Purpose of the call

The YouStartIT Validator is a special programme designed to help people who have an idea about starting a tech company. The idea can be at a conceptual level, or you may have already developed a wireframe or very basic prototype to demonstrate the concept (TRL 0 to 3[1]).

This year’s edition will focus on the following Thematic Area: ideas that could help address the growing demand for fast-track innovations and business continuity solutions sparked by the Corona Virus pandemic. Industries affected include healthcare, transport, retail, commerce, catering, enterprise tech and real estate, amongst many others.

In the above context the purpose of the Validator is two-fold:

  • To give you the tools to carry out all the necessary research to clearly frame the problem that you wish to solve, prove that there is a potential market for your solution, understand who your competitors are, and that your business model can sustain your company in the future
  • To prepare you for YouStartIT#6 (the sixth and next edition of the YouStartIT Accelerator[2])

YouStartIT#6 is planned to start in October 2020; this is the phase during which you will be expected to proceed with further validation by building a working prototype (MVP[3]) that you will use to test and measure customer feedback and perfect your prototype for later launching. Funding of up to €30,000 is being made available for the accelerator phase, and disbursed according to progress and performance: €20,000 as a cash grant, and €10,000 in the form of ongoing support services.

At the end of the YouStartIT#6 Accelerator programme you will be registered as an innovative startup undertaking, you will have a prototype tested on the market, and you will have developed a business plan, making you ready to apply for further institutional funding and/or angel investment. The diagram in the previous page illustrates the programme in context.

Up to ten (10) prospective startup projects will be accepted to participate in the Validator. Up to four (4) of the best projects will be selected to join the YouStartIT#6 cohort.

All Design Thinking and Validator programme sessions will be run completely online, and depending on circumstances related to the Covid19 crisis, so will the YouStartIT#6 Accelerator.

Administrative criteria and rules

  1. No fee is due upon applying. However, a deposit of €100 is due upon being selected to the Validator programme. Such a fee is refundable in line with the rules explained in the General Rules section.
  2. Applications must be submitted online via the F6S portal: https://www.f6s.com/youstartitvalidator/apply.
  3. Each team may submit only one application with one idea.
  4. To ensure sufficient capacity, multi-disciplinarity and complementarity of skills, startup teams should be composed of a minimum of two named and identified startup founders, who must be natural persons and regularly residing in Malta. MITA may, at its discretion, request proof of residence
  5. At least one startup founder must demonstrate that he/she possesses the competences to cover the future role of product manager[4] in the startup. MITA may at its discretion, request a CV and academic or educational qualifications, such as degrees or diplomas, as supporting evidence of technical competence in the field of digital technology.
  6. Students and members of the academic community are encouraged to participate, and are to seek the involvement of faculty, alumni, researchers and industry experts.
  7. This call is not open for undertakings or a startup team that is already formalised as a business undertaking.

Programme description

The programme consists of three main parts:

  1. Design Thinking – an online course, delivered by a third-party provider, to be completed by all the participants before starting the core programme. It covers an overview of Design Thinking, and learning how to work with it as a model that helps you to ideate, experiment and adopt a problem solving mindset.
  2. Core Programme – covering four, weekly thematic blocks, delivered over eight sessions. Each session will last one hour and a half. Refer to the timeline in the next pages.
    • Week 1 – Customer Discovery and Market Analysis
      • Session 1 – Introducing Value Proposition Canvas, the techniques behind identifying the proper customer segment and several Customer Development tactics
      • Session 2 – Introducing the Market Sizing concept and discovery of the best Problem/Solution fit
    • Week 2 – Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Business Model Canvas
      • Session 3 – Introducing the concept of Low Fidelity MVPs
      • Session 4 – Introducing Business Model Canvas.
    • Week 3 – KPIs and Metrics
      • Session 5 – Introducing project metrics (part 1)
      • Session 6 – Introducing project metrics (part 2)
    • Week 4 – Preparation for the Bootcamp Session and Final Presentations
      • Session 7 – Introducing project management basics and drawing a project plan
      • Session 8 – Pitch training

What the participating founders will gain

As startup founders accepted to follow the programme, you will gain an understanding of the rationale behind the need to validate a problem you are trying to solve, the customer segment you are targeting and the selected business model. You will understand the importance of sizing your target market, gaining insights about the behaviour of users and customers affected by the problem, and how or whether the technology selected for your solution is the right one.

During the programme you will be equipped with the tools that will allow you to independently carry out tests and exercises involving your target customers, as well as understand the underlying methodology and rationale of each tool. You will also gain an understanding of the value of communication, and the methodology of how to clearly and efficiently present your tech project and financial projections to your selected target audience.

You are expected to commit at least fifteen (15) hours of work per team per week throughout the Validator programme, and eventually at least another thirty (30) hours per team per week throughout the Accelerator programme.

