Interview with Dilyan Dimitrov, Founder of Eleven accelerator & Startup Spotlight investor

Dilyan is a believer, just like our team, in the power of tech startups to make a dent in the universe. And people like him are especially important in countries whose economic environment is still developing. We know this because we truly support the role of startups in a growing economy, for their ability to provide jobs and alternative approaches to established business models.

Any strong opportunity to incubate startups and provide them with an environment that stimulates growth is worth taking, so that’s why we wanted to ask Dilyan a couple of questions, so we could get to know his work at Eleven accelerator better. Remember that Dilyan will be at Startup Spotlight next month, where he’ll be sharing invaluable advice!

About Eleven accelerator (Bulgaria):

Eleven is a EUR 12 million venture fund that provides financing to early-stage startups using an incremental investment approach alongside iterative development – thereby, starting with many small experiments, filter out failures, and invest in successes.

Its focus are innovative ideas, providing EUR 50,000 for proof of concept during a 3+3 month acceleration program under one roof with the ability for up to EUR 150,000 follow-on seed investment.

Eleven was started with the support of Springboard (turned TechStars London at the beginning of the year), and the teams will receive support through business insight and technical expertise from an all-star cast of mentors.

1. Multitasking or focus – which do you believe is the better way to do things in a startup?
Too often, founders at early stage startups try to do too many things at the same time, and forget what is really important. And this is understandable – founders are that sort of people – they want everything done here and now. However, if a startup is lacking focus, most times some side projects get in their way of actually running the company. From our experience at Eleven, setting a set of two to three key priorities works best, and most of the time two of these are (i) get the product out in the market, and (ii) find out what you customers want (not necessarily in that order). This is one of the reasons we insist on bringing all teams at the Roof, where they can fully outsource all the back office and administrative work, and focus on what really matters.

2. What qualities do you try to find in the mentors you select to come work with the startups at the Eleven Startup Accelerator?
Although there is a lot of serendipity involved with mentoring, and finding the right amount of chemistry between a team and a mentor is sometimes a result of simply meeting many mentors, rather than some general guided process, there are some key features we would love to see in our mentors. The best mentors are usually founders, or speak from their own experience – they have personally faced the problems startups have, and are perfectly suited to offer help. However, not all founders are great mentors – willingness to share and help others are natural must-haves, but the ability to listen, the skill to guide rather than push, and being Socratic (e.g., making people ask themselves the right questions) are just as important. Finally, mentors shall be inspiring and respectable, if they want to impact the life of a startup in a meaningful way.

3. Why did you choose to focus on gaming startups at one point?
Two batches into Eleven, we realized, that there are some specific fields, in which we will see a lot of projects, but which also require certain set of tools, that were not readily available with Eleven or within our mentors network. One such domain were games – it takes very narrow specialization to be able to develop, launch, release and distribute a game successfully, so we were not ready to take the risk. On the other hand, we were not ready to pass on all those great teams that applied to Eleven with a game, so we decided to do something about it. Luckily, the founder and CEO of one of the best game companies in the region was willing to lend us a hand and share all resources of his company with our game startups if needed, so together with them we were able to provide that “Smart” element of the smart money we would like to invest. And there are more sectors like this, where we will need an industry partner so we are in position to add value, so you may expect more specialized cohorts from Eleven in the nearest future.

Check out more amazing mentors & investors, and don’t miss your chance to be one of the 32 finalist startups at this year’s Startup Spotlight competition!

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