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accelerator of the month 1991 acc by vestbee
15 December 2022·7 min read

Martyna Konys

Program Manager, Vestbee

Startup Accelerator Of The Month - 1991 Accelerator

1991 Accelerator is well-known as an initiator of the change supporting CEE startups in establishing scalable businesses that make a significant impact on the country and its citizens. This startup accelerator is a flagship project of SocialBoost - Ukrainian tech organization aiming to create synergy between the startup community, business and the public sector. So far, they accelerated 200+ startups helping them gain over $2.8M funding in total. Emerging companies focusing on impact tech have a chance to take part in its incubation, acceleration, mentoring & local authorities programs or anti-corruption IT initiatives.

Accelerator Strategy Overview

Geography: CEE
Preferred industries: industry-agnostic
Company stage: pre-Seed, Seed
Product stage: less MVP/prototype
Product type: B2B, B2C, B2G
Revenues: no preferences

Program Details

Duration: up to 4 months
Participation fee: No fee
Equity Investment: Equity free
Grant: via tech perks
No. of batches per year: 3 or 4 bathes per year
No. of startups in a cohort: up to 15

Q&A with Jane Klepa, Executive Director of 1991 Accelerator

What are the 5 most important things you look for in a startup applying to your acceleration program?

We have some set of values and focuses that we want to find in our applicants. First of all, behind a startup should stay a team ready for a breakthrough and transformations lead by a founder with curiosity and motivation. Company is all about the people, their competencies, experience, knowledge, approach to problem and cooperation with each other. The good leader should leverage individualistic skills of team members and combine them in order to boost company’s growth. In startups, we also pay attention to their roadmap-development strategy, comparing it with demand and market size - it should be reasonable and go along with current market situation. Equally important are the factors of innovation, which can also be expressed in the optimization of existing solutions, relevance for the selected target audience - we want to make sure that the team did the proper research and understand customers and their needs, and the solution itself - it must be clear and practical.

What startups should take into account before applying to your acceleration program?

We require full commitment of each member of the startup team as only then your hard work will pay off and results can impact the future of your startup. Without motivation and proper engagement we won’t be able to lead startups to successful growth. Both sides should be excited (and I can assure you that we are!) for the journey brought  by the program as it includes practical classes and 1-1 meetings with mentors and experts.
Our team put the focus on constant group dynamics as well as work dedicated to pursuing the individual goals of each project. 

When it comes to more technical side - before applying startup should have already recorded certain CRIs and meet some deliverables depending on the exact program that it choose.

Can you share some of the red flags that can disqualify a startup from joining your accelerator?

Solo founders without a team or an idea-concept and confirmed hypotheses are definitely out of the range of our focus - we seek motivated teams with vision. Lack of learnability and plans for scaling are another red flags as we are passionate about constant development and accepting challenges and we want to find the reflection of it in applicants. Startups without clear plans for scaling are also not taken into consideration as we would love to see potential and chance for profitable idea since the very beginning. 

What are the most valuable skills that selected startups can develop thanks to your program?

There is no one checklist of skills adopted during the program as they vary depending on the single founder and their approach, experience and focus area. However, I would say that the most universal ones that we are working on developing in our applicants are speed of decision-making, network, understanding of risks, and ability to pivot. We believe that all these competencies will help startup teams to successfully develop their business. 

How does your accelerator support portfolio companies during and after the program?

Our team provides constant support in the form of extra-mentoring sessions at the request of startups, PR support of projects, as well as the provision of technical resources i.e. a certain amount of servers, task managers, platforms for financial accounting and email marketing.

During the war, we launched a separate support track for portfolio startups from the affected territories of Ukraine, as well as the permanent Mentor Yard format - a matchmaker for entrepreneurs and mentors, where teams can get support from experts in the field and feel external support and motivation during hard times.

What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio?

All our startups are unique and have their strengths so depending on the parameters we take into consideration my answer would differ. However, I definitely should mention AxDraft, a contract lifecycle management platform which recently made an exit or Knopka - medical care automation system for medical institutions and hospitals, which represents Ukraine at the most international tech events this year. 

What key lessons have you learned from projects that didn’t work out the way you expected?

I like to think of some unexpected happenings in a startup development process as a fantastic teachable experience for startups as well as for us. Let’s take a real-life example - one of the first alumni of Ecoisme went bankrupt, however, the founders came back on the market stronger than ever and now they are driving innovative products in the TOP companies of Ukraine and the world. It’s all about how you approach failures and how solid are your motivations.

Why, in your opinion, accelerators are becoming more popular nowadays?

I would say that accelerators are a form of assistance in improving the product relatively quickly with minimal risks. Especially at the early stages of the startup journey you need to share with someone who understands what you are going through, your business realted opinions, ideas and concerns and what’s more important get valuable advice and proper tools to work on your strengths and find the direction of your solution development. Also being surrounded by people similar to you - passionate willing to learn entrepreneurs - provides various inspirations and expand your network. However, from what I noticed, venture studios are increasing in popularity in a rapid pace.

What are the hottest markets you currently look at as an accelerator and where do you see the biggest hype?

Historically and based on vision, Ukraine and the CEE remain the basis for us. Also, we notice more and more capital from abroad (especially the US) coming to Central and Eastern Europe so it enhances our confidence in the growing potential of the region. Here, we have also a vast pool of affordable tech talents with global focus which we consider as a huge advantage.

Do you have any predictions about the key trends that will shape the European accelerator scene in the near future?

I am sure that greater cooperation between accelerator and investors and the formation of such cross-accelerator communities will crystallize. While talking about booming verticals, I believe the focus will shift to military tech, cybersecurity and cyber hygiene in general. Also, constant development of AI is essential and will find its usage in the mentioned sectors.

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