Capacity Building for Western Balkan Accelerators
The Goal: Increase Capacity and Enhance Sustainability of Accelerators in the Western Balkans
Under its Small Business initiative, EBRD offers innovative tools to support small and medium-sized enterprises, delivering advice and know-how to early stage companies.
Working with regional accelerators and local advisors, they designed the Star Venture programme to help high-potential early-stage companies know-how, mentorship, and for growth.
In the Western Balkans, the Star Venture programme is funded by Luxembourg –
through the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund (SBIF). Other donors include Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA.
The program was implemented in partnership with identified partner organizations from the region, including accelerators and accelerator-like partners that need support in capacity building. Since 2020, the Star Venture program had started actively supporting the increase of capacities of these partners and their start-up cohorts through advisory services.
However, they realized at the time that most of the focus had been placed on helping companies kick-off growth, while neglecting their development phase. They needed to better equip the accelerators so they can support and help startups and scale-ups be more successful in startup strategy, securing investment and scaling up.
From March till June 2021, the EBRD team worked together with Strategy Tools to design and deliver a Train-the-Trainer program specifically tailored for accelerators. Titled Scale Up Accelerator Coach, the program ran from April to June 2021 and had 12 participants join from accelerators, hubs and ecosystem builders in the Western Balkans.
The Scale Up Accelerator Coach Program was well received by the participants, despite them having different competency levels.
Many of them are now using the canvases and know-how gained from the program in their daily work with startups.
Looking ahead, a wide number of these tools and canvases will be implemented into various accelerator programs, startup and scale up programs across the region. In the process, helping implement a new way of helping grow the ecosystem in the Western Balkans.
“The program opened up my mind to how we can improve our accelerator to further develop it. It opened my eyes to the items I need to focus on in the future, what should be in place to make a long-term plan and how to develop it.” said Vladimir.
“It has really helped me understand our role as accelerators in this scale up process. We’re not just providing the standard templates and technical help, but also there to help with the strategic vision and funding of the startups,” added Arjan.
Europe needs a new scale up paradigm. We have known this for years. Mainland Europe has been falling further and further behind US, UK and China in building and scaling startups. For the Western Balkans, the situation is even more dire.
Fortunately, we now understand even better how to grow startup and scale up ecosystems. Through the research and development at Strategy Tools, we have been able to develop a vast series of visual strategy tools for startups, scale ups, investors and ecosystems. From the Investor Map (beginner level), the Scale Up Map (intermediate level), the Mapping the Deals Map (advanced level) and the Exit Canvas (expert level), we have been able to simplify, synthesize and visualize a lot of complex information into easy-to-use visual canvases. This is a game-changer.
Having applied these tools with venture funds, angel networks, accelerators, ecosystems, national innovation agencies, startups, scale ups and economic development agencies, we have seen first-hand the power of visualizing strategic topics in these fields.
This was the core idea we brought to the EBRD program. Over these weeks we have really dug into advanced level topics in accelerator development and scale ups. We have analyzed cases, worked on complex challenges and applied these tools in practice.
This is not an easy topic. Developing scale up ecosystems, investor readiness and scale up strategies is hard, it is challenging, it is demanding. Yet, the participants have handled the work very, very well.
Next, I look forward to following the participants as they really start putting their new knowledge and tools into action.
“This is a good foundation for anyone working with startups, or even someone looking to build a company themselves. The simple canvases that are intuitive and easy to use, combined with the program itself gives you the flow and structure you need when you’re working with startups.”
ICT Hub Venture