X Factor Accelerator: Together We Grow
X Factor Accelerator from Veles become a go-to organization in North Macedonia for startups looking for funding and support. In an interview with the X Factor Accelerator team, we talked about their successes and challenges and plans for the future.
X Factor Accelerator is a unique organization. Located in the city of Veles in North Macedonia, the accelerator has slowly, but surely become one of the most supportive organizations providing know-how and finance for startups and entrepreneurs in the country.
X Factor Accelerator was founded in 2018 with the support of the Fund of Innovation and Technology Development (FITD), and a clear goal: to encourage regional entrepreneurship by helping develop the startup scene outside the capital city Skopje. Interestingly, this accelerator was founded both by experienced entrepreneurs and by investors, who gathered their knowledge and practical business experience to motivate local entrepreneurs to strive for more.
With regional development on their mind, the accelerator's management team started a thirty-months project called "Together We Grow," which provides educational and financial support for innovative startup businesses with growth potential. With the support they received from FITD, the team has successfully supported a great number of regional startups and has made 4 investments so far—all this in less than 3 years.
At the end of 2021, they made their latest investment. It seemed like the perfect occasion for us to have a conversation with the X Factor Accelerator managing team on their work so far and their plans for the future.
What would you say is your most significant success so far?
The most considerable success from the start of the work of X Factor Accelerator is the fulfillment of the "Together We Grow" project goals. As 2021 ended, we have spent our entire investment fund. We invested the amount of 400,000 euros in a total of 4 Macedonian startups.
That is a remarkable result—congrats! What is your goal for 2022?
For 2022, we are planning to enter a new development phase by achieving the following three goals:
- Starting the first and only regional innovation hub in the Vardar Planning Region with the support of the Municipality of Veles, domestic contributors, and international donor agencies;
- Providing funds for a new round of investments;
- Continuing strategic support for commercialization and global growth of startups from our portfolio.
This is an excellent plan. We wish you much success in implementing it. Now, you mentioned you invested in startups—in how many precisely and why have you chosen these teams?
So far, we have had three pre-accelerator programs with more than 150 applicants. Through the organization of three Demo Days, the Investment Approval Committee decided to invest 100,000 euros in each of the following startups estimated to have global growth potential. They all have a team and an innovative product at the MVP stage. The investment goal is product validation and commercialization through an appropriate Go-To-Market strategy. Startups that we invested in are:
- Matryoshka - a team that developed an innovative technological process for producing ice cream from wine (Wice). This process disrupts the traditional ice cream industry by creating a new condition of wine consumption.
- Vision Dynamix - an innovative software platform (Dynamix Mapper) for creating 3D maps with greater accuracy and speed than global competitors.
- Brummell - the team created the first electronic jacket for motorcyclists globally. The jacket offers maximum protection for the driver as well as offering an elegant look.
- Konceptiva - the team developed "Coach," an innovative SaaS corporate training platform that will revolutionize the industry for corporate training.
What characteristics are you looking for in startups when investing?
Unlike other Macedonian accelerators, we did not limit ourselves to supporting only IT solutions. In addition to investing in innovative software products, we have attracted startups in other traditional sectors with innovative and global growth potential. These two characteristics, together with the team's capacity and commitment and the potential for rapid market entry and commercialization, are the critical criteria we look at when making an investment decision.
We have been working together for a while now. What type of support from Swiss EP has been the most helpful for you?
The support from the Swiss EP program was huge as we were establishing the accelerator and creating and delivering the pre-accelerator programs. It continued at an even stronger pace after. From making investment decisions through mentoring support, to networking of startup teams with experienced mentors for global expansion, to attracting investors for the next round of investments. We have great gratitude for the cooperation so far, and wish to strengthen it in the next period, especially once we start with the first and only regional innovation hub in the Vardar Planning Region.
It will be our pleasure to continue our collaboration. Thank you very much for taking the time for this exciting conversation.