Slovakia planted its flag in Wayra Prague last year, and as its startups prepare to leave, they are set to reap the rewards of the accelerator.
After eight months, the first cohort from Prague’s Wayra Academy showcased their endeavours at the inaugural Demo Day last Thursday. All eight startups presented near perfect pitches to a room packed with the Czech Republic’s startup community. The Czechs can’t take all the glory, as seven of the small businesses are from Slovakia.
The night ran similarly to any other startup Demo Day – head honchos, pitches, speakers, and networking. Highlights included a lack of technical glitches that often plague these events (finally!), excellent food, plenty to drink, and a great mix of people, all in the one sexy space that Wayra is famed for.
The pitches were the highlight; they were slick and professional, delivering key messages, key stats, where teams are with the businesses, and what they want. The normally relaxed pitchers were under a lot of pressure from Wayra to impress not just attending investors, but the whole community; they did impress and the Demo Day was a success because of it.
Where are they now?
Each business is exiting at a different stage of their life cycle, but there’s no doubt they are all in a much better position than when they started.
Datamolino scored a half million euro in seed funding before the Demo Day, yet COO Jan Korecky is prouder of something else. “We have been able to grow the team and attract really great people,” he said.
BIG Launcher takes away 350.000 downloads for its Android app, 15.000 licences through B2B partners, and deals in eight countries. Founder Jan Husak also announced more products on the way including BIG Alarm and BIG Keyboard.
WOPPA now has an 80% success rate matching jobseekers through its employment portal, and they are also are about to sign a deal with Klub Zamestnavatelu, the Czech Club of Employers, which will see their extensive network of members become WOPPA customers.
The vision-impaired community is making a lot of noise for founder Tomas Stanik and Remote Assistant, which originally started as a school project. Today, the team are running a private beta and are awaiting the public launch scheduled for March.
Networker’s solution has now been used at over 45 events, and co-founder Viktor Golias is also very proud of the fact that people have found new employment opportunities because of their business.
The Lion Expo Concept Show helped Lion Expo make its headway in to the minds of event organisers from all over the Czech Republic and raised their profile considerably.
Having pivoted from their original idea, Mapilary is almost 100% operational, andbetter still – they have customers eagerly waiting for its arrival.
Josef Vodicka had been working on TrashOut for several years before entering Wayra. He now leaves with TrashOut reporting illegal dumps in 70 countries and a new white label version of the product called Venzeo.
One theme that ran hot throughout the programme was validation; this was impressed upon the teams constantly and its importance is now top of mind as they continue to move forward. In Datamolino’s case, being accepted into Wayra was part of their ongoing validation process, and this was just as important as the fiscal investment made by Wayra. For Mapilary it was not just about the idea or vision but about being brutally honest about what you are trying to achieve, “validate from day one and don’t stop ever!” The validation of the business needs to come from all sides, WOPPA co-founder Katarina Krajcovicova advises, “Always re-check your idea; you need to constantly keep thinking like a customer.”
Teach me Obi-Wan
If you didn’t manage (or didn’t want) to get into an accelerator, here are some pearls of wisdom from the Wayran’s experience:
Datamolino – Don’t expect that someone will make a company out of your startup – don’t expect to have your hand held. Ask and listen to the advice, then work on the product.
TrashOut – Think sustainable! This is actually TrashOut’s key message, and their advice is to push your message at every opportunity.
Remote Assistant – Even to do a great thing, it needs money to exist.
WOPPA – You can start your dreams anytime!
BIG Launcher – There is a huge difference between “creating an app” and “being a company” – we have learnt how to be a company.
Talking with the startups throughout the evening, it became abundantly clear what would be missed most about the experience – each other. Marian Hello (co-founder Mapilary) summed it up without hesitation, “I’m going to miss the people and the atmosphere, and it’s great to get quick feedback from people with similar issues.” The notion of the ‘Wayra Family’ and ‘Wayra Community’ runs hot through the accelerator and has been championed by all and sundry – and why not, creating a support base for your investment is a no-brainer.
Most of these businesses existed in some form or another before Wayra, and how they fare back in the real world is now up to them. The Wayra programme has definitely been a tough one – not only have the founders been trying to build their product and create a business, but the Wayra deal means participating in endless mentorship sessions, workshops, meetings, milestones, reports and events. While at times the team members might have irked at the workload or relevance of some of the events, ultimately the benefit provided by the accelerator seems undeniable – access to a telco giant and all the resources they muster.
One of the big coups for the Prague Academy was the signing of Jarmila Placha as Academy Director. Coming in half way through was never going to be easy, but her extensive experience in marketing and management appears to be a great match for the programme, and future cohorts will get the benefit of her experience from day one. Placha’s vision for future startups at the academy is for them to deliver clear messages and sell them through tangible results. She intends to present a more focussed approach to the Wayra programme for 2014, which includes, “great speakers, a key selection of topics, good legal education, and strong bonds with middle management and mentors.”
Pressure is now on to find the new teams with applications closing on 23 February.