The second edition of the MITA YouStartIT Validator Programme (Validator) managed by the MITA Innovation Hub (MIH) kicked off on Monday 6th July 2020 and came to an end on Tuesday 18th August 2020. Nine startup teams participated in the seven-week-long programme, with five teams making it through to the next phase of the YouStartIT programmes.
The Validator Call was originally planned to be published in March this year but had to be delayed by several weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic forced us [the MIH team] to re-invent ourselves and adapt the programme in order to safeguard the health of all parties involved. The first major change was to restrict applications to local residents, which meant that the catchment area diminished drastically. The second major change was adapting the programme for online learning and consequently, sadly close the doors to the co-working space.
The switch to online delivery could not be done overnight. It required significant research and working long hours to make it work. New software and hardware were necessary and a new mindset had to be adopted! Sessions had to be redesigned for online delivery and alternate ways to interact with the participants had to be thought up! Jarek Bialek and Alex Borg had to wear a whole new set of hats! This time round they found themselves in the shoes of video editors, teachers, quiz makers and so many more! The MIH office was converted into a mini recording studio with a DIY soundproofing box and printed notices attached to the door so that no one would barge in whilst Alex was in recording mode!
On the 18th of June the call was finally published and by its end the MIH had received 32 finalised applications. After careful evaluation, nine teams were selected and invited to participate in the programme. Sessions were held twice a week with a duration 1.5hrs each, i.e. 30 minutes less when compared to the duration of the traditional classroom delivery. Each team also had a weekly private session to go over their work with mentors Jarek and Alex.
Meeting the startups online brought about both pros and cons. One major advantage was the evident time-saving element. No one complained about not having to book a ride, wait for the bus or look for a parking spot in busy Santa Venera! On the other hand, lack of physical human contact hindered relationship building both between the startups and the MIH team and between the separate teams in the cohort.
As the end of the programme approached, the MIH team had to come up with a plan for the final two-day bootcamp. Normally this would take place in a big room, with the startup teams working around tables and with mentors table-hopping and delivering presentations. Unfortunately, since the Corona Virus stuck around, this time round things had to be different. The final decision was to have the first day completely online whilst the pitch delivery would be done offline.
Each startup team delivered its pitch separately to an audience of only three judges and myself! A far cry from the previous pitching events which were always buzzing with energy! We surely missed having all the teams together and cheering each other on.
After careful evaluation of the startups’ participation during the programme, the level of the work submitted and the teams’ final pitch delivery, the judges selected five teams to get accelerated! Three out of these five teams are led by female co-founders making this YouStartIT cohort our very first with a higher female lead!
Technologies vary from AR and VR to AI, Big Data, SaaS and Cloud!
MITA YouStartIT#6 Accelerator Programme officially started on Monday 31st August and will end in December this year. More news about the YouStartIT accelerator and our startups’ progress will be posted soon!