Vitosha ACCELERATE is our brand-new acceleration program, with deep hands-on support by our partner team and a global pool of 50+ top mentors, two simple investment sizes, and a tailored approach to program selection, participation, and graduation. For the main details, go to Vitosha ACCELERATE, where you can find the full overview of the offering, and the online application process. Below is a summary of the most important questions we got asked in our last Virtual Open Hours session on November 13.
Max Gurvits, Partner at Vitosha - Virtual Open Hours session on November 13
What’s the TL;DR on Vitosha ACCELERATE and how does your program look like?
Vitosha ACCELERATE is a year-round rolling accelerator program that will be taking in an average of 10 companies per year. Applications are always-open, and we’ll kick off with a first group of approx. 5 companies in December. The program takes approx. 3 months, with one intensive TRACTION Week at the start and an average of two half-day touchpoints per week afterwards. We’ll aim for as many as possible in-person touchpoints in Sofia as a rule, but as long as Covid-19 is raging, we’ll conduct a majority of the program online. Accepted participants will be offered an equity or convertible-loan term sheet for EUR 25k or EUR 50k. Graduation from the program will be after approx. 3 months, and will be in the form of a personalized graduation day, with pitching, investor Q&A and of course a celebration.
How do I know that you received my application? I didn't get a confirmation when I applied.
If you go to vitosha.vc/accelerate and complete the application, you can only submit it if you answer all the required questions. If you press Submit and get a thank-you-text, this means we received your application and will get back to you shortly.
Do I need a Bulgarian company to get an investment from Vitosha ACCELERATE?
At Vitosha, we invest in businesses that are or will be related to Bulgaria. This means that to get a term sheet from us, you need to either be a Bulgarian legal entity, or another EU legal entity with a Bulgarian business branch.
If we are currently, or in the near future, taking part in another accelerator program, can we join Vitosha ACCELERATE?
Yes, that’s not a problem. Vitosha ACCELERATE applications are open 365 days a year, and we’ll take companies in from the pool of applicants one or two at a time on an ongoing basis year-round.
The questions from your application don't cover all aspects of my startup. Also, you’re not asking for a pitch deck in the application. Is that by design?
Very much so. We care about the problem you’re tackling, and about you as a team. Why are you solving this problem, how are you qualified to do that, and what motivates you. The deck and the pitch is something we’ll be more than happy to work with you on once you join Vitosha ACCELERATE.
In your application, you’re asking for a video. What do you want to see?
We want to see you. A short video is the best way for us to get a feeling for you as a founder or founding team. We don’t care about flashy editing, or a beautiful background. Record a one-minute video with yourself, and preferably as many team members as you have, explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you want to get out of Vitosha ACCELERATE.
What verticals are you interested in?
We don't have a hard definition, and are open to all kinds of scalable product and service concepts, digital and non-digital. We look at the team and the idea, vision. Beyond the usual digital verticals like SaaS or Fintech, we’re happy to see innovations in fashion, food, retail, and beyond.
What stage are you looking for in the startups you select?
We believe the best time to take part in Vitosha ACCELERATE is before you get to product-market fit. That could be with a minimum viable product (MVP) or before that, just at idea stage. Theoretically, the less traction you have, the more opportunities there are to grow faster. But at the same time, traction is an indicator of validation, so if you don’t have the traction yet, you better have something really impressive in terms of vision and prior experience.
Do you accept single founder companies?
We do consider single-founder companies, but in reality it’s rare for a single founder company to get into an accelerator. If you cannot sell your idea to a single prospective co-founder, it’s questionable if you can sell it to anyone at all. So while you can make it into Vitosha ACCELERATE as a single founder, probably the best thing you can do to improve your chances is to find a co-founder before you apply.
What is the support you provide for startups that get selected into Vitosha ACCELERATE?
Our program, beyond the investment part, consists of three important stages. One is TRACTION Week, the kick-off of each cycle, that we hold on average four times each year. During TRACTION Week, you get to know the Vitosha partners, you meet a big part of our mentors, and there are several experiential and fundamental workshops and activities. The second part is what we call Metrics Portfolio; your individual growth plan, full with personalized metrics, that we set up with you during TRACTION Week, and continuously review on a weekly basis throughout the program. And then finally the third is what we consider our biggest asset: our pool of mentors and experts. Throughout the combined experience of the Vitosha partner team, we have access to well over a hundred top-class entrepreneurs, investors, growth specialists. Some 50+ of these are mentors you will be meeting and learning about in any case when you join Vitosha ACCELERATE, and another, bigger number, are mentors we have on call for specific challenges and growth paths the companies are facing. Throughout the program, you will have the opportunity to work with these experienced people continuously.
In case my company gets selected, is the whole team attending Vitosha ACCELERATE, or is participation just for one or two main founders?
We have a flexible approach: we prefer as many as possible relevant team members to attend. If your team is big, most likely one or two at a time is enough, depending on the activity and interaction. If the team is two people, usually it’s good if both participate equally. It really depends on the roles and responsibilities of the team members. No one is here to waste your time, but we do require a laser-sharp focus and availability to follow the program while you’re in it.
Is there a physical presence requirement? How much of my time will taking part in Vitosha ACCELERATE take?
At Vitosha, we try to be as mindful as we can with your founder resources. Our ACCELERATE program is not a 9 to 5 thing for three months. After getting selected, you join the first available TRACTION Week, which is a full-time engagement for a full working week (5 days, and post-Covid-19 we’ll of course do a weekend fun program too;). After that, you can expect an average of two weekly touchpoints with ACCELERATE, each likely lasting at least half a working day. While Vitosha ACCELERATE is not a full-time-attendance program, we will only take teams that are full-time on building their company. If you are full-time in your company, then we will aim to take as little of that precious time as possible for our stuff. If you aren’t; Vitosha ACCELERATE isn’t for you (yet).
How much time on a daily basis does it take to participate in these training sessions?
Vitosha ACCELERATE is not a school curriculum, and our workshops and interactions are about you, and giving you the tools to implement those learnings in your company’s growth. Again, the aim of our program is to give you maximum value while taking as little resources as possible away from your full-time commitment to your company.
Will there be a demo day at the end of the cycle?
We decided to innovate here; instead of the classical demo days, Vitosha ACCELERATE will have graduation days. Think graduation days as a thesis defense, compared to demo days being a high-school musical. Each graduation day will be for one, two, or maximum three companies at a time, with invite-only guests relevant to that company, from the investor, partner, and other angles. You will pitch, but as in real life, your pitch will be a door opening a thorough discussion, panel-style, about your company, what you have achieved, and where you’re going. We believe this is the best way to wrap up Vitosha ACCELERATE and for you to build meaningful relationships with potential investors and partners that we will invite for you to meet.
If I get selected, and get offered a Vitosha ACCELERATE investment; what I’m allowed to use the funds for?
The investment is supposed to cover the cost during your company’s participation in Vitosha ACCELERATE (free by itself) and the growth path you will go through. Roughly put, it’s supposed to cover your path towards an MVP and a number of experiments related to your startup, as well as the founder's living expenses. The experiments will be decided jointly by you and us, and usually involve getting first customers, getting market feedback and continuous modification of the product or service. All expenses from our investment must be business-related; paying off an old debt, or buying a car, or going on a lavish holiday are not considered such.
Is Vitosha follow-on investing after the end of the ACCELERATE program?
We definitely can follow-on invest in Vitosha ACCELERATE graduates, and we expect we will in some. We don't have a ratio, but if you completed Vitosha ACCELERATE, and you have good growth numbers, and other investors (from our network or not) are interested, it’s likely we’ll offer another check too.
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