Idea Gardener Berg Moe

– always looking for win-win scenarios and opportunities

Category: Accelerate (Page 1 of 2)

Accelerating startups from Eastern Europe to NYC

Two years ago I was in Moscow for a week attending GEC 2014 at the same time as Putin, and a group of senior followers was celebration the takeover of Crimea at the square outside Kremlin. After many trips to Russia over many years, I could feel that there was a dramatic change in the air, and the rest is history. When I the stumbled over Starta Accelerator on LinkedIn it created an interest and an urge to learn more. Many of my investor’s friends and entrepreneurs in Russia have been escaping the country the last years.

Starta Accelerator (www.StartaAccelerator.com) was initiated by Starta Capital VC fund and its founder Alexey Girin. Starta Capital is one of the leading VC funds in Russia. It has received prestigious awards granted by Russian Venture Capital Association, National Venture Industry Award, and National Association of Business Angels award, so they have a quite a reputation to bring to the table.

mentor sessions_Starta Accelerator

The Accelerator’s main mission is to introduce startups with East European R&D roots to best practices, trusted advisers and mentors, and overcome cultural differences through a customized educational program that help startups to gain traction in U.S. and become part of the local startup and investing ecosystem.

I have been a coach for several companies from Russia through Seed Forum International and have observed that there can be serious cultural challenges involved. Just to be clear, it is the same challenge for us heading eastbound and maybe even harder.

My chat with Ekaterina (Katya) Dorozhkina;

bio-picKatya is the Managing Partner at Starta Capital & Accelerator. The author of Zero Budget Marketing and Making ArtWork, A ROI-Based Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs and Startups. Co-founder of @DenArtStudio.With over ten years of experience in the field, she has been on both sides of the brief, helping large corporations and small start-ups with marketing, business and product management. Past clients include Samsung, Casio, American Express, American Airlines, and others.

Katya received her Master’s in International Economics and currently finishing up her Ph.D. She lives in NYC, where she spoils her adopted dog, Bucks and her goldfish, Cash. Katya donates all of the income from her books to a charity fund called Change One Life, which helps connect orphans with families.

I have a strong hypothesis that the entrepreneurial environment in Russia is a little bit difficult right now. Are there many Russian entrepreneurs fleeing the country?

-Indeed, the economic situation has recently declined dramatically. The market liquidity along with the prospect for the future is questionable for many startups and entrepreneurs in general. This pushes entrepreneurs to get out of their comfort zone. They are forced to consider new strategies for their businesses, or they try to move towards more attractive markets that can provide a better future for their businesses and products.

I imagine cultural barriers are an important consideration for these entrepreneurs. What are the main challenges?

-As with any cross-cultural exchange, it takes a time to get used to the new cultural rules. For businesses, cultural differences can present an obstacle to developing and growing business. The challenge that we face at Starta Accelerator is to help Eastern-European founders adapt to a U.S.-oriented mindset within a short time. In general, it takes years to adjust culturally to a new place, but adapting to U.S.-business culture is our focus for the first month of the program.

-One of the main cultural differences between U.S. and Eastern European founders is how the path to success is imagined. European founders are more careful and cautious. They still live in the “waterfall product development” process—they’ve been taught to create the product first, then sell it. However, in the U.S., startups are all about being lean and agile. U.S. founders market and test ideas first, and then create products and raise money. In both scenarios, making mistakes is unavoidable, but it should not prevent you from trying.

There are many accelerators in NYC. What make your initiative unique?

-For startups, our business model is narrowed down to the particular challenge of Eastern-European companies entering the U.S. market. There simply is no other accelerator with this focus. The accelerators in NYC do a fabulous job, but they are only accessible to local startups or companies with sufficient local experience. These startups already participate in the U.S. startup ecosystem, and they are familiar with the local rules. Other accelerators just cannot predict or assist with the challenges facing Eastern-European companies that are trying to join the U.S. startup ecosystem.

-Our one-on-one coaching program also sets us apart from other accelerators. In addition to mentoring by industry leaders, our founders receive individual coaching on Business Communications, Marketing, Business Development & Sales, Product & UX, and Investment Relationship.

-We also provide more value to investors as we select more mature startups with MVP, traction and powerful R&D teams that operate from Eastern Europe usually at a much lower cost than in U.S.

You have a demo day coming up. What kind of startups will we meet?

-At our demo day, you will meet startups from various industries in multiple stages of growth. As I mentioned, we have companies with proven traction in Europe. Some have already raised sufficient money, and some are in the early stages of looking for seed and pre-seed funding. These companies span various tech products and services—from deep techs like VR or navigation technologies to fintech apps and much more. You will have to check it out to see them all!

