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Sigma Software Labs launched first international season of IT_EUREKA startup competition

The first international season of IT_EUREKA startup competition ended on December 14, 2022. During this year, IT_EUREKA organizational team has processed more than 100 applications from different parts of the world. After two months of an intensive educational program and several selection stages, only 10 of the applicants got the chance to pitch their ideas during the Grand Final. Phygit project became the winner and received 3,000 EUR as a no-equity grant. We have gathered all details and  facts about this season of IT_EUREKA, so let’s go.

Back to the IT_EUREKA roots

The startup competition was founded by the Tempus educational program in 2014 and already in the same year was held with the support of Sigma Group. Today the organizer of IT_EUREKA startup competition is Sigma Software, in particular the business accelerator Sigma Software Labs and the educational direction Sigma Software University. The project was first held in 2014 with the aim of supporting innovative and entrepreneurial activities among students. Today, over all the years IT_EUREKA has been held, it already has more than 2,000 participants, more than 900 projects and more than 50 mentors.

This year, for the first time, the competition became international. In addition to the increased geography of startups, IT_EUREKA gathered a multinational jury and mentoring experts from many countries. 

IT_EUREKA team during the final broadcast in Kharkiv studio, December 2021

First international season timeline

2022 became the first year when IT_EUREKA accepted applications from Ukraine and other European countries. After the preliminary selection, only 60 teams of 100 that applied were invited to the Basic Program, where participants attended basic workshops in soft skills, celebrity talks, and more during two weeks. To move further, all the startups had to pass Team Case. As a result, 16 teams made it to the semi-finals of the competition.

The Hardcore Program for the semi-finalists started on November 23rd and lasted over three weeks with everyday intensive online sessions from experts in different spheres. The list of mentors this year was impressive, including more than 15 practicing experts from Ukraine and abroad.

To be on the finalists list, startups were selected during the Crash Test stage, where they pitched their products to the internal jury. All the participants received comprehensive feedback and recommendations to improve their pitches before the final. As a result, only 10 best teams were pitching on the Final Demo Day  on December 14th.

Partner support

The international season was possible thanks to numerous partners. This year we managed to gather a record amount of companies from various industries and countries supporting the program. For several years in a row, the competition has been supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Ukrainian Startup Fund and our long-term partners — Polish-Ukrainian startup Bridge. The list of this year’s partners also includes industry associations such as European Business Association, American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, Kharkiv IT Cluster, and Association of IT Ukraine. Among startup accelerating hubs we can’t but mention mentor support from CfE Accelerator within Lviv Catholic University and Tech Startup School. Media support was provided by Tech Ukraine and SPEKA media. Among VCs the competition was supported by SID Venture Partners, SpeedUp Group and Huge Thing.

We also would like to highlight prominent startups within our community which already share their knowledge and experience with younger teams. This year among partner-startups we are more than happy to mention Sigma Software Labs portfolio company — Finmap, IT_EUREKA 2020 participant — IOON, IT_EUREKA 2021 second place winner — SmartZavod, and IT Arena 2022 participant and Sigma Software Labs current resident — Input Soft.

Mentors’ insights

The educational component is an especially important element of the competition. This year’s program structure was aimed to cover all the topics that startups need to promote their ideas from an early-stage. So we gathered lots of star mentors within the program.

Sessions were devoted to business model definition and validation, project roadmap, creating an MVP based on an idea, Customer Development, legal basis including IP, GDPR issues, legal documents overview, and more. A special mentor session was dedicated to basic focus points for startup founders in finances. Others were dedicated to business storytelling, PR, and communications for startups. During the program, mentors also covered competitor analysis, Go-to-Market strategy insights, and approaches for target audience study. Participants also get intensives regarding investor relations, fundraising,  and pitch basis from the investors’ points of view.

“For both Sigma Software and Sigma Software University, IT_EUREKA became a default and extremely important component of the educational ecosystem.

First, because within the framework of educational mentoring sessions for project participants, our mentors, teachers, and experienced entrepreneurs share their knowledge, tools, and provide workshops to show how young businesses could achieve success in the most efficient manner.

Secondly, within the program framework, mentors can not only communicate with new young teams, but also receive adjustments for their own projects, and even their own investment strategies in return. A fresh look makes it possible to interpret in a new way what you have been doing for many years in a row. This approach facilitates the mutual exchange of experience and knowledge.

Thirdly, Sigma Software, as a representative of IT service business, contributes to the development of the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurial mindset. So, educational programs are formed for completely different categories: for engineers involved in the service business, product managers, and everyone starting their career or business in the IT segment. Teams get access toexperts from completely different fields. Thus, we are expanding the geography for tech solutions and the educational ecosystem makes it possible to expand and train our own entrepreneurs within the business development model.”

— Maxim Pochebut, Chief Learning Officer at Sigma Software

Final Demo Day

The final of the competition was held on December 14th in a hybrid format. The broadcast studio was placed in Sigma Software Warsaw office, uniting finalists teams, judges, and partners from all locations both from Ukraine and other European countries online.

Behind the scene, Artem Kostenko, Art Director at Sigma Software, and Michael Smolin, Project Manager at Sigma Software, led the organizational part of the  broadcast onsite in Warsaw. Daria Yaniieva, IT_EUREKA lead and Investment Director at Sigma Software Labs, acted as the broadcast moderator. 

Only 10 best teams made it to the final and pitched their ideas in front of the jury. The list of finalists includes:

  • Naratta — a solution providing a co-host feature for virtual meetings to help administer the process, manage the program, and monitor the timing.
  • Coaty World — a metaverse solution using NFT, which allows brands to attract new customers and provide effective advertising through the gaming.
  • Foodwise — convenient ordering of food soon to expire at discounts.
  • Fentry — a cloud-based solution for beauty salons that includes marketing, administration, and customer base expansion.
  • Tetenger — convenient online bookmarks with an extension for gmail and classification, search, privacy, and sharing options.
  • MemoShot — interactive photos and stories with elements of augmented reality for museums and businesses.
  • Phygit — digitalized sale of physical goods aimed at increasing profits due to QR and NFC capabilities. 
  • Scally — software for caregivers of people with cancer, designed to provide constant monitoring and communication.
  • Scalemate — creative testing of automated advertising tools to increase the effectiveness of marketing teams.
  • InTempo — a game that combines tactile, sound and visual sensations while listening to music to relax and restore the heart rhythm.

The projects were evaluated by our international jury with huge experience in working with startups:

●   Galyna Isakiv — Head of Portfolio and Operations at SID Venture Partners

●   Damian Wielechowski — Senior Marketing and Communication Manager at SpeedUp Group

●   Maryla Wojcieszek  — Interim Head of Knowledge at Huge Thing

●   Łukasz Wawak — Project Manager at Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge

●   Irene Tchaikovska — Startup Coordinator at the Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge

●   Yana Paladiieva — Head of Innovation Voucher Program at Ukrainian Startup Fund.

Highlighting a high level of teams’ readiness and preparations, the winner was determined according to jury evaluations, based on predetermined criterias: Problem, Product market fit, Market scale possibility, Business model relevance, Quality of the presentation, and Team potential.

“We have been cooperating with Sigma Software Labs for 3 years and it is one of our most important partners in Ukraine. Also this year, the projects that we had the opportunity to evaluate during the final presentation of startups presented themselves very positively. The quality of the presentation increases every year and it is clear that the work of Sigma Software specialists brings results. 

Projects at such an early stage can be judged best by the quality of the team — what you invest in at the very beginning is people. And I have to admit that this year’s finalists seem to be very mature and know where they want to go with their projects.”

— Łukasz Wawak as a jury member shares his impressions on the 2022 season

Welcome the winner

According to the evaluation results, Phygit project was announced as the competition winner. They develop smart labels for physical goods. Through the sale of digitized physical goods at the expense of QR and NFC technologies, users have the opportunity to increase the volume of their own sales.

Currently, the solution is presented in 4 countries of the world: Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and the USA. As part of the competition, the project received EUR 3,000 as a no-equity grant for boosting the solution after the program.

Broadcast studio in Warsaw, December 2022

“IT_EUREKA program is an excellent opportunity to take your startup to the next level of development. The takeaways and conditions for us are impressive:

— A month and a half of almost daily sessions;

— Practical content that you can use immediately for your development;

— A competitive environment that pushes for growth;

— No strings attached. No equity, no fee;

— Valuable prizes.

Thank you, IT_EUREKA, Sigma Software, and all jury members for believing in us and for the high evaluation of our startup. It’s super inspiring.”

— Pavel Shlapak, CEO and co-founder at Phygit

In addition to the main reward, there were several partner prizes for the participants. From SID Venture Partners, the winners — the Phygit team — were awarded a certificate for consultation with the Fund’s mentors. Scalemate received mentoring support from Sigma Software Labs.

Conclusions

Received huge success for six years in Ukraine, in 2022 IT_EUREKA startup competition for the first time took a step towards high-quality tech expertise of the international startup market, and opened new horizons for Ukrainian startups in the global arena. The role of the IT_EUREKA educational component cannot be underestimated. Preparing brand new programs annually, and constantly increasing the number of the experts involved in the educational process, participants are provided with an opportunity to gain new knowledge and run their own startups in a more efficient manner. The conditions of selection and passage to the final are becoming more difficult each year. The growing success and level of the participating teams expands the horizons for business activity and cooperation, for growing ideas into full-fledged businesses and making a unicorn story happen. What will happen next year? We already have a plan, stay tuned for updates.

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