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Accelerator of the Month - Seedstars
12 November 2021·7 min read

Magdalena Balcerzak

Manager, Vestbee

Startup Accelerator Of The Month - Seedstars

Seedstars Accelerators are structured and tailored capacity-building programs with peer-to-peer elements, training sessions and 1:1 mentorings. They are designed for potential high-growth ventures in emerging markets with an MVP to obtain first paying customers and get to product-market fit. We operate Seedstars Accelerators in our 4 core regions CEE, Africa, MENA, Latam, and SouthEast Asia. Since launching Seedstars Accelerators we have supported 80+ Startups in Acceleration Programs. 

Accelerator Strategy Overview 


Geography: CEE, Africa, MENA, Latam, and SouthEast Asia
Preferred industries: They are focused on solving the UN Sustainable development goals and therefore have put a clear focus on SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), SDG 13 (Climate Action). 
Company stage: Seedstars Acceleration Programs support startups with an MVP and ideally first paying customers.
They have other programs for seed-stage companies (Academy Programs), growth-stage companies (Growth and Expansion Programs) and customized Investment Readiness Programs for various stages in the Startup lifecycle. 
Product stage: MVP/beta
Product type: B2B, B2C, B2B2C, B2D, B2G
Revenues: Not necessarily, but it is perceived as an added value.


Duration: 3-6 months
Participation fee:  Program fees of USD 20-30k can be charged to the startups (in-kind) if an investment is received or can be waived by the partner
Equity Investment: Ideally yes, if we have a partner on board, USD 80k which includes a USD 25k program fee paid by the selected startup in exchange for 5-10% equity. Find out more here.
Grant: Yes, if we have a partner. Up to USD 80k - depends very much on the partner, region, country.
No of batches per year: 5 Programs per year
No of startups in a cohort: Usually 10-15

Q&A with Alisee de Tonnac, CEO & Co-founder

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

There are several areas we take into account when reviewing applications, such as product innovation level and subsequently the market potential and scalability. We are looking for products that tackle a real and serious problem present in their local community (intensity & impact of the problem) but can be scaled globally. Most of our programs are dedicated to pre-seed and seed stage companies, but having traction is a good sign that the startup has a developed strategy and some initial momentum. Last but not least, a good team is crucial for business success. The founder and the team have to be experienced and resilient enough to deal with everything that might come their way.

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

One of the requirements we have is that the startup has to have a developed MVP and ideally, also has the first paying customers. Due to the nature of the programs, where we combine workshops, bootcamps and also 1:1 sessions with mentors, startups should be ready to invest up to 10 a week for the program components.

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

Probably the biggest one for us is when a startup doesn’t aim to have a scalable and repeatable business model. During the accelerator programs, our focus is on utilizing methodologies to support companies in getting to their proven concept faster and with fewer losses.

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

Following on from the previous question, we support companies in establishing a strong base they can then scale off on. We’re working with them on expanding their knowledge base concerning the product-market fit, customer acquisition and fundraising fundamentals, tools and methodologies to run experiments as well as on tracking KPIs and acquisition channels.

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

We have an in-house investment team that is running a growth support program and is ready to invest in potential high-growth startups. Taking part in our accelerator programs can be a fast track to receiving funds.

What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio? 

There are over 70 companies in our portfolio, from 30+ different emerging markets and in a variety of industries. Some of the top performers are, an online platform that improves the renting experience of real estate agents, owners and tenants in Argentina, Colombia and Peru, POSRocket, a cloud-based POS platform disrupting the MENA’s point of industry,  Truck Lagbe, a logistics company from Bangladesh, Dastgyr, a B2B marketplace app that connects retailers directly to suppliers, in an attempt to fix the fragmented supply chain in Pakistan, and Graviti, a Mexican company financing products every family needs such as washing machines or refrigerators without a debit or credit card.

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

We have a few learnings to share:

  • Don’t make exceptions/give the benefit of the doubt to founders. For many of the failures/non-performers, we already had some question marks on the team from the beginning.
  • A corporate partnership can make or break a company: a few failures have been driven by corporate partnerships that looked promising but never got through the pilot phase. They move too slow and exhaust startups' resources.
  • The base of the pyramid is hard to crack. Some non-performers in our portfolio had this user group in mind and it’s gone much slower than planned or led to failure.

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

Capacity building in emerging markets is the way to move forward in order to solve some of the major challenges of humankind. We support the world's most ambitious and dedicated entrepreneurs in growing and scaling their companies to create meaningful and lasting change. The focus of our work is to invest in the most promising entrepreneurs heading up high-growth companies in emerging and frontier markets.

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

The hottest markets by geography are some big countries, with a young population and a somewhat developed startup ecosystem such as Mexico in LATAM, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt in Africa and Pakistan and Indonesia in Asia. Sector-wise, Fintech has been hyped up for some time now, and digital banking, in particular, is on the rise. B2B Ecommerce is also very interesting right now.

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

It’s all about impact investments nowadays. Accelerators that are sustainable will need to prove the impact with setting up the right MEL frameworks backed up by a Theory of Change for example. Our mission as a company is to have the biggest positive impact we can on the emerging markets, but impact investing isn’t dependent on geography alone. 

Nevertheless, the emerging markets represent 85% of the world's population yet pull just about 5% of global venture capital dollars. We’re looking to change that. Scaling a venture-backed company is an incredible achievement but doing so while positively impacting the lives of millions of individuals and businesses is another story. 


Related Posts: 

Startup Accelerator Of The Month -  MIT Enterprise Forum CEE (by Magdalena Balcerzak, Manager, Vestbee)

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

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

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