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Rockstart, a multi-vertical startup accelerator with locations in Amsterdam and Nijmegen, has opened applications for its new Launchtrack program aimed at early-stage startups in Eastern Europe. The equity-free program will run from March 31 to June 2 in Chișinău, Moldova, where founders will validate their ideas, find a problem-solution fit, and get ready for taking their projects to the next level.
Vibrant ecosystem and local partners
Describing the reasons for choosing Molvoda as the place for its new program, Rockstart cited a rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as the country’s location near the edge of the EU. It’s not only easy to reach from the Eastern European and Central Asian countries, but also has less strict visa requirements for non-EU countries’ residents. On the ground, Rockstart partnered with Tekwill, an organization busy building up the local entrepreneurial ecosystem that has a 4,000m² hub for startups in Chișinău. The program is also supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) within the “Moldova ICT Excellence Center Project.”
“Founder-friendly and sustainable ecosystem” for Moldova
“By bringing Rockstart to Moldova Tekwill expects to gain experience and learn how to run a program for early stage startups,” said Caterina Rutter, community manager at Tekwill. “We will get a better opportunity to create a founder-friendly and sustainable ecosystem for Eastern European tech startups. The Rockstart brand will help Tekwill to promote Moldova as one of the best places to turn your idea into a real startup. Also, since Tekwill provides co-working spaces, a partnership with Rockstart will ensure that we provide entrepreneurs with the best support to launch their startups, within and beyond Moldova.”
“Unicorn founders don’t just come from tech hubs”
“Having worked with startups from all over the world as part of our Rockstart Smart Energy accelerator, I saw that our best entrepreneurs didn’t just come from tech hubs such as London or San Francisco, they came from everywhere,” said Karin van Soest, program manager of the Rockstart Launchtrack Moldova program. “However, not all of them have had the same access to knowledge and support. Entrepreneurs originating from emerging ecosystems need access to the right tools and mentorship to be able to launch a tech startup. Moldova is a fast emerging startup ecosystem with highly engaged entrepreneurs. Being developer focused, they are well able to build great products. They have the drive to dream big enough to go global, looking to San Francisco as a role model. But there are very few successful local founders to learn from, and the financial and mentorship support they need is scarce. I believe that by supporting entrepreneurs in emerging regions with our key knowledge and experience we can create a great impact and help many more succeed in their first steps towards a global presence.”
60 days of learning—but mostly on the weekends
For the program, Rockstart is looking for teams or even individual founders on the pre-MVP stage, i.e. having an idea or an early prototype of their product. The entrepreneurs are asked to pay a symbolic fee of €250 per startup, which, however, can be waived. The program is divided into four steps—”Problem validation,” “Problem-solution fit,” “Global market potential,” and “Investment-ready.” Each step ends with a milestone that the startup has to pass in order to keep going. The selected founders are expected to stay in Moldova for the duration of Launchtrack, although the program’s modules will mostly be held from Friday to Sunday.