StepFWD is launching applications this month the pre-accelerator program for diverse teams – cohort 2022.  

The program is run in partnership with Google for Startups, Orange Romania, and Algolia, and aims to increase the number of diverse startups by teaching them how to build a startup properly, facilitating connections with experienced mentors, and helping them become investable. Applications are open online at the program’s website until October 2nd, 2022.

Startup founders will participate in workshops and mentoring sessions and will have access to a mentorship network formed by entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals from the local ecosystem. 

The vision of the StepFWD programs is to support a sustainable way of doing entrepreneurship, by encouraging founders to take care of themselves and to be guided by principles and values all along the way.

Who can apply?

The StepFWD pre-Accelerator contributes to the diversity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, advocating for inclusivity and balance in team composition.

The program is aimed at early-stage tech startups looking to grow their business. Applications are open to both teams that have already developed a prototype/validated product idea to those that have reached their first paying customers.

The selection of the 10 startups is made by the StepFWD team together with the lead mentors involved in the program followed by an interview with the team. 

The criteria that are taken into account in the evaluation consist of the experience and track record of the founders, the added value the business brings to the industry it operates in, the traction of the product, the size of the market, and the diversity of the team.

Program development

Between October 24th, 2022, and January 16th, 2023, selected StepFWD pre-accelerator teams will participate in hands-on workshops, mentoring sessions led by entrepreneurs and industry professionals, and have access to both networking opportunities and discussions with local and international investors. 

The 2022 edition of the Pre-Accelerator returns with a longer timeframe and brings separation of targeted content across activities. The first part of the program covers a learning area with topics relevant to early-stage entrepreneurs, including monetization strategy, discovering customer needs, product development, sales, marketing, negotiating an investment, pitch preparation, or legal issues to consider. 

In the second part, teams will receive feedback on their challenges through mentoring sessions and refine their pitch for the final presentation. For the third part, the founders will have facilitated discussion sessions with investors from Romania and the CEE area. 

At the end of StepFWD, the 10 finalist teams will present their business and progress at Demo Day, a celebratory event that will bring together key players in the local and regional technology ecosystem, along with angel investors and investment funds. 

Why StepFWD?

After 3 years of StepFWD, we have been able to contribute to the development of over 30 startups across 13 different industries, with over 25% of them managing to raise at least one round of investment and another quarter moving forward through local and international accelerator programs. 

At the same time, we are proud to have managed to bring diversity to the forefront, with gender balance among participating founders, located in 7 European countries, with the youngest entrepreneur being 21 and the oldest 53.

We couldn’t have gotten here without the help of our community of mentors who have experience building their own startups or are working day to day with tech startups in both the Romanian and international ecosystem. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners at Google for Startups, Orange Romania, and Algolia for joining us in taking forward StepFWD’s mission of helping teams that can generate different approaches and creative solutions through diversity to build a startup properly.”

Liviu Cadariu, Program Director StepFWD

I personally got involved in StepFWD from the beginning as a mentor because I find myself both in the values of the organizing team and in the story of each founder that is selected in the pre-accelerator. 

As an entrepreneur, I believe you need a few values to guide you in everything you do: the courage to face the obstacles that are sure to arise, the confidence in yourself and your team that you can overcome momentary setbacks, the care for team members, customers, partners or investors, the candor in the face of the realities that confront you and often require a mature decision, and the modesty to understand that not everything is in your control, and therefore to keep a mindset of continuous growth – both of yourself and those around you.

For these reasons, Algolia has officially joined the list of partners supporting diversity in entrepreneurship in Romania (and beyond), with StepFWD being just one of the many projects we want to get involved within the coming period.

Ciprian Bordescu, Head of Algolia Romania

Teams interested in participating can apply online on the program’s website until the 2nd of October, 2022.