-Our Demo Day is planned for April 27th  at Microsoft on Times Square. We are happy to invite more Angel and VC investors. 

Working closely with startups on a daily basis can be a challenge. Where do you get the energy?

-Good question. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll?

-Joking aside, I just love what I do—and in a way, my passion for startups is a kind of drug. Working with startups comes with a whole slew of emotions—from frustration to excitement—but ultimately it is rewarding. Seeing the determination and hard work of these startup founders is inspiring. It keeps me going and makes me do my best to help these guys succeed.

-Plus, I get some kind of peer-to-peer auto-recharge. Our accelerator is like a solar panel, when our group of energetic, smart and determined founders work side-by-side on a daily basis, they give each other—and me—a special natural energy and support. They are not competing against each other. Rather, they are all united by the same goal, and that lifts everybody up.

Where do you see yourself in three years? What are your personal goals for Starta?

-My personal goal is to create a new form of accelerators that will create a new player in the market or change the VC/Startup world completely.

-Right now, it looks like a zoo: unicorns, cash cows, “foxes” and “hedgehogs.” (A study from Columbia University placed VCs and angel investors into two categories, “foxes” and “hedgehogs.”)

-Instead of breeding a new animal, I would like to create a feeder for all. Or, better yet, convert the zoo into an amusement park with positive experiences for each of the players, not just a rollercoaster for startups.

-My professional goal is to finish fundraising for Starta Accelerator Fund for the upcoming four classes over the next two years, which will help to support about eight startups per class and increase the chance of creating an Eastern-European unicorn success story.

More info on the companies presenting and registration for the Starta Demo day at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/starta-accelerator-demo-day-tickets-22171956920

starta accelerator_winter 2016 cohort

Some of the entrepreneurs we will meet at Demo Day. I like the exit sign:)

By Berg Moe. You can reach me at LinkedIn, or simply sign up for my personal newsletter and the Angel Investor Startup Digest.

Create the perfect storm before you launch

First book project – Launching March 31st at “Kickstarter” is “Artic Recipes”. I have several hundred recipes from my late mother, Borgunn. Many of them are handwritten and represent wild arctic cousin at its best. I will make the food myself, take beautiful pictures and finance the work at “Kickstarter”. Goal: To make people aware of the fantastic food that we have in the North of Norway.

My challenge, as for all the projects that are launched from different crowdfunding platforms every day is to get a critical mass of people showing up with their credit card. To get influential people or just friends on Twitter and Facebook post automatically the same day as you go live is what Thunderclap offers. Under the hood, there are interesting features I am testing out right now. You will have more details and how this launch went in a new post first week of April.

How Thunderclap defines themselves;

If you want to see how a campaign page looks like, you can have a look at my Thunderclap site at https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/38850-artic-recipes-kickstarter?locale=en

By Berg Moe. You can reach me at LinkedIn, or simply sign up for my personal newsletter and the Angel Investor Startup Digest.

19 year old Aurora Aksnes from Os, Norway, gets millions of shares on YouTube

There are many interesting things happening in the Norwegian music industry, but I was shocked when I learned that totally unknown Aurora Aksnes was the voice behind this year’s John Lewis Christmas Advert. I song is also rising on iTunes and are as we speak at sixth place. Where will this end for young and for sure talented Aurora?

John Lewis Christmas Advert 2015 – #ManOnTheMoon

Are Norwegians fat, lazy and beautiful?

This talk I gave at a local TEDx event, in Bergen produced independently of the TED Conferences. I am talking about the present and future of entrepreneurship in Norway and try to examine the challenges of Norwegian startup companies on the entrepreneurial scene. Why is it so hard for startups to survive and grow is such a rich and prosperous Scandinavian country?

I am working on refining this lecture and on a book focusing on challenges Norway have ahead, so all feedback and comments are of high value for me.

SELL, SELL, SELL

Sometimes, I wonder if the Norwegian entrepreneurs are allergic to selling and prefer to innovate and write business plans. Time and again I saw they have written great plans but has done little get in touch with the market through sales. I think that first have to sell your product/service before you spend too much time and energy on developing and writing business plans. Time is a precious resource = money, and many times it is possible with simple means to accelerate time to market and through feedback from real customers do a product and service that the market wants.

Here are some examples;
Case A: I received a visit from some friendly people with an idea I liked. When I heard that they had spent one and half years to write a business plan and had not spoken to a single customer, I was ill. I asked if it was ok that I called to a potential customer that maybe would be interested. It took me a few minutes to find a candidate and called up and drove a short 3 min pitch. They were enthusiastic and wanted to have a meeting, and they did not only became not only became a customer but would also finance part of product development and to be a contributor in the process.

