We, at The Recursive, have always been passionate about shining a light on the innovation ecosystems in Central and Eastern Europe. With this thought in mind, it’s clear to us that the more we’re able to grow, the bigger impact we can have on the development of the digital economy in the region. However, on top of all usual entrepreneurial challenges, finding a sustainable business model is difficult for most media publishers around the world.
Back in the spring of 2022, it was time for us to make several important decisions for our future and we knew we needed an external perspective from people who have successfully walked the path. Therefore, our founders Irina Obushtarova and Etien Yovchev chose to join the Dare to Scale accelerator program, organized by Endeavor Bulgaria.
Our goal was to explore growth opportunities, connect with mentors from across the Endeavor network, and fine-tune our processes as we were preparing to scale to the next level. And guess what? It was an amazing ride! The mentors inspired us to see our business from a new perspective, and we gained clarity on our growth strategy and organizational priorities.
+++You can apply for the 2023 edition of Dare to Scale until April 30.
Diving into the accelerator experience
Applying for Dare to Scale was a no-brainer for us – we knew we needed to focus on the right growth paths and get rid of distractions. Being more or less first-time founders, we knew it’s time to seek external advice. Although The Recursive was a younger company than the average participant, the program’s selection criteria were right up our alley, as they sought ambitious entrepreneurs with a hunger for growth and give-back mentality.
As part of the application process, we were interviewed by Conno Christou, angel investor and co-founder of native mobile advertising startup Avocarrot, which back in 2016 got acquired by Glispa Global Group. He genuinely tried to understand our business and challenged us to think bigger. Even back then, it didn’t feel like an acceptance interview but more of a mentor-mentee conversation.
Another thing that made an impression on us early on was the dedication of the team of Endeavor Bulgaria to always help, special shout out to Ivo Atanassov, Dare to Scale Accelerator Program Manager. One advice we can give to future participants – be as proactive as possible, this will mostly define how much value you will get out of the program.
Scaling workshops that made us think
The program’s 6 workshops covered all the juicy topics part of an entrepreneur’s growth journey: leadership, product-market fit, fundraising, marketing, and HR. They were led by some of the top names in the Bulgarian startup ecosystem – Vassil Terziev, Svetozar Georgiev (Zarko), Hristo Hristov, Vince Gaydardzhiev, Angel Hadzhiev, and Kalin Radev. We did know them from before but it was still a valuable experience to have structured time with them discussing different scaling topics.
These sessions were full of insights. Usually, the speakers started with a presentation summarizing the many lessons they learned over the years, followed by at least 1 hour available for Q&A where all entrepreneurs could ask questions related to their own challenges.
For example, the go-to-market workshop led by Zarko was really helpful for us – it just managed to cut through all the noise and make us think in a very structured way about customer acquisition during the different stages of our company’s growth.
Mentors with complimentary skills and mindsets
Our individual mentor, Bojidar Neytchev, Partner at PwC, Central and Eastern Europe, brought a completely different perspective to our founding table – his experience with corporate finance was much welcome as we were realizing we needed to think in an increasingly disciplined way about revenue generation, expense management, and budget structuring. We had three sessions with him and he kept on challenging us to adopt a more mathematical approach to our scaling efforts.
We were also introduced to Odysseas Ntotsikas, Founder and Managing Partner at TDG, one of the leading Digital Marketing and Media Groups in the CEE and MENA regions. Thanks to his profound experience in our own industry, he was able to give us very practical advice about our ongoing challenges.
That’s actually quite rare in our region – to be able to find a mentor with industry-specific knowledge. And it’s probably one of Dare to Scale’s biggest advantages compared to other acceleration programs – that Endeavor is able to tap into its big international network and connect you to people that are relevant for your case.
Last but not least, thanks to Dare to Scale we connected with potential customers and collaborators. These connections expanded our horizons and deepened our understanding of the global innovation landscape.
While it’s too early to show any measurable impact on The Recursive growth, we surely rolled up our sleeves and started implementing what we learned during Dare to Scale. We re-evaluated our growth strategy, zoning in on key opportunities and waving goodbye to some distractions.
We also fine-tuned our internal processes to better support our scaling efforts. By defining clear roles and responsibilities, we are certainly in a better position to scale our operations without sacrificing the quality of our work.
Our vision is to keep delivering top-notch storytelling and insights into the innovation ecosystems of Central and Eastern Europe, solidifying our position as the leading media platform in the region and growing the global visibility of the local entrepreneurial communities.
A huge thank you to Endeavor Bulgaria, all of our mentors, and our cohort buddies for their support and inspiration. To all scaling entrepreneurs out there, we highly recommend taking part in the next editions of the Dare to Scale growth accelerator.