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четверг, 9 апреля 2015 г.

Plans for the next 6 months

Upon returning from my most recent trip to the Valley, I have a clear vision of event and Accelerator strategy. Here are some final points:

1. For the moment, we have totally refrained from assisting local projects. The local market is dead. It would be hard enough to support the projects now and those that have already been supported would have very low exit valuations. The only big, existing sector which will grow is e-commerce. This market is not interesting to us and big players have already put significant barriers there. In this area, we are interested in the projects working with e-commerce conversion, but this market is small in Ukraine and, as the past has shown, we can move them to Europe.

2. The only criteria for accelerator projects is a team and progress it provides.

3. We are slightly changing our accelerator program. Now I can see 3 groups of companies, which will work with us within 3 levels:
- the first level (basic) - an acquaintance, penetration in project, training program;
- the second level (basic 2) - working on the project for several weeks (4-6). Within this level, we will track the next KPI:
a. the ability to formulate thoughts in the form of a summary, presentation, one-pager, and teaser. The main emphasis will be made on ability to formulate correctly and fast (we need it VERY fast).
b. the ability to find potential clients, to set up the experiments with them, to infer and input changes into strategy, tactics, business-model, and the product itself in accordance with the feedback. As practice shows, with 99,7% of cases, it must be done remotely. (As one of our partners from Valley said to our portfolio companies: “Nobody will make right agenda here for you. If you cannot find right meetings, then it is better not to come to Valley at all.”)

c. the ability to built qualitative communications - cold contact, preparation for a call, the call itself, and the follow up + establishment of long-term relations;
d. the insight and ability to work with funnels & conversions;
e. the ability to cut off unpromising branches;
f. the ability to work with short-term goals.
On the ground of these marks, we will make a decision about the signing of a Termsheet with the project.
- the last (third) level splits up to 3 lines. We realized that three flows of the projects to be formed: a) those who want to go to Berlin and to the Valley for months; b) those who think that they need to go to Berlin only for two months; c) and those who think they need to go to the Valley only for two months. In order to be able to manage such a flow, we need to increase the quantity of the projects. Otherwise, we’ve got projects for Berlin and Valley which are insufficiently significant. This year we plan to increase the capacity of our accelerator.

4. Now, let’s move to the main point. Here, nobody needs Ukrainian an investor needs to look through a hundred such companies. However, we do not have that many companies to send to the Valley. It is true for any country in eastern Europe. Especially for Russia. (Here is a single issue. Big money in Russia allows companies to visit to a big quantity of people in the Valley. Unfortunately, most of them are trash. As there are not so many projects from other countries and entrepreneurs from eastern Europe are very careful with their money, they need to be 200% convinced in the project. Entrepreneurs do not come there until they have consulted with various experts. When investors look at Russian projects, they expect to see the future Yandex, Mail.ru,or Ostrovok but they see trash. Usually, an investor checks to see if Russian founders move there permanently within 7 months, at a minimum, and if they have not, he will not even meet them. Other investors look at the projects at the seed stage, but he will meet with Russian ones if they have been generating revenue. He will not even look at the crazy ideas of Moscow and Saint Petersburg hipsters. Considering all of this, we decided to embody the strategy which was reinforced with rebuilt infrastructure and we are planning to develop it. So, eastern Europe, not separate countries, but the whole region, is interesting to the Valley. In terms of the number of entrepreneurs who are looking globally, eastern Europe can be compared or possibly even exceed such countries as India and China. In the Valley, there is an opinion that this region can exceed even Western Europe, as it has big markets there and it is possible to build large company. In eastern Europe, they seek to apply the Israeli model - local development for local projects. Over the course of the next year, we will try to organize several activities that should combine several countries of the region and get out with a pool to the Silicon Valley establishment.

5. In accordance with this strategy, we decided to change our approach to our acceleration program and infrastructure. The main modification is that we will refrain from taking trips as a group. We push our portfolio companies to pursue any individual agendas, which renders the value of group trips questionable. I am sure that strong entrepreneurs do not need a babysitter and are willing to do everything by themselves, regularly communicating with our staff remotely or personally. Thus, as of the end of May, we are planning to do the following:
- to rent a flat (not a house, but a flat, as in terms of maintaining residential infrastructure, the flat is better) in a housing estate. Our entrepreneurs can move into this flat in any convenient time.
- to rent a small office or a place in coworking space not far from the flat (sometimes, it is not convenient to meet in a restaurant, as some people prefer to work in a different place then they live).
- to buy (to lease) cars, bikes, and maybe some electric vehicle.
Refraining from deploying to a permanent campus, in favor of a temporary one, gives us some advantages:
- startup is able to come to the Valley at their convenience (the trip may be connected to an active or inactive period on the market, to a conference, or based upon any home circumstances, (to leave in the winter, for example)).
- due to the low cost of such a campus, it is possible to open access to startups from eastern Europe.
- to ensure the partners access to our startups in a single, permanent location.
- to be able to invest into not only Ukrainian startups, but into regional as well.
Thus, our startups will be forced to communicate with their colleagues from countries other than Ukraine.

6. Here are the most difficult and problematic points for the upcoming 6 years. We are gathering all our events into a single pool and within one strategy: all the events will unite the entrepreneurs from different countries on our platform. Some of you are aware that we have the right to carry out the events under the brand of SVOD Europe.
And we are even ready to present a pilot version at iForum. It is rather a tribute to our country and something that we will lean on. I have already mentioned here that we reviewed the attitude to our events and decided to focus on carrying out events in Europe.
As a result, we will carry out SVOD Europe in Berlin, likely in November, which will be our main event of the autumn. The main concept is to build a small bridge between eastern and western Europe, the Valley, and Israel. We will push the entrepreneurs (conference participants) from eastern Europe to global markets through the 3 opposite legs of the bridge, and from the American, western European, and Israeli side (speakers and experts), we will share expertise and the financing of projects. As usual, we will place emphasis on the network, rather than the content. We expect from 300 to 500 participants at this conference, where 50% will be local Germans and other 50% will be guests from Eastern Europe. That is what we plan to do once or twice a year and all other events that we plan to do outside of Ukraine will fall into line with this strategy.

Here are the details: we plan to carry out Tech Bridges under the brand of SVOD Europe as well. Here is a short digression: why do I believe in bridges? When you carry out a big conference, you introduce a guest to 1000s of people, but in fact he does not remember anyone or remembers only those he drank with. When you bring one or several guests, you can make individual agenda and 10-20 people can build relationships with the guest, which increases the chances that there will be further cooperation or partnerships.
At the moment, we have brought 5 guests from Israel to Ukraine. The bridges we plan to launch are as follows:
Israel -> Ukraine
Germany -> Ukraine
USA -> Ukraine
USA -> Germany
Israel -> Germany
The “construction” of such bridges gives us an opportunity to get speakers from the participants for the SVOD Europe conference in Berlin. Such speakers: 1) have been in the region; 2) are familiar with it and can generate much more interesting and useful content; 3) will build up the contacts that they created during previous visit.
We plan to carry out the Tech Networking Party in two more locations - in Berlin and the Valley. Most of our partners support our concept and we have received several proposals for ideological, organizational, and even financial assistance.
The concept for the Berlin event is to gather the entrepreneurs from eastern Europe who are building businesses in western Europe, as well as the entrepreneurs who are the leaders of the community in eastern European countries from the one side and investors and entrepreneurs from Western Europe from the other side in one place, in order to mix them, but not to shake up, and spice it up with guests from USA and Israel.
The concept of the Valley event is almost the same - to gather the offsprings of Eastern Europe who are building up businesses in the Valley, as well as to bring together several leaders of community from Eastern Europe and those investors and leaders of the Valley, who either actively work with these regions or are familiarizing themselves with it.
We will start as it was in Kiev - with several dozen guests. We will invite them personally without using any advertising, starting on the local network, which we will carefully expand.
Startup Crash Test has already started European expansion. We are still working on the strategy, but the main idea is to search for weaknesses in startups, to provide feedback and support, and that the entrepreneurs will regularly present their projects to entrepreneurs, as opposed to investors (for the present moment, once every two months). We are still working for the following cities - Berlin, Munich, Luxembourg, Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow, Tallinn, and Prague. It is true that not all of the cities are from eastern Europe. The idea is to carry out several events independently and to find a local leader to continue the “franchise”. It will be a hit for SVOD Europe and Tech Networking Party visitors. We hope that via Startup Crash Test, we can get access to local community. We will not be able to develop the format of Reverse Pitch and the trite Investor Pitch, as we will have a lot of work to do.
And in order to take advantage of this opportunity, we invite you to attend KSW, iForum, TNP. And if you know someone who is interested in participating in our activities as a financial, organizational or media sponsor, please feel free to give them a link to this article.

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