Bela Dobos, co-founder at truckin.io tells me about his experience at Startup Bootcamp in Berlin and about how the company came to be. He says himself that it is a really unique story.
As part of the Startupbootcamp 2015 edition focussing on Smart Transportation and Energy, Bela joined, originally from Hungary, joined the batch with his cofounder and their startup Logidok. After a few weeks at the program and many customer development interviews with transportation firms in Germany, he realized that there was a much bigger problem to be solved and that he knew just how to do this. At the time they were going about customer development with another startup from the same batch, xRoute from the US, and so it was the most natural thing for them to team up and merge their two companies into one.
How did you decide to join the program?
The selection process at Startupbootcamp was really tough, there were more than 400 startups who applied last summer – Startupbootcamp organized many fast track events throughout Europe to make the program known and to recruit startups. Even though we did not know about these events and did not attend them, they reached out to us through a startup scout.
Our startup was registered in f6s, Crunchbase and these websites, so Startupbootcamp saw us through this way and as they specialized in Transportation and Energy they sent out a message to us.
We were happy, we just applied and got to the top 40, we were selected and we had a short skype interview, with the Managing Director Berlin and another guy and they had some question and it was a very strict 20 minutes agenda. We told them about our business model, how we progressed so far and these kind of questions and actually they found us interesting because we got another letter that we got selected into top 20. That time we had to travel to Berlin for a 3 days selection process. They had invited 80 professionals and mentors, from Germany and abroad to help them select the best 10 startups out of the 20. It was a really tough process, we had to pitch every day, like 10 hours long each day and at the end they made their decision and chose the best 10.
How would you define a startup accelerator?
As a startup beginning from scratch, at a really early stage without a product yet, but with a good idea and team of very motivated people, an accelerator provides you with know-how and strengthens your back for three months. Just to learn the know-how and to get connections, a startup accelerator is the best place for you.
What was the most valuable for you at Startupbootcamp?
In exchange for a share of the company the most beneficial thing they provide for startups is the network they have. As I heard from other startups most of them wanted to be a part of the accelerator just to get introduced to big companies who were the partners.
We provided Startupbootcamp a list of the corporations we were interested in and they were really after getting contacts with them, to invite them to the office so we could pitch to them and just talk.
So after a few weeks at Startupbootcamp you decided to stop Logidok and start again with truckin instead?
Yes, exactly. I went to Art Richards from xRoute and told him ” Hey this is the idea we could work together, what do you think?” He said yes, without any hesitation. After that minutes we started to work on Truckin together at our table for the next two months to prepare the product and to prepare for Demo Day. It’s a really unique story!
How was the atmosphere with the other startups?
There were many fun events, for socializing, like the brunch on Fridays or ping pong tournaments or beers after work but it was a very stressful time for us with a lot of work. If you are in a team, you are in an accelerator program, you have a schedule, you have deadlines, you want to work a lot on your own project so you don’t have much time to help others.
And did you have mentors by your side working with you?
Yes of course. In the first month the main thing was to choose mentors. Startupbootcamp has a big network, let’s say 80-100 people and they all came by in the first month. So we had scheduled meetings and we tried to figure out who can help us and how. It was kind of like dating with girls to see if there is sympathy and a strength on both sides. And we found really good mentors that still work with us today.
Startupbootcamp provided a lot for us: Like a buffet breakfast in a hotel, they put everything on a table and it was your choice if you want to take it or not. And of course you are an entrepreneur who knows exactly what you really want to do so it was good. Startupbootcamp didn’t want to have control over the startups but they did schedule meetings and organized workshops for us. They tried to provide as much as they could for us. Also the Entrepreneurs in Residence were very important.
Why do you think Startupbootcamp is doing this?
Actually they provide lot of valuable sources for startups in order to prepare them for demo day where they can show potential investors and the crowd how much they developed compared to the beginning of the program.
Would you do it again, for maybe a different startup?
From a personal point of view it is enough to have gone through one accelerator. There you can learn all you need about how to bootstrap your company or how to get funded, if you really need funding and how to build up your product, how to launch it, how to establish your marketing plan. I would say that one startup accelerator is enough to understand every basic steps you need to take to reach a certain level.
For the future truckin plans to keep working on the technology and make use of the valuable contacts and partners that they have met thanks to Startupbootcamp. It’s going to be interesting to follow Bela and his crew on their journey to change the transportation industry! You can see their product and progress on their website at http://www.truckin.io/.