One of the greatest challenges in company creation is the standstill in the pre-launch phase of a startup – many teams are formed and many ideas developed at hackathons, but these mostly die out with the end of the event. This means even the teams that have developed solid ideas tend to fail as they lack the skills and support needed to make it to the commitment phase. This calls for a link that would pick up promising teams and support them in team-building and commitment.
As a response, the EstLat-Accelerate project seeks to tackle these early-phase challenges by introducing a new approach in the region – pre-acceleration. Pre-acceleration programmes are usually designed to support (first-time) entrepreneurs with new ideas who are gearing up to join a full-time acceleration programme or to find other forms of seed investment, but are just not yet ready for it. As such, pre-acceleration programmes focus on the pre-seed stage, taking people from having an initial idea to having a fully formed and committed team and raising the quality of their startups (and thus their chances of survival).
The main aim of EstLat-Accelerate is to prepare and carry out three pre-acceleration programs that are jointly organized in Tartu and Riga. Each round of pre-acceleration takes about four months and has a specific ICT focus that varies from program to program. The participants will form (cross-border) teams with complementary skills during the first phase of the program or apply with an already existing team, followed by developing their initial idea concepts into technically and commercially feasible business ideas and graduating from the program. As such, the project’s objectives are to attract ambitious (first-time) entrepreneurs to the program and to support them in team-building and idea validation so to prepare high-quality startup teams who are ready for pre-seed financing.
Each round of the pre-acceleration program has three distinct phases – hackathons, mentoring and graduation. The hackathon phase, starting with ideation workshops for idea improvement, is designed to encourage cross-border team creation and to single out the most promising ideas. The teams with the biggest entrepreneurship potential are admitted to the mentoring program, which is a series of individual meetings and joint events with highly experienced entrepreneurs and business coaches. After getting feedback on their business ideas and advancing their business models with the help of mentors, the startup teams graduate from the program by pitching their work to potential investors at graduation days.
The EstLat-Accelerate project will be realized by three Estonian and two Latvian partners:
- Baltic Innovation Agency – project management, overall coordination, monitoring and analysis
- TechHub Riga – coordinating the pre-acceleration programs and communication
- University of Tartu – carrying out the mentoring programs in Estonia
- Garage48 – organizing ideation workshops and hackathons in Estonia and Latvia
- Latvian Startup Association – carrying out the mentoring programs in Latvia
Program: Interreg Estonia-Latvia
Project: EstLat-Accelerate (Pre-accelerator program for boosting Estonian-Latvian start-ups)
Duration: 1 May 2017 – 28 February 2019
Total ERDF funding: 454,920 EUR