StartupAkademia: “We Aim To Increase A Startup’s Chances Of Success.”

Published on:

We spoke to Asen Gyczew, founder the Polish accelerator StartupAkademia, about their educational platform full of tips on how to do business efficiently.

Describe StartupAkademia in 50 words or less.

StartupAkademia is mini-accelerator of startup ideas operating in Poland. We provide a lot of free content for startups (tools, cases, do-it-yourself guides), supervise & advise startups. The aim is to increase their chances of success.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

I’ve worked for more than 10 years in restructuring, improving and setting up businesses. I have been quite successful because I have always treated the company I worked for as if it was my own. So, in a sense, I had the entrepreneur mindset long before I decided to set up my own company. In my case the deciding factor for creating my own company was the demand from customers and the fact that I wanted to create something that would develop beyond me and my limitations.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

My usual day consists of series of meetings with startup founders (2-5 a day). On average a meeting lasts 30-60 minutes. I spend another 2-3 hours supervising the team – what was supposed to be done and what has been achieved, what are the problems, decisions to be made.

On average 1-1.5 hour goes to going through content to be able to support the startups. We have 1-2 presentations and lectures a week in which we explain how to properly startup-up, do market research, sales, manage a startup etc. Every month I devote 4-6 days to write content for our blog / educational platform.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

We have reached some product-market fit (not where we expected but still). The aim for the next few years is to scale and become a factory of startups. We truly believe that the process of developing ideas can be drastically improved in Poland. For us to really make a difference on the market would mean jumping from supervision of 3-4 startups at the same time to 50-100. We also want to reach a higher share of the startup community with our educational platform. Currently 10-15% read us and make use of our advices. We want to reach more than 50% in the next 2 years.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

For the free content we look at our reach, engagement, the number of subscribers and followers. When it comes to startups that we advise and supervise we maximize the percentage of startups in the successful scaling phase. For each and every one of them we have specific set of KPIs (for some it is growth rate, for other generated EBITDA).

We set targets and check them every week to see where we are. We constantly test new things and get rid of inefficiencies (in acquiring customers, operational ones) both in our company as well as in the startups we supervise. To keep the pace we meet with them 1-2 a week.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the network like you imagined it in the beginning?

We did customer pivot to some extent. We thought that our main customers would be startup founders and VCs. Most of the startups we supervise are financed at least partially by a big corporation or private equities so actually we sell the product rather to big corporations and big funds who want to support their investment more actively.

When it comes to our blog / educational platform it is used widely by startup founders & people who want to start a startup. We have already gained customers from outside of Poland through it.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We sell a service so we have low fixed costs and no need for a major investment. We have been financing ourselves from day one and for the time being we do not see the need for external financing.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

The most difficult part is to get product-market fit and to get some brand awareness. That took us 1.5 years. Over the last half a year we got more proposals and requests than in the first period. The next challenge will probably be to scale this business, especially when we compete with free product (i.e. Google Campus) to some extent.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

You have to grow faster than the rest, offer a better value proposition and just do the necessary changes. Why? Because the trees that do not bend when the wind is blowing break.

What do you look for in team members?

We look for smart, hardworking people who don’t to politics but are interested in moving things forward. Cultural fit is very important for us, yet we look for optimal solutions for each and every person. We strive to have a good mix of the needed skills and knowledge. For us team diversity is a crucial strength.

Why would a talent join your team?

We are the place where you learn how to run a business efficiently no matter whether you run a startup or a well-established corporation. We are happy to see that our former employees are recognized as valuable assets by big brands (PwC, Google, EY) and private equities.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

It is always nice to hear somebody speaking highly about us without knowing that we are behind the project. We do a lot of workshops, presentations and it is always nice to see the spark of joy and understanding in the eyes of audience. By far the best feeling is when you see that one of our startups is doing absolutely marvelous. We not only focus on online startups so some of them have nice physical shapes to be admired. Some startups also produce tasteful products.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Speed – this is what you need. Get things done fast and efficient. Remember that your ideas are not kids – they can and sometimes should be killed.



Sharing is caring so please share this post. Thank you!