Event: Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp 2022

The Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp 2022 took place between the 1st and 10th July. It was organised by the Alexander Innovation Zone in Thessaloniki, executed by Ideas Forward and supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Greece.

The event supported team efforts in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The selected teams enjoyed 6 days of training workshops, guest talks and networking all designed to help them take their next steps and evolve their ideas and businesses. The program included:

  • Training in entrepreneurial disciplines
  • Personalised coaching
  • Guest talks and networking with seasoned market professionals
  • Presentation of their efforts in front of market stakeholders and investors
  • Awards and Prizes

The program built on the institutional role of Alexander Innovation Zone and the knowledge, experience, and network of Ideas Forward, both operationally responsible for last year’s Next Stage Challenge 2021 accelerator program, which supported 27 teams for three months, leading to monetary awards and subsequent investments.

Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp kicked-off with an introductory session by Nikolaos Tsoniotis, partner at Ideas Forward, and Kostas Tramantzas, Director at Alexander Innovation Zone, providing details about the program, its structure and goals. The teams also had the opportunity to get familiar with the startup journey as presented by Stefanos Tsiakmakis,  co-founder of Bio2CHP and partner at Ideas Forward, and Theodoros Sofianos, Innovation & Product Development Researcher at Unismack and Founder at Digital Bites.

Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to training and hands on workshops on Business Model Canvas, Assumptions Validation and Experiment Design, basic entrepreneurial tools that help teams identify their business model and essential hypothesis in order to design the right experiments and gain market insights, fostering data driven product development. In addition, the event hosted a guest talk by Joachim Köchling, International Managing Director (Expert of Greece), IFM Institut für den Mittelstand, who shared his experience on practical sales tactics, as well as his own startup journey and how team dynamics affect even validated models.

On Wednesday the 6th of July, teams were introduced to pitching fundamentals and the different layers of presenting an idea from the high concept pitch to a full presentation, along with the soft skills that can make or break an effective pitch. Our guest speaker for the day was Penelope Pagoni, ESG & Sustainability Consultant and Former ESG Director at Hellenic Petroleum Group, who managed to untangle the terminology of ESG, CSR and CSRD, whilst providing an insight into how ESG reporting directives can affect business sustainability as well as drive market collaborations to satisfy the UN SDGs on the part of the corporate world.

Saturday the 9th of July was dedicated to working the teams’ pitch decks in an open and collaborative manner, supported by Nikolaos Tsoniotis, Dimitrios Kourtesis and Stefanos Tsiakmakis of Ideas Forward, addressing shortcomings in presenting the value proposition, market potential and roadmap necessary to reach the targeted milestones, with an emphasis on the design thinking principles and storytelling side needed to produce a compelling pitch deck.

The day was rich in guest talks too, with Alexandra Sarma, General Manager & Partner at SDG House Greece, talking about the role of SDG House in the sustainability ecosystem, Alexandra Nitzlader, Social Finance & Venture Capital Expert and Regional Manager Austria at FASE – Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship outlining the impact investment landscape and the role of FASE in the investment ecosystem, and Elina Koutsouradi, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor and Founding Member of the Hellenic Business Angels Network elaborating on the importance of angel investments in female led startups.

The roster of guest speakers was completed with Evangelos Kosmidis, Founder at DRAXIS Environmental S.A. and Managing Partner at the newly formed Venture Capital firm, provided insights in the opportunities arising for investments, driven by the UN SDGs and the ESG framework.

Sunday the 10th of July was the culmination of the teams’ efforts. They had a chance to present their ideas in front of a panel of evaluators including Kyriakos Loufakis, President of Alexander Innovation Zone and Loufakis Chemicals S.A., Vassilis Nikolopoulos, Head of Innovation and Applied Research at MYTILINEOS S.A, Alexandros Mylonas, Group Sales Director at Alumil S.A. and Evangelos Kosmidis.

After a rigorous yet exciting competition startups were evaluated against 5 key criteria including:

  • Evaluation criterion #1. Customer need and value proposition
  • Evaluation criterion #2. Market size / Financial opportunity
  • Evaluation criterion #3. Competition analysis and strength of differentiation
  • Evaluation criterion #4. Team complementarity and level of readiness for the next stage
  • Evaluation criterion #5. Team progress to date and strategy for next stage objectives

With the following ranked in the top 5 spots out of 12 participating teams:

  • Agro-U, connecting farmers with farm workers
  • RespiBit, addressing the serious issue of tuberculosis detection
  • Neurohive, providing data analytics and supporting efficiencies in milk producing animals
  • Project DENN, combating fake news via leveraging technology to support verifiable crowdsourced content creation
  • ctrlEat, helping high end hotels in supporting guests with dietary preferences

The day and the event concluded with two more guest talks by Vassilis Nikolopoulos and Alexander Mylonas providing specific insights into how the Greek Industry is addressing sustainability and open innovation, and the award ceremony, followed by open networking where the participating teams had the chance to discuss their ideas in length with the evaluators.

The end of the Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp marked the beginning of a continuous collaboration between on the one hand Ideas Forward and Alexander Innovation Zone and the teams on the other, as the awards provided aimed at supporting the participants in the next steps either with pro-bono consultations or with co-working space, office registrations and Amazon Cloud Services of up to $10,000. The Ideas Forward team will focus on supporting 6 teams with ongoing business model and investment readiness, AWS credits, and provide fast track admittance to this fall’s Next Stage Sustainability Accelerator program, whilst Alexander Innovation Zone will be hosting teams in its co-working facilities for up to one year, lifting the financial burden of establishing a legal office space, showcasing its continuous support to the startup ecosystem.

As the United Nations and the world’s economies are heavy investing in the fulfilment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, innovating processes, products, and services across the quadruple helix of government, academia, industry, and civil society becomes paramount. Initiatives like the Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp and beyond are essential in providing a solid ground for facilitation and open collaboration, leading to a more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable future.