The admissions to the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE accelerator, addressed to start-ups from Poland and fourteen countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania, Estonia and Ukraine started on 15 January this year. The project is supported by leading Polish and international companies. We talk with Łukasz Owczarek, Head of Acceleration MIT Enterprise Forum CEE, about why it is worth applying for the program and what the acceleration looks like. 

What exactly is MIT Enterprise Forum CEE? 

We are an acceleration program, a part of the global MIT Enterprise Forum organization, affiliated with one of the world’s best universities – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Our main goal is to support technological start-ups from Central and Eastern Europe in accelerating their development. It is mainly about young companies that create innovative solutions for various industries, yet, despite the high utility and uniqueness of developed technologies, they are experiencing problems with being successful on the market. Contrary to what one might expect, it is very common in the start-up environment. It should be remembered that technological companies at the early stage of development, as well as those that already have a finished product and the first sales results, face many challenges, often ones that are difficult to address on their own. First of all, it is the lack of knowledge, experience, financial background or reaching customers, that makes it difficult to earn real money. The role of the accelerator is to support start-ups in overcoming these barriers and help in turning a great idea into a real, thriving business.

How do you do it? How does acceleration in the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE program work?

It is a complex, comprehensive process that aims at preparing technological start-ups in the best possible way to achieve market success. We start with organizing business assumptions. During workshops based on the methodology of 24 steps of disciplined entrepreneurship developed by Prof. Bill Aulet, we focus, among others, on pricing and sales policy, market segmentation, creating an end-user profile, etc. This systematic process is to lead to the rapid commercialization of technologies developed by start-ups. We also want to refine the business models of start-ups – so that they allow further, effective development and earning money. We assign each start-up to, among others, two dedicated mentors – experts who have achieved spectacular successes in international business. Mentors, having in-depth knowledge of a given industry, could guide start-ups, give direction for further development and provide clues to what markets to choose and how to position the product to achieve measurable results. We also develop the competences of start-ups in the area of legal issues, patent protection, sales, raising funds for further business development and effective presentation of solutions to investors or potential business partners. Then, they are comprehensively prepared for dynamic development.

Start-ups that qualify for the program also receive support from large enterprises …

We assume that the necessary element for the development of a technological start-up is to verify the potential of its solution in a market environment, preferably by the leaders of a given industry or sector. We are proud that leading Polish and international enterprises are involved in MIT Enterprise Forum acceleration – they facilitate their infrastructure, share their knowledge and experience and delegate the best experts to cooperation with start-ups. Pilot schemes that are implemented with the participation of our Partners allow start-ups to better understand the market realities, formal constraints that are associated with the implementation of technology data or the needs of large enterprises. What is important, the effects of cooperation often include commercial implementations, thanks to which start-ups not only obtain funds for further business development, but also references that help them win more clients – not only in Poland, but also abroad.

Where exactly? 

First of all, we think of the broadly understood European market. Start-ups that qualify for the program have a unique opportunity to establish cooperation with leading enterprises, which are recognizable throughout the continent. References obtained from them facilitate further expansion in Europe. It should be emphasized, however, that MIT Enterprise Forum CEE, due to its links with the Boston ecosystem, is also focused on the development of start-ups on the US market. In each edition of the program, we choose five teams that take part in the weekly Bootcamp in Boston, where they have the opportunity to establish important business relations with local entrepreneurs, and to present their technologies to investors from the USA. For many of them, this is the first major step to develop their business on the US market.

What start-ups have the chance to qualify for the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE program?

To apply for the program, we invite start-ups from all Central and Eastern Europe, which not only develop innovative and unique technologies, but are also market success oriented. This is a very important criterion. We want to help teams that are ambitious, determined and not afraid of challenges. We believe that such start-ups, with our support, have a chance to achieve real international successes.

I invite you to submit applications by March 3 at (LINK)