The EU-XCEL European Virtual Accelarator is an EU-Horizon 2020 funded project and part of the Startup Europe Innitiative. The project is coordinated by University College Cork (UCC), Ireland, with project partners including the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship from Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS), InQbator from Poznan Science & Technology Park (PSTP), DTU Skylab from Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB), and the Cloud Incubator Hub from Universidad Politecnica de Cartagena (UPCT).
On April 15th the EU-XCEL European Virtual Accelerator launched a European-wide recruitment campaign to seek out talented aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of information and communication technology (ICT). The targets were young tech entrepreneurs, between the ages of 18 and 25, who graduated between 2010 and 2014, primarily from technology backgrounds with an entrepreneurial idea ready for development. The main areas of interest are Internet of Things, Health Informatics, Big Data, ICT for Development, Predictive Analysis, and E-/M-Commerce.
Out of a total of 600 applicants, 300 successful applicants from across Europe have the opportunity of participating in the project alongside some of their most promising and talented competitors in intensive, specially designed entrepreneurship training and mentoring programs over four months.
The EU-XCEL Virtual Accelerator includes a one week free intensive training program named “Start-up Scrum” in one of the six participating countries between May and July, 2015. When the applicants applied for a place in the project, they did not choose the Start-up Scrum they wanted to join. They only indicated their preferences according to the dates, but without knowing the country. Applicants who were chosen in the selection phase were assigned to a Start-up Scrum by the organization. One of the guidelines that was taken into account to allocate participants to scrums has been the internationalization. As a result, each scrum was attended by entrepreneurs from about nine different nationalities.
In Spain, the EU-XCEL summer scrum took place the first week of July at the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena. During this week different activities, masterclasses, and events were scheduled as part of the intensive training of the entrepreneurs.
The first day was focused on ice-breaker and open-minded activities. Participants attended an interesting talk about the Internet of Things, and participated in a creative activity (creating innovative desserts) to apply cooperative design techniques. Another talk, “How to pitch yourself in a couple of minutes,” was scheduled to help entrepreneurs present themselves and their ideas.
On the second day, after exposing the criteria for team formation, entrepreneurs were ready to establish their teams and start work on their ideas. Market research and prototyping are essential to building a successful start-up. Throughout the day different activities were scheduled for training in these areas.
The third day was focused on the presentation of the business model canvas, a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool. Participants used it develop business models during the Scrum.
Although each group was created during the Scrum, the groups did not vanish at the end of the week. Each group will continue working remotely during a four-month period. EU-XCEL offers access to online technical and business development support to help teams further develop and refine their start-up idea. The online platform includes a community forum, training content and resources, virtual technical support and mentoring, and virtual business development support and mentoring.
For that reason, on the fourth day special attention was paid to training on international teams and virtual workspaces. However, the use of an appropriate online platform is not enough. When people from different countries work together, different aspects must be considered, some of them related to communication among participants (different communication styles between cultures, different time zones, etc.), but also other related to legal aspects when an enterprise is going to be created, for example, in which country is it better to register the enterprise. Teams were advised and trained about how to identify and solve all these details. Finally, each group had to develop an organization plan and action plan that covers the following 12 weeks.
The last day was “Pitching Day.” Forty-five entrepreneurs presented their start-ups, covering not only the “idea” but also all the sides trained during the Scrum: the team, the market, and of course, the competition.
The selection of the best participating teams will have the opportunity to compete in the EU-XCEL Ultimate Challenge Final on 2–3 November 2015 in Cork, Ireland, where they will pitch to and connect with some of Europe’s leading venture capitalists, angel investors, and successful tech entrepreneurs.