After three intense days, the first-ever (online) camp of our new accelerator program Beyond Beta has officially come to an end. On October 20-22, what we deem to be the most promising and up-and-coming Danish startups gathered in front of their computer screens to participate in Camp #1.
The ultimate goal for these three days was to ensure that the startups understand the how-tos of achieving product-market fit, scaling and raising investment better than when they first (virtually) arrived.
Some startups have participated in several other accelerator programs, whereas some are experiencing it for the first time. For Serkawt Khola, founder and CEO at EvoPlexus Medics, a MedTech/HealthTech startup focusing on the application of innovative solutions in the healthcare and precision medicine fields, Beyond Beta is the first program they applied and got accepted into:
“We have not applied for any other programs before. But after only a few days and it’s first (although fully online) camp, Beyond Beta has already shown us the value and importance of being part of such a program.” (Serkawt, EvoPlexus Medics)
When closing down their computers on the last day, the startups had deep-dived into the content from the Pre-Accelerator (e.g. how to obtain product-market-fit) and new workshops (e.g. design thinking), met potential business partners and customers as well as participated in 1:1 mentor sessions.
“We have seen a really promising batch of startups with very committed founders. We are eager to get to know them even better when we now move into the next phase of direct 1:1 mentoring and sparring,” says Mads Løntoft, Head of Acceleration at Accelerace and a Beyond Beta mentor.
A common challenge: nailing the product-market fit
Considering that the startups have different ideas, business models and are at different stages, their challenges and needs differ. What we have learned over the years, however, is that one challenge many of them have in common is how to achieve product-market fit. The Beachhead and Value Proposition workshops are therefore highly appreciated amongst many startups, and Camp #1 was no exception.
Robin Eriksson is the co-founder of Cogo, an app gathering all shared mobility operators such as Donkey Republic, GreenMobility and Voi. After launching their MVP app, their current challenge is identifying and reaching the people that are desperate for their solution:
“We’re now talking to investors about our first financing round to improve our product and scale in Sweden and Denmark. One of the metrics they are looking at is user growth and retention, and the workshops for beachhead and value proposition really helps us to identify who our early users are, and how we can reach them.” (Robin, Cogo)
Focus is the gateway to success and the two workshops teach the startups which customers to focus on, understanding why and how to position themselves. This brought clarity to Per Damgaard Husted, co-founder of Cognifirm, a personal intelligent process assistant that minimizes the time you use on ad hoc processes and tasks. In a world consisting of millions of choices to make and roads to take, he was reminded of the importance of evaluating and prioritizing:
“The most important thing we learned was how to work with the concept of ‘beachhead’. As a startup, there are so many things you can do, and it is so important to focus on what to do, so you can say no to the things we should not do. As an example, we got invited to [another] startup program, and we will decline the invitation because participating in it will not bring us closer to our goals. A week ago, we would most likely have accepted the invite.” (Per, Cognifirm)
A backstage pass to how to get funding
Few investors are transparent about how their funds work. That is not our style. During the camp, we presented exactly how our fund Accelerace Invest II works, how we evaluate startups and how we make investment decisions.
To dive even deeper, Anders Kjær, Investment Director at the early-stage VC PreSeed Ventures, paid a visit to talk about the venture capital model, what PreSeed Ventures look for in an early-stage company and how to approach early-stage funding.
As Bibi Blomqvist, co-founder of Cogo, is currently talking to investors and preparing for their first funding round, she greatly appreciated the transparency:
“I loved to get a bit more ‘behind the scene’ and ask dummy questions to the black box of investors.” (Bibi, Cogo)
According to Rasmus Bruus Larsen, CMO and co-founder at Make Influence, a data-driven influencer marketing platform, seeing what is really going on behind the curtains was a highlight:
“VC is a buzzword but a lot of us actually don’t know how they’re structured or how they earn their money. So seeing ‘behind the scenes’ with Accelerace’s Investment Proposal template was really interesting and helped us to understand which boxes to tick off.” (Rasmus, Make Influence)
Learning through a pay-it-forward culture and subject-matter experts
The purpose of the 1:1 mentor sessions is for startups to deep-dive into Funding/Financials, Product Road Map, Team Development, and Growth Hacking/Sales together with subject-matter experts from Accelerace and The Danish Business Hubs. Majbritt Christensen, co-founder of Adoor, a platform for homebuyers that enable direct contact to all interesting homes, appreciated the different skills set of the mentors:
“The competencies of the different mentors were very large”. (Majbritt, Adoor)
With Beyond Beta, we strive to build and foster an active community because we are fond believers in the pay-it-forward culture. During Camp #1, this took form in the Mastermind sessions. Instead of working together, the co-founders were split up into small groups to discuss their current challenges, and share knowledge and experiences with other co-founders.
Two startup founders that found the Mastermind session highly rewarding was Casper Kraken, CEO at Fooducer, a B2B marketplace built on a web platform with integrated matchmaking for cross-border green food sellers in Europe, and Rasmus at Make Influence. Casper believed it created a safe space to openly discuss problems and speeded up his learning process:
“Being able to hear each other’s problems and challenges creates a safe space to share and learn faster than you otherwise would.” (Casper, Fooducer)
Rasmus was matched with two other co-founders with marketplace business models: Frederik Hedelund, co-founder and CEO at Temply, a platform for temp workers and employers, and Andreas Aabo, founder and CEO at Healper, an online booking platform where you are matched with a psychologist that fits your needs. He thought the Mastermind session was “perfect”:
“The Mastermind session was a good match [of startup founders] because we had the same business model and the same problems, but at different stages. It was also good to be split up from your founding team because we are always together and always discussing the same things.” (Rasmus, Make Influence)
Next on the agenda: bi-weekly meetings, cut-offs and Camp #2
Camp #1 is merely the beginning and Camp #2 takes place between December 1-3. Until then, the startups will work individually and have bi-weekly meetings together with their assigned mentors from Accelerace and The Danish Business Hubs, which will help them tailor the program to their individual needs:
“The bi-weekly meetings will allow for a systematic follow-up on the findings and challenges identified during the first camp. It is also a great way for the startups to get to know us better and for us to open up to our network of relevant contacts.” (Mads, Accelerace/Beyond Beta)
Marianne Danling, Project Manager at The Business Hubs (Sydjylland) and Beyond Beta mentor, has supported many startups in their scaling, especially when entering a new market:
“Since 1994, I have been situated in Berlin and with my huge network, I have helped a lot of Danish companies with both financing and market development. As a mentor, the most important factor is to provide the startups with the right analyzing tools, which enable them to evaluate and esteem their scaling possibilities.” (Marianne, Business Hubs/Beyond Beta).
But there is a catch: only the best startups are selected to move on to the next phase of the accelerator. If a startup does not display the right commitment and ability to learn and execute, it will be cut from the program. It is tough but fair because the further the startups get; the more opportunities are unlocked.
Since 2008, Accelerace has helped accelerate 700+ Danish and international startups, including Trustpilot and Templafy, of which over 80% are still active. Accelerace has made 65+ pre-seed investments in startups, who have been through the accelerator program and have started partnerships with industry-leading companies such as the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Arla and Elia. Accelerace is also responsible for the management of NOME (Nordic Mentor Network for Entrepreneurship), an elite Mentoring Network for startups within therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health or industrial biotech.
About Beyond Beta:
Beyond Beta is Denmark’s top-tier accelerator program for promising startups with a demonstrated growth ambition. It is a brand new collaboration between Accelerace, the Danish Business Hubs (under the lead of Copenhagen Business Hub – Erhvervshus Hovedstaden) and Danish Design Center, who have combined their experience of working with 1000+ startups to launch this next evolutionary step of European accelerators. The platform-based approach means that startups can kick-start their journey today by joining the 100% free, online Pre-Accelerator, which can be used as an on-demand toolbox to build for scale or as a first step into the core Accelerator.