The first ever annual BOLD Awards gala dinner ceremony to announce the 12 category winners will take place April 5 on the campus of H-FARM just outside Venice, Italy. H-FARM is an innovation platform which supports and accelerates the creation of new startup businesses, as well as the digital transformation of more established Italian companies and the education of young people.
Startup accelerators are in most cases profit-driven programmes that accept applications from new companies to attend classes run by a small team of advisers, or maybe receive a one-to-one service. Company founders are expected to have already developed their ideas to at least a business plan stage, and they are provided with seed capital, mentoring and guidance, and events are organised at which they meet potential investors and key contacts in their business sector. This normally takes place over a 3-4 month period in return for equity in the business (usually 5-10%). The accelerator hubs may also offer reduced-rate workspace and access to technology and specialist tools.
H-FARM began in 2005 and has so far invested €27.3M to support the development of over a hundred innovative companies. It has also helped 200 international brands take advantage of opportunities made possible by digital transformation, and educated more than 1.000 students. Structured like a campus, it is currently expanding its facilities from 14,000 sqm of buildings with a 20-hectare park to 42,000 sqm of buildings distributed over 51 hectares of land close to Venice. H-FARM’s Co-founder and Vice Chairman Maurizio Rossi is the Chairperson of this year’s BOLD Awards international judging panel.
We’ve taken a look across Europe at accelerator hubs in nine other countries. We’re not saying these ones are the biggest, and we’re not recommending any of them in preference to others; it’s a cross-section of an important sector that’s helping to develop startups across the whole continent and we’ve highlighted just one hub per country.
UK Founders Factory in London was co-founded by Brent Hoberman (co-founder of LastMinute.com) and Henry Lane Fox in London in 2015. It has so far secured over £100m in funding for 70 startups. It varies from most accelerator hubs because it requires each startup founder to put together their own bespoke plan for up to 6 months of support from a team of mentors and sector specialists. FF provides the startups they take under their wing with £30,000 in exchange for 4%-8% equity. Corporate partners contribute to this initial funding to be able to engage with aspiring innovators in their market sector, and include L’Oreal. Startup founders are also introduced to angel investors and VCs for them to pitch for further investment.
Netherlands High Tech XL in Eindhoven provides 3 month accelerator programmes to startups, plus a €15,000 investment for 8% equity. They also helps corporates to become more entrepreneurial through collaborations with startups and open innovation with external specialists and communities. Thirdly, High Tech XL provides expertise in all areas of visual communications for businesses to communicate more effectively with their clients and other stakeholders, both online and offline.
Germany Startupbootcamp in Berlin specialises in working with startup entrepreneurs in the Smart Transport and Energy sectors. They run three month programmes, working with ten startups at a time, providing funding (€15,000 for 8% equity), mentorship, office space in central Berlin, and access to a global network of corporate partners and investors. Their USP is support from Airbus, Cisco, HERE, Kuehne + Nagel, Mercedes-Benz, SBB Cargo and VINCI, who all provide expertise, market exposure, and access to a network of company professionals that most early-stage smart transportation & energy startups would not be able to otherwise access.
France Station F in Paris claims to be the world’s biggest accelerator campus, providing a whole entrepreneurial ecosystem under one roof. Their Founders Program is one of 30 they provide. Last year, roughly 4,000 startups from over 50 countries applied to join it, from which they accepted approximately 250 startups, 6% of the applicants. It is an in-house program for early-stage companies from all sectors and all countries. Startups that join are required to stay a minimum of 3 months and can send up to 15 employees. The program does not provide investment for equity and startups need to pay for their desks.
Other programs cover specific business and market sectors, such as foodtech, adtech, beauty tech and fashion. Many of the programs exist due to corporate support from established businesses that want to keep a finger on the pulse of possible new breakthroughs and disruptions in their marketplace.
Switzerland Kickstart is an accelerator program delivered through Impact Hub Zurich since it was launched in 2015 by digitalswitzerland. Each year, Kickstart brings around 100 entrepreneurs and innovators from the science and engineering sectors to Switzerland to collaborate with key players on proof-of-concept work, pilot projects and other innovation partnerships. Once selected to take part, the program is free of charge (no fees or equity required). Kickstart provides access to executives and decision-makers at their corporate partners which include Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros and Swisscom, AXA Winterthur, City of Zurich, ETH Zürich, EY, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Mercator Foundation Switzerland, Stäubli, Swisslinx and University of Zurich.
Portugal Lisbon Challenge works on behalf of Beta-i with 15 startups at a time to follow a 10 week program that concludes with an Investment Day pitch to potential investors. It offers all startups that join one of their programs €15,000 for 2% equity, and then a further €55,000 for 5% to the startups that complete the program and receive wider investment backing.
Candidates can apply from anywhere in the world, though their business has to be incorporated in Portugal and company founders have to attend the fulltime 10 week course.
Lisbon Challenge has so far sifted through 4,300 applications to work with 210 startups in more than 20 industry sectors, and over 140 remain active. They have engaged their startups with over 500 mentors and helped them to raise €75M.
Norway Based in Oslo, Startup Lab has been investing in and mentoring tech startups since 2013. They offer 3 month programs and investment of up to 3M Norwegian kroner (around €310,000) for 6% to 8% equity. They ideally develop Norwegian tech startups creating products or services for businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C/D2C). Regardless of whether it’s software, hardware or a combination of these, they want to meet startup founders with global ambitions, and the companies should preferably have launched their product, or have plans to launch within the next six months. The teams accepted on to the program have to physically attend the course in Oslo.
Finland Maria 01 hosts Finland’s next generation of startup tech teams alongside venture capitalists and established companies in an extended ecosystem of know-how, tools and contacts, based in what was originally the first public hospital in Helsinki. These days it gives out a different form of help. It welcomes “the weird, the brave, and the ambitious” as members, and encourages an even wider group of related people to drop in and use its restaurant and bar.
They target scalable startups with global ambitions and an existing product, and receive five applications a week from startups who want to base themselves at Mario 01 for up to three years. They can accommodate over 90 startup teams in their 10,000 sqm of space (so far they have hosted over 700 in total) alongside several VC fund managers who between them have €1.6bn of assets under management.
Sweden Since 2003, Sting (Stockholm Innovation and Growth) has supported hundreds of promising Stockholm-based startups whose combined value exceeds €500 million. Their accelerator program accepts 16 startups per year in the internet or media sectors, and in 2018 Sting won the “Best Accelerator or Incubator in Sweden” prize in the Nordic Startup Awards. They run two accelerator programmes a year, running for four months with 8 startups on each one. Each startup on their programs automatically qualifies for 300,000 Swedish kroner (over €28,000) in exchange for equity. The money comes from around 40 Swedish angel investors through a funding scheme administered by Sting’s own investment company Propel Capital.
The BOLD Awards gala dinner ceremony at the H-FARM campus is now Sold Out. Though you can add your name to our Waiting List if you’re BOLD enough for an evening with our international category winners and sponsors.