One of the greatest challenges in company creation is the standstill in the pre-launch phase of a startup – many teams are formed and many ideas developed at hackathons, but these mostly die out with the end of the event. This means even the teams that have developed solid ideas tend to fail as they lack the skills and support needed to make it to the commitment phase. This calls for a link that would pick up promising teams and support them in team-building and commitment. As a response, the EstLat-Accelerate project seeks to tackle these early-phase challenges by introducing a new approach in the region – pre-acceleration. Pre-acceleration programmes are usually designed to support (first-time) entrepreneurs with new ideas who are gearing up to join a full-time acceleration programme or to find other forms of seed investment, but are just not yet ready for it. As such, pre-acceleration programmes focus on the pre-seed stage, taking people from having an initial idea to having a fully formed and committed team and raising the quality of their startups (and thus their chances of survival).
As a cooperation programme that supports company creation, EstLat-Accelerate is very much in line with respective strategies in Estonia and Latvia. Startup Estonia, for example, has set a goal of reaching 1000 Estonian startups by 2020 (from the current 450 startups). Similarly, the Latvian Ministry of Economics has approved an action plan to double the number of Latvian startups within the next 3.5 years (from 240 startups). The proposed project will offer its contribution both in terms of new startups as well as testing out the pre-acceleration model that could be further replicated.
The main aim of EstLat-Accelerate is to prepare and carry out three pre-acceleration programmes that are jointly organised in Tartu and Riga. As such, the project’s objectives are to attract ambitious (first-time) entrepreneurs to the programme and to support them in team-building and idea validation so to prepare high-quality startup teams who are ready for pre-seed financing. On a wider level, EstLat-Accelerate seeks to strengthen the Estonian-Latvian startup ecosystem by using the partners’ strengths to create a better value offer for potential entrepreneurs, thus increasing the attractiveness of the region and supporting the image of the region as a startup hotbed.