What to know if you’re thinking of joining Rockstart
About a week ago, we closed applications for Rockstart AgriFood 2021. More than 600 companies connected with us, and inbound requests continue to roll in, so don’t be shy to reach out if you missed the deadline!
At this stage in the selection process, we come across many questions founders ask themselves about Rockstart, about what the Rockstart “accelerator” is, and why our accelerator program is different from the other accelerators out there. So what better way to answer these questions than tackling them one at a time?
Keep reading to find out what “accelerator” and “program” mean to Rockstart, and what we mean by “after program support”. We will also discuss several tangible, real life examples of Rockstart startup journeys. If you still have questions by the end of this text, do not hesitate to reach out to us, or our network, to the fact, check and make an informed decision about whether this is a good fit for you and your company.
Breaking it down: who are we for and what do we do?
Rockstart is a privately backed asset manager, investing in >270 early stage startups globally since 2011. Rockstart believes in a regenerative and sustainable future and aims to fund and empower founders to drive positive change on a global scale. Since its inception in 2011, Rockstart has invested in more than 250 startups and its alumni value to date is half a billion euro. We recently announced the final close of our AgriFood fund at +€22million. We are a commercially seasoned team of entrepreneurs who have raised private capital to invest in a portfolio of startups in order to drive returns (both from a financial and impact perspective).
What does “accelerator” mean?
The number of accelerator programs out there is sometimes overwhelming – university incubators for students with business concepts, government-sponsored accelerators, corporate-funded programs from innovation teams, charitable and not-for-profit programs, local and national programs designed to profile certain regions, European funded programs to stimulate entrepreneurship.
The Rockstart acceleration program is different for a number of reasons.
Firstly, on motivation. Our focus is on using the program services to create commercial and impact value for our portfolio companies. This is the central point of where we differ from other accelerator programs: we utilise our program to help scale the portfolio companies we invest in.
Your motivation as a founder needs to match ours to get the most out of the program. We are interested in using the program to drive towards commercial and impact traction and scaling, not to educate you on what a company is or develop your concept.
Secondly, on timing. We know that building a company takes years, not weeks or months. That’s why after the program we continue to co-invest in our portfolio companies up to Series B with a maximum allocation to any one company of >€2million. We also take positions on boards, when it makes sense, and connect you with strategic partners and mentors who can fill our role if there is a specific strategic need. With this long term perspective in mind, we are looking for companies that are ready to move the needle. Perhaps you need to tweak for product-market fit, or maybe you are about to launch a product or enter a new market – this is the kind of commercial timing that suits our accelerator and fund well.
Your company’s timing also needs to match. We want to see some traction (be it commercial, academic or some other proxy) and we want to work on taking that traction to the next level with you.
What does “program” mean?
Some programs are 3 weeks, some are 3 months. Many have pre-defined content so it is easy to research what you will be spending your time on. Not ours 🙂
The Rockstart accelerator program is customised to the needs of the portfolio companies that we invest in, and any forward planning on certain events or dates comes from our desire to maximise engagement from our large network of top tier partners (LPs, syndication investors, corporates, mentors). Our recent Ecosystem Day is one such example.
Our program runs for half a year. Any content (which is mostly 1:1 consultancy, dedicated mentoring, industry insights, market access or investment access driven) takes place during a “deep dive week”. We have one deep dive week per month, using the three weeks between deep dives to 1) help founders drive commercial traction and 2) design the content for the next deep dive week based on the needs of your business. Everything is geared towards getting your company to the next phase of scaling, so it is a very commercially motivated program.
We leave enough space during the deep dive weeks for you to keep on top of daily business. However, it is designed to be intense, hard work. We figure if you’d wanted an easy life, you wouldn’t have chosen to be an entrepreneur in the first place!
What does “after program support” mean?
Many programs will talk about after program support as you graduate as an “alumni”. Sometimes that means you get to reach out to the mentors, other times you can attend events, you might get access to some deals.
We do all of the above as well. And we continue to co-invest up to Series B.
The Rockstart program is the launch pad. Building and scaling your company will take years. Throughout those years, Rockstart brings continued structural support through follow-on investments, board seats, syndication partners, our large mentor and corporate network and helps you to scale and (potentially) exit your company.
Actions not words
So what does this actually look like in practice? Here are some examples of our portfolio companies pre-and post-program, and what your startup journey with Rockstart can look like:
Hubs (2013, previously 3D Hubs) – the two founders were still holding a day job when we met them, but they were looking to go all-in on their concept Hubs. We became the first financial investor in the company in March 2013. Throughout their journey, we supported them with investor contacts and we introduced them to another startup which Hubs later acquired. Hubs were acquired by Proto Labs for $330m in January 2021.
iClinic (2013) – when we met the team in 2013, it was the early days for iClinic with only a small number of users and a few paying customers. Just seven years later, in the fall of 2020, they were acquired by Afya Limited for €27.9m, giving Rockstart a 20+ times return on our investment in the team from 2013.
Wonderflow (2014) – during the program the founders were further exploring product-market fit. During one of our ecosystem events, we were able to introduce them to Philips who became their first B2B client and later one of their largest and most important accounts. Wonderflow raised a seed through the Rockstart network and later went on to raise subsequent rounds from VCs.
Rahandel (2019) wanted to professionalise their business in order to take advantage of an opportunity to collaborate with Coop DK (the largest supermarket chain in Denmark). They are now expanding nationwide in 2021 and we syndicated a round for €1.4million. Investors in the round joined the Board, originating from Rockstart’s LP and mentor pool.
Beyond Leather Materials (2019, previously The Apple Girl) wanted to develop a commercial strategy for their vegan leather product. During the program, we supported them to redesign the organisation structure, launch initial sales, develop a clear R&D and commercial strategy, rename and rebrand, and syndicate a €1.1million round alongside Rockstart partners and mentors. The lead investor introduced by Rockstart is now Chairman of their Board.
Nordetect (2019) had ambitions to validate their product-market fit. We were able to challenge the team on a number of assumptions, ultimately leading to a change of market focus and a clearer commercial roadmap. Rockstart helped syndicate 2 rounds with Nordetect totalling €1.6million.
MoooFarm (2020) wanted to launch their app and raise €500k. Within 6 months, they have >200k installs (and counting) with a Q on Q revenue growth >40%. Rockstart and our partner Navus Ventures invested €500k during the accelerator program to enable this step.
BIRanalyzers (now Zymoscope, 2020) wanted to take the next step for their company after graduating from the Innofounder program. We challenged their market assumptions, expanded the vision, and went on to syndicate a €1million round to enable them to launch with ten pilot customers across Denmark.
If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team directly. You can also learn more about our activities and investments here on our blog.