Sputnik ATX Launches an Incubator/Accelerator in Austin Aimed at Helping Startups Scale

Oksana Malysheva, President, and CEO of Linden Education Partners and CEO of Sputnik ATX


By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

Sputnik ATX is one of Austin’s newest startup incubators and accelerators.

“We’re in a bit of a stealth mode right now,” said Oksana Malysheva, President, and CEO of Linden Education Partners and CEO of Sputnik ATX.

Sputnik ATX, which fashions itself after a Y-Combinator incubation model, will begin accepting applications for its first class in October, Malysheva said. It should have details for the criteria of what it’s looking for in startups on its website shortly, she said.

Sputnik ATX is not related to the Sputnik news agency in Russia. Its name stems from Sputnik 1, the first Earth satellite launched into orbit in 1957 by the former Soviet Union that launched the space race. Malysheva earned her B.S. and M.S. in Physics from the Moscow Institute of Technology. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as an executive with Motorola and McKinsey & Co.

Josef Merrill, chief financial officer of Linden Education Partners who will also be involved with Sputnik ATX, received his B.A. from the University of California at Davis and his MBA from the University of Chicago. He is a former U.S. diplomat.

“Sputnik is about connecting world-class entrepreneurs to investors who will propel them to success,” Malysheva said.

The Sputnik ATX incubator and accelerator will last 100 days. The first class will begin in January. Sputnik plans to host three classes a year.

Initially, Sputnik will be based in office space on the 22nd floor of the 301 Congress building downtown. It’s space the incubator has subleased from Teza, a hedge fund that occupies the entire floor. Chicago-based Teza opened an Austin office in 2015. Teza is headed up by its CEO and founder Mikhail “Misha” Malyshev, who is also the husband of Oksana Malysheva.

“It’s a nice space and Teza is a very innovative company and they have supported us nicely,” Malysheva said.

The incubator will provide office space, mentorship, coaching, training, and funding. Linden Education Partners’ first investments have been in education technology and financial technology. It will accept five to ten companies in its first class. The companies can apply from anywhere but they must be based in Austin for the duration of the incubator class, Malysheva said.

Linden Education Partners has already invested in Declara, based in Palo Alto, Calif. a social learning platform run by Ramona Pierson. It has also invested in financial technology startups: Kapitall and SaveDay.

The companies accepted into the Sputnik incubator will receive $100,000 investment in exchange for an equity stake in their company, Malysheva said. The incubator will also help them to raise additional funds to scale their businesses.

Sputnik’s investors come from a family fund and individual investors, Malysheva said.

“Most of the businesses we have made an investment in have focused on elevating the human being to their highest potential,” Malysheva said. “It has to be good economics. We have to believe at the time of investment that it is the right business for us to be in. But part of what we do also is, it’s not my term, but Goosebumps business.”

“That means something about the business you’re in has to make this world a better world,” she said.

They are also looking at investing in startups where the founder is the builder, Malysheva said. The founder is integral to the product, she said. The founder cannot outsource the production of the software or product, she said.

Sputnik chose to locate in Austin for the city’s entrepreneurial culture, and its technology talent, Malysheva said. And the quality of life here is nice, she said.

“Entrepreneurship is a very lonely endeavor,” Malysheva said.

The key is it’s a marathon, Malysheva said. The Sputnik incubator provides a network of people who are all launching companies at the same time and can draw strength, encouragement, and advice from one another, she said.

“I’m hoping to build that network of co-conspirators from the very beginning,” she said.

Ideas are nothing unless an entrepreneur can take them over the finish line, Malysheva said. Entrepreneurs need to find ways to seek strength, rejuvenate and not burn out, she said. It’s not taught enough in the entrepreneurial community, she said.

Already, Austin has the Austin Technology Incubator, one of the oldest continuously operating incubators in the country, Capital Factory with its technology accelerator, Tarmac Texas at Galvanize, Techstars, TechRanch and SKU Accelerator, among others.

But Malysheva thinks there is room for more.

“So far people have been very welcoming to us,” Malysheva said. “It feels more like cooperation than competition. I think that the more companies that invest here the bigger it gets.”

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