When it comes to choosing a methodology, startups prefer to go the lean way. They have small teams with talent resource. Tallinn based Startup Wise Guys is an accelerator designed for early startups, helping them with their intensive mentorship and seed funding programs.
From the Founders’ Desk
Founded by Jon Bradford, MD of TechStars, London, Herty Tammo, Elise Sass and Mike Reiner, and a goal of connecting markets and experts of UK/US with Estonian startups, Startup Wise Guys is trying to build a bridge between the CEE and US/UK. In a span of 3 months and with the support of dozens of mentors, Startup Wise Guys makes your startup idea become a wonderful reality.
Startup Wise Guys have concentrated on CEE region because of the massive development talent and high potential tech startups brewing up here. They felt that many startups lack the sales resources, channels and/or business experience. Thus, they have troubles getting out of their home markets. They discovered that markets in US and UK are immensely attractive for many startups. Since they already had a strong network in these markets, they settled to build a bridge that would connect Estonian startups and US/UK markets.
Mentors and Mentoring at Startup Wise Guys
International mentors along with many from UK and US have housed at Startup Wise Guys to provide early business model validation in the first month of the program. In the first months, startups receive a lot of feedbacks from the mentors. They get to know whether their business model will work in US or UK market. The startups meet around 70-80 mentors in the first month. After that, Wise Guys establish matches. Uk and US mentors will then help these startups to connect and validate in the target countries. After the 3 month’s programs, Startup Wise Guys take time to help them relocate to their target markets. For instance, in US they can offer free coworking space. They work with several partners to help the startups to access the US market. Their US mentors help with the transition, and other partners like WeWork offer additional cheap co-working spaces, or Blackbox.vc as well as Alchemist offer potential follow up incubation for selected teams. They host their own events on a regular basis inviting the startup community and share their mentors. They also host promotional events at different locations in Europe and often combine these with startup conferences
Getting the lean startup approach
Among the three months, the first month goes in business model validation, customer validation, strategy and target markets. A great focus is put on lean startup approach with fast iterations and constant customer validation. The second month, focus is on product and traction- Adjusting the product based on the feedback. Emphasis is put on build-in fast iterations and to have strong metrics to track your progress. It is really important to know what to track in your business and to monitor this closely. The third month is dedicated to pitching, investors and sales. Startups are introduced to investors, educated about investments and get an opportunity to work with them on their sales/marketing. Every week several pitch training happen and at the end of the program the teams are to pitch in front of a large crowd of investors in multiple different locations.
The Investment Strategy
Startup Wise Guys choose to invest around €15,000 to selected startups. They don’t pick startups on a random basis. There are two specific criteria they look for:
They concentrate on the product that startup is building. If they are convinced that this product will make it big in the coming days, that product has all the chances to be backed by Startup Wise Guys. Their convincing is also dependent on the product’s scalability. If it is necessary for the product to win their confidence, the team and their background is equally vital when it comes to investing- Whether the founders have previous startup experience? Is there a good vibe between the team members and good distribution of skills? How has the team executed in the past and do we believe they can pull this off? Only after getting satisfactory answers to these questions, Startup Wise Guys put their hands in the pockets!
Startup Wise Guys Team With SmartCap VC
Recently, Startup Wise Guys made on to the headlines when it joined hands with SmartCap VC, Estonian Investment Fund’s venture arm. SmartCap VC is supposed to put in €1M in all those local startups graduating from Startup Wise Guys acceleration Program. This VC will put in 50% of the funding but they are in need of a co-investor. Hence, it can be concluded that it will function in a format very similar to that of Skolkovo, an incubator backed by the Russian Government. Early this year, the first batch of startups have already graduated from Startup Wise Guys. From a list of 240 applications, these startups were selected. While Startup Wise Guys provides around €15,000, it happens in return of 8% equity and awesome mentoring!
A peep into the Future
Most of these startups are B2B startups. Startup Wise Guys declare to focus on B2B exclusively in future! Another partner, US MAC provides a follow up program for the startups in Silicon Valley where they assign industry experts as mentors and make introductions to corporates to run of their products. Startup Wise Guys aims to focus more on corporate connections to provide our teams with customers and early pilots for validation.