The winners of Astana Hub Battle, a large-scale startup competition held during Digital Bridge forum, were announced recently. Around 300 startups took part, 97 of which made it to the semi-finals and 10 of which presented their projects in the final. First place and $10,000 went to NBFit. It is a women's health assistant programme that helps mothers recover from childbirth.
We talked to Syrga Tilekova, one of the founders of the project, about the acceleration programmes and the competitions they had gone before.
NBFit is a women's service with fitness training and webinars from doctors. All content is created with the female body in mind, as much of the fitness content that is already out there ignores these points. For example, if women with postpartum injuries go to the gym, they can get more health problems.
"We launched in March 2020. When the pandemic started, global internet traffic increased by 300% - online pharmacies, medication delivery, and fitness content were at the top of the requests. That's how we attracted our first customers," Syrga said earlier.
— How was Astana Hub Battle held in Astana?
This year's contest was quite large-scale: about a hundred startups pitched offline. It went like this: the semi-finalists were given one minute to present their projects. And the finalists were given as much as 3 minutes to pitch. The short formats allow us to listen to everyone and draw conclusions. Successful projects were those that had time to highlight who the startup is helping, what successes there are in numbers, and what the founders will do in the future.
It is important to speak in simple language, so that both men and women and grandmothers understand. For example, I used to encounter a problem where the jury or the investors, of whom almost always only men, did not fully understand exactly what we were doing and how we were different from large projects with online training. And then we started to emphasise that our target audience was mothers, to whom we were helping to recover from childbirth. It became clear whose problem we are solving.
— Before that, you took part in the Silk Way accelerator from Google for startups and Astana Hub, and, at the beginning of your way, in Accelerate Prosperity and the Singapore accelerator in Kazakhstan, Quest Ventures. Why is it useful for startups to participate in such programmes?
For a startup, an accelerator is an important evolutionary stage. There, the founder gets acquainted with the workings of the venture market and learns what the conditions are for obtaining other financing – a grant, for example.
— How is the programme in the Silk Way structured?
The Silk Way is the best solution for Central Asian startups. It has become a real MBA programme for us and has given us growth. And after all, the growth of a funder is the growth of a company.
The accelerator starts with matching: there are several trackers for 15 projects, and at the beginning of the programme we choose each other. Then the work process is structured like this: it is mostly independent work during the week, and 2 times a week we would meet with our line tracker, who would ask us leading questions and help us come up with hypotheses to then test them. On Saturday we would all get together and listen to who had done what during the week.
In this accelerator, the main task is to reach the end and not drop out in the process. And we have done that. On the whole, Silk Way has a very good organisation and a professional team of trackers.
— Your project is registered in the US. Why is it necessary?
Yes, we registered the company in the USA earlier this year. It was a forced decision. We got more payments from other countries but there were problems with payment systems from our region.
Before that I was looking for people who could give advice on how to register a company in that country, what the specifics of tax and jurisdiction were. It's not that simple there. We were lucky: we found an angel businessman who both gave us the advice we needed and invested in our project.
— What are your future plans?
We have opened a new seed round for product development in the USA. We have a good timing, and our established base allows us to grow faster.