In 2015 I had the opportunity to participate in an acceleration program in Spain. It was a very exciting experience in many ways. In this article I want to tell you what it was and what I learned.
The Satiu Project
In mid-2014 I started a project that would become very important in my working life: Satiu. Although it was not the first company I started, it turned out to be the first technological startup I ever made.
Satiu is a web application that allows you to find professionals and health centers. If you do not know it yet, I invite you to browse it now.
With Satiu I learned a lot from the entrepreneurial move. At some point in the early phase of the project, I realized that I did not have all the skills to do everything that was required.
So I listed the skills and resources needed to at least start this initiative.
To cover the basic roles I got Mary Padrón to become CFO and that William Arteaga became the CTO.
In addition, I obtained a Digital Marketing certification from IESA to better fulfill my duties as CEO.
When I already had a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), I began to visit those who are the target customers of this startup: Healthcare Professionals.
In less than 2 months I visited about 400 personally, in their offices. What I received as feedback, though not as flattering as I thought, encouraged me to continue working on Satiu.
How the acceleration began in Spain
Of course, I updated my Linkedin and Twitter profiles to include in my biography that I was developing the Satiu project.
One day an entrepreneur and investor named Rafa Aguado started to follow me on Twitter. Of course, I also followed him immediately.
When I checked his profile, I realized he was the CEO of Bolt, a Spanish accelerator, so I visited his website. Well, they were accepting applications, so I started to fill out the Satiu.
In the startup phase of any startup, one of the chief responsibilities of the CEO is to seek resources and get investment to maintain operations.
So completing applications for accelerators was almost a daily task for me. But in spite of the routine, I spent enough time answering each of the questions raised and making sure to clearly explain all the ideas.
We were very happy one day to receive an email from Bolt telling us that we had been shortlisted for his next acceleration program in Spain.
That meant that 2 team members had to go to Spain for several months, receive the daily mentoring, work in the co-working space and meet with potential investors, particularly at the end of the period.
After 2 exhaustive meetings, and sending documents that demonstrated our activity in the market, Bolt sent us the letter of invitation. Immediately I began to make the arrangements for the stay in Spain.
What an acceleration of startups is
An accelerator is a company that invites startups to participate in educational programs in order to fine tune business models.
All these services offer them, frequently, in exchange for actions in the startup, whose percentage varies, but usually is not very high.
In addition, usually the accelerator itself invests in the startups by giving a sum of money to the founders at the beginning of the program so that they can use it as working capital.
Some accelerators offer only instruction and the investment on their part would be subject to the founders’ performance or other factors.
But in almost all cases, the accelerators are in charge of organizing closing events with investors, known as “Demo Day“, to make the startups known among potential partners who want to invest.
There are accelerators of all levels. Some are aimed at recently created startups, and offer seed capital to start.
Others require overseeing that the startup has customers and that there are people or companies willing to pay for the products or services offered by the startup.
How is the acceleration in Spain
In Spain there are many accelerators, of all levels. Many of them work with government funds, which demonstrates the interest of the regional governments, mainly, to promote the entrepreneurial spirit.
As part of the European Union, Spanish startups can also benefit from the acceleration programs that exist, such as Impact, which brings together talent from across Europe to launch digital products using local software and resources.
The acceleration in Spain usually seeks that the startup is incorporated in Spanish territory. This often gives more confidence to potential investors, especially in the seed stage of the company.
It also promotes employment in Spain, as startups will require new talents to develop new activities or increase their scope of action. All of this brings benefits to communities.
However, it should be made clear that acceleration in Spain is still far from being like other countries such as Finland, England and the United States, where there are even vertical accelerators that only seek to promote a specific type of business.
In addition, immigration and tax laws do not facilitate business creation.
Good times and bad times
Participating in an acceleration program usually brings the thrill of being in another country, meeting talented people from many cultures and receiving specific instruction for developing business on the Internet.
But of course, we must recognize that in the midst of the maelstrom of marvelous events, there will also be some trouble.
A happy moment for me was, with no doubt, to sit for the first time in the offices we had, in order to work on the enterprise that had brought me there. Personally, beginnings are very important to me.
However, getting a home was a bit difficult. The main reason is that the date coincided with the start of classes.
Many people who had houses to rent wanted to find a tenant who would stay for a whole year. So renting for a few months was not good business.
Finally, after a week of intense searching, I got a house just two blocks from the office and one from the beach. I’m sure I found something so good, at a affordable price, thanks to God’s help.
The first days were adaptive. We had to understand the customs of the people, where to shopping, adapt to the new schedules, etc.
But cultural differences only made the experience more interesting.
Other difficult times were the farewells. After several months of constant interaction and hard work, everyone had to return home.
Although the contact remains, it always saddens me to think that it is unlikely that I will ever see one of these friends in person again.
The friends I made
I shared the period of acceleration in Spain with entrepreneurs from other countries, mainly from Europe. I can say that the group knew how to get the best out of each one and we really joined as one team.
I had the pleasure of working with Aistè Gužaite and Leo Gaidukevic, from Unboxing; who came from Lithuania and are extremely good designers.
I also shared a lot with Patrick van Ek and Juntan van der Veen of Easbit; Coming from Holland and with much desire to impose Bitcoin as currency in common use.
In the acceleration group in Spain were also Alberto Iore (Italy) and Vivekananda Badiger (India), Nice One; an app for booking restaurant tables.
I was also a partner and neighbor to Pavel Dudko and Anton Orlov of Prove Your Skillz; a website that uses artificial intelligence to level players.
In the end also came Rustam Salavatov, of Life2Film, an online software for the automated edition of videos.
Some startups were in a remote mode, connecting for all mentoring and physically attending only at the end.
That was the case of Ales Jurancic, of Safer Child, who came from Estonia. Also Ronan and Niall Mc Dermott, from Ireland and creators of the Challenge Club.
Entrepreneurs from Spanish startups also made a presence in the program. For example, there was Hugo Blanco, from Made in Spain, whom I still owe a coffee.
Likewise was César Moreno, by Doctor Globally and Maite Viejo, by Flying Bizz.
I can say with immense satisfaction that one of the greatest achievements of this period of acceleration in Spain was to have created good relations, to have become friend with so many talented people from different countries and cultures.
It was common that before and after work we met to talk. We also had meals some weekends. That’s how all those Europeans ended up eating “arepas reina pepeada” a traditional venezuelan dish.
Having been able to successfully interact with all of them during that time helped me to better know the universal human being.
We can be very different on the outside, and each culture has its customs and values. But in the most basic, we are all the same.
Activities with local businesses
The law firm of Cremades & Calvo Sotelo, Malaga office, which legally represented us at that time, was pleased to invite us to a Technological Breakfast on November 26, 2015.
The event was attended by other entrepreneurs from different industries. All with the purpose of networking and learning from the experiences of others.
Also, we were very happy to make an alliance with the Malaga Medical Association, whose objective was to be able to confirm through them that those who registered in Satiu were indeed collegiate doctors.
That way we give more confidence to the users.
After the acceleration in Spain
It was necessary to return to Venezuela after the conclusion of the acceleration program in Spain. I have been applying many things learned in each project that I start.
Satiu not only remains alive, but it is this moment is in transition period, in order to make it more massive. Investor Ariel Poler said something very valid in his mentorship:
“You can not follow all the advice they give you. So listen to everyone and apply some. “
That’s exactly what I’m doing with Satiu. I’m sure that even if it takes a little longer than expected, Satiu will become a renowned web application with international and multilingual reach.
I am as sure of that as I was in an acceleration program in Spain.