Pre-accelerator

Tech startups with diverse teams go through our 9-weeks pre-accelerator program when they need guidance and support to grow.

Applications will open soon for the 2022 Cohort

About the pre-accelerator

Do you need clear and focused steps forward in the execution of your startup?

Join the StepFWD pre-accelerator to get advice for what to do next, what to do differently, and how to do it better, from people that build startups or are helping startups grow for a living.

Through tailored mentorship, you’ll learn the best steps in launching your business, how to scale (inter)nationally and get guidance throughout the funding process.

Who is it for

Before you spend time reading, do check if the Pre-accelerator is the right fit for you.

Early-stage startups

From a validated idea to first customers

Teams

Diverse teams of at least 2 founders

Solo founders

We do accept solo founders (need to emphasize how you’ll handle your startup needs)

Start building

Don’t know how to start and continue to build your startup

Keep going

Been trying to do it but don’t understand what’s actually going on

Continuous learning

Want to learn how to startup properly and get investable


Mission

We grow the number of diverse startup teams by teaching them “how to” startup properly, facilitating the connection with experienced mentors, and making them investible. We want to make diversity “a real thing” for the ecosystem.

Vision

We believe in an ecosystem where it’s ok to take care of yourself as a founder and to be guided by principles and values all along the way. The StepFWD entrepreneurs will be the living models that support this sustainable way of doing entrepreneurship.

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What you get?

Startup guidance

You’ll have a clear structure for what you need to do next. Also, you’ll learn the dos and don’ts to scale your business (inter)nationally.

Honest feedback

Experienced entrepreneurs will share how they made it. Industry experts will help with any tiny / big problem.

Tailored mentoring

Every week, we and your lead mentor we’ll work on your business and actively connect you to the people you need help from.

Investment readiness

You’ll learn how investors run their ‘business’ and what they look for. Pitching to them will become second nature.

Resources & perks

You’ll have access to a curated list of startup resources and freebies from useful tech solutions.

StepFWD support

You’ll have access to the community whenever you need. Also, every 3 months, we’ll poke around to see your progress and how can we help further.

What you don't get?

Irrelevant theory

We’ve selected the relevant early-stage startup content delivered in a 20% theory and 80% working on your startup format.

Decisions made for you

The StepFWD team and your Lead Mentor will act as your advisors, but you have to make the final call.

Work done for you

Mentors will give feedback on your plans, problems, and working documents. It’s you who has to move your startup forward.

Burnout

We will ALWAYS prioritize taking care of you as a founder to working yourself into exhaustion. Happy founder = (higher chance of) startup success!

What’s StepFWD like?

25% of our alumni have got an investment. Together they raised over 1M Euros.



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"I had no business knowledge before StepFWD and everything I know now about how to properly run a start-up is all due to this amazing program."
Behiye Begum Yuzgulen
CTO at CleverEat
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"I know it sounds cliché but it’s kind of life-changing. Now I am sure that without this program we couldn’t have succeeded."
Cosmin Balaban
CEO at gopostly

Activities Overview

We designed StepFWD with first-time founders in mind – as a journey that takes you through all the topics that are fundamental for a start-up.

Workshops

Get a 360-degree view on the topics related to building a startup: customer and product development, business models, marketing, sales, startup legal mechanics, fundraising, and pitching.

Hands-on Sessions

Startups assemble with 1 mentor into working groups. All startups get 20 minutes to collect feedback on their workshop assignments and learn from the feedback the other startups receive.

1-on-1 with Lead Mentors

Meet with your lead mentor and a StepFWD team member for a 45 min call to talk about last week's progress and set up your next week's plan.

Speed Mentoring

Engage with multiple mentors in back-to-back meetings. You’ll discuss your problems and get feedback from great mentors.

Investor Meetings

Meet with local and international angel investors and VC funds to learn what they look for in your startup and how to prepare for your investment round.

Pitch Practice

Rehearse and improve your pitch with mentors and the StepFWD team. Master the process of building and delivering the perfect presentation at (any) Demo Day.

Roundtables

You’ll discuss some hard topics (going to top accelerators, founders self-care, etc.) with mentors and StepFWD alumni in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Community Sessions

You will participate both in 1-on-1 and group sessions to meet the rest of the participants, alumni from previous years and our community partners.

