Accelerating startups – an interview with Start Up Wise Guys

Start Up Wise Guys is a Tallinn-based accelerator program for technology start-ups.

 

How did the idea of starting a business accelerator come about? 

We wanted to provide the huge pool of technical talent in Eastern Europe with an accelerator that understands the culture and the market, and also provides teams with access to global expertise and networks that they would not otherwise be connected to.

Could you briefly describe the founding team and their background?

Mike Reiner, Jon Bradford, and Herty Tammo are the founders of Startup Wise Guys. Mike is the head of Startup Wise Guys. An ex-IBMer with a passion for bright ideas and business model innovation, Mike previously worked in M&A, managing large transformation programs and innovation projects. He is also the strategic advisor and lead coach at the Tehnopol Startup Incubator and mentor at different start-up networks in Europe. Jon is founder of Springboard, Difference Engine, Ignite100 accelerator programs in the UK. Herty is the lead investor of Startup Wise Guys. He is serial entrepreneur and currently owns several companies.

What sort of criteria must a company meet in order to get admitted?

While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for identifying solid teams, we do look at a few key criteria during the selection process. For example, balances of skills within teams, shared drive and work ethic, business model, international outlook.

Do you have governmental subsidy to operate your business accelerator?

We are privately funded through a combination of angel investment and venture capital investment. The firm behind venture capital is supported by the Estonian government.

Do you take equity? If yes, how much funding you can provide?

Startup Wise Guys gives chosen start-ups up to €15 000 investment based on the number of founders. We expect teams to have at least 2 founders. In return we take 8% of equity.

How does the accelerator program look like?

The acceleration cycles focus on three key activities:

Shape

Get your business plan in place. With the help of mentors, training workshops and brain picking, your initial business plan will be revised by you. Think of the details, keep yourself focused, know your target, plan your product.

Build

Development of your product is the main focus during the program. Communicate with potential customers, showcase the product, build it fast, and get feedback to know if you are on the right track.

Sell

The Startup Wise Guys program ends with a Demo Day in Tallinn and in London, where each team presents their business proposition for angel investors and venture capitalists.

How many companies are you selecting in a year?

The program is hosted twice a year and up to 10 new Wise Guys teams are accepted to each cycle of acceleration.

What are the preferred sectors and industries for start-ups admitted to your batch?

We are generally sector agnostic, though we have found a focus on B2B centered start-ups.  Focusing on a sector is something that we are considering for future batches.

What is your value proposition for the admitted companies?

Our primary value is found in the mentor network that we have built in developed markets in the UK and the US.

Where the participating companies are coming from?

While we focus our marketing efforts on Eastern Europe and the Baltics, we are open to ideas and teams from anywhere in the world. In the first batch, we had companies coming from Croatia, Netherlands, Ukraine, the UK and Estonia, naturally. In the second batch, we had teams from Chile, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Estonia.

Which age group are they belong to?

Again, we are open to people in any age but from our experience the teams consists from 2 to 6 persons who are usually between the ages of 20 – 30.

Who are the mentors in the program? Could you please mention a few names?

Our mentor base is really strong and we believe that is one of the strongest arguments why start-ups should be interested in us. We don’t have mentors from just Estonia, but also from the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands. Some are very well-known in the start-up community: Jon Brandford, Alan Moore, Michael Geer, Richard Newton and many others.

How many graduate do you have so far?

We have graduated 15 teams from our first two batches.

What is the estimated failure rate among them?

We anticipate a failure rate of 10-15% in the first two years after the teams exit the accelerator.

Could you name a few companies coming from your business accelerator that you are already proud of?

MonolithVitalFieldsBrandieGamesThese have all built world class technologies in their respective fields. Monolith and VitalFields both received funding after the first batch. BrandieGames has completed the program in the last few weeks, has already acquired paying customers and begun to explore financing options.

How much funding have the alumni received so far approximately?

All together it would be around 500k €.

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About Startup Wise Guys

Founded 2012
Location Estonia, Tallinn
Founders Jon Bradford, Herty Tammo, Mike Reiner
Companies per class 8
Total startup alumni to date 15
Notable Alumni Brandiegames, Monolith, VitalFields, Brickflow

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Disclaimer: This interview was conducted originally by Balazs Szabo for his Msc thesis (Growing global ventures by effective seed acceleration, The opportunities and barriers of business acceleration)

Photos: Startup Wise Guys

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About the author: Estonian World

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