Case B: I always use to say that it is good to have a draft contract/letter of intent lying in the cloud if you are looking for customers or investors. I’ve done it several times myself, and it speeds up the process. Sometimes in meetings it is a “turning point” where the hot prospect says “this is interesting, and we would like to more into this”. That’s when you pull out an LOI (letter of intent) and starts to sell it and close it on the spot. Ones we had 34 meetings during seven days in Eastern Europe and returned with 22 LOIs. The tour was also a critical factor for us to succeed raising 4.5 million in seed funding.

The Gründernes Hus (The Entrepreneurs House in Oslo) we will have a focus on sales and acceleration of the process to get to market. We will also use our global network and expertise providing power to kick-start the growth of the companies. We are in the process developing a roadmap that we will be complete during the summer, but already have four companies one they way into the system and much more in screening and pipeline. The official opening of the 3rd-floor Accelerator is at the same time as the official opening of the 1360 m2 house. We have not written a business plan so far – just taken action and focused on business and has sold close to 100% of what we have on sale so far. Soon we start to sell memberships for Kafékontoret (Co-working space on the 1st floor). It’s just to get ready if you want to be a part of a great environment.

260 Events In 202 Cities; Startups Raised $30M+

A post by Robin Wauters at TechCrunch

Startup Weekend, whose mission is to kickstart and foster startup communities worldwide through events and networking sessions, had a very lively 2011.

According to internal statistics shared exclusively with TechCrunch, the organization held a total of 260 events in 202 cities, in 67 countries (you can find the obligatory accompanying infographic below).

All in all, the ‘startup weekends’ attracted some 21,316 people, who collectively formed 2,817 teams.

Startups that were incubated at its events raised at least $30 million in outside funding in the course of last year, although Startup Weekend CMO Joey Pomerenke tells me there were probably more fundraising rounds completed that they simply don’t know about yet. Read more…

Investor Events January 2012

Seed Forum International Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation working out of London, and it is the international collaboration entity for the national Seed Forum not-for-profit foundations in various countries.
VikingAngels.com uses these events as physical meeting spots for our network.

Events in January: Singapore 17th, Shanghai 19th and Malmø 24th. Contact manager if you want to be invited to one of these events.

Software Ideas Cannot Be Copyrighted, Says EU Court Adviser

As posted by Eddie Ringle at LOCKERGNOME.

An EU court adviser said on Tuesday that copyright protection cannot be claimed on software functions. The implications of this statement are huge, especially considering the fierce parent wars currently consuming the mobile world. Reuters reports:

The non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate-general at the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ), is in line with a verdict reached by the High Court of England and Wales in July last year. ECJ judges will rule on the case next year. SAS Institute took legal action against World Programing Ltd (WPL) in 2009, saying the British software company had infringed its copyrights by copying its programs and manuals — even though WPL had designed its products without access to SAS’s source code.

In my personal opinion, the decision this adviser made should be heavily considered by not just EU judges, but US judges as well. Why is that, you ask? Companies like Apple are patenting things left and right without having really invented anything. I can see someone patenting a new physical mechanism on a device, but to patent software ideas is just silly, as they’re usually obvious aspects of a software program. In addition, software patents essentially disrupt the innovation that keeps software from evolving into its next useful iteration.

Read the rest of this story posted by Eddie Ringle at LOCKERGNOME.

Preline Fish Farming – industry revolution?

This company has signed a contract with Lerøy Vest to build a “Extended Smolt Farm”. The Preline Fish Farming patented technology solves all the known problems in this industry and promise no lice, reduced feed cost, higher growth rate, more muscle, reduced fat rate, reduced mortality and increased capital turnover. We think they can be a game changer in an industry with high growth potential if the environmental issues are solved.

Lerøy Seafood Group is the leading exporter of seafood from Norway. The Group’s core activities are distribution, sale and marketing of seafood, processing of seafood, production of salmon, trout and other species, as well as product development. Operating revenues in 2010 was 1,5 billion USD.

For more information, log in/register here or contact manager.

Choosing A Minimally Viable Co-Founder

If you’re starting a company, one of the most important decisions you’ll make early on is the selection of a co-founder. Some might advocate just “going it alone” because finding a great co-founder is hard and fraught with risk. It is hard and it is fraught with risk. But going it alone is harder — and riskier. Startups are very challenging and having someone to share the ups and downs with, to be a great sounding board for ideas and to just help get things done is immensely valuable.
One additional thought: I’m an introvert. I don’t enjoy being around people very much. If you’re like me, the notion of just doing something all by your lonesome might seem appealing. And, it is — but I think it’s a mistake. Even for introverts, having someone on your side is useful and fun.

Read more at OnStartups.com.

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