Demo Day

Mentors, investors, community partners, corporates, press attendees are invited together with the broader community to the final event. Each startup gets to showcase their business in a 5 min pitch.

Lead mentors

Talking with an experienced mentor can help you validate your assumptions and avoid common pitfalls, which cost you both money and time (you don’t have).



Achieve your goals

Lead mentors help you make sure you achieve the goal you set at the beginning of the pre-accelerator. They're there to help you build towards you goals but also break them. As you'll soon learn, sometimes you have to let go of old beliefs to embrace new ones in order to innovate and stay ahead of competitors.

A perfect match

In the first week of the program, we pair each StepFWD startup with a lead mentor. We look for both a professional and a personal match, to make sure you have a smooth, rewarding experience throughout the pre-accelerator.

How does it work?

You get a 30-minutes office hours session with your lead mentor and one of the program managers each week. Use this time to: talk about your last week’s progress, set up the plan for the following week, ask for help from your lead mentor and the program managers.

Your dedicated coach

We believe that a lead mentor is like a sports coach: they “train” you for the match day, but it’s up to you to put in the hard work and perform at your best when the time comes.


Pre-accelerator Schedule

For 9 weeks, you become part of a program that gets your startup into shape, from product to pitching and everything in between. Each week packs a workshop and mentoring sessions focused on specific topics where you get to work with founders who’ve been where you are, plus industry pros who give you their best advice.

A lead mentor will be by your side every step of the way.

The schedule below is subject to small changes.

Week 1: Intro

Monday, 10:00 - 17:00
Program Kickoff (Orientation, elevator pitch practice)
Meet the lead mentors
Thursday, 14:30-18:00
Online tools training with PMs
Speed mentoring practice
Roundtable: Meet the StepFWD Alumni

Week 2: Legal Mechanics & Customer Development

Monday, 10:30 - 18:00
Workshop: Startup legal mechanics with Tudor Stanciu and Paul Babus
Workshop: Customer development with Daniel Andor

Thursday, 10:00 - 16:30
Hands on*: Startup legal mechanics
Hands on*: Customer development
All-hands sessions

Week 3: Business Models & Product Development

Monday, 10:00 - 18:00
Workshop: Business models with Emanuel Martonca
Workshop: Product development with Bulent Duagi and Ciprian Borodescu

Thursday, 10:00 - 16:30
Hands on*: Business models
Hands on*: Product development
All-hands session

Week 4: Sales & Marketing

Monday, 10:00 - 14:00
Workshop: Sales with Mihai Guran
Workshop: Product marketing with Irina Scarlat and Andra Zaharia

Thursday, 10:00 - 16:30
Hands on*: Product marketing
Hands on*: Sales
All-hands session

Week 5: Fundraising & Pitching

Monday, 10:00 - 18:00
Workshop: Fundraising with Mircea Vadan
Workshop: How to pitch with Liviu Cadariu

Thursday, 10:00 - 16:30
Hands on*: Fundraising
Hands on*: How to pitch
All-hands session

Week 6: Break

Week 7: Pitch practice & Speed mentoring

Monday, 10:00 - 17:00
Pitch practice: Refine pitch deck with mentors
Pitch practice with the StepFWD team

Thursday, 11:00 - 18:00
Speed mentoring
All-hands session

Week 8: Pitch practice & Speed mentoring

Monday, 11:00 - 16:30
Roundtable
Speed mentoring
Thursday, 09:30 - 18:00
Pitch practice with the StepFWD team

Pitch practice with mentors
All-hands session

Friday, 11:00 - 18:00

Week 10-12: Break

Week 13: Investor Meetings & Pitch Practice

Monday, 11:00 - 15:00
Pitch practice with mentors
Investor meetings
Roundtable
Thursday, 10:00 - 16:30
Pitch practice with the StepFWD team

Investor meetings
Friday, 13:30 - 18:00
Investor meetings
All-hands session

Week 14: Demo Day

Monday, all day
Pitch practice: Final rehearsal
Demo day

* During hands-on meetings, each startup will have a 20-minutes slot for discussing the assignment with the mentors and can also (optionally) listen to feedback give to other startups from their group.

Applications are closed

Applications for the 2022 Cohort are closed.

Do you have any questions?

Please check out the FAQ section for any questions you might have regarding eligibility criteria, the application process or pre-accelerator program setup.