Possibly the hardest task for a future entrepreneur is finding a way to turn one idea into a profitable business. Right before stepping onto that quest of trial and error, you’re likely to encounter the following question: how the hell am I supposed to find the starting capital?
In addition to grant programs, crowdfundings and independent funding rounds with angel investors, there is another amazing way to start your business – through startup accelerators. Brace yourself as this cool term has an equally awesome meaning.
Startup accelerators are programs that imply a mixture of mentorship, education, networking, and funding. Usually, the program ends with pitching the idea to the investors and, with any luck – raising the initial capital for the official product launch. These programs are extremely useful for several reasons.
Firstly, you get an opportunity to learn directly from the experts who are there to guide you through every step of the process. Secondly, the dynamic of these programs includes different parties that all could play a part in your startup’s success – from mentors and other participants to investors and partners. This environment enables you to further define, polish up, and adjust your idea, while learning and elevating your skills more effectively than you would by finishing an entrepreneurship online course or reading a couple of business books. The key is in the real experience you gain as a participant. Thirdly, this type of program can potentially be your golden ticket to the entrepreneurial world as it gives you a real opportunity to convince the gathered investors of your startup’s potential.
There is one thing you should keep in mind, though: the competition within the startup accelerator programs can be pretty tough. But it’s best to perceive the fact as a challenge opposed to as an obstacle.
Now that we’ve got you intrigued, allow us to introduce you to 11.me a.k.a. Eleven Ventures, a startup accelerator that helps you turn your startup into business – warp speed!
Eleven Ventures is a perfect fit for small companies that already have a finished product and some early traction. The program was launched in 2012 in Sofia (Bulgaria) as an acceleration and seed program and they have invested €12 million in 115 startups over three years. Initially, they have supported startups at a very early stage but then they’ve noticed that more and more companies applying to the program are at mature stages, with a finished business plan and a designed product they are looking to launch.
So what did the 11.me team do?
They’ve chosen to adapt. They’ve shifted their strategies and opened their doors to startups that already made some of the important business steps and are looking for financial support.
The founding team has relevant experience in various fields, including entrepreneurship and investing. They are devoted to working closely with each company that participates in the program, so you can expect the best support on everything starting from the best HR practices and all the legal stuff, to helping you design your brand and organize your business as effective as possible.
Most importantly – you’ll get to work with mentors that are the perfect match for your business niche. Eleven Ventures have noticed just how ineffective (and even damaging) the one-size-fits-all approach can be, which is why they try real hard to connect you with people from the industry who can actually make a difference for your specific startup. There is no uniformed program for all the applied teams: you’ll participate in customized workshops that you actually need and you’ll be connected to the mentors your business can learn from. The Eleven’s network consists of over 500 mentors and alumni, all of whom they are willing to share their valuable experience and help you out with an actionable piece of advice.
So you’re probably wondering how raising capital works here?
Technically speaking, Eleven Ventures can invest more than €1 million into one startup. But, as the founding team stated – they prefer to start with smaller investments (e.g. around 50k Euros), ideally among other early traction investors, who are independent of the program. They provide a staged investment for a minority equity stake. In exchange for the investment, the Eleven becomes a minority shareholder in each supported company and we’re talking about different equity percentage in each case – somewhere between 6% and 25% for those fully funded.
The first funding round is the amount of money you need to get things going, and the program also supports companies to raise capital in the future. This includes:
Pretty neat, don’t you agree?
As we mentioned, 11.me stopped investing in startups that haven’t started developing their products or services. If you already have a project that needs funding and further guidance, Eleven is the right choice for you. There is no restriction regarding business niches so you can see companies covering various domains besides the IT-focused ones: from digital media, e-commerce, education, and lifestyle to entertainment, productivity, tourism, and other. The only thing that matters is the potential of your business idea to help the world and become scalable.
Basically, there are two ways to get in – with some early traction you’ve already achieved and through referrals.
The application for the program is ongoing and the reviewing process is transparent to all applicants. It is open to anyone around the globe, although a whopping 93.2% percent of the applicants come from Europe. It is not necessary to have a finished business plan upon applying, but it is recommendable as investors will get to see you’ve started figuring out your position on the market and have some sort of a business model in mind.
Finalized applications get reviewed during the first week of every month, so in any case – you’ll wait a maximum of one month to find out whether or not you’ve made it to step two. There are three phases of the program which are pretty standardized:
And why the referrals? Well, Eleven really underlines the importance of a well-connected community and startuppers sticking together. Recommendations matter, as well as the support of those who already managed to build their reputation and stand out in the world of entrepreneurs.
Also, it all takes action in Sofia and startuppers are required to relocate there until the end of the program. This creates a stimulating and unique atmosphere, so when different creative minds collide – the best ideas get born and most successful partnerships are established. You also may be asked to register as a legal entity while you’re in Bulgaria.
Although 11.me cannot offer individual consultations before applying for the program, they are rather active and participate in many relevant events in the industry so you might catch them there. Keep an eye on their event calendar.
There are three important parties which make 11.me such a powerful program: the companies that apply, the mentors, and the investors. All of them play an important role in creating a synergy that helps one business get onto its feet.
If you think you have the precious knowledge to share, you can apply to become a mentor. Currently, there are around 250 mentors from all over the world: USA, UK, Israel, Serbia, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Finland, etc. Talk about a true global village! Most of the existing mentors have an entrepreneurial background (77%), while the remaining ones have relevant experience in analytics and operational work. Again, having referral does help.
And of course, if you’re looking to invest – there is hardly a better place than 11.me. Growing companies need financial support to make their ideas come to life.
To get your creative juices going, check out these three .ME startups that became one of 11 and received the funds for their small businesses: u:Plug (uplug.me), B.Guard (bguard.me), and Tickey Mobile (tickey.me).
We already wrote about u:Plug back in 2015, when this Croatian-Macedonian startup got an amazing financial support of $100 k to develop a next generation power socket with usb plug-ins integrated. Let’s remind ourselves of the words from the co-founder, Ivan Jelušić:
We are extremely happy with the latest round of investment in our company. This both confirms the potential and trust we receive from our backers in the product and the team. We are going to use this round to speedup the time to market, start manufacturing and fuel our sales and marketing strategy. Our goal to reimagine the power outlet for the smart age is so ever strong and we are on the right track to make traditional chargers obsolete.
In the digital era we live in, u:Plug saw an opportunity to make your everyday more convenient. When you have a great idea that makes people’s lives easier or tackles a real problem – it has great potential of getting recognized.
Another awesome idea comes to us from B.Guard. It is a tech-backed product aimed at bicycle lovers. How many times have you got your bike stolen or heard an unfortunate story about someone’s two-wheeled pet getting hijacked? B.Guard has a solution: it is a smart lock connected to your phone via mobile app that keeps your bike safeguard. If a thief ends up being super savvy and manages to get his hands on your bicycle, a GPS tracker will help you hunt him down.
Speaking of smart solutions, Bulgarian startup Tickey Mobile initiated a mini revolution back in 2015 with their smart ticket paying system. Forget about cash, credit cards, and waiting lines as with tickey.me, all you need is your smartphone and you’ll pay for your ticket with one tap. This startup got a total equity funding of over $193k.
Are you wondering whether or not the world really needs your startup? If you’re having second doubts about whether or not you’re fit for Eleven Ventures, we say – just give it a go! The initial application process is very simple and who knows – you could be the next startup creative enough to push existing technology forward, do a complete reform of education, and introduce people to a solution they’ve all been waiting for.
Start developing your product or service, set up a mind-blowing website for your startup, and count on .ME to provide you with the best domain for your online business home!
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