ABC Accelerator is a startups accelerator best known for their 3-month acceleration programs for early to growth-stage startups. Since 2015 when their story began they’ve already helped 12 batches of startups and made an immense impact on the regional startup ecosystem.
In total ABC Accelerator accelerated more than 250+ startups from 30 countries – Viberate, Hotailor and Eligma among them. They’ve helped startups raise 45+ million € and they’ve connected them to 500+ partners and mentors that are in their network.
Their excellent work has been recognized by CESA that named them the best regional accelerator in 2017 and 2018 and we dare say they put Ljubljana on the startup map.
In this exhaustive interview, Grega Potokar, the Co-Founder and CEO of ABC Accelerator, spoiled us with his knowledge and experience! Check it out.
For our readers who haven’t heard of ABC Accelerator before (if there are any) – what’s the one thing people should know about ABC?
As the biggest company accelerator in the region, we help the best international, technology-driven companies reach exponential growth by providing traction, revenue and investments.
We are a hyper-personal, business-oriented accelerator with the aim to produce the next regional unicorns.
Results speak louder than words and all startups should follow this logic.
In the last 15 months, we have raised 5,3M € for our startups and an impressive 3,5M€ A-round at the evaluation of 13M€ for just one startup!
On PODIM there were around 200 startups in the competition, only 10 finalists and 2 of them were ABC startups. This means they were in the top 5%. These are Pablu and Tomappo.
Looking only at the competition for the Slovenian startup of the year among 5 finalists we have one ABC startup, SeaVision and one founder of Ringo Lock, David Arnež, who is an ABC Alumni with a startup Foora and was also a full ABC Team member as a Startup Manager.
Akademija Finance was searching for the best Slovenian business idea and among 10 finalists there were 2 startups from ABC, E-flamingo and SeaVision and again a founder that was part of the ABC acceleration process in the past years.
So yes, in one line, we produce business results!
ABC Accelerator has 12 successful acceleration programs under its belt. That’s quite an impressive number! Tell us what do the most successful startups that attend your programs have in common?
We go through a selection of 2000 startups per year and in the end, only 1,45% are accepted into our portfolio.
Startups must have a team that has a drive and partial ability to execute a global vision, a disruptive solution solving a big problem and an open mind to listen to feedback from the market and pivot towards triple growth every year.
Of course, not all our teams have all of the above ticked, but they all have the potential to check the boxes with the help of our team, partners, entrepreneurs and vast connections.
Our startups are hungry for success and understand how the VC world works, the rest is our job to provide.
What does your acceleration program offer to startups? What are some main advantages of working with a startup accelerator?
Working with the Accelerator means a long term partnership with the aim to grow the company at an exponential rate. We are talking about doubling the revenue every year with the aim of tripling it after the investment. This means a constant focus on building more traction with new business models, followed by revenue and investments. If a company working with us is lacking the knowledge on how to do it, we have different levels of workshops, mentors, entrepreneurs in residence and 1on1 coaching available to jump in where it is needed.
Long term partnership means that we are with you to the end or until our exit. In order to achieve this, we offer access to over 170 VC investors attending our Demo Days, knowledge, industry connections, pilot projects, first big customers and access to capital.
Our partner BTC d.d. Invests around 400k€ into startups per year and other partners around 300k€. They also offer pilot projects and collaborations to startups in order to jumpstart bigger businesses.
So far we have raised tenths of A-rounds for our startups, made 6 bigger exits and one technology acquisition with a mobile giant Guardsquare.
Our acceleration method is tailored to every company in the batch and since we take equity for our work, your success is our success.
What advice would you offer to startups that work with ABC Accelerator? What should they do to stand out among the applicants?
It is important to be honest and to show us, as your future partners and investors, what is really unique about your approach to solving the problems on the market. We are looking for companies that will disrupt and change the way how certain business is done and this is no place to compete with features, better design and more discounts. Focus on the uniqueness and the ability to execute, the rest is easy.
If you send us a pitch deck with a clear business plan and traction, we can have a call in a few days and see how we can collaborate, but if you are looking for an investment to spend it on marketing and new T-shirts, banks are offering great lines of credit.
We are looking for technology-driven companies with a global vision and the potential to grow exponentially that are solving real business problems.
Did you notice any substantial changes in our regional startup ecosystem during the last few years? If so, how do they affect startups that apply to your program?
Yes, the ecosystem is changing dramatically. There is a lot of investment money available and a lot of startups on the market. During the last years, the quantity of startups has risen dramatically but unfortunately, the quality has dropped.
There are more startups who are aiming just to employ a few people and have a steady business, and there is nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t a VC case, where we want to make money on our investment. Finding the startup that is aiming to make it big is harder and this also reflects in our batches. We give a chance to more startups, but make a drastic cut when it comes to accepting them into our portfolio. We accept only 1,45% of startups into our portfolio and give them full access and support. The rest are usually expelled from the batch after a month or two because we see there is no real potential for regional or global growth.
One of your roles at Podim was being a jury member of the Podim Pitching Competition. What was your general impression of the competing startups?
In general, the competition was good and the startups applying had good solutions. On the positive side, there were quite a few startups with teams bigger than 30 people and already established business models, and this is amazing. On the negative side, a lot of startups were lacking focus and we had to dig out the core value they are providing to their customers.
The key here is not to tell us all the brainstorming options of how your company could become the next big thing if, if, if, but to tell us what you are going to do and how you are going to achieve this.
Is there anything that surprised you in a positive way?
I was really surprised by how well the startups were prepared in terms of pitching and structure. It was all super rehearsed. Also, the majority know, we investors make money, so they anticipated the questions about the return on investment and follow on rounds.
Is there anything the competing startups should improve?
Follow-up is king. I was surprised how slow startups followed up and closed on opportunities presented to them. As an attendee of the conference, a startup must understand that after the conference is finished, new priorities populate the calendar and the chance to push the conversation forward with the VC or potential partner lowers.
Follow up quickly, have all the materials prepared and find reasons to engage in the conversations during the conference.
In all your years of working with startups, what’s the most memorable and remarkable moment you’ve been a part of?
There are quite a few. Probably the Chess Universe, a gamified mobile game of chess for beginners and grandmasters, made the biggest wow effect. They were growing a few hundred new downloads per day, but when Netflix announced The Queen’s Gambit, the number of downloads collapsed the servers and made the startup the Top 3 most downloaded Chess game in the world.
The second one was a tech acquisition where a corporate giant Guardsquare came and bought all the tech and IP from our startup… this was quite an experience to be part of.
Any last second advice for the startups out there?
Have a plan and know what you want to achieve. There are a lot of distractions in the startup world and you don’t have to attend every panel discussion there is on the web. Focus on results that will bring you closer to the KPIs that are important to us.
Thank you so much! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ABC Accelerator is a big system and we don’t accelerate only startups.
We work a lot with bigger and smaller companies, corporations or government bodies throughout Europe.
Successful project and special challenges in the past were made with:
BTC, Insurance company Triglav, Telekom Slovenia, Petrol, Enaa.com, Unicredit bank, Abanka, AmCham, Xlab, CEED, Lidl, Knauf Insulation, Skaza plastic, MDS innovative technologies, SmartIS, Slovenian Police, Italian trade agency, Žejn IT solutions, Mik Celje, Nasa, Microsoft and IBM among others.