10 Aug 2020

"The experience of mistakes is the most valuable": interview with the director of STARTUP HUB

Ekaterina Baranova is a second-year student of the MiM program at the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg State University (GSOM SPbU). Together with the team, she founded the startup accelerator STARTUP HUB, a project supported by the business school. We learned from Ekaterina why a startup accelerator is needed, whether it is easy to find a good idea for a project, and business cannot do without mistakes.



You have already become a real serial entrepreneur as a student. Tell us what prompted you to launch the accelerator?

There are many intelligent people in Russia, but few truly developed innovative technologies. During my studies at the university, I received more than 5 million rubles for the development of a startup in the field of biomedicine and understood what mistakes startups make at the initial stages, and also why some projects receive funding, while others do not. For 4 years I was able to work with scientists, biologists, chemists and physicists-engineers, I saw how they value their technologies, but they do not always succeed in commercializing them.


After passing the school of startups at St. Petersburg State University and multiple pitches to investors, I decided to create a project aimed at developing the business ecosystem in Russia, and combining the expertise of business education and scientific developments of our scientists. This is how the idea of creating an accelerator appeared.


Who is the Startup Hub for?

STARTUP HUB is a startup accelerator for students, alumni, entrepreneurs and all those who have a cool idea or desire to show their skills in working on a startup project. We are glad to see people of all ages and backgrounds united by the motivation to start their own business. 


How is the acceleration process going?

The goal of the acceleration is to pump the team's project and prepare it for DemoDay — a speech to investors, which will take place in January 2021. Teams go through an intensive development program, which consists of four blocks and affects the aspects of marketing, finance, human resources management, law, presentation art and much another. Each block contains practical lectures from professionals. During this period, mentors and experts will support projects and help close the missing competencies. We will also bring startups to their first sales, conduct pilot testing of the product with corporate partners and provide useful contacts.


Is participation available only for those who have a ready-made project concept?

Acceleration is intended for those who already have a developed project idea and MVP — a minimum viable product. But anyone with the necessary skills and competencies can join the startup team. At the moment, we are undergoing a pre-acceleration program, in which those who originally came to STARTUP HUB without a ready-made project concept can participate. Student can also participate as a project manager or analyst consultant. For all questions, students can contact me, and we will try to find a suitable place in a startup or accelerator team.


Many guys has willing to make their own business, but cannot find a startup idea  it seems that all niches are already taken. Is it true? 

This is a big misconception. Firstly, not all niches are occupied, especially in the Russian market, for example, you can try to develop and adapt a Western idea. Secondly, we accept individual applications to the accelerator and are looking for a team of people with ideas.



Fear of failure is the factor that stops most entrepreneurs. Share your experience on how not to be afraid to step into the unknown when launching your project / company?

There is nowhere without mistakes in business — this is part of the process. Nothing is perfect, especially if you are doing everything for the first time. The attitude is important: I made a mistake, exhaled, solved the problem, made a conclusion, and moved on. The main thing is to focus on problem solving, conclusions and improvements. The experience of mistakes is the most valuable — you should not chase a non-existent ideal. 


How to act in times of crises such as now? 

During such periods, it is important not to be distracted by the very fact of the crisis. You need to continue to work on your product and be especially sensitive to customers. Only they will help you overcome this difficult stage. Solve problems quickly and efficiently, support productive teamwork, and if you need help in project development, remember — we are always waiting for you at the STARTUP HUB acceleration program.