Lithuania’s StartupHighway accelerator/bootcamp has secured a line in to Silicon Valley for its 2014 intake — partnering with the SkyDeck accelerator at UC Berkeley to enable one or more of the teams that bag a place on its program to spend six-months in the Valley in addition to the time they spend at its bootcamp.
StartupHighway is based in Vilnius, Lithuania, and generally targets the CEE region — although it’s open to startups worldwide. The program usually runs to 13 weeks of mentoring, but for one or more “top teams” in this year’s intake there will also be the option to extend their incubation period with a half year Stateside — co-funded by the accelerator and Lithuanian based VC fund BaltCap.
The accelerator generally puts up to 14,000 Euros of investment in each of the teams selected for its program, in exchange for 7.5% equity, in addition to providing access to more than one hundred industry mentors (including from the likes of Google, Facebook, Skype and Soundcloud).
StartupHighway kicked off its program back in 2011 — and so far has invested in 15 companies in all, which is a relatively modest figure compared to some of Europe’s bigger accelerators. Wayra UK, for instance — part of the incubator network of carrier Telefonica — announced 13 teams for its 2014 London-based program alone last week.
The pot of money on offer at StartupHighway is also smaller, as you’d expect. So adding a bridge to Silicon Valley is one way for a smaller European accelerator to punch above its weight in terms of attracting startups to its program, and standing out from the European incubator crowd.
That said, in StartupHighway’s case, it is probably only one “top team” that will get the golden ticket from Vilnius to the Valley. Although StartupHighway Manager, Rokas Tamošiūnas, does say that if more than one team has “U.S. fit and capacity, more will be considered” for placement at SkyDeck.
(The Ignite100 accelerator in the North East of England is another example of a European accelerator reaching out to the U.S. — although in its case to New York, rather than Silicon Valley. Meanwhile the U.S. program TechStars travelled the other way last year, launching its branded bootcamp in London. More and deeper links between the European and U.S. startup ecosystems is clearly the order of the day.)
How will StartupHighway determine which “top team” (or teams) gets to go the SkyDeck? ”They have to be a great startup first (great leader, strong relevant team, exciting opportunity/concept, strong performance), but also have U.S. fit, that is either see U.S. as a market, or have an offer for U.S. market players / investors that would fit their scope,” says Tamošiūnas. ”And the team should demonstrate solid performance and tangible progress during initial acceleration at StartupHighway.”
Asked about how its program fared last year, Tamošiūnas said the accelerator received around 300 applications from the Baltic region, elsewhere in Europe and “several places around the world”; and five startups went through its 2013 bootcamp.
It’s not yet disclosed follow on investments for last year but Tamošiūnas adds: “We are in several negotiations with investors and strongly believe 2013 class will be best class so far in terms of amount raised and time-to-funding.”
StartupHighway is now accepting applications to its 2014 program via its online application form – the deadline for applying is March 1.
The 2014 program will run from April til the end of June, with the U.S. placement taking place in the second half of the year, for the team/teams selected.