrepreneurs gave us a lot to think about. We knew we had a good process of helping startups at a seed stage but this process was not available to startups just at the start of their road to success (mostly pre-product). Suddenly all the pieces came together – we decided to launch an acceleration program, and that is how ACCELERATE came to existence.
Twice a year (Autumn and Spring) we head out to search for the most promising teams, with the best potential to build a global business. Teams apply for our acceleration program during which we work together on their business model and product. The goal of ACCELERATE is to speed up the process of customer development and getting out of the building to test the product in market conditions.
ACCELERATE is aimed at startups, focused on building a global business. We are mostly interested in Software as a Service type products targeted at the Small and Medium Enterprise or professionals market. It is best that you have a working prototype or you already have a product on the market but you would like to take it to a new market. The program is divided into three steps:
customer development workshops – before we invest we would like to get to know you better. During the course of 4 weeks we will go through your Customer-Problem-Solution hypothesis, your business model, and your minimum viable product. You will get the chance to pitch your business to other teams and ACCELERATE mentors. These are three intense workshops, and you should commit four weeks of your time to take best advantage of them. Once the workshops are completed we pick the most promising teams and make a first investment of $25 000 for 8% of equity in the company.
Silicon Valley mentoring – we believe that you can start building a global company from anywhere in the world (all you need is a good Internet connection and access to talent), but if you wish to take it globally, then there is no other place like Silicon Valley. Since the aim of ACCELERATE is to speed up the process, we take each team to San Francisco for two and a half weeks to experience the Silicon Valley ecosystem, meet with our mentors, other entrepreneurs/startups and gather as much feedback as possible. This is a life changing experience and it will either make you or break you as a global entrepreneur.
Minimum Viable Product experiment – this is when we get our hands dirty. Halfway through the program each team is well equipped in customer feedback, market research, business model generation. Now is the time to start building the product (or iterate on the current version). We will work closely together so that the product you are building is well aligned with customer feedback we gathered earlier and the business model hypothesis. By the end of the program you should have your product out on the market, and be focused on making those first sales.
Recent years have seen an explosion of incubators and accelerators popping up all over the world. ACCELERATE might seem similar on the surface, but under the skin it is a whole different story. We believe that the incubator/accelerator model does not work that well unless startups are offered full support on each stage of financing. This is why instead of building a separate entity we decided to incorporate acceleration into the investment process of Innovation Nest. This gives us a lot of flexibility and allows startups going through ACCELERATE to focus on the business not on raising funds. This means that once the acceleration process comes to an end and the business looks promising, we can give further support through our seed program. We know that building something grand, sometimes takes time to build.
Each year we hold two batches of ACCELERATE – Spring and Autumn. We start accepting applications for the Spring batch in January. Applications for the Autumn batch start in September. The application process starts with filling out our application form with some basic information about your startup. Once we have closed applications, we start with interviews. After the interview stage we announce the teams who are invited to our Customer Development workshops.
If your team would like to apply for the next batch, please submit your application by filling out our online application form. The sooner we have your application, the more time we have to go through it, so teams who apply earlier will have an advantage. Please fill out the form in English.
We will invite the most promising teams for individual interviews. Interviews will be held in our office in Krakow. We will spend 45 minutes with each team. This is very little time, and we encourage you to practice your pitch. You should be able to freely communicate what problem you are trying to solve, who is the customer, how will you deliver value to your customers, how big is the market and of course how you intend to make money. If your team is not selected for an interview you will receive an email from us, explaining why we did not decide to invite you for an interview.
After two weeks we release a list of the accepted teams. All selected teams will be invited for a kickoff meeting in Krakow, so we can discuss further steps. Each team not selected during the interview stage will receive feedback from us via Skype.
Before the Customer Development workshops we will ask you to sign all the necessary documents. You can download the documents, and go through them even before you apply. These are standard documents, which are signed with each team. If for some reason you are not able to sign these documents, you should let us now during the interview stage.
During the selection process we mostly look at your team. Startup ideas often evolve, and we believe that a strong and focused team is the safest bet we can make at this stage. The best teams will have two or three founders, with a background in tech, design, marketing/sales. As we are deeply convinced that the road to global success leads through Silicon Valley, your ability to speak english is a prerequisite.
Not less important than people is the idea you are trying to turn into a global business. That said we will favor teams who go after a big market, especially in the Software as a Service space. The ideal team should already have a working prototype, and be ready to release a first version of the product in a couple of weeks.