Disrupt or die

There is a new accelerator for tech startups in town looking for disruptive potential. Which town? Well, it could even be yours.

Vlad Stan (well known entrepreneur and business angel),  together with Catalina Rusu and Sabin Dima (a team that has previously worked on a number of educational, investment and community facilities aimed at supporting  tech entrepreneurs addressing global markets) founded recently Geekcelerator to help startups with disruptive potential and with great geeks in the team to boost their business through an innovative framework with clear milestones and  experienced entrepreneurs or experts in various fields that work together with the teams as “limited co-founders”.

The tour

At the moment, Geekcelerator is on tour, going through different cities from different countries to look for startups to accelerate. Disrupt or Die is a series of local events of two days of intensive hands-on working sessions plus great networking opportunities, offering a great learning experience, feedback and new ideas to the teams.

The aim of the tour is discovery of technical startup teams with potential to disrupt markets, as well as checking the match between them and the accelerator team. It is a great way for teams to test if the accelerator can really bring them value and if there are compatibilities before getting officially involved and sharing their equity.

At the moment, startups can receive invitations to attend Disrupt or Die only after being recommended by the local community and being carefully pre-selected through interviews. Soon, when the official website will be launched, there will be also the possibility to apply online.

Disrupt or Die Cluj

The tour started from Cluj-Napoca, at CoWork Cluj in the last weekend of July 2012. I had the opportunity to attend it as well and I had a great experience – people were really high-quality and there was plenty of food for thought for my own projects.

Five teams that already have a prototype were invited to Disrupt or Die Cluj (out of 20 recommended and reviewed):

Mira – aiming to disrupt medical rehabilitation services by using Kinect technologies and custom video games designed with the support of doctors to make physical recoveries simple, fast, fun and interactive.
Squirrly – aiming to disrupt publishing  by offering bloggers virtual assistance with a technical tool and gamified approach to make blogging easier and more rewarding.
Askem – aiming to disrupt charity by using biddings to help fans get their questions answered by  VIPs  while supporting financially NGOs favorited by them.
Seedbit – aiming to disrupt events sponsorships by using a matching algorithm between sponsors and event organizers to make sponsoring more transparent, easier and cheaper.
Risktronics – aiming to disrupt the credit market by building a platform with trusted circles of friends that lend and borrow money between themselves in order to have easier access to money and no interest rate.

Some of these founders  are students turning their school competition project into real startups, some are already experienced tech entrepreneurs. Keep an eye on them, as their estimated markets are hundreds and thousands millions euro and they want to be real change makers.

Besides Geekcelerator team, there were also different local and international experts invited to work with the teams on the framework, like Till Ohrmann (co-founder Pirates Summit), Lucian Todea (Founder and CEO soft32.com), Sergiu Biris (Founder Trilulilu.ro), Sergiu Bizau (software geek moving between China, Cambodia, Germany and Romania ).

Participant geeks appreciated:

– working with experts instead of receiving mentoring from an outside point of view (“At other working sessions I attended of accelerators, mentors come and give advice to all the teams from an outside point of view, while at Geekcelerator they actually got engaged first with what each team develops and worked all the time with only one team, being able to give highly valuable feedback and inputs.” Squirrly team)

– learning how to turn their technical product into a real business, by following a roadmap and being challenged with constructive questions (“We got a better vision of our business. Before we were doing what we felt, now we have on paper what we think, much more clear. We worked for over a year technically and we were reluctant to get into the business part so deep. These two intensive working days  gave me more confidence and opened my eyes to the entire process. ” Mira team, “We learned to focus, before we were getting lost in features” SeedBit team, “We have a very technical solution, at this event we really had to think more in depth and validate our previous steps” Risktronics team)

– the networking activities, especially after 7 pm at Drinkcelerator :)

Technical skills of selected teams were impressive: “Technical skills in Eastern Europe are always surprising me. Most of the teams I met here are real pirates, so it was a very good selection process.” Till Ohrmann, co-founder of European Pirates Summit. “In Romania we have people with great technical skills that need help to develop the business skills, which usually lack ” Lucian Todea Soft32.com “I really see a huge potential here in Cluj for technical startups. Hopefully some of you will be billionairs. Imagine how this city will be if these teams succeed.” Vlad Stan, co-founder Geekcelerator.

Disrupt or Die Cluj on Storify here and infographic here.

Next steps

Future events of Disrupt or Die are planned for Timisoara, Iasi, Bucuresti, Cologne. If you would like Geekcelerator to come to your city as well, the team is open to suggestions. Oh and if you are a local blogger interested to attend one of these next events, please get in touch with me.

After the tour, some startups get invited to a few weeks  of pre-accelerator for customized interactions (of which you can think of as “dating” before both parts commit to a “relationship”)and in the end 10 teams are invited into the accelerator, working for 3 months in Bucharest and then being taken to Silicon Valley to raise funding.