This week I was mentoring Startup Highway teams in Vilnius. Startup Highway was the first startup accelerator in the Baltic States and it is run by charismatic guy named Rokas Tamošiunas and his team. I know Rokas through Toivo Annus (one of the co-founders of Skype), who is my customer in Advisio and Rokas’s investor in Startup Highway. Nevertheless, this was the first time I got to meet him. Rokas is a true fan of startups and their mentality and the leader of the local startup community in Vilnius. They guy beams energy and as far as I’ve seen, is working crazy hours to make startup community in Lithuania blossom. Startup Highway is in the middle of their second batch already with 6 teams who will graduate in a month.
Rokas had been inviting me to mentor for a while already, but I had been just way too busy with preparation of the first round of GameFounders. Now I took the two days and flew to Vilnius to meet the teams and help them with my knowledge and expertise.
I arrived on Wednesday evening at the same time with another mentor, a guy named Philipp from Google. All three of us went our for a couple of drinks to get to know each other and our perspective dealings better. I learned that in addition to working for Google, Philipp is one of the organisers of the initiative called “Silicon Valley comes to X“, X being mostly UK that far, but spreading to 6-7 different countries this autumn. The event is about entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and other places teaching students how to become entrepreneurs. One of the reason for Philipp to be here was to help to initiate the “Silicon Valley comes to Baltics” event. Stay tuned, there will be more information coming out pretty soon!
On Thursday I met the teams in the mentoring sessions.
With mentoring you meet the teams for a relatively short period of time (sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes half an hour) and you try to understand their business and give them some useful advice. I was mentoring Summer of Startups programme teams from Finland couple of weeks ago and I found out that as I could help most of the teams with useful advice, some of the teams I could just not really help with anything. For one thing, if you really don’t believe in the idea (that happened with only one idea though), there’s not much you can help them with. And sometimes, even if you believe in the idea and in the team, you can’t bring anything out that they haven’t heard from the previous 50+ mentors they’ve already met.
Luckily with the teams I met in Startup Highway, I do think that all of their ideas make sense and definitely have potential. It is just is up to how they manage to perform their customer discovery and then scale. All of the people were really motivated and I believe that some of them will make it very far! You can check out the teams here.
After the mentorship sessions I was the guest at a Startup Nitro Academy event, telling the local startup community about GameFounders, our first batch and gaming and gamification in general. The conversation was really interesting and it seems that most of the people are really excited about gamification and its influencein all kind of areas surrounding us. At the end I felt really sorry to having to leave early in order to catch my flight back.
I wish all the best for Lithuanian startup community and I truly believe that with a guy like Rokas being in charge, there will soon be big news coming from Lithuania!