Pre-Incubation Program – Report

Pre-Incubation Program – Report

How we help turn amateur entrepreneurs into future founders who know their next steps.

Here’s how it all started…

While working with founders through our typical activities as a startup incubator, we noticed that there are a lot of people who have innovative ideas but need help figuring out where to exactly start. Although those are usually motivated and ambitious people who are not afraid to try, they need to gain the knowledge to make the first steps in the startup world. No program would allow them to gain that knowledge as most startup incubators focus on teams further down the development line. That’s why we have come up with our Pre-Incubation Program – to help turn amateur entrepreneurs into future founders who know their next steps.

But what exactly is Pre-Incubation?

Pre-incubation is a free five-week, in-person, educational program intended for teams with business ideas. The program lasted from the 6th of May till the 13th of June 2024 and did not require any previous experience. The goal of the program was for teams to validate their ideas and turn them into potential early-stage startups. How? Through a series of workshops, mentor feedback, and homework assignments.

This year’s edition, which was also the first time we organized such a program, consisted of the following 7 workshops:

  • Kick-off Meeting

First things first, teams had the opportunity to meet fellow entrepreneurs through ice-breaking challenges and get an overview of the whole program

  • Ideation Workshop

Teams established the groundwork by having a creative ideation session where they implemented brainstorming techniques and visualized ideas, all aimed at clarifying and effectively communicating their potential business concepts

  • Identifying & Analyzing Potential Customers Workshop

Next, teams explored how to turn their ideas into actionable insights through effective user research and defined their target customer group

  • Problem Solution Fit & Value Proposition Design Workshop

After that, teams needed to determine their customers’ pain points so that they could provide them with a matching solution

  • Growth Hacking Workshop

In this session, teams became familiar with data-driven methods to determine whether they have an early-stage product-market fit and the ability to scale up

  • Pitching and Funding Workshop

Of course, teams needed to learn to present their ideas in the best possible light, as well, and that is why this workshop included tips on competing in pitch competitions and insights on what investors want to see in one-on-one pitch meetings

  • Business Plan Workshop

The final workshop gave teams tips on creating a business plan that entices investors and boosts their chances of securing crucial funding for their future ventures.

Image 1. Problem Solution Fit & Value Proposition Design Workshop

All the workshops were held by experienced mentors who contributed their time and effort to offer their expertise to the teams and help them make significant progress. The Kick-off Meeting was held by Gordana Kastrapeli, who has over 20 years of experience as a leadership consultant and coach, helping organizations and individuals achieve the desired change. Dora Zane delivered the Ideation and Growth Hacking Workshop. She is an experienced startup mentor and product strategist who thrives on solving complex challenges by prioritizing customer-oriented solutions. Identifying & Analyzing Potential Customers and Problem Solution Fit & Value Proposition Design Workshop were conducted by Ema Gerovac, a product strategy and user research specialist in contextual interviews that deliver customer-centric, digital, and technology solutions for large corporate clients and organizations. Scott Coleman held the Pitching and Funding Workshop. He is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and professor at RIT Croatia. The final workshop, Business Plan, was delivered by Bojan Vrančić, our financial mentor, who assesses the strengths and weaknesses of startups, reviews their business structure and business plan, and makes sure they avoid costly errors. Mr. Vrančić was joined by a guest speaker, Tomislav Šarić, who is an Executive Sales Director at Telemach Croatia. He presented useful case studies from which teams could gain insights applicable to their ideas.

Image 2. Pre-Incubation Mentors

Besides workshops, the integral parts of the program were Mentoring Session, Pitch Rehearsal, and final Demo Day. In the mentoring session, teams had the chance to meet mentors 1:1 from fields such as business development, marketing, legal affairs, finance, etc., and get advice for their business ideas. Since we had over 20 mentors attending the event, it was a great opportunity for the teams to gain new connections and determine the areas of their businesses that still need to be worked on. On the Pitch Rehearsal, teams showcased their first pitch decks and mentors provided them with feedback on how to make their presentations better. It was like the dress rehearsal before the big play, which in our case was Demo Day.

Image 3. Mentoring Session [photo by Marul Medvešek]

Demo Day represented the culmination of the Pre-Incubation Program. Teams had the opportunity to pitch their ideas in front of startup stakeholders (such as our mentors, investors, and partners) and gain valuable feedback. Each team had 3 minutes to present, followed by 3 minute Q&A session. The Demo Day jury consisted of 5 members, including Dražen Oreščanin (BIRD Incubator Co-founder), Dora Zane (Business Development Expert), Adrina Ježina (CEO of Telemach Croatia), Igor Duić (Director of Corporate Communications at Telemach Croatia), and John Gašparac (Country Managing Partner at PWC). After the official part, we moved to Koncept Mlinček for a closing party where we celebrated the progress teams achieved throughout the program. Overall, it was an intensive month and a half for our teams, but they made it through and we are proud of them for completing the program.

Image 4. Demo Day [photo by Marul Medvešek]

Image 5. Closing Party [photo by Marul Medvešek]

Meet the Chosen Ones

Applications for the Pre-Incubation Program lasted from the 8th of April till the 30th of April 2024. In total, we had 21 applications, from which we chose 12 teams that met the requirements and joined the program. However, 10 teams successfully completed the program. Here is the list of the teams that presented at the final Demo Day, together with short descriptions of their startup ideas:

A clothing brand that provides a platform for new and undiscovered artists to reach new audiences and share their stories through unique and original clothing. They foster local cultural growth and build a community that encourages artists to continue creating.

Curriqla is a remote onboarding platform that allows medium-sized and large companies to proactively build talent pools and streamline their recruitment process by utilizing task-based self-learning materials and privacy-focused tools.

BuyChat.me offers a service where users can submit photos of their grocery receipts via WhatsApp to receive real-time price comparisons and savings reports from multiple stores.

Experimenters create a cross-platform virtual 3D laboratory simulator that helps students, teachers, and tutors conduct experiments with electrical circuits by providing access to realistic equipment from anywhere, eliminating issues of equipment availability, safety hazards, and potential damage to real devices.

Butterfly Design, or Adrema Reborn, is a new-generation CRM and ERP for SMEs. It is powered by human operators working hand-in-hand with AI bots.

The modular system of remote-controlled battery-operated toy cars allows the end-user to create their cars and make them at home with the use of a 3D printer, order cars to be made by someone else, customize them as they like, and repair them with spare parts if they are damaged.

Building a platform for pooling in and helping investments in renewable energy sources by harvesting the full potential of co-financing, energy communities, and instruments such as green bonds.

They are helping big organizations in the EU communicate their ESG commitments through internal or external films, making complex data more digestible to all stakeholders.

The Sonder AI “assistant” analyzes a robust amount of information based on which it provides useful and relevant tips for the optimized daily life of users. The user creates his virtual “self” based on which (with the help of our AI and deep-learning technology) connections with other users are based.

DELTAsort is a robotic sorting system leveraging AI that helps plants automate object identification and sorting, making it efficient and accessible for recycling facilities to automatically sort different materials.

Image 6. Teams on the Demo Day [photo by Marul Medvešek]

Overall, teams said that the Pre-Incubation Program was highly valuable to them, as they got an opportunity to develop their ideas further, gain new connections, receive feedback, and present their ideas to the world for the first time.

In conclusion…

We are glad we get to organize programs like the Pre-Incubation because it contributes to building a local startup community by spreading knowledge, sparking innovation, and enabling new collaborations. The Pre-Incubation Program is our project solely focused on social impact, and it would not be possible without our amazing network. That is why we would like to use this opportunity to once again thank everyone involved for their contributions, including our Pre-Incubation mentors who held workshops, Telemach Croatia who supported the whole program, our jury members for providing feedback to the teams on the Demo Day, teams for making it till the end of the program, our partners who came to support the final event, and last but not the least, Poslovna Inteligencija under who we operate. We do not doubt that in the following years, this program will grow and become of the highest quality possible.

Image 7. Pre-Incubation Program Summary

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