Maribor, Velenje, Kočevje and Nova Gorica were the venues of hybrid Roadshow events for the first time this year. Apart from getting acquainted with minor novelties in this year's Slovene Enterprise Fund tenders - P2, SK75 and SI -SK - the focus of the events was on sharing the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when applying for tenders and getting feedback on the suitability of applicants' ideas.
Applications for the pre-selection for P2 are open until 2 pm this year
Manfred Lepej from the Fund began by presenting the already well-known P2, which provides a €54,000 grant to develop a product or service. He stressed that product development must take place within the company itself, although this task can also be outsourced for certain parts. Only natural persons are considered employees, not legal entities.
He referred to outstanding liabilities at FURS as the most common mistake entrepreneurs make and have been encountered in recent years. He advised transparency and careful verification that all past obligations to FURS have been paid. Even if the amounts involved are small. The Fund does not accept any compromises in this regard, he said.
Demo Day – your most important day in the application process
This year's new feature of the pre-selection application is the reduced number of characters in individual fields of the application form. This makes it all the more important that you strictly adhere to the assessment criteria and define well the essence of each question. "Answer the questions in a quality manner. Your application will be sent to the panel of judges, who will meet you at Demo Day, and with the application, you make the first impression, which you may not be able to correct later during the presentation, "advised Urban Lapajne, project manager at Start: up Slovenia.
The formula for the Demo day is 1 + 5 + 7 = time you have for the presentation. The first minute for preparation, the next five for the presentation and the last seven to answer the questions of the jury. Don't leave any of this to chance, because 5 minutes really means 5 minutes. After that, we remind you to complete the sentence and respond to the questions. "In our experience, those who aim for a 3 to 4-minute presentation have done the best in practice. If you aim for 5 minutes, you will almost certainly exceed it. Practice getting a feel for what 3 minutes mean and what 5. This is important for your sovereignty, which the judges will immediately recognize," Urban said, concluding, "A good presentation is a craft that must be well mastered. "
Kefirko's success story began in Marko's kitchen
The Maribor Roadshow was also visited by Marko Borko, the co-founder of Borgla, the company behind the Kefirko brand. Kefirko started its entrepreneurial journey with Kickstarter, and according to Marko, the campaign made them decide that they needed to finish the project now. They managed to raise just over 50,000 euros, but with Kickstarter, they not only got the money but also the validation of the market.
When asked by Urban why it's good to test user interest first before starting product development, Marko told his story. At first, they thought of a blender to make kefir. After consulting with experts from the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology and numerous interviews with users, they switched to developing an analogous product for preparing fermented foods. This was great because they reduced production costs and got a functional product. "Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Don't get stuck on your solution. If we persisted, the question is whether we would be as successful today. "
In the beginning, there were 2, today after five years there are 10 plus a few external collaborators (designers, photographers, IT support). Their biggest challenge today is in the area of logistics. In the last year, the delivery of certain materials was delayed, prices skyrocketed, some countries couldn't send their products, they need more and more office space,... For example, they faced higher prices of raw materials by sending larger quantities of products to distributors, thus reducing shipping costs.
P2 was a confirmation for Evegreen that their idea holds water
Eva Štraser of Evegreen, a company that develops innovative, 100% degradable bioplastic products from industrial waste, first heard about the P2 tender at the Saša incubator, where the second roadshow was also held. A month before they applied for it, they were accepted into the German Accelerator. The two funds they received enabled them to survive the first year, "Without it, I can't imagine how we would survive. The confirmation that we got P2 meant that I put everything on the line. I left my regular job with a family business in the automotive industry, I took a new path. I didn't even know where I was going or what to expect. I knew I only had a year to prove if my idea would really hold water. "
For Eva and Evegreen, the key turning point in their story was Demo Day, when they immediately got their first points. "We thought we had the worst pitch ever, but with the first points I got confirmation that we were definitely in the top 5," she summed up.
Eva concluded by describing the key milestones they have already achieved on their journey, "Last year we managed to get both products to global innovation confirmation. This year, we want to refine the new recipe that will make it easy to compost office paper, which is still huge in Slovenian companies, into new useful materials. "
From the nautical field to translation
Marko Hozjan, who is setting new trends in the world of translation with the translation platform TAIA, went from the nautical field to the field of language schools. Navigating the classic structure of a translation agency is quite unstable today due to market saturation and more or less the same prices for translation services, so the company decided to find a market niche that would add value to their services.
With the help of two investments, they succeeded in doing so. "The translation market is saturated, but we proved that it is possible. You have to be aware that more or less every market is in such a state, and it is up to us entrepreneurs to find our own space, our own blue ocean, to withdraw from the ocean of competition. We seek all this with innovation to find a realistic solution. People have many ideas, they also know very well how to define the problem they want to solve with their idea. The only difference between an idea that is successful and one that is not is whether customers are willing to pay to solve that problem," Marko said, stressing that startups need to be aware of the importance of niches: " Due to the limited resources of startups, niche makes a lot of sense. The breadth or too general a view can be very challenging for a young company from a financial point of view. "
He advised entrepreneurs to get out of the zone of theorizing and they should also stop thinking that they are the smartest. He added, "It is necessary to go out on the streets, ask people and sell. The product or service needs to be validated by customers as soon as possible. They need to say if the idea is good and confirm that they are willing to pay for it. "
When you apply, go all out!
"When you apply, go all out. Take advantage of all the opportunities given and give it your best shot. I advise against speculation. The startup should throw itself wholeheartedly into the tender. Don't rely only on the money received, because the judges will notice that very quickly. The one who is doing the presentation should give his best and realize they have a direct impact at Demo Day, but don't let them take it to heart. Everyone can applaud him, but the result is not necessarily always good. Walt Disney went to 30 investors before he could convince someone. They all told him he had a bad idea, but he persisted. The startup also has to persevere, even if it fails in the tender," startupper Ursula Lavrenčič from Hopalai advised those present at Primorska Technology Park and via Zoom.
So, the Roadshow events are over, now it's your turn, entrepreneurs. Write your pre-selection application as best you can - be short, concise and clear.
You can find all the tenders, documentation and sample contracts on the website of the Slovene Enterprise Fund. If you have any questions about the pre-selection process, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A presentation from Roadshow events can also be helpful.
Content support for recipients of P2, SK75 or SI-SK financial products under the "de minimis" scheme is co-financed from the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund. This is implemented on the basis of the Content Support for Funds Recipients (SMEs) Programme in the 2018-2023 period, under the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the European Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.