It is always exciting to see new projects popping up in new and perhaps unexpected locations like Baku
In a first for the Baku-based accelerator, SUP.az has announced that they will hold a demo day for their first batch of startups on May 14. Taking part will be four companies from SUP’s own first class, joined by an additional five startups that will have the chance to pitch their ideas and compete for investors’ attention.
The companies that will be taking part in the demo day from the SUP.az group are alkredit, which works in helping consumers to find and compare loans; Android productivity app Flapus, that lets users send each other tasks; sharing economy vehicle rental marketplace Lendock; and vertical social network app Shrippy, that lets users post pictures to tell a story about their shopping experience.
Shrippy’s co-founder, Ersin Al, has significant experience in the app sector, having developed one of the country’s most popular apps. He was also able to raise $500,000 from the Turkish VC Aslanoba Capital for his previous startup, Ottopot.com.
While the other five startups have not been mentioned, Co-Founder Nail Valiyev says that some of them will likely join the second class of SUP.az.
Sup.az was co-founded by Mammad Karim and Nail Valiyev in December of 2015, with backing from the ATL Group and Khazar Ventures. What started out as a basic plan to invest seed money into their cadre of startup, it eventually developed into the SUp.az accelerator after they realized the need to have a more hands on approach in guiding the young companies, Valiyev tells Geektime.
They have learned along the way that not every startup is necessarily deserving of being in an accelerator. Cevir.io, which works in translating and digitally notarizing documents, was removed from their program fairly early on.
“We kicked out Cevir.io as they were not really very serious about working on their startup and lacked a serious dedication,” Valiyev relays Geektime. “They left in about 2 months. This was a good lesson for us listening to less bullshit and more execution in the next batch.”
Developing the nascent ecosystem
While Valiyev says that there are many Azeris living in the big tech hubs abroad that are heavily involved in bigger companies, the local scene is still very much in its early stages. He explains that due in part to the country’s oil crisis, there is a strong need to seek out entrepreneurs who can help different industries there optimize and save money. One of the gaps that he has witnessed is in the number of companies that can “deliberately work and manage the data.”
One of the areas that he sees the most success in Azerbaijan’s ecosystem is in the Fintech sector, adding that he believes that companies there have a lot of potential and are a great opportunity for them.
SUP works with startups, providing them all of the necessary tools to help get their projects off the ground, working locally and preparing for the international market. This includes the basics like mentoring, access to capital, legal and finance advice, and of course office space. They work on an equity model, saying that they take between 2-12% from the startups that pass through their doors.
Turkey and Russia appear to be the easiest markets to move into at first as the startups begin their expansion abroad.
At this point, he tells Geektime that none of the companies in Azerbaijan have reached an exit. But far from being discouraged, Valiyev says that he sees new investments coming into the country that will be needed to help grow the local startups.
Moving forward, he and his team are working to help make regulations more friendly to investments, laying the groundwork for a more robust ecosystem to bloom.
It is always exciting to see new projects popping up in new and perhaps unexpected locations like Baku. The Azeris have a wealth of experience to draw from, with both locals who have spent time abroad as well as foreigners, all looking to help grow the nascent scene as mentors and advisors.