Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Start up Road Trip Seeking Fresh Ideas

This month marks the launch of Chance Academy.  Chance Academy is a startup accelerator located in Zabłocie part of Krakow.  It is organized by Rafal Han, a investor and mentor,  and Marek Wierzbicki, an organizer of Hive 53 and TedxKrakow.  Recently, I sat down with Marek and had a chat about his project and the Startup Ecosystem of Krakow.  

What is Chance Academy all about?

It is an accelerator based in Krakow. We are looking for the best talents of the Central-Eastern European region.  For the 1st Stage, we are going on a road trip in a van making stops in Berlin, Rzeszow, Gdansk, Poznań and Wroclaw (its not one trip but a few over 2 months).  For two months we will be organizing meet-ups and watching presentations of startup ideas.  We will also be offering office hours where startups can come to us and get some mentoring.  From the trips, we will choose 10 startup ideas and work with them and helping them to fine tune their ideas.  
For the 2nd stage, we will choose 10 of the ideas and invite them to come to Krakow.  Here in Krakow, we will be working in a co-working space where the Academy will help the chosen 10 work towards a pitch-worthy presentation. This will last about a week.  There will be mentoring sessions, meetings with investors, and strategy sessions with experts.  
From the 10 ideas, 5 will be chosen for the 3rd stage, which will be the actual  Academy.  The projected starting time is in the beginnig of November.  The Academy will work with the chosen 5 to help them fine tune their ideas and pitches so they will be able to make a solid presentation to investors.  The benefit of the program is that there will be a team of experienced mentors and investors working with the candidates as well as access to a pre-existing network of investors and incubators.   The program is projected to last anywhere from 3-6 months.  The focus of raising funds and trying to get into incubators and other accelerators will be on the top of every teams priority.  At the end of the Academy, each team should have a perfectly thought through presentation to get them through the seed round.  

This sounds amazing and looks like you have put much thought and planning into this.  What do you need now?

We are looking for talent, ideas and funding.  

Where is this coworking space?

We will be working in our new space in Zabłocie located at ul. Ślusarska 9/28 Kraków, Poland.  

Is this a one-off operation?

No, we are planning to run this Academy twice a year. 

How do you feel about the state of the Krakow startup ecosystem today?

Generally, I am satisfied with the development.  This has been going on for the last 2-3 years.  More and more university students are leaving school wanting to start their own projects.  And there are more and more support from the business community.  So far, we are quite proud of Estimote who just graduated the prestigious YCombinator accelerator in Silicon Valley.  

Do you have any concerns?

Things are going well right now, but I would like there to be a big success story from Poland.  Estimote is a good candidate at the moment.  We would like more and more people, students and professionals to share more of their ideas.  More young entrepreneurs need to think globally, not just locally.  We neeed to find ways to get more investors and VC's into the Krakow network.

Thank you, Marek. Good Luck with Chance Academy.   

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