Bootstrapped, volunteers and impact. Now Sprint Accelerator!
We just finished Cohort 4 of Now Sprint Accelerator. All teams were selected based on SDGs and impact. We started with 15 teams and ended with 8 pitches. Some teams left as they understood that this was not a sit back and relax show but an interactive and intensive program with homework. Some teams I kicked out as they didn’t take it seriously for whatever reason. My way or the highway. I don’t want to sound harsh but we are all volunteers and our effort and time should be respected. One of the most important things in life for an entrepreneur is empathy and respect. Simple.
Kenya was again very well presented together with Sudan and Palestine. This time finally we had Balkan teams, mostly thanks to Dua Partners Albania. Actually, all partners are doing a great job and it grows every month. The same thing happened with the trainers and the mentors. Growing organically through like-minded people. After 3 programs I could also improve the flow and the process. Thanks to Branka van der Linden, we have now more cohesion between the teams! Some teams have problems with an internet connection or even lacking a good laptop. We aim at early-stage teams, idea stage to MVP, and early growth. Very mixed in many ways and the mix of Africa and Balkans working really well. I still have a hard time involving South-East Asia.
The jury decided:
- Kimplanter, Kenya
- Three Sisters Co., Kenya
- Immortelle Shpk, Albania
- Matogreen Agricultural, Sudan
- AgriChance, Palestine
- Little Explorers, Republic North Macedonia
- Perpetual Motion Squad, Sudan
- A Better World, Palestine
The aim of the program is to help the teams to validate their idea or their actual status and make a step or even steps forward in order to become successful. In some cases, we hope they can go to an accelerator program for equity or even an early-stage investor. Honestly and personally I insist always on bootstrapping and organic growth. I did the same for 35 years and for 13 companies. I prefer paying customers and having full control. Of course, in some cases when hardware is required investments are needed. Banks are great as no involvement in the management but out of reach for the teams we work with. Grants are also great but not an easy road. Investment through Venture Capital is in most cases a good possibility but again the countries we target are not as VC-crowded as we see in Europe or the US.
Now Sprint Accelerator is totally bootstrapped and based on volunteers. All of us. I want to continue this for the online version and I am very proud of our results and the impact we create. I see big organisations like UNDP, not to name one, with huge budgets but not with a better result. I know as I am a mentor and trainer, on a volunteer basis in their accelerator. We also made an offer based on their open request that we of course not got. Not going any further on this topic but I didn't even get an email with the decision or why not. I send an email to understand the status and got a very nasty response back. I was baffled. I might now throw out my window but so be it. The team who is now doing the facilitation I know quite well and I am sure they will do a great job. But it stays very hard for us to get at the table of big organisations who want to listen and maybe help us.
Every challenge is an opportunity so we started a new project, Now Sprint Impact Invest. As the name says, it will be a fund that invests in early-stage startups in the region we work in but not exclusively. We are now working on the products we want to offer, from equity investment to loans to grants. I had a very good talk with Yonca Braeckman from www.impactshakers.com. She also mentioned shared revenue but my problem here is that I see that in most funds the overhead costs are way too high and agreements based on shared revenue also require a lot of control. I always remember Joachim Berendt from Bic Angels who tried to impose a central accounting system so he had control combined with processes like different offers for outsourcing. I found that normal as he invested his money in the teams. When I talked to the teams they didn't like it at all. They preferred to work with friends/family and didn't like the KPİs and processes. What seems logical can be very different in reality. A nice explanation of what Impact Investment is can be seen here: https://youtu.be/jv3oKGUbCPo by https://prowgress.com/. I love their abbreviation standing for: Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community. Couldn’t say it better.
In October the 6th cohort, online, is planned. The 5th cohort in September, but this one will be in-person in Urla, Ion Village, and our first vertical, IoT in Agro 4.0 over 7 days. All info on www.nowsprintaccelerator.com.
Here are the people involved in the 4th Cohort as seen on the image at the top. Many many thanks to all these amazing volunteer friends and of course our Fellow Sprinters!
Trainers: Next to me and there from the start: Branka van der Linden, Ezgi Ada, Karen Stephen, Ferda Tarakcioglu Erdem and Özlem Yalın.
Jury: Noah Nasiali — Kadima , Hale Umul, Esat Asar, Anwar Yahia, and Ariola Memia.
Mentors: Mehmet Gençer, Yağmur Nur Dolek, Valentina Primo, Felix Lee, David Kabata, Ebru Elmas Gürses, Ali Riza Ersoy, Begüm Savaşan, Günce Önür, Sertaç Yakın, Shannon Eastman, Tunjar Asgarlı, Umut İlhan, Selinay Filiz Parlak, Reha Yurdakul, and Ozan Sonmez.
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Co-Founder Now Sprint! Accelerator, Stage-Co, Creative Academie and Urla Coworking