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Fueling growth – the impact of the Eleven Alpha program

September 19, 2023

Building a startup is a long ride filled with uncertainties and challenges. But with the right guidance, support, and a strong foundation, founders can navigate through the early stages of their entrepreneurial journey and set themselves up for long-term growth. 

Over the past months, a group of “builders” embarked on a transformative journey within the Eleven Alpha program and their progress is worth highlighting. In this article, we will delve into their experiences, exploring the key milestones, achievements, and the overall impact of Eleven Alpha on their growth. We will hear from both the founders and our “Alpha mentors in residence”, gaining insights into the benefits and lessons learned throughout the journey.

The Eleven Alpha value proposition

The Eleven Alpha program played a crucial role in helping the four startups establish the fundamentals for growth, by providing them with all instruments needed to make experiments, validate, and take decisions faster. With a focus on customer development and value proposition definition, the founders managed to movе closer to the Holy Grail – product-market fit.

What our team and mentors did was to bring structure and discipline – holding the founders accountable, facilitating, and helping them organize their own thinking and the knowledge they already have. We showed them that if they are focused and willing to iterate fast, everything is possible. The same way you train athletes. You don’t train them to run 100 miles for a marathon from the first race. They have to run every day, to be persistent, open to learn from the mistakes they are making, and to be quick moving on. 

During Eleven Alpha the spotlight was on value-driven product development – showing the founders that they should never think they know what the customer wants, but rather form hypotheses and test them. If they hold true, make a plan and work towards completing it, if not – iterate and continue. We implanted in their mindset that they should really care for the customers as humans and think how they can fix their problems or improve their life.

Building the foundations for growth

Under the mentorship of our entire team and the dedicated Alpha mentors in residence, Harry Tanev and Venera Alexandrova, the startups embarked on a journey to develop a customized game plan for their next stage of growth.

Venera is an accomplished entrepreneur, mentor, and consultant with a focus on startup growth. She excels in optimizing sales strategies, customer acquisition, operational efficiency, and product management. Her strategic insights and experience in building high-performing teams helped the founders navigate the challenges of building and scaling their businesses.

Harry is a hands-on mentor with 15+ years management experience in HR and organizational development, and 8+ years working with startups. He has a deep knowledge and practical skills on customer development, lean startup and design thinking frameworks, helping founders find a product-market fit systematically and be prepared for the next round of financing. 

The process began with a deep dive meeting, where the founders shared their vision, plans, struggles, and aspirations. Based on these discussions, tailored game plans were created for each startup. They were guided to focus on identifying their ideal customer profile and pain points, creating customer journeys, and formulating hypotheses for testing and validation. By narrowing their focus, conducting customer interviews, and running mini campaigns to test their value proposition, the founders gained clarity and precision in planning their next steps.

Throughout their journey in the Eleven Alpha program, the startups reached different milestones – some became more focused, while others successfully validated market segments and uncovered unserved needs. The common thread among all was their increased clarity, focus, and ability to plan effectively. They managed to define ideal customer personas, start testing go-to-market activities, and generate revenue – demonstrating the mindset of delivering fast and embracing mistakes as part of the learning process.

The founders perspective

When we asked them how they would describe their Eleven Alpha journey, the founders shared that it has been quite intense, challenging, but rewarding. Boris Pavlov, co-founder and CEO of FlatAway, highlighted the program’s flexibility and tailored approach, allowing them to modify their game plan based on their progress.

“It wasn't a template program, where you'd have a go-to-market session for all participating companies. For us, it was extremely valuable that everything that we were taught and did during the workshops was super tailored to our business and the work we do. Now, I believe we're almost there (after changing our business model three times throughout the program) - we have reached product-market fit, onboarded our first clients in Spain, established new partnerships.”
Boris Pavlov
Co-founder and CEO, FlatAway

George and Dimitris, co-founders of myTeam, shared that the program changed their status from a nice project to a company, helping them develop essential skills as founders and refine their sales process. 

“Eleven Alpha helped us evolve as entrepreneurs, grow our skills (in areas we were not familiar with), and understand how to accelerate the growth of a company at this very early stage. We took a lot of help from the program in terms of networking, getting in touch with prospects, collaborators, and clients. The thing is that at times we received so much support that we couldn’t accommodate it all. Things happen so fast that we still do not realize how far we have gone from the beginning”
Dimitris Sereleas
Co-founder and CEO, myTeam

The founders appreciated the different perspectives offered by the mentors and our team, enabling them to challenge their initial assumptions and evolve their business models. The program acted as a transformational experience, leading them closer to product-market fit and onboarding their first clients. Nikola Tanev, founder and CEO of TrueInsights, emphasized the significance of launching TrueInsights’ platform to receive early customer feedback, allowing for strategic shifts in his approach. 

“Eleven Alpha pushed me to make a hard start and to open the platform to the world. Based on the feedback from the customers, I realized that we need to go in a totally different direction. If I was working alone, I would receive this feedback at a very late stage but now that we have it, we can shift our strategy and achieve much more.”
Nikola Tanev
Founder and CEO, TrueInsights

Some of the lessons the founders learned during their time in the program are to question everything, always try to find the perspective of an outsider, and of course – test, test, test. George and Dimitris highlighted the need to stay focused on the business when in fundraising mode, while Nikola encouraged early product sales and not over-engineering the product. All founders emphasized the significance of recruiting the best team members without making compromises, as well growing their own mindset and skills, in order to drive company expansion.

What’s ahead?

The four teams continue building upon the solid foundations laid during the Eleven Alpha program and are poised for further growth – launching main features, growing their teams, incorporating AI, rebuilding their platform foundations, or preparing for the big sales after summer. 

After the end of Alpha, we opened another “playground” for the four startups. They entered our Eleven Platform support process, where we continue to ensure that they receive the specific resources and support tailored to their individual needs, that no challenge remains unaddressed, and make sure that they are on the right track. 

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