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On the Road with “Start Trek”

 
 

On the Road with “Start Trek”

In this series inventures joins startup community builders in their adventures on the road. Vesselina Tasheva shares the roadtrip experience from Eleven’s point of view.

Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Start Trek felt like a love story to me. A sort of a love story that happened in the past 12 days…

As any true love story you never really know what is coming for you untill it does. I had some ideas (I would use the following description to get fellow travelers along with us):

A 12-day tour around Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) organized by Eleven accelerator with a mission to inspire the local communities from Istanbul, Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Podgorica and Zagreb and empower community leaders from all over Europe.

It was a summary that I would soon realize, did little justice to the reality but thankfully did convince those fellow travellers, who made the journey what it turned out to. To excite you, fellow travellers that follow the stories of others that have been on the road, this is the description I would give you:

“Slàinte!” shouts. 40 inspirational talks. (Too many) espresso shots. 12 days. 6 cities. Inside jokes no one else will even understand. Dozens of plates with delicious food. 8 flights.  (Nearly not too many) beers. 42 startups pitches. Real dear friends!

Which I miss all too much right now. Especially the last bit.

With the following 18 pictures I will try to tell the rest…

Leaving Sofia

All good adventures start with a passport at hand, a bag on the shoulder and a particular glee in the eyes. Tomorrow will be our first Start Trek event in Istanbul.

In the picture: Daniel Tomov and Dilyan Dimitrov - founder of Eleven accelerator. Photo credit: Vesselina Tasheva

In the picture: Daniel Tomov and Dilyan Dimitrov – founder of Eleven accelerator. Photo credit: Vesselina Tasheva

Start Trek Istanbul

Once on the road, you usually make new friends and yet when you least expect it you bump into old buddies. In Istanbul, we stumbled upon the man who always wears flip flops, Mr. Dave McClure. The man who “aarrr’s” a lot told us about the “500 startups” as well as what seemed the five hundred startups he has invested in during his twenty years in the Silicon Valley.

In the picture: Dave McClure (500 Startups) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: Dave McClure (500 Startups) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Connor Murphy was a new friend we made. He told us about storytelling, about which words  founders should never use in their presentations (and) and about how he grew Datahug as a company of 26 employees that raised $5.5 million. He was with us from the very beginning and stayed until the very end.

In the picture: Connor Murphy (Datahug) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: Connor Murphy (Datahug) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Start Trek Bucharest

Every Start Trek event had a mix of international and local speakers. When we got to Bucharest for our second event, George Dita (How To Web), one of our hosts, did a great talk comparing the East and the West called “Wild, Wild, East”. We loved him so much that we took him with us for the rest of Start Trek!

In the picture: George Dita (How To Web) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: George Dita (How To Web) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

The Romanian crowd listened carefully but also participated actively –  in Q&A sessions and workshops, such as Salim Virani’s Customer Development. We love the curious. And we love you Sal – one of the key “Start Trek” ingredients of the trip.

In the picture: Salim Virani (Founder Centric)  Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: Salim Virani (Founder Centric) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Start Trek Belgrade

Along the way we visited those who had visited us before – our very own Eleven family of  founders we once funded. We had stayed in touch. They made sure we feel at home at their hometown as they had felt at home “under the Roof”. And they only took us to their favorite places to eat and drink.

In the picture: Irina Nikolic and Igor Nikolic (CyberCity), Ivan Mojsilovic (Yanado) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In the picture: Irina Nikolic and Igor Nikolic (CyberCity), Ivan Mojsilovic (Yanado) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

Every morning 6 local startups would get a chance to pitch their ideas to the Start Trek crew of Eleven and friends. Every evening, we would mentor them in return, usually over beer.

In the picture: Dilyan Dimitrov (Eleven) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In the picture: Dilyan Dimitrov (Eleven) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

But to us Belgrade will be remembered mostly for something else. We learned something that would forever change our lives as we knew it. And for this we thank you David Scanlon of Enterprise Ireland. We will always think of you as we say /’slonche/. A word that means “a baby elephant” in most of the Balkan countries, is used by the Irish to say “cheers”. With a slightly different spelling, “slàinte” became the official greeting over drinks for the rest of Start Trek. Nothing bonds adventurers more than the perpetual playback of “baby elephant”.

In this picture: David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In this picture: David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

Start Trek Podgorica

47 times smaller than Istanbul and with a population of 300,000 people, Podgorica was the tiniest of cities Start Trek visited. Nevertheless, Montenegro’s capital suffers no shortage of bright minds and entrepreneurial spirit and our venue was packed. We stumbled up in a very special team, which without any hesitation we invited directly to Eleven’s Selection Days. Dear Nikola Rašović of Agnec, we will see you in Sofia in late November.

 

In this picture: Nikola Rašović (Agnec) who is only 17 :) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In this picture: Nikola Rašović (Agnec) who is only 17 🙂 Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

A highlight from Podgorica was Srdjan Vukcevic, a coach who infatuated all of us with his talk  on Optimism, Pessimism and Entrepreneurship. He has one advice that we want to pass on to you: “Don’t turn your kids to pessimists pessimists. However, make sure your accountant is no delusional optimist.”

 

In this picture: Dilyan Dimitrov (Eleven), Srdjan Vukcevic (BlueCoach.me), Natasa Djukanovic (Domain.me) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In this picture: Dilyan Dimitrov (Eleven), Srdjan Vukcevic (BlueCoach.me), Natasa Djukanovic (Domain.me) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

Dubrovnik Day-Off

Right after our event in Podgorica, we got on a bus to Dubrvonik for a well-deserved day-off.

On the next day we all woke up early. Dilyan did his morning 10km run. The Irish, Connor and David, went for a swim. The rest of us had a long walk along the beach. Reunited, we did what every man, woman or child should do on a beautiful day – we had ice cream in the old city.

 

In this picture: Ivaylo Simov, Teodora Mircheva and Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven), David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Connor Murphy (Datahug) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In this picture: Ivaylo Simov, Teodora Mircheva and Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven), David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Connor Murphy (Datahug) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

As tourists and locals were jumping from the rocks, we laid back relaxed, sipping some more coffee (and beer) and enjoying the gorgeousness of doing well deserved nothing.

 

In this picture: Teodora Mircheva and Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In this picture: Teodora Mircheva and Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Start Trek Zagreb

Dilyan and I did the whole trip – 12 mornings, 12 nights, 8 flights and a little rickety bus that crossed five border controls in 3 hours. The rest stopped by for a few cities. Went away. Only to come back again.

We were lucky to have Luka Sucic (hub:raum Krakow) with us in Istanbul, Bucharest, Belgrade and then again in his home town Zagreb. I can’t wait to see him again later this month in Vienna at the Pioneers Festival!

 

In this picture: Luka Sucic (hub:raum Krakow)  Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In this picture: Luka Sucic (hub:raum Krakow) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

Zagreb was Lucie Montel’s (Rainmaking Loft Berlin) first Start Trek city. Lucie shared her story and talked Why Speaking Up Matters, especially when it is of the tough topic for many women in tech – sexism and casual sexual harassment.

 

In this picture: Lucie Montel (Rainmaking Loft Berlin)  Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In this picture: Lucie Montel (Rainmaking Loft Berlin) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

Start Trek Sofia

In Sofia the startups pitched to us on a Saturday morning in the cinema. No popcorn but entertainment nevertheless.

 

In the picture: Daniel Tomov and Dilyan Dimitrov - founder of Eleven accelerator, along with Connor Murphy (Datahug), George Dita (How To Web) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

In the picture: Daniel Tomov and Dilyan Dimitrov – founder of Eleven accelerator, along with Connor Murphy (Datahug), George Dita (How To Web) Photo credit: Teodora Mircheva

For the rest of the day, Start Trek joined Startup Conference NEXT 2014. Start Trek had a parallel stage where finally I stood in front of the crowd. Pure and simple – playing with serendipity and fabulous things happen to you, one motion at a time, such as #officesurfing at Eleven. Serendipity was how I met David and it was my pleasure to introduce him to the crowd in Sofia.

 

In the picture: David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Vesselina Tasheva (Community Manager at Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Vesselina Tasheva (Community Manager at Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

After the official speakers dinner we headed to Kanaal bar, my second home in Sofia, for a few more beers and the birthday party of Dronamics’ founder – Svilen Rangelov.

October 12th

The adventure was coming to an end but not before another round of “slàinte” with mimosas.

Photo credit: Vesselina Tasheva. In the picture: George Dita (How To Web), David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Salim Virani (Founder Centric), the Eleven team: Teodora Mircheva, Margaret Dobreva, Vesselina Tasheva

Photo credit: Vesselina Tasheva. In the picture: George Dita (How To Web), David Scanlon (Enterprise Ireland), Salim Virani (Founder Centric), the Eleven team: Teodora Mircheva, Margaret Dobreva, Vesselina Tasheva

What was Start Trek like? “Slàinte!” shouts. 40 inspirational talks. (Too many) espresso shots. 12 days. 6 cities. Inside jokes no one else will ever understand. Dozens of plates with delicious food. 8 flights.  (Nearly not too many) beers. 42 startups pitches. New and old, real and dear friends! And many more tiny surprises, such as a magenta nail polish – a gift from a stranger!

In the picture: Eleven Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In the picture: Eleven Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

I miss you all so much right now! Until next Start Trek…

Cheers,

Vessy

P.S. Forgot to mention, we also had an official Start Trek greeting.

 

In this picture: Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov

In this picture: Vesselina Tasheva (Eleven) Photo credit: Dilyan Dimitrov