StartupYard for Best Accelerator in CEE – Interview with Managing Director Cedric Maloux

EBAN Member StartupYard – a Czech Republic-based accelerator – is the oldest of its kind in Central Eastern Europe and has greatly contributed to the development of successful startups from the region. Launched in 2011, StartupYard has accelerated 70 companies to date, out of which 70% are still running today – not a bad result for the startup world where even the most promising companies run a high risk of failure.

After it was recently named the Best Accelerator in the Czech Republic by the Central European Startup Awards and nominated for the same title for the CEE region, EBAN spoke with StartupYard’s Managing Director Cedric Maloux to get his thoughts on how the accelerator helps startups in the CEE and beyond reach their full potential.

Cedric Maloux, Managing Director of StartupYard

Hailing from France, Cedric is a serial entrepreneur who saw the potential of the CEE region early on and got involved in helping the region’s top-notch scientists bring their tech solutions to the right industries.

StartupYard recently changed its program – can you tell us a little bit about the new ‘hybrid model’?

Given that we’ve been receiving more and more international applications – for our latest batch of startups, we had applicants from 30 countries – we have created a new acceleration model lets companies spend part of the time on-site, while also allowing them to work remotely during certain periods. This new hybrid approach gives participating startups a much higher level of flexibility and opens up StartupYard’s program to older, more experienced entrepreneurs, who would find it harder to travel to Prague for a longer period of time.

Companies participating in StartupYard’s acceleration program meet more than 80 mentors in the duration of just 3 weeks. What does this intense mentorship program bring to the table for startups?

The companies that we accelerate are at a very early stage. Being exposed to a large number of mentors, most of whom have extensive experience as CEOs or Board Members of successful companies, they very quickly start to see a trend in their feedback. This allows the startups to understand what they’re doing right and what they should work on. It also gives them an excellent chance to connect with key industry individuals who might, in the future, become partners or investors for the startup.

A good percentage of startups who go through your accelerator go on to raise funding afterwards – what kind of investors put money into StartupYard alumni?

After leaving the acceleration program, startups go on to raise investment either from VCs or business angels – a roughly 50/50 split. As is usual with early stage investments, most of the time investors are local to the country of the startup. However, lately we’ve noticed a positive trend at StartupYard, wherein Czech investors who are exposed to foreign startups through our program have started to invest abroad.

There is an increasingly active early stage community in Central Eastern Europe – what should the region to do further develop its ecosystem?

The first thing that the region needs to change is the regulatory environment – setting up a business, stock option plans, closing companies in case of failure. There is capital and talent in the CEE, but building a startup here brings about a lot of administrative issues.

Another important point is that there is still a stigma associated with having a failed company in the CEE. The reality is that most startups don’t succeed – the mentality of the region needs to evolve in this regard. It takes a lot of courage to start a company and that courage should be rewarded.

What’s next for StartupYard?

We would like to develop more relationships with investors. The CEE region is full of opportunities – there’s less competition between investors, the deals tend to be cheaper, and, most importantly, there are a lot of ambitious entrepreneurs starting global businesses.