Setting goals is a pretty easy activity. Startups master it very well as they have no history so they can predict whatever. That is why mentors and people like me insist on validation. It was no different for myself when starting Now Sprint! Accelerator. My goal was to find early-stage teams and push them towards the next level, be it giving up on their idea, make them ready for investment, or my favourite, prepare them for a money-based, international accelerator. Running an international online accelerator would have been a far fetched dream in 2019. Today with all the effects of Covid-19 we were able to put that dream into reality and started our first cohort in June 2020. In January 2021 we already kick-off our 3rd Cohort.
Now I can even share a success story from the first cohort, totally in line with my main goal. See a startup team enter a money/equity-based, international accelerator. No wonder that I am proud and happy as it doesn’t always happen that a goal is reached that fast. Not that I claim that Now Sprint! is the main reason. Modesty is part of me after I learned that arrogance has a very bad taste (we all make mistakes when we are young and ignorant).
Rennie Popcheva-Capri, originating from Varna in Bulgaria, co-founder of Caddie Engineering shares her amazing story. The city Varna was also the first city where Ikea opened a store although it is only the 3rd biggest city in Bulgaria as a sidenote. Rennie signed up for the 1st Now Sprint! in June 2020 with Caddie Engineering. My first impression was very positive when I read the application as it falls right into the SDGs. From the start, she gave a very professional impression and was very motivated to deliver. The result is that the jury has put her in 1st place. She was also the one that was very interested in helping the other participants.
Rennie first wanted to become a designer. That was not what her parents had in mind as they assumed she would not be able to make a living from it. Her mother was a Biology teacher and her father an Engineer. Smart parents. As a result, she chose economics at the University of Economics in Varna, majoring in the Economy of Commerce. She was very ambitious and started already at the age of 20 to work for Procter & Gamble but realized sales were not that inspiring. She felt she was repeating herself all the time. Following she started her 3 year MBA through an affiliate co-partnership program between UE, Varna, and Delaware University in the US, initially designed to teach the Tutors in the University, and not the Students. However, Rennie was so ambitious she got selected for the program as one of the 2 students only nominated to enrol. Rennie then continued in the Sales departments of Nestle and Danone — this time holding Managerial positions. After 10 years in Sales, she decided to go into marketing as it is very close to the things she liked which is the business field combined with creativity and non-conventional thinking. The next years were marked with Innovations and New projects, Rennie won multiple worldwide awards such as Special Award winner at Creative Business Cup in Copenhagen, Winner at the Innovation Challenge at Sheffield University granting her a full EMBA scholarship, TEDx speaker, x 2 Winner at annual Forbes awards, featured in the Evolution Curve book of World Entrepreneurship in 2017, and Winner at Best Ideas from Europe Challenge. That’s a mouthful!
During all these years she could successfully combine two qualities, a creative personality with not so ordinary thinking and her other half that is very organized, analytic, and very target-oriented. As of today, she is missing some more creativity and freaky things like just do it, and let’s take risks, that kind of energy. The more you get to know her the more you feel the restless soul in her.
Rennie spends 16 years in different international corporations, raising 1 kid. For the last 8 years, she had a vision every night, something from somewhere told her she had to help inventors. She had to start a platform, called Embrioo.com to help inventors to reach the other side, the corporations. Help people with ideas. This dilemma, should I listen to this voice in my head or stay in corporate was bugging her for 2 years. Going back and forth between corporate and the desire to start this platform for inventors. This voice was increasing each time. The financial crisis in 2008 gave the whole dilemma a boost as the subsidiary of an American corporation she was working for closed the Bulgarian entity and all employees were sent home with a nice remuneration. No job in the middle of the crisis but thanks to the compensation, she decided to take the risk and start Embrioo.
She started in 2006 on Embrioo.com introducing “open innovation”. There was no other existing platform. The official start was in 2009. People with ideas found the platform very quickly but Rennie had not figured out yet the business model and create connections to corporations. They didn’t want to buy outside ideas. She paused the platform and put her focus on specific projects like Caddie Engineering. She helped inventors to walk the path from just one entry for Patent towards Global Business Success. So less focus on the platform itself.
Caddie Engineering was one of the multiple projects from the platform and see focused her attention on it. Caddie Engineering was founded in 2018 developing air-filtering technology for cabin air in aeroplanes. Top technology that is developed entirely in-house and patented. The acquired technology was fıurther adapted to B2B industrial manufacturers in the food, pharma, etc.
Once Rennie finished the Now Sprint! Accelerator, she applied for to Gothams-Hub71 Accelerator in Abu Dhabi. They offer 120.000 USD for 6% and the possibility of a follow-up investment. Rennie and a part of the team moved to Abu Dhabi to participate in the program. The program has a very practical and straightforward approach, supporting client connections, get in contact with large corporations to increase sales fast, and connect with VCs. Caddie Engineering has finished products and growth through sales is the focus. How it looks now, the whole team and production might move to Abu Dhabi with a legal structure based in Delaware. The longer-term plan is to transfer some of the technical knowledge to specific vertical players in order to grow faster as their solution also involves high-end production. Secondly, create a network of international agents for other markets they want to support themselves. As of today, all R&D is completely in-house, tech patented, IP in-house with a team of 6 people, 3 on business development, and 3 engineers.
Now Sprint! Accelerator focuses on pre-acceleration and the Caddie Engineering story has deployed by the book. Rennie liked very much the very straightforward, quick, fast-moving approach and workshops full of real content. She doesn’t like very fluffy talks, wasting time, or talking about something for an hour that can be explained in 5 minutes. She likes fast as she is a quick learner. She understood fast but Rennie was also very good in execution. She confirms that Now Sprint! helped her in the following steps. The program reconfirmed the structure but also brought the focus back on the critical elements needed for success. Thanks to Now Sprint! Caddie Engineering refined key messages and key content. When you are alone it is hard to find out non-perfections she shares with me. She understands the importance of 1 word. Caddie’s slogan is now absolutely perfect thanks to my input, which definitely showed a big smile on my face. The new slogan now plays a key role to the investors: “ A Future with Zero Emissions”.
Although the program was for free she didn’t doubt the quality. She is a quick jumper. She was attracted by the way Now Sprint! announced the program, checked the content, and applied. Two main triggers: the communication and the fact it was in Turkiye (although online) as she sees a big opportunity in the Turkish market.
As Now Sprint! Accelerator prepares for the next step, whatever that next step is, as it can be very different for each team, be it an Equity-based Accelerator or an Investor. One thing Rennie remembered very well was a discussion on excuses. No investor or customer is interested in excuses. As the startups are lacking in preparation and validation, inventing excuses is a constant issue.
Caddie Engineering and Rennie were the perfect examples of what was aimed with Now Sprint!. We wish this fast-growing startup all the luck and success they deserve and I am sure this is not the end of Rennie’s adventures.