Out of the 200 startups that applied to be part of next batch of Sofia-based seed fund LAUNCHub, 14 teams from seven countries made the cut and were chosen to participate in a three-day event last weekend in Zagreb, Croatia. The Long Weekend offered shortlisted startups mentoring sessions as well as the opportunity to pitch their project to an Investment Committee and to receive up to 200.000 euros after the final selection.
For the sixth edition of the event, six teams from Bulgaria, three from Slovenia, three respectively from Croatia, the Netherlands and Greece, as well as two mixed teams from Austria/Switzerland and Austria/Croatia presented innovative solutions in the digital field, including health tech, GoogleGlass, drones and Bitcoin-related projects. The names of the startups selected to receive investments and mentorship from LAUNCHub will be announced in early August, as the Investment Committee usually releases its decision within a month after the final pitch.
Zagreb: a place with a vibrant and growing startup ecosystem
According to Rumen Iliev, partner at LAUNCHub, around 50 per cent of the founders in which LAUNCHub invests come from other countries than Bulgaria, which led them to organising this event outside of Sofia. “One of LAUNCHub’s partners – Stan [Sirakov], persuaded us that Zagreb has lots of advantages and is probably the best place to start with, since it has all elements of a vibrant and growing startup ecosystem,“ Iliev said.
He added that the decision of choosing Croatia was also reinforced by the presence of incubators such as ZIP, a strong angel network – CRANE, with successful startup founders (Ivan Burazin of Codeanywhere and the team of BellaBeat, to name a few), a university supporting entrepreneurship with a student incubator – VERN, and partners with dedicated startup mentors and tech experts in the region.
“For the first time, the Bulgarian teams had to make the extra effort to participate and they did,” Iliev said. In total, around 85 people -most of them coming for the Mentoring Day- attended the event as the number of guests invited was limited to the most relevant ones.
The shortlisted startups are…
The selection committee looked for “people who have the skills to develop an innovative solution to a big problem and that speak business – not buzzwords,” Iliev said. Hence the following list:
Sofia-based Adloop consists of a global online marketplace designed specifically for wholesale and corporate telecom services based on an efficient buyer- and seller-matching algorithm.
Croatian team Appointment Labs has created Guest Engage, a cross-platform for hoteliers that organises, synchronises and facilitates activity bookings between the hotel, guests and activity providers.
Greek company Blatt Labs has developed Veedeo, a video app for iOS that allows adding animations, colour filters and FX, music and personal messages to be shared on numerous social media.
Part Swiss, part Austrian, CheckYeti is an online marketplace for finding and booking ski and snow sports instructors, ski schools, mountain and ski guides in Europe, and allowing customers to rate their experience.
Sofia-based Flyver is an open-source app framework for drones presenting an integrated ecosystem for development framework, drone simulators and a marketplace.
Bulgarian startup GlassMouse has created a solution offering real-life experience when playing games with Google Glass and an easier computer interaction thanks a technologytracking head and eye movement.
The second Slovenian medtech startup of the list, Kinestica is a medical rehabilitation device company developing and distributing innovative neuro-rehabilitation systems. It also supports bimanual training and brings objective assessment and rehabilitation therapy right to the patient’s home.
Developed in Bulgaria, Playmore is a mobile application that instantly matches nearby players based on their sport preferences and availability. It also features professional sparring partners that users can book and coaches to help players pick up their game.
Created in Bulgaria by Boris Petrov and Joan Karadimov, Tekrar Solutions enables developers of Android applications to one-click convert them to Windows and Windows Phone applications.
Bulgarian startup Tool.domains has developed an all-in-one tool for domain and data research (SEO, social, Whois, content, crawls). To be launched.
Slovenian VIPBIT is building payment processing service solutions for merchants accepting Bitcoins as payment method either online or in retail businesses.
Dutch startup Wonderflow searches hundreds of web sources to provide e-stores with high quality curated text and video-reviews about products they sell to increase conversion.
Austrian-Croatian startup Zizooboats is an online boat rental platform and community that connects boat renters with charters and boat owners worldwide. The solution is digitalising the boat rental industry by building a global digital booking platform and community.
Iliev explained that those 14 startups were selected based on their potential to grow fast and become big (100M or more). “A business that can generate 1-3 millions in 5 years is not a startup and for us the mathematics do not work since the valuation for the ticket of 200.000 euros can go up tothose numbers quite fast, especially if we have trenched the amount and we are doing a follow-on,” he said. The current tractions were taken in consideration as well.
Highlights & impacts
The opportunity to have one-to-one conversations with mentors was indeed among the most important aspects of the event, together with practicing pitching skills as “preparation was the most valuable” according VIPBIT’s Co-founder & CTO Jani Valjavec. Anna Banicevic from Zizooboats told inventures.eu her team appreciated to get LAUNCHub partners’ opinion in private and that they posed very thought-provoking questions. “I got some really great feedback, particularly on our media strategy from Ivo Spiegel and Ivan Brezak,” she said.
Stefan Pinggera, co-founder at CheckYeti.com also qualified the mentoring sessions as the event’s highlights. “The speed-dating style setup where we had the chance to speak to numerous entrepreneurs and investors was the perfect setting to learn and build our network,” he said. “The intense discussions and Q&As that followed each time we presented added valuable new perspectives and helped us improve and streamline our pitch.
“Very positive experience”
Flyver co-founder Anton Gavrailov told inventures.eu there were some immediate direct take-aways, but the biggest, most valuable ideas came from finding patterns in feedback that he received. “You absorb and digest ideas and find common ground for them with your current vision and understanding of business. At that point they become yours and you don’t feel resistant on adopting them,” he said.
Although not all 14 startups will eventually receive investment from LAUNCHub, participants remain enthusiastic. ”Even if we don’t get funded, I think the entire event was a very positive experience for our company: We got introduced to many interesting people and received many positive comments,” Aleš Hribar, CEO and Co-founder of Kinestica told inventures.eu.