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The Bulgarian VC Vitosha Venture Partners gathers a cohort for its second acceleration program

Maris Prii, General Partner at Vitosha Venture Partners; acceleration program
Image credit: Maris Prii
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After the end of the first season of Vitosha Venture Partners’ acceleration program that backed 7 early-stage startups with a total of €350K, the Bulgarian VC has now opened the applications for the next Vitosha ACCELERATE program.

With over 50 internationally-renowned business mentors and founders, €30K equity financing, and weekly online and in-person touchpoints, the main goal of the program will be to help the participants find their product-market fit. Early-stage founders with developed MVPs can apply for the program until the 5th of August 2021.

Maris Prii, General Partner at Vitosha Venture Partners, talked with our team to share more details about their next program, explain what are the lessons learned from last year, and how they have adapted the program to better meet the needs of founders. Based in San Francisco, she is also active in the Estonian startup ecosystem and was part of the famous European B2B accelerator Startup Wise Guys.

Insights from a Vitosha Partner

The Recursive: In terms of the structure, what has changed since last year and why?

Maris Prii: I think adjusting and changing the program is something very natural because there are constant iterations and improvements in the technology and markets. It is valuable to see what the feedback is and try to adjust according to it so that we do not accelerate what is not working.

The first change in the structure is that the selection process is pushed earlier. This gives us enough time to ensure that by the start of the program, the selected startups are already in a phase that allows us to transfer the funds to them immediately. Secondly, the focus is now on more mature stage companies which already have a prototype, whereas in the previous program we also accepted teams in the pre-MVP stage. This is not related to revenues, however, and we accept startups in the pre-revenue stage.

Taking place in the span of three months, this season of the program will also be shorter than the previous six-month season. The intent behind this change is that psychologically it gives the perception that there is a deadline to meet. This makes it easier for us and for the teams to push themselves and reach all the goals that we have set together. With this program, the investment amount is a bit lower. This change is based on the learning that in this early stage the amount is sufficient for the initial testing within the program’s scope. From then on, the teams should be ready to raise the next round of investments either from us or from other market players.

Additionally, the previous program focused mainly on the growth of the company, while this time, the focus is wider and covers everything related to go-to-market strategy. The curriculum of the program is based around those topics, and that is why it makes sense for the teams to have a prototype that they can take to the market. The last change is that we reduced the number of participating teams from 7 to 5 with the goal to have more time to focus on each team individually.

Vitosha Partners and the cohort of the first season of the acceleration program
Vitosha Partners and the cohort of the first season of the acceleration program

Besides having a prototype, what other requirements and expectations do you have for the applicants?

We find particularly attractive the teams that have international ambitions and vision to build a global company. In more generic terms, coachability, and the ability to listen and ask questions is something that we would like to see.

In terms of mentoring, will there be something different than the last season of the program?

Overall, the mentoring that we provide to teams will be similar with the small difference that we are now trying to add more self mentoring. This means that the teams will be interacting with each other more and sharing their own experience. We sincerely hope that this program enables us to bring the teams together and bring us together with the teams as well. Since our network is very international, the mentoring will mainly be done through the screen, but for us, there must be a support mechanism for physical interaction.

From your previous experience, what do you believe Bulgarian early-stage founders need the most?

The biggest value for the teams is not the money but instead access to knowledge and network. First-time founders, especially, get to experience what it is like to be an entrepreneur. They have the chance to understand what is the market standard and what are the product expectations to be prepared for their next rounds of fundraising. The startup world is far from traditional, it is very niche and founders need to get acquainted with how term sheets work, what are investment principles, and how to approach investors.

A fast track for market validation

The one-year program consists of 4 cycles with a duration of 3 months. During each cycle, the team of Vitosha ACCELERATE will work with the companies to identify the set of metrics and goals in order to adapt the program to the individual needs of the participants. The teams will then be provided with tailored mentoring and coaching from Vitosha’s network of founders, investors, and business experts. The next phase of the program will be focused on connecting the companies with potential clients and users as well as preparing the founders for their next fundraising rounds.

Vitosha ACCELERATE will conduct graduation presentations in front of investors for each company throughout the year which will be the equivalent of a Demo Day. Each of the 5 companies in the program will be offered a term sheet for €30K in exchange for 8% equity. Additionally, the companies will have the chance to secure a follow-up investment from Vitosha Venture Partners of up to €1M after the end of the acceleration program.

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.