Sputnik ATX Meets with Local Entrepreneurs as Deadlines Looms for its First Accelerator Class

Josef Merrill and Oksana Malysheva, co-founders of Sputnik ATX, talk with entrepreneurs during a luncheon.

By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

At Sputnik ATX’s downtown office, a group of entrepreneurs gathered to talk about e-commerce startups and eat barbeque Monday afternoon.

“We’ve learned a lot about the startup scene in Austin hosting these events,” said Oksana Malysheva, President, and CEO of Linden Education Partners and CEO of Sputnik ATX.

So far, Sputnik ATX has received more than 100 applications for its first accelerator class which will begin on Jan. 15th and runs until April 20th, Malysheva said. They are coming from all over Texas and about ten international applicants from three continents, she said.

“For an applicant, the most important thing you need to have is a viable product and one paying customer,” Malysheva said. “That really distinguishes us from the other startup accelerators.”

There is very good logic for that, Malysheva said.

“We are going to be investing in the entrepreneur,” she said. “And if you don’t have one paying customer, we cannot accelerate you enough during that time.”

The Sputnik ATX accelerator is accepting five to ten startups in its first class. The incubator will provide office space, mentorship, coaching, training, and funding. The companies can apply from anywhere, but they must be based in Austin for the duration of the accelerator class.

The deadline to apply to the accelerator is Dec. 25th. The startups chosen for the program will receive a $100,000 investment in the form of a SAFE note, which stands for Simple Agreement for Future Equity.

Josef Merrill, partner and Chief Financial Officer for the Sputnik ATX program wrote a blog post on Austin Startups explaining the SAFE note and how it is used.

Entrepreneurs also must commit to spend time at Sputnik ATX’s Austin offices located on the 22nd floor of the high rise building at 301 Congress. Sputnik ATX is industry agnostic, Malysheva said.

“We are excited for this class and we really encourage the startups to apply,” Malysheva said. “There is still enough time to apply. If you have a viable product and a paying customer give it a shot. You can never win something if you don’t apply.”

Sputnik ATX can add the most value to startups in product development, marketing and sales, Merrill said.

“We want to really help people nail it and then scale it,” he said.

There are a lot of incubators and accelerators that do proto-companies with early-stage entrepreneurs working with an idea, Merrill said. The Sputnik ATX accelerator works with companies that are further along, he said.

In meeting with entrepreneurs around the state, Merrill said he’s seen a lot of startups that have great ideas, products, and customers, but they lack funding.

“We’re really excited to service this spot because it’s a sorely neglected space in the funding cycle,” Merrill said.

That’s why Sputnik ATX provides startups with $100,000 because they can really plow that money into product development, marketing, and sales and they can begin to see a lot of traction that will help them secure that Series A round of funding, Merrill said.

“We’re giving the startups the high octane boosts to get them into their A round,” Merrill said.

The biggest mistake Sputnik ATX sees is startup founders raising money from friends and family and overvaluing their company, Merrill said. And no one signs non-disclosure agreements, he said.

“Everything that is to be known about you is known,” Merrill said. “If you’re a startup, you’re not trying to keep the world from knowing what you are doing, but you want to get the world to know what you are doing.”

Jeddy Yuan, founder and CEO of Incommon, an app to help people overcome addiction, has applied to the Sputnik ATX accelerator. The app is a peer to peer central hub that makes it easy for people to find help when it matters most, he said. He attended the luncheon to learn more about the program.

The app hit the Google Play Store and Apple App Store about three months ago and its users have been growing 9 percent week over week, Yuan said.

FourScore’s Sheli Austin, lead business analyst, Scott VanRavenswaay, co-founder and systems architect and Matthew Brashear, co-founder and CEO, at Sputnik ATX.

FourScore, a match.com for voters and candidates, has also applied for the Sputnik ATX accelerator, said Matthew Brashear, its co-founder and CEO. The company, founded in 2016, has raised a small seed stage round and is currently in beta testing in Salt Lake City, he said. Scott VanRavenswaay, co-founder and systems architect and Sheli Austin, lead business analyst, also attended the luncheon.

“Our mission is to empower local communities,” Brashear said.

For more on the Sputnik ATX accelerator, join them for free pizza at WeWork Congress on Wednesday. RSVP is required to attend.

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