Wednesday, 25 December 2013 18:59

Startup Access program, Dec 2013

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In December 2013, StartUp Access conducted a two week business incubator program for a select group of 10 startups from Russia. The program’s main goal was to connect each startup with a wide range of mentors, introduce them to Boston/MIT’s entrepreneurial eco-system and its key players, and offer a series of educational lectures on various aspects of business development and entrepreneurship. Kiril Malev from BetHelper, summarized the program as an experience that offers “a tremendous amount of opportunities and broadens your perspective on the direction and future of your own company.”

The first week of the program was dedicated primarily to mentorship sessions, which were conducted in a form of a carousel, where each team had 15 minutes to pitch their idea and get feedback from a mentor and then rotated.  Since each mentor brought his own expertise and background to the table, participants had the opportunity to get feedback and suggestions on various critical aspects of business development: such as marketing, field testing, data analysis, PR, writing a business plan, pitching to investors, Participants particularly appreciated the fact that mentors were very open and honest about delving deeper into the weaknesses of the projects, rather than glossing over them. In addition to numerous tips and innovative advice teams got from each mentor, many were inspired by the deeply personal aspect of the sessions. Hearing from mentors about their own experiences, challenges and successes was an invaluable experience that as one participant said “could never be replicated by hundreds of business articles and case studies”. 

Other notable features of the program included a lecture by Bill Aulet, Director of MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, on Disciplined Entrepreneurship, meeting with Joe Caruso, one of Boston’s top angel investors, visits to MassChallenge and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. One of the culminating events of the incubator, which teams have been actively preparing for, was Demo Night, where each team pitched their idea to Boston’s entrepreneurial community. Over 350 guests were in attendance, including investors from the East Coast. The program concluded with MIT Venture Capital Conference, where three teams (Fairways, RealSpeaker and BetHelper) had the opportunity to present their projects.

Evaluating their overall experience in the incubator program, participants highlighted the following aspects as being the most beneficial: gaining US business contacts, developing a deeper understanding of your company’s direction, and how it can potentially be adapted to the US market, learning how to pitch your idea to investors, immersing yourself into the US business culture and learning how it functions from the inside. Particular teams also made some major breakthroughs: BetHelper discovered a strategy to approach the US market, RealSpeaker made great networking progress, with 200 new connections on LinkedIn, EnterIdeas has made a pivotal shift in direction and is going to start US sales.



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