Startup Accelerator Of The Month - ABC Accelerator

Magdalena Balcerzak Manager, Vestbee

ABC Accelerator focuses on startups’ support in gaining traction, increasing revenue and getting the next investments. Since 2015 they have been working with over 250 companies and recently made the largest exit and acquisition. Their two times awarded acceleration methodology (by CESA) gives startups and scaleups hands-on help to achieve scalable business models, pilot customers and enough traction to raise the next VC investment.

In the post-Covid-19 world, all of the work with startups happens fully online on a hyper-personal level, tailored to the individual needs and is aimed to reach startups' global potential.

Accelerator Strategy Overview

 

STARTUPS ELIGIBLE FOR ACCELERATION PROGRAM

Geography: Focusing mostly on the EU region
Preferred industries: Sector agnostic. But we are also always searching for a fit to our corporate partners: BTC, Insurance company Triglav, Telekom Slovenia, Energy company Petrol and e-commerce Enaa.com.
Company stage: launch (seed), early growth (pre-series A, series A),
Product stage: MVP/beta, ready product
Product type: B2B, B2C, B2B2C, B2G,
Revenues: Typically yes, but we make exceptions. We also run several supporting programs where we accept earlier stages.

PROGRAM DETAILS

Duration: 3-5 months of full speed engagement followed by a 2-month break depending on a startup.
Participation fee:  No
Equity Investment: Yes, typically 6-8% for a long term partnership and acceleration. Additional equity for co-investment up to €250k.
Grant: No
No. of batches per year: 3+ We accept applications all year long. Startups join on a rolling basis as soon as they are ready.
No. of startups in a cohort: up to 25 per year

Q&A with Grega Potokar, CEO

 

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

We look for a dedicated, well balanced and ambitious team that is willing to take a critical look at their business model/product and adapt to the signals from the market. We search for disruptive, out of the box solutions and products that have global potential. A product that is at least on MVP level to build traction with it and a company with characteristics to be a VC investment case. Ultimately, we search for people who are passionate about solving actual problems and decided to do so, because that is who they are.

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

We expect full-time work, an established company and a lot of commitment. We give back in triple amounts, but we will not do the work instead of a startup. A wish to win is a must and we will be there, enabling startups to make every step along the way.

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

We’ve learned along the way that a startup that is only searching for an investment to solve all its problems is usually not a fit. An investment at an incorrect time can create a false sense of having achieved product-market fit and makes the startup focus on the wrong things. Investments are a consequence of a business model that works, and not vice versa. Another red flag is also a lack of long term commitment. It takes years for a startup to reach big evaluations and one has to work for it hard.

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

We focus on building the startup's traction, revenues and raising next investment through building scalable business models with a great team and the latest technologies.

Leveraging our Entrepreneurs in Residence, mentors and the whole ABC Team startups and scaleups learn how to focus on bringing value to the customers and working with big businesses while scaling fast. Once they are ready, we also “open doors” and do intro meetings and negotiations with 170+ VC investors from our network to find the right fit. Next Round Investment Conference is a side product of our network.

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

During the full speed mode, we work on all pillars of the startup and play a very active role in getting startups out of the comfort zone. Starting with a scan of the product, team dynamics, CTO/CEO brain thrusts, roadmaps, data-driven decision-making process, establishing key metrics, sales offers, customer relations and establishing acceleration targets and roadmaps is just a beginning. After the shakedown, we start opening doors, organising business meetings, getting pilot projects and reshaping the company for scalability. If we find a gap in the knowledge, we redirect the attention to workshops and 1on1 mentoring otherwise back to business with the help of Entrepreneurs in Residence. We also have a large set of reading materials, tutorials, and templates available for quicker progress and individual work.

At some point, we switch to a less intensive mode and give startups space to focus on business and customers. This is the time where we set OKRs, roadmaps and help them achieve milestones, KPIs etc. The investment team starts to work more intensely with the startup when some business is already done and prepares a case for VC investors. 

Once startups are members of the ABC Alumni, they can always count on our support. In fact, we are active shareholders seeking quarterly reports and knowing that their success is also our success, so we work hard to help them achieve their long term goals.

What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio?

We’ve made a few successful exits last year, most notably Hotailors and Viberate.

Doing especially well at the moment are AppRay (acquired), Soplaya (3,5M€ investment), Symvaro, Flexkeeping, Beeping, Beyond Seen Screen, Videobolt, Chess Universe, Homey, Sleepy Bottle...

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

First of all, we have learned that money too soon often does not solve startup problems, but rather creates them. Also – and there is no way to say this without sounding like a cliche - that getting up adapting and trying again after falling is what really counts. Being ahead of time is also a lesson learned, usually, it destroys good companies because they run out of energy and money before they achieve their market adoption. Finally, the team has to be able to grow with the company or face problems on the business side.

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

We have actually noticed a decline in popularity, as there are more and more institutions ready to give out money and programs for 0%. However, there is still a gap between the incubators, the state or EU funded programs and the private VCs. That is where an accelerator comes in, as a bridge between these early stages and a VC, who is ready to invest in a scalable business model. In the beginnings of this industry, many accelerators took care of all these stages on their own, from education to early investments and support. With the diversification of the market, we can now focus on what we do best: speeding up the success or failure of a certain startup or scaleup by removing the obstacles on a growth path. A good accelerator should also enable a space for a phoenix to rise from the ashes. It creates a community where the unexpected can happen. It ultimately boils down to hard work and the right combination of determination and luck. What we do and have is the experience in recognizing that unique magic formula that will just work for each particular startup. We can help them channel their energy into the right things and ultimately succeed.

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

We are both sector and geography agnostic, meaning that we do not like to limit ourselves. However, we believe that the Balkans have a lot of hidden potential. Regarding verticals, blockchain is overhyped while the well-being sector deserves more attention. Our strong focus is on the combination of retail and e-commerce that will shape the near future of our society. 

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

We think we’ll slowly see the new Europe picking up speed. The obvious answer is also a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Each crisis is also an opportunity for new trends to arise. Those who will be able to adapt fast and offer real value in the virtual world will emerge ahead of those who are slower in their response. On that note we expect a lot of accelerators to close doors and more corporations partnering with accelerators to get access to much needed new technologies and trends. We have a lot of good experiences in this field and see positive results giving them a competitive advantage.

 

Related Posts: 

Startup Accelerator Of The Month - StartupYard (by Magdalena Balcerzak, Manager, Vestbee)

Startup Accelerator Of The Month - Startup Wise Guys (by Magdalena Balcerzak, Manager, Vestbee)

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