Business-technology Accelerator UKIM (BAU) was established in 2018 to identify and support the growth and competitiveness of the most promising technology entrepreneurs, startups, spin-offs, and scaleups in R.N. Macedonia. Macedonia’s most prestigious University Ss Cyril and Methodius Skopje, reinforces BAU’s strong technical knowledge and provides access to a unique infrastructure for development. In addition to the university, BAU has three founding partners RSM Macedonia, Crimson Development Foundation, and the Foundation of Prof. D-r Dimitar Stamboliev, with deep roots in investment portfolio management and successful business development.
BAU services are focused on supporting the growth of local innovative startups with a global mindset. For this reason, the accelerator has built a broad network of global partners to improve access and knowledge transfer, enabling startups and scaleups to access the global market. With their investment fund of €533,000 they provide smart investments to the most advance technology-based startups which want to scale globally. Throughout their programs, the accelerator evaluated over 300 teams and startups thus provided various support based on their needs which enabled startups to raise over €2M from their and other sources.
Accelerator Strategy Overview
Since 2018, they have implemented several program formats, all aimed at supporting the development of local innovators, entrepreneurs, and startup teams. Their flagship acceleration program APA equip startups with valuable knowledge for business modeling, penetrating the market, or getting new partnerships and supporting them with expansion.
STARTUPS ELIGIBLE FOR ACCELERATION PROGRAM
Geography: Min. 51% Macedonian ownership
Preferred industries: Technology Agnostic Accelerator
Company stage: Launch (Seed)
Product stage: Prototype, MVP/beta, ready product, first paying customers
Product type: B2B, B2C, B2B2C,
Revenues: Typically yes, but they make exceptions
Duration: 3 months
Participation fee: No
Equity Investment: Yes (based on valuation)
Grant: No (amount with differentiation how much in cash and how much in services)
No of batches per year: 1, September – December
No of startups in a cohort: 6
Q&A with Alex Stamboliev, CEO at Business Accelerator UKIM
What are the 5 most important things you look for in a startup applying to your program?
We pay strong attention to the following aspects:
- An ambitious, innovation-oriented, motivated and committed team with the ability and desire to create value
- An innovative technology-based solution
- Value proposition with a clear competitive advantage
- Regional/ global market potential
- Solid business model
What startups should take into account before applying to your acceleration program?
We are interested in solutions that are in the prototype, MVP, or first paying customers stage, and a dedicated mindset of a full-time team with a clear vision ready to attend 12 intensive weeks of transformation of their innovation into a profitable business combining boot camps, workshops, and 1:1 sessions with mentors.
We are looking for products and services that tackle a real and serious existing problem that can be scaled globally. Primarily we evaluate product innovation level and subsequently the market potential and scalability and repeatability of the value proposition. Then we look at the company traction including financials and we set up company metrics to achieve its mission. Last but not least we explore the experience, capacity, and ambition of the team to adjust to continuous changes and be resilient enough to deal with everything that might come their way.
Can you share some of the red flags that can disqualify a startup from joining your accelerator?
Lack of motivation and coachability is a red flag for us considering further business development as we have their best interest, but that means a lot of hardcore pushing to get them set up, scale, and succeed. This is of utmost importance as during APA program, BAU clients are aligning their core story, deck, and product and making it ready for investors along with an improved business model, by learning from the best experts in the industry with the purpose to upskill them, but also identifying areas for improvement and their capabilities as a team, product, and company as a whole. Additional disqualification from the APA program is the product-market fit, whereas a startup develops a local business model and doesn’t have the potential to transform into a global business in the future. So BAU participants need to be open to a variety of opportunities presented to them so they could continuously improve the business model but also their personal skills and competencies.
What are the most valuable skills that selected startups can develop thanks to your program?
With our due diligence and the diagnostic and action planning tools, we identify the needs and interests before and on the way, defining program structure accordingly. Global and regional industry experts and experienced mentors help our clients overcome specific blocks and challenges. In addition, our team creates a community that lets innovators circle back to the alumni, thus helping them with knowledge sharing, collaborations or finding further investment partners.
The structure of APA program is built over the idea of giving each week a specific topic where the BAU team works with APA startups on expanding their acquaintance concerning the product-market fit, customer acquisition, go-to-market strategy, and fundraising fundamentals, tools, and methodologies to run experiments as well as on tracking KPIs and acquisition channels.
In addition, BAU tackles the startup-corporate collaboration and supports startups to better understand the target market need.
During our 12 weeks program, startups receive customized coaching sessions with BAU industry experts and global mentors in:
- Market, competition, and customers;
- Sales and pricing, and marketing;
- Business model, financial forecasting and management.
How does your accelerator support portfolio companies during and after the program?
BAU is on a mission to support startups in their growth, gaining investment, and entering new markets. Our specialty is match-making and networking to address the needs of our startups for entering the global market and commercialization, not only limited to financial support.
BAU combines a comprehensive program of interactive workshops on APA topics, with and 1 on 1 mentoring sessions weekly. Each startup gets assigned a dedicated person from the BAU team who acts as their relevant key mentor providing tailored support in order to make sure they develop as much as they can during the 12 weeks of intensive work. BAU team organizes varieties of inspirational discussions and continuously prepares participants for the final pitch and funding.
After finishing the program, we engage BAU investees to circle back in our network which is being constantly built. We envision a strong community of innovators and entrepreneurs who are linkages among startups and investors by continuous introduction of global opportunities for startups and scaleups. By building a supportive and cohesive community we trust that our continuous care and the real interest of the startups are met.
What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio?
Here are some startups definitely worth recognition:
- Elevate Global – Machine learning-based autonomous forecasting and analytics which elevate businesses with autonomous time-series forecasting service to help an enterprise select the future best actions.
- Lista – Design platform for Amazon sellers that generates smart product images within minutes
- Sindex – an indie game development studio that will provide an opportunity for people to experience stories through their involvement.
- RelaxifyApp – Science-based mental fitness and well-being psychology app
What key lessons have you learned from projects that didn’t work out the way you expected?
Those are three the most important ones that we want to share with you:
- Team – lack of commitment and delayed time to execute to leverage on the open window of opportunity
- KPI – lack of well-defined milestones and clear expectations and periodical checkpoints to ensure proper implementation
- Adaptation – lack of the ability of the team to change and adjust go-to-market strategy according to the market validation keeping in mind the startup vision
Why, in your opinion, accelerators are becoming more popular nowadays?
Emerging ecosystems for startups and innovation face similar challenges; we have enormous innovation potential, with bright scientific minds, but many ideas remain within the ideation phase. At the same time, there is a significant number of needs that have been unmet from the corporate side where we see the crucial role of the accelerators to help existing companies in digital transformation.
The role of accelerators in the emerging ecosystem for startups and innovation is crucial as we link talents with funding, market opportunities with technology-based ideas, and support the innovators to scale globally. Continuous improvement of the innovation talents’ business skills is the only way to transform their ideas into a profitable business.
BAU support ambitious and dedicated entrepreneurs in growing and scaling their business, by investing and making our time, knowledge, and network available for the most promising entrepreneurs heading up high-growth 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?
BAU is looking into extending our clients’ portfolio into providing digital solutions globally. No particular markets are targeted.
Do you have any predictions about the key trends that will shape the European accelerator scene in the near future?
The impact on the global supply chain as a result of the global pandemic and recent wars creates an environment that will accelerate the digital transformation thus creating new windows of opportunities for innovative, sustainable and profitable ideas.
LINK TO THE INTERVIEW