Seeds Growing to Different Heights

Winning a place on an accelerator programme must be up there with one of the biggest milestones in someone’s life. Hundreds of startups applied for 10 places on the current Metro Accelerator for Retail Programme in Berlin, in the hope getting early stage funding and intensive mentoring from a vast array of top business executives. The odds of landing a place on this type of programme are so low, that you’re perhaps more likely to be crushed by a meteor than end up on one of these.

But hold on a minute; given that 90 per cent of startups fail, do accelerators like this one really help companies progress? Is there really much scope for growth, traction and investment after 3 months in this all guns blazing environment? According to the current status of some startups, the forecast is quite sunny, at least in the interim. So what’s the main ingredient preventing them from being another sorry statistic? Madness plays a big part. This is an intensive 2 weeks engagement where teams meet for 15 minutes each with mentors from the Techstars and Metro network who can provide advice and introductions to business experts to build sales or investments. Founders typically build networks and insights that would have taken them two years to develop outside of these touch-points. So every minute of this was arguably worth its weight in gold, and seems to have already paid off.

Mickey Balter is CEO of Israeli startup Oriient, providing the first truly scalable indoor GPS service, which has sparked interest from European hypermarket Real. He said: “Real are interested in piloting our tech, and Metro may also join. Procter and Gamble would also like to test shopper reaction to location-based promotions, and offers based on our technology. I find that the Techstars brand is a great icebreaker when approaching investors, and add that to the credibility booster of partnering with a wholesale leader in the European market like the METRO Group. You may not get investment interest instantly, but you’ll get a meeting and a chance to pitch for sure.”

“I was a little skeptical before the program that such a huge organization can actually work with a startup, but I am delighted to be proven wrong. To be successful in retail, you need one great case study that everyone can follow. I strongly feel we are on our way to getting this.”

Another startup that’s opened the eyes of companies with their innovation is JustSnap, which enables shoppers to be rewarded instantly with their receipts from their mobile device. Ahmet Unver, Co-Founder of the company, will be piloting with Proctor and Gamble, METRO Germany and Henkel. He said: “We had a meeting with Procter and Gamble in Frankfurt, and a solid project offer has come through, so we’re now investigating a solution for that.

“We’ve also had interest from Henkel, who would like to have a discussion about how they can use our platform for promotional purposes. We had a very fruitful meeting with MCC Germany, who would like to use our platform in a similar way to MCC Turkey, so we’re working with their CRM department on how to formalize it.”

METRO Poland are also interested in using Just Snap’s services for their franchising channel, and they have numerous projects going on in their home Turkish market, including a new campaign with Godiva Chocolate, and a possible project with Mondelez.

“It’s a great opportunity for us. Our visibility is high in our local market since the Turkish version of Techcrunch published our story about getting into Techstars, which has created a lot of PR, and we’ve been receiving calls almost everyday about our app.”

Mio Technologies has appealed to companies looking to revolutionise the way they sell refreshments, with their robot vending machine, and are piloting with Swiss Rail and Heineken. Emile Gozelskyte from Lithuania, is COO and said: “We feel great about it. Companies who come to Techstars really want to innovate,and are looking for disruptive tech like our’s. In the near future we’ll launch with one of the biggest beverage companies in the UK’s amusement parks. We have a confirmed project in September with Swiss Rail in one of its main railway stations, together with the biggest vending operator in Europe, Selecta. Five out of the ten biggest FMCG corporations are already linked with Mio and we cannot wait to put this all into action.”

Spanish startup, Epinium, has garnered the attention of several companies. They provide real-time analytics monitoring the quality and price of goods across e-commerce platforms, and managed to impress P&G after pitching to them in Frankfurt recently. CEO Carlos Martinez is a self-confessed pitch lover, and said: “I really liked how our pitch worked at P&G, and afterwards, I was talking to a few of their directors in the market research department. They really liked the solution, and sent us a slide explaining what they need relating to product, value, pricing, marketing and in-store tracking.

Epinium can track all P&G’s product sales across the world. So right now, our goals until the end of the programme are to get P&G as a customer, and win collaborators or partners.”

Their Portuguese neighbours at Sensefinity, who provide IoT tracking solutions for businesses, are also growing throughout the program CEO Orlando Remedios explained: “Being at Techstars Metro has opened up the possibility to have discussions with many industry leaders in the European market, and the chance to communicate with thought-leaders in areas we wouldn’t have reached without the help of the programme.

“We are actively working with several world-leading companies in running our solutions in real business environments, and we’ve even started to discuss the inclusion of our systems in the ongoing planning for the next releases of our customer’s own products.”

Whole Surplus aims to solve the huge global food waste problem to food banks, minimising retailers’ waste, providing data analytics in real-time. CEO Olcay Silahli, from Turkey, feels his company has already progressed significantly, and said: “After the start of the program, we started to work with Metro Turkey and are operating with them just now. With Metro, we found great insights, and it seems like we can create a system integration that may work for a couple of country operations. We implemented new solutions in a very short period of time.

“I feel we are months ahead now compared to where we started, and we’re about to start a project with Real, both with our technology and consultancy on food waste management. I am confident these two projects will open the gates in Germany for Whole Surplus.”

So the seeds definitely seem to be blossoming across the programme. No one can predict the future, but for now, the forecast seems quite bright. Demo Day of course, is just round the corner, and companies are working their socks off to create the best pitch desks possible, as it’s hoped this will be the ultimate investment clincher.