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Startup Wise Girl of the Baltics Shares Her Best Startup Advice

For us at Startup Grind, June is the month we celebrate women in entrepreneurship, female leaders making a difference in their communities and around the globe. Some of them we know, some we read about and admire, while some unfortunately go unnoticed. To honor all of their work, we will dedicate the following weeks to women’s entrepreneurial stories!

The first in this interview series is with Egita Polanska, in charge of Program and Partnerships in SEE at Startup Wise Guys, one of Europe’s leading B2B accelerators.

We had a chance to meet Egita on several occasions in Sarajevo, where she shared her knowledge and experience with the local startup scene. We used one of those occasions to chat with her about our favorite topic — entrepreneurship — and grab some advice for Bosnian founders too.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about working with start-ups?

In short — the best thing is meeting people. And the second one — you never get bored. When you work with startups you always meet new, inspiring people with great (and sometimes also not so great) ideas. You are in constant process of development both professionally and personally. Startups are always seeking new ways to improve existing processes and daily lives, and you get to be part of that. And for me one of the best things is also being part of my team at Startup Wise Guys.

And what would be the hardest thing?

Funny enough, sometimes it’s the same as the best thing — meeting new people and never being bored. It’s a very challenging and demanding environment, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. For me it’s super important to keep the work-fun balance intact.

Can you share with us your 3 best pitching tips?

Remember that you do not have to tell everything about your startup in the pitch. The main goal of the pitch is to spark interest in the investors or anyone to approach you after the pitch and invite for a meeting. Keep it simple and clear, focus on 3 of your strengths you want people to remember. And add some passion — it’s your startup and you have to be excited about it.

How does a start-up know an accelerator is right for them?

Before applying to an accelerator startups should do their homework and research the accelerator — what does it offer, what startups are in the portfolio, what is the focus of the accelerator, what are the statistics? Most importantly, a startup has to evaluate does the accelerator offer match with their goals. And startups should reach out to accelerator alumni to ask for their feedback and insights of the accelerator — would they suggest you to apply.

Do you have a favorite industry to work with? Why?

As Startup Wise Guys we work with B2B SaaS companies, Fintech and Cybersecurity companies. But for me personally, Cybersecurity is a very interesting industry that I feel will become more and more important not only to a very narrow group of people working in the industry, but for the general audience as well. It is something that every one of us should start thinking about, and focus on how to protect our data and assets when most of it is digital.

What are the top 3 factors deciding if a start-up would be accepted into an accelerator?

We look for founders that have experience in the industry, have worked together, have technical skills, and most importantly are coachable and open to feedback. They should have a product or solution with some initial traction or MVP proving that the product is needed by customers. And they should focus on the international market with potential. However, we at Startup Wise Guys have a rule, that we try to meet all the best teams in person to evaluate their fit for the program and our values, and that we will be able to help this team.

Can you share with us some tips on assembling a great team?

Startup team, especially the founding team, should be carefully selected as it’s one of the key factors of the success of the startup. Besides having a team with complementary skills, it’s super important to have the same values shared among the founders. Sometimes founders focus too much on the execution (which is important as well) and they neglect working on team values and culture at an early stage. However, being on the same page with your co-founders on why you are building this company might be one of the most important things.

What is your impression of the Bosnian start up ecosystem so far? Do you have any tips for us?

I have met a lot of good startups and organisations that are really working to bring success to the local ecosystem. Bosnian startup ecosystem has a strong technical background, that helps companies to build great products. And I think it will be growing and expanding in the upcoming years. The tip that I would like to give is that ecosystems and success are created from collaboration. I’ve seen it in my own country (Latvia) and region that most success was when all the organisations joined our forces to create better events and support for entrepreneurs.

Thank you for reading our story!

We are a small team dedicated to the startup community of Sarajevo, who collects entrepreneurial stories for sarajevo.tech and organizes awesome fireside chats and panels within Startup Grind Sarajevo. Stay updated for more events and stories and subscribe here.

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