First step: Idea
An online scheduling tool for hairdressers, a wiki-like platform that fosters discussion of articles, and hand-knit cases for laptops and tablets are among the innovative concepts that won the first round of the 3Challenge contest in Sofia last weekend. The mentorship-led tournament, organised by the Bulgarian entrepreneurship club Start it Smart, took place for the fourth time, and gave the floor to 18 early-stage startups to present their business ideas.
Zornitsa Tomova, main organiser of the event, identified a number of trends during this season’s first stage of 3Challenge. For one, the term “idea” was less about concepts created on a whim; on the contrary, “many of the teams are soon to launch their innovative products,” she said. But “perhaps the most interesting,” was the tendency of the event’s “internationalisation,” Tomova said. 3Challenge took place in English, and was subject of interest to a number of non-Bulgarian startups, which she described as a surprising but positive development for the format. What also seems to have left a lasting impression is the fact that many of the Bulgarian entrepreneurs in the teams are using their international education to create something of value in their home country.
How the programme works
3Challenge consists of three stages – Idea, Seed, and Grow, each of which takes place on one day. Idea was held on 30 March in betahaus | Sofia, and welcomed participants of up to 35 years, who got the chance to make their two-minute pitch to an expert panel of judges. Out of the 18 participants, seven made it to the next round – although the original description of the format allows for six – and they will receive three months of individual mentoring, feedback, and networking sessions with experienced entrepreneurs.
Unlike other pitching events like Startup Weekend Sofia (coming up this weekend, 5-7 April) and betapitch | Sofia (30 May), 3Challenge comprises of three one-day events that stretch over several months, thus giving entrepreneurs the time and experience to grow their concept into an operating business. In fact, this isthe first time that the team will give startupsonly three instead of six months to develop before they compete at the Seed stage, according to Tomova. “We expect them to develop twice as fast as the scene keeps growing and there is no time to waste. We believe that some teams will show amazing results [in the next stage], while others will have to change their business models, and third will, naturally, drop out.”
The winners of the Idea stage Photo Credit: 3ChallengeThe organisers are aware that failure is highly probable at such an early stage of development, which is why, from last season on, they have a practice of opening the application window once more before the Seed stage. As a result, the seven winners of this season’s Idea will be joined by an additional few, more advanced startups with a developed product, business plan and strategy. At the end of the second one-day event, only three teams will be chosen to continue on to the final Grow stage.
The winners of Idea
Albiza is a wiki-like platform, which stimulates discourse around various articles, and is developed by a team of two with teaching experience.
KOKI is a prediction tool for companies, which would enable employees to rate the probability success of ongoing and upcoming projects. The product is still in a very early stage of development by a team of four – a developer, an expert on prediction metrics and another two – on gamification.
Snug Essentials, on the other hand, are a team of three who produce hand-knit cases for laptops and tablets, among others. They go by the motto “Engaging grannies… to clothe your laptop”, and aim to employ Bulgarian elderly women at competitive prices.
For the keen bikers out there, there’s re:Cycle – an online and offline store for customised bicycles. Designed for your height, weight, needs, and most of all – taste.
As for those with hairdressing salons and the need for easy time management, Schedule.bg offers a platform to help them keep an overview of their appointments and free slots. It will also allow customers to make their bookings online.
Another web platform, Testagenti.com, focuses on usability and user experience testing for websites, while Social 365 is interested in developing an intranet social platform for businesses.
In the next three months, these startups will learn more about customer development, business modeling, and lean, among others, and will present their progress at the end of June. Stay tuned!