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Starta Accelerator’s Panel & Pitch Contest Spotlights International Entrepreneurs

International entrepreneurs who have gained traction for their ventures close to home now have a way to connect with resources in the U.S via Starta Accelerator, a New York-based accelerator dedicated to helping Russian and Eastern European entrepreneurs succeed in the American market. 

On September 8th, Starta Accelerator hosted #NewtoNYC: International Founders Night VC Panel & Pitch Contest, bringing together New York’s entrepreneurial community at the Knotel co-working space located in lower Manhattan. International entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to connect with potential investors via a pitch competition, as well as hear from a panel knowledgeable about international entrepreneurship.

“They have got a lot of initiative; they have a lot of drive…They’re extra-special people… [who] have a higher chance of getting funded,” seasoned angel investor John Ason said about international entrepreneurs who seek resources outside their own country.

Accelerator co-founder Katya Dorozhkina moderated a discussion with three panelists who drew on their experience in the international entrepreneurial community. In addition to Ason, Adam Singolda, founder and CEO Taboola and Chris Brown, GM of NYU Data Future Lab participated on the panel. While focusing on international entrepreneurs, the panelists gave insight about challenges common to all entrepreneurs seeking funding and scaling their ventures.

“I am a believer of accelerators,” Ason said. “Every company I have had a chance to invest that was in an accelerator, I did. In all cases, those companies going through an accelerator raised significant venture capital money.”

But money was not the only resource that Ason considered valuable to entrepreneurs who become members of an accelerator. He also saw the opportunity startup entrepreneurs have to meet a large number of people and expand their contact base. He specifically noted the importance of mentors that an accelerator can help find.

“Meeting mentors, people that want to help you and have an incentive for you to succeed, is a great thing. It is your goal,” concurred Singolda. “If you get accepted, you should do it.”  Singolda went on to share how he raised funds for Taboola that exceeded $160 million---a great achievement that was greatly helped by having an extensive network.  

Moderator Dorozhkina probed the panel further to give their best advice to the international entrepreneurs in the audience who were waiting to do their pitches following the panel discussion.  All are part of Starta’s second cohort. The latter began a few weeks ago and those accepted out-competed “hundreds of applications” and were then deemed “the best candidates with frontier technologies, traction in Europe and global product potential,” according to the program’s web site. 

Find someone “who operates as an evangelist” and “is extremely well connected in this community” and is “passionate about what they are doing,” GM Brown said. “They will go out and help find investors who believe in what you are doing.”

Meeting an investor who may be interested in the entrepreneur’s venture is just the first step.  Entrepreneurs are then tasked with having the right message or pitch that will further draw in the investor.

“Leave your traditional thinking at the door…focus on things that make your company amazing…focus on what matters which is your business…focus on things that will help investors, any investors, see why your company is amazing,” asserted Singolda.

That evening, eleven international entrepreneurs attempted to meet the “amazing” standard that Singolda encouraged. Each international entrepreneur was given two minutes to pitch their venture and catch the eye of an investor in the audience.  From the eleven, six entrepreneurs were selected as winners by investors placing their “faux” money behind the startup they would fund.

The winners were: Econtenta, Cardiomo, KidBee, Bnesis, SendPulse, and FriendlyData.

Having progressed only two weeks into the program, the presenting entrepreneurs were a little nervous about their pitches being judged by real investors, according to Dorozhkina. The judges made their decisions based on the quality of the presentation.  The accelerator program will help the entrepreneurs develop their business models that will be judged in the future.  

“Overall I was very pleased with the quality of the pitches,” stated Dorozhkina.  “The founders are very passionate and it was energizing as to how they managed to channel their passion into their pitch. Such energy and belief will help them overcome unavoidable future obstacles in their startup journey and lead to success in the long term."