Boosted by the Startup Incubator, the EcoPetBox is conquering the American market
Startups – like chess players – need a good strategy. Of course, it is also possible to build your business independently, but it is much easier and more efficient to do it with the help of more experienced people. In the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, startups are supported by various mentors who help startups to avoid mistakes and open some doors that would otherwise remain closed.
EcoPetBox, which manufactures environmentally friendly pet products, finished the Startup Incubator growth program in 2020. Today, they have customers in both Europe and America and the company continues to expand. Jörgen Sildvee, co-founder of the company, said that the most important thing in the Startup Incubator’s growth program was that both the incubator team and the mentors were enthusiastic about it.
Right idea, wrong time
When EcoPetBox went to Europe in 2016 with a prototype of its original product – a biodegradable cat litter box – the initial feedback was startling. However, two years later, they were already warmly received and their box was called the product of the future. “As they say: if you come to the market with something that is immediately positively received, then you are too late. This was also true for us: the idea was right, but the timing was not right yet,” said Jörgen Sildvee.
In Europe, their products are still seen as something that supports a green way of thinking and living, but for Americans, it is a purely convenience product, which is why finding customers in America has been fairly smooth. Sildvee said that in fact their product is a combination of both: environmental awareness and comfort.
The company currently has mainly retail customers, although there is an increasing desire to focus on animal clinics. For example, they have managed to sign a cooperation agreement with Evidensia, one of the world’s largest chains of animal clinics.
The key driver is the key mentor
In 2020, it was decided to apply for the Tehnopol Startup Incubator growth program in order to further grow and develop the company. Jörgen Sildvee said that one of the important differences with the Startup Incubator is its personal touch. “We really liked the fact that each team had its own key mentor, who was really enthusiastic about it – he asked, talked, thought along, and contacted us himself,” Sildvee recalled. He added that while it is still often said that if you have any questions, then ask, as a startup entrepreneur you don’t always know when to ask, so it’s good to have someone who asks you himself and then guides you to the right answers.
The key mentors of the Startup Incubator are experts in their field who have a lot of experience, who are probably entrepreneurs and investors themselves, and who know what questions are asked of startup companies.
“At the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, the key driver is really the key mentor. You always have someone to turn to and ask for advice. The role and personality of the key mentor is a very big strength of this growth program,” said Sildvee. “You can always say you have a very strong player on the team and it works.”
As a bonus, Sildvee also pointed out that the Startup Incubator program was not too intensive, so there is still time to do business. “Some business accelerators assume that participants can participate in the program for a full work week and so for several months in a row. But when will I run my business?” said Sildvee. Nothing happened when, in some cases, no one on the team could participate – they made up for it by meeting with their key mentor