Selection process

Applications to be accepted for the Validator programme will be ranked against the Selection Criteria defined in Annex 1. After a review of all applications received and interviews with the shortlisted applicants, up to ten (10) of the top ranked teams will be selected and invited to follow the programme. All applicants will receive the final score obtained as part of the selection process.

Emphasis on feasibility of the solution and/or breakthrough technologies without showing an entrepreneurial vision on what you believe is a desirable and commercially viable solution will not score well.

Selection will focus on how well you prepared your submission and how well you describe your team to possess the right level of expertise, competence and insights to implement your startup project.

After completing the Validator programme, up to four (4) of the best startup teams will be selected to follow the YouStartIT#5 programme. The teams will be selected against the Final Judging Criteria defined in Annex 2.  All teams selected to participate in the Validator will receive the final score obtained during the judging process.

General rules for participation

This is a not-for-profit initiative in tech entrepreneurship and innovation using public funds and resources. Rules have been designed to ensure only serious, talented and well-intentioned teams participate.

Furthermore, experience and results have shown that startup projects consisting of only one person are highly unlikely to succeed.

  1. Startup teams accepted to the Validator programme must:
    • Be open about their business idea with the rest of the cohort following the programme, as well as with any involved mentors.
    • Be ready to carry out research assignments to validate their idea using Lean Startup approaches.
    • Appoint a named lead founder for the duration of the programme.
    • Sign the Acceptance Form in Annex 3, signifying acceptance of all rules, terms and conditions described in this Call Document, including payment of a deposit of €100 per team which is refundable upon completion of the Validator programme according to the rules in this section.
    • At least any one founder representing the team must be present for 80% of the weekly sessions. Extenuating circumstances for missing the remaining 20% must be approved in writing by the MITA Innovation Hub (MIH) manager who may request supporting evidence; such circumstances will not exempt the participants from presenting all assignments and results of activities scheduled by the Validator facilitator/s. Attendance below the minimum of 80% will automatically disqualify the startup team from the programme, automatically forfeiting their right for a refund. Delays to attended sessions will be factored in with the above-mentioned percentages.
    • Both startup founders must be present for the Bootcamp and final pitch at the end of the programme. A third or more founder are encouraged to attend.
  2. Teams with startup projects deemed to be at an advanced level of maturity – typically concept ideas that have been validated and tested with a prototype in the intended environment (TRL 4-6) – will be invited by the evaluation committee to apply directly for the upcoming Accelerator programme YouStartIT#6.
  3. Participation in the Bootcamp and final pitching session is mandatory for all startup teams that seek to be selected for the YouStartIT#6 Accelerator.
  4. Startup teams selected at the final pitch to participate in the YouStartIT accelerator programme, must be ready to formalise into a Small Startup Undertaking registered in Malta as mandated by the rules of the YouStartIT programme. The undertaking shall take the form of a Partnership or Limited Liability Company, and shall be composed of a minimum of two co-founders and a maximum of nine.
  5. MITA may, at its discretion, request a startup team to cease participation in the Validator programme, if in its reasonable opinion the team has failed to demonstrate sufficient commitment to the programme, acted negligently or failed to carry out the assignments. In such circumstances the startup team will forfeit its right to a refund of the €100 deposit.
  6. Startup teams not accepted to the Validator or not selected at the final pitch will still be able to apply for the YouStartIT#6 Accelerator programme

Selection process and timeline

Though every effort has been made to ensure completeness of the programme, the MITA Innovation Hub reserves the right to carry out changes to the above timeline or rectify any errors after publication, including switching mode of delivery of the programme from online to on-location (physical presence).

The programme may be withdrawn without notice if an insufficient number of applications are received.

Before applying

By submitting an application for this programme you are confirming that:

  • you are in agreement will all the rules, terms and conditions in this document
  • you have read the MIH Rules of Engagement available on the MIH website, as well as the F6S Privacy Policy, Terms of Use and Cookie Policy before submitting

To find out how to access the application form refer to the next section titled How to Apply.  You should first initiate your application form on F6S before requesting any feedback or clarifications about the process from the MITA Innovation Hub team.

How to apply

To apply Startups should first register on the F6S portal and then fill out the application form. To access the F6S portal, click on the green F6S button on the MIH website. After completing the application you should submit it electronically by Thursday 18th June 2020 at 23:59 hours CET.

Any attachments that are illegible, inaudible or non-viewable will not be reviewed. So it is your responsibility to test them prior to uploading. Any supporting documentation such as slide decks or PDF files should be concise, requiring not more than ten (10) minutes reading time.

Connectivity issues are a common occurrence. We therefore strongly recommend you avoid submitting applications just minutes before the deadline, as we will not be able to make any exceptions and the F6S button switches off automatically. Ensure that any URL links to web content used in your application is available until the selection process is concluded.

Annex 1 – Selection criteria

All applications will be judged in line with the selection criteria and the Thematic Areas governing the call. This will be carried out by MITA. The following five sets of criteria will be applied to each submitted application.

