A conference for
Košice’s pioneers

To inspire the community, our pioneers need a big spotlight. Together with 150 visitors, 6 new startups and 10 guest speakers we launched  our first startup conference to do just that.

Prototype: Startup Fair

Organizing our first conference together with our first incubation program wasn’t a piece of cake, but we considered a public pitch to be a great motivation for our startups. At the same time it was a great opportunity to take everything we accomplished and let the community experience it, instead of just reading about it online.

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I was really afraid that Peter would push me to hire some professional speaker, but he agreed that it would be hard to find and outsider that mentally aligned with our experience and intensions. Also I wanted to live through everything we do, so I can find all the rooms for improvement.

I didn’t want to learn any script, so the best thing was to prepare to base the whole program on the context of building Starport.

I introduced myself and Starport to Dalibor Cicman on Startup Weekend where he agreed to meet us for a partnership discussion. When we visited him in GymBeam, he exaplained that to him the Rocket Internet model of startuping looks like something that could work in our region. Since that was a clear point we could discuss for hours, I decided to continue the debate at the conference, where I connected it to competition topic, which is fairly important for early startups to think about.

The second talk was about RAT (Riskiest Assumption Test) model that is supposed to be a better alternative to validation by MVP (Minimum Viable Product). I invited Slavo Tuleya to bring us something new from his travels, because I got to know him few years ago and since then he switched employer like 3 times, somehow ending up in China.

Thanks to my boss from Hagedorn Infosysteme, not only Martin Reents spend the whole second week with us at our camp in Starport, he also agreed to prepare a keynote about Business model and MVP. Besides perfectly distilling the messages for us, he understood and pointed out the similarities between Starport and Ycombinator. This is why I love working with real founders. They just get it.

This picture perfectly reflects the impression we made on our golden partners. Maria from Slovak-American Foundation expressed her amazement with “I have never seen anyone accomplish so much with so little resources...”. On the other hand Štefan from Bestcena.sk, as a right angel investor, challenged us with “Not bad... for the first event...”

I think we got extremely lucky with this combination of partners.

Marketing was always a very vague term in our community, so we like to hear as many opinions as possible to frame it somehow. We don’t know any agency that would take care of marketing for startups, so we invited someone to give us his views from outside. Pali Adamčák from UI42 talked to us about their case studies, so we could try and find something in common with our approaches.

Majo Porvažník is an example of a founder that has a clear picture of what he is doing, for whom and how to pitch it the right way. He presented Sparring’s legal services 3 times during this program and every time it was worth listening to.

After Majo’s presenetation mostly about internal legal setup, Andrej Petrus followed up with advices to set up a relationship outwards, between a startup and an investor. The audience was pretty amazed by the amount of specific data in the presentation, especially for the shares that investors should take from the startup in different rounds. One of the remembered feedbacks was “There was no bullshit, just real numbers!”

Financial projections are a tough topic for early startups. Luckily GymBeam introduced us to CrowdBerry. Mišo Nešpor pretty simply explained that even though they like startups trying project their financial future themselves, they actually do it for the teams themselves. It pretty much makes sense.

Finally we got to the part when startups from our batch could pitch for their first time what they had been working on. We assembled the jury from 2 foreigners and 2 slovak judges.

Martin Reents already knew our startups, so it was interesting to have him see the differences when founders performed on the stage.

Jason Godwin was Peter’s friend with his own entrepreneurship stories, including Čezeta’s retro electric scooter project.

Dano Gašpar came in from Crowdberry as they are currently one of the strongest VCs in Slovakia.

Andrej Petrus was an interesting pick because of the combination of his SLOVCA background and connection to ZAKA family house.

Peter Horník is a guy that was with the Starport from it’s very first day. Over the years he developed an interesting relationship to the concept of startups and for our camp they decided to try a new product based on their experience from entertainment industry.

Kinoflix is a Netflix-like answer to all the trouble you have to go through if you want to buy a right to stream a movie publicly.

Peter’s 11 minutes presentation was also the first one to make us realize that we need to make much more pressure on training the pitches before the live event.

Olga Shebanova wasn’t a founder living in Košice, but we liked the idea of having someone from outside too. Since Peter was already an advisor in her Heathclip project, she was the best fit for our camp.

Her pitch focused on travelling pregnant women and ex-pats that often face trouble in medical emergencies when abroad, because they don’t have their medical records at hand. Healthclip's answer is to offer digitalization and atuomatic translation of the records.

Testissimo’s Ján Čuzy gave us another lesson for our camp’s failed pitch preparations. After 13 minutes he was still on fire and didn't seem to be any close to finishing up, so we had to step in and cut it for him.

Even though the pitch didn’t go as expected, they have done some good work with their lightweight end-2-end software testing tool. After the camp they decided to stop focusing on development and start selling hard, which we considered a progress. We will see how it will work out for them.

Viki Lukáčová joined the program as one of the least confident participants but proved to be one of the most progressive as she was a founder that already invested a lot in her project and failed. She wasn’t very comfortable with her english skills, so she did her homework and, to our pride, really memorized her pitch.

Her Bemyde project focuses on making interior design affordable, enjoyable and timesaving process.

I got introduced to Martin Studenčan because of his role in STEMI startup and it’s connection to my current work in public safety sector. He joined our camp to leverage his experience with company retreats from his Wolfhouse business.

Martin decided to create NextRetreat, so companies that care for their teams’ happiness can find locations equipped with both accomodation and suitable workplace.

Zdenko Vrábel, as one of Peter’s former colleagues, joined our camp to try and build something new while learning about startups. Based on his experience with trouble that comes with code complexity in corporate software projects, he built and algorithm that can crawl through a codebase and visualize all kinds of actionable findings.

Even though they struggle with deciding what their tool will focus on, Zdenko’s team proved to be good at doing their homework, so my bet is that their Unravela will make it through one way or another.

After the pitches, jury got the stage to tell us how they feel about our first 6 teams, the camp, conference and our whole ecosystem's vibe.

Each of the startups got separate feedback and overally we all agreed that we the biggest weakness of our program was the pitch training. When it comes to the region, Martin Reents pointed out that we are missing one critical element in the foundations - angel invetors. That’s where we are going next.

It was unbelievable feeling when we finally came out to Bistro and breathed the fresh air after the last battle of our 6 months-worth work.

We learned a lot about our community and after thorough reviews with startups and participants, we decided what to do next - go lower into the ecosystem and build a functional program for Friends, Family and Fools level. That’s where the biggest potential of our ecosystem dwells.

In the meantime, Startup Fair proved to be a great event for bigger checkpoints in our work and especially a huge opportunity for a quality networking.

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Stanley Mácha

  • 10+ years freelance product design
  • 5+ years Košice startup community
  • founder @ Starport
  • product designer @ Hagedorn Infosysteme
  • ex-product designer @ Groupsolver
Stardust Concepts s.r.o. | Skladná 58, 040 01 Košice-Južné Mesto