Second-time founders have been showing success since participating in a wine-and-pomada ‘decelerator’ in Menorca last summer. Applications for Round 2 begin Jan. 20
In the race to find the right working environment for tech inventors, incubators and accelerators have earned a reputation for coddling their portfolio companies. While these programs’ successes have been inconsistent, it has been less so with second-time entrepreneurs. The survivability rate for those companies is far stronger, often getting investments based as much on the personalities of staff as the products they’re selling. Relieved of the stress of their first exit, second-timers still might want the atmosphere of an incubator but without the intensity and beginner approach taken by accelerators.
Menorca Millennials is just that outside-the-box program for sophomore founders. The world’s first “decelerator” is celebrating the news that its alumni have raised €6.8 million in the last three months, they’ve told Geektime in an exclusive interview.
Even though it is called a decelerator, its similarities to an accelerator might fool you. Instead of a three-month series of office talks by mentors and business coaching, it’s an “ephemeral” 20-day experience in the words of co-founder Marcos Martín. He started the project with co-founder Ricard Garriga.
“The idea came one summer three years ago when the two co-founders were talking about Silicon Valley . . . and realized startups were so stressed by the end of their first year that they made very bad decisions by the second,” Menorca Millennials CMO Jordi Valls told Geektime. Sitting back in Menorca “having a paella,” the two “realized how the low mental noise environment of the island helped them be more productive and inspired.”
“As a matter of fact, many startups had key changes in their business model or general strategy due to moments live during the program with many of our inspirational speakers and investors.”
Only half a dozen companies were Spanish, yet the atmosphere of Silicon Valley could be felt in the mist on the island. Even the Spanish companies maintain headquarters between San Francisco and San Jose. Among the companies that raised funding over the last few months were blockchain-software builder Stampery ($600,000), mobile payments app Verse ($1.4 million) and the big winner, water-purifier Watly, which received a $2.23 million grant from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 project. Other interesting projects are photo-planning app PhotoPills, HTML5 games developer Ludei, and instant medical consult app Remedy.
Founding partners include former Spanish clothing brand Desigual’s CEO Manel Adell, Jazztel telecom mogul Martin Varsavsky and Waze VP Di-Ann Eisnor. In all, there are 23 founding partners and nine advisors. Institutional partners include UC Berkeley, Draper University, and YouNoodle.
The summer program was quite popular: More than 300 tried to get in, with 100 making it to a semi-final stage and 20 ultimately getting the chance to go to the Spanish isle. They are opening applications for their second class starting January 20. Each startup will enjoy a $30,000 trip for only $5,000 apiece.
Menorca Millennials calls the “Decelerator Movement” a growing one while pointing to itself as the primer. The other names worth mentioning are far closer to a traditional accelerator program, they claim, including HUB Zürich co-founder Michel Bachmann’s Deceler8 and Break.
“We focus and put a lot of attention to selecting the right guests and designing the right activities for startups so when they go through the program the relationships are built naturally. We want them to trust each other enough during the program that the executives and some of the investors will really know what this people is capable of. It’s really about focusing on quality over quantity of features and names,” Valls said.
Many of the investments can be traced directly back to the relationships forged on the deceleration getaway.
“Many of the investors we brought during the program saw the experience as a very interesting opportunity, but they took too long to decide to invest,” said Valls. “By then, many of our startups had raised the funding and have too big valuations for their range of investments.”
With the success of the first class in mind, Valls is confident that supporters of the first program trust the selection process and are going to be quicker to get in on the next batch of companies to get bigger stakes. It’s hard to tell how much party and relaxation play a part of the program, or if it simply comes down to the setting of an accelerator program away from the bustle of skyscrapers and in the air of island beaches. Valls insists it’s the atmosphere.
“There’s really not much fiesta and neither much siesta. What there is is a place that has inspired many artists and thinkers for ages. Many poets and painters have been inspired by this island in the middle of the Mediterranean the same way Dalí was inspired in his house in Port Lligat or Paul Gauguin lived in the Polynesia. What we do is leverage on this inspirational setting and take the startups to see the life of many entrepreneurs and investors some of which have a strong connection to the island.”