  1. Team credibility and competences – the team must convince the evaluating committee that they are committed to their startup project, and that they possess or are able to muster the required technical expertise, resources and competences in the Thematic Area needed to execute the business idea.
  2. Problem definition – the degree of competence on and around the problem area which the team’s proposed idea will resolve; the extent to which the team has identified the pains to be solved and the gains to be achieved by the customer.
  3. Choice of technology – the team must provide a convincing justification for the choice of technology to execute the business idea and an explanation on why they believe it is the right technology to use to solve the identified problem.
  4. Commercial potential of the idea – the anticipated appeal of the proposed solution to the identified customers, the value to be delivered; what pains will it solve, and what gains will be achieved by the customer; an anticipation of future financial returns.
  5. Innovativeness – a combination of one or more of the following factors that are likely to translate into an unfair advantage of the proposed solution: the degree of newness of the solution or business model to the market, the potential superiority over existent solutions, and the emerging or high impact nature of the technology used

The applications will be ranked according to the score achieved for each judging criterion. The application with the highest score will be selected for the programme.

For each selection criteria a score from 0 to 5 will be assigned:

0 – the application does not meet the relevant criterion or cannot be judged due to missing or incomplete information.

1 – Very poor: The criterion is inadequately addressed, or includes serious weaknesses

2 – Not satisfactory: Although the application broadly addresses the criterion, there still are significant weaknesses.

3 – Good: The application addresses the criterion well, although improvements would be needed.

4 – Very Good: The application meets the criterion very well, but certain improvements are still possible.

5 – Excellent: The application successfully meets all relevant aspects of the criterion in question. Any shortcomings are minor.

Based on the scores of the individual selection criteria, a total score will be calculated for each application.

Annex 2 – Final Judging Criteria

To be selected for the next edition of the YouStartIT accelerator programme, teams completing the Validator programme will be judged against the following sets of criteria:

  1. Team Credibility and Competence – in addition to having met the Eligibility Criteria for this call, the startup team must demonstrate good team dynamics, complementary and multi-disciplinary skills, competences and/or resources to deliver a first tested version of a prototype in 12 weeks. To ensure inclusivity from all members of society, in instances of a tie, teams consisting of a diverse group will be favoured.
  2. Problem – the degree of competence on and around the problem area which the team’s proposed idea will resolve; the extent to which the team has qualified the pains to be solved and the gains to be achieved by the customer measured in terms of time, cost, risk or revenue lost if the pain points are not solved within a certain time period.
  3. Value Proposition – the degree to which the team has quantified the uniqueness and innovativeness of the solution by providing information about customer acquisition costs and product development costs, in relation to an expected revenue and the value to be delivered to the customer.
  4. Weekly Thematic Sessions and Bootcamp – level of participation and overall performance attained during the various assignments of the programme.
  5. Final Pitch – the degree of completeness of the final presentation which must cover all the outcomes of criteria A to C above; non-verbal communication; graphical representation; clarity of delivery and confidence; and backing references as needed.

The startup projects presented will be ranked according to the score achieved for each judging criterion. The team with the highest score will be selected for funding as part of the YouStartIT Accelerator. Teams that fail to attain one or more of the threshold scores (see below) will not be selected for funding.

For each award criteria a score from 0 to 5 will be assigned:

0 – the startup project does not meet the relevant criterion or cannot be judged due to missing or incomplete information.

1 – Very poor: The criterion is inadequately addressed, or includes serious weaknesses

2 – Not satisfactory: Although the startup project broadly addresses the criterion, there still are significant weaknesses.

3 – Good: The startup project addresses the criterion well, although improvements would be needed.

4 – Very Good: The startup project meets the criterion very well, but certain improvements are still possible.

5 – Excellent: The startup project successfully meets all relevant aspects of the criterion in question. Any shortcomings are minor.

The respective thresholds for the award criteria are:

Criterion Threshold
A 3
B 3
C 3
D 3
E 3

Based on the scores of the individual award criteria, a total score will be calculated for each startup project.

Annex 3 – YouStartIT Validator Acceptance Form

MITA accepts no liability for any consequences, whether direct or indirect, that may come about from any of the Startup Team’s members participating in the Validator Programme. The participating members shall indemnify and hold harmless MITA, its employees, agents, officers or sub-contractors with respect to all claims, demands, actions, costs, expenses, losses, damages and all other liabilities arising from or incurred by reason of the actions and/or omissions of the Startup Team in relation to participation in the Validator Programme, the non-fulfilment of obligations of the Startup Team under this Agreement or its obligations to third parties.

[1]: Technology Readiness Level
[2]: YouStartIT is an accelerator programme run by the MITA Innovation Hub (MIH), an innovation space operated by the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA).
[3]: Minimum Viable Product
[4]: The product manager is the co-founder responsible for taking technical decisions, managing the project from a technical point of view, and taking business critical technical decisions, such as technical design planning, product architecture and development platform selection.

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