Euro Accelerators: UK’s Dotforge And Lithuania’s StartupHighway Open Applications

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Europe has gone accelerator crazy. If putting burgeoning startups through a 13 week mentor-led bootcamp and throwing a few euros their way is the key to economic growth, then the Euro crisis is all but solved. I jest, of course, and you arguably can’t have too much idea-stage money and support. But, seriously, I can barely keep up with these things.

To that end, two European accelerators opened to applications this month: Dotforge, a brand new accelerator based in Sheffield, UK, and Lithuania’s StartupHighway, which runs for its second year.

(Interestingly, both programmes have the hand of Jon Bradford, co-founder of Springboard and who has helped start no less than 12 accelerators, apparently.)


Based in the city of Sheffield in the UK, but open to applications worldwide, Dotforge is a 13 week accelerator/bootcamp that follows the formula of something like Y Combinator or TechStars in the U.S. and is backed by a mixture of private and public money, the latter in the form of Creative England via the UK government’s Regional Growth Fund.

It’s targeting startups with a B2B proposition, name-checking BIG Data as a plus-point, along with ideas that will benefit from industry ties with the region’s existing bedrock of companies operating in the e-learning and e-health space.

Startups accepted into the Dotforge programme receive up to £25,000 per founder and access to “over” £150,000 follow-on funding. Additional benefits cited include nearly $300k of “perks and deals”, along with free office accommodation and “exposure to world-class mentors, investors and specialists to help accelerate business” — a claim that every accelerator makes. Startups give up 6% equity to investors in return who may also choose to co-invest additional sums at a later date.

In addition to the programme itself, it sounds like there’s potentially access to more private and public money sloshing around. Along with the £150,000 of follow-on funding that’s up for grabs (via partnerships with Finance Yorkshire and Sheffield City Region LEP), qualifying startups will be supported by F6S to apply for the Young Entrepreneur Loan scheme for up to £20,000 per founder, designed as a bridge before they raise seed funding. Companies will also be supported to develop applications for £50,000 or more to the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’s Unlocking Business Investment programme.

The closing date for applications to Dotforge is 12pm Monday 25th February.


startup_highwayRunning for a second year and now on its third programme, StartupHighway follows a similar format with a 13 week accelerator/bootcamp based in Vilnius in Lithuania and targeting the CEE region but open to startups worldwide. It’s looking for ten early-stage teams working in the area of IT or mobile technology, who’ll receive seed funding of up to €14k per team, along with mentoring and a number of “perks”. In return, the accelerator takes a 10% stake in each startup, which is slightly higher than average for these types of programmes. (Update: This has now been reduced to 7.5%).

The accelerator claims a number of high-profile mentors, such as Jon Bradford (co-founder of Springboard), Lauri Antalainen (co-founder of GameFounders), Lopo Champalimaud (CEO and co-founder of Wahana), and Toivo Annus (co-founder of Skype).

StartupHighway says that in its 16 months of existence, it’s accelerated 10 startups over two classes. Within 12 months after graduation three out of four startups from the first batch raised follow on funding.

Startup teams wanting to get a place on the StartupHighway program have until April 15th to apply.

(See our Baltics coverage for more context.)