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Seavus accelerator: how to run a program during the lockdown?

Seavus accelerator aims to support and invest in startups in North Macedonia. In the following interview, we will discover how they do it and how they have managed to organize an acceleration program during the lockdown.

While Seavus accelerator is preparing to work with the third cohort of startups, we will hear how they managed to run their last program in spring 2020.

Seavus Accelerator from Skopje ran its second acceleration program last spring. They have teamed up with the Startup Wise Guys and EFSE Entrepreneurship Academy created an excellent experience for all participating startups. Let's hear how it went from Angela Mitrinovska, Coordinator at Seavus Accelerator.

Swiss EP: Hello, Angela, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. For a start, can you tell us something more about the Seavus Accelerator?

Angela: Hello Swiss EP, it is my pleasure to talk to you. Seavus Accelerator is a part of the Seavus Education and Development Center (SEDC). Before we started the Accelerator in 2019, we had run the Seavus Incubator for a few years. The next logical step was to make things more exciting and go with the Accelerator.

Swiss EP: What are the main activities of the Seavus Accelerator?

Angela: Our main activity is to run acceleration programs. Our goal is to organize it twice a year. So, when we are not running the program, we are doing all the preparatory activities.

Swiss EP: You run two programs by now. Tell us more about your latest program.

Angela: Our first program was up and running in 2019, and the second was organised in the spring of 2020, and it was quite an adventure. Luckily for us, we have teamed up with the Startup Wise Guys and EFSE Entrepreneurship Academy. They helped us run the program online. We have started with the open call in February 2020 for all development-stage startups. We had forty applications, and finally, we selected eight for the acceleration program. Our original idea was to have a mixed program that would be organised online using the SWG platform and courses that they set up for startups, and offline, in live workshops. But, when the crisis hit, we decided to go fully online, and we didn't regret making this choice.

Swiss EP: Was it difficult for the teams to follow the program in these circumstances?

Angela: No, it wasn't. The feedback that we got from the teams is excellent. We were aware that the online program will not be the same as the one held on-premise, and we had decided to make some extra effort to make it more appealing to the teams. For example, we organized meetings for the teams only to meet and talk to each other. The SWG team did a great job with online mentoring and workshops, so teams could learn a lot. And we also utilized our local and international pool of mentors (thank you Swiss EP North Macedonia for your help) who have worked quite extensively with the teams.

Swiss EP: What was the most challenging part of organising such a program online?

Angela: Since the entire program went quite smoothly, there were no significant challenges for us. However, I would like to emphasize one thing - we were all unfortunate that the teams missed the PODIM conference. All teams should have traveled to PODIM to build their network and participate in the conference pitching event. Unfortunately, that was not possible. PODIM moved online, so startups attended it anyway, but they missed the opportunity to physically be at one of the biggest CEE startup conferences.

Swiss EP: Startups had a chance to work with some of the Swiss EP experts during the program, how was that experience?

Angela: Yes, we had that pleasure to have Roland Simon, Neil Cocker, and Rita Katona working with our teams and have 1on1 sessions. They were all excellent. Some startups are in touch with them even after the program, and they are still getting their support.

Swiss EP: The acceleration program ended with a big online Demo Day in May. How it went?

Angela: It went quite good. We had over a hundred attendees on our online Demo day. Besides the audience, our teams were pitching to the Seavus investment board and SWG investment board. No one got the investment yet, but even if the program is over, we are still in close contact with some of the teams, and we will see how the negotiations and support will play out soon.

Swiss EP: What is next for the Seavus Accelerator?

Angela: We are preparing the new program for this fall. We had an open call in September and the program will start in October. We are continuing the collaboration with the SWG and SwissEP teams, and we will have to rerun everything online.

Swiss EP: We wish you a lot of success with your next program. We will be here to help :)

Angela: Thank you! We are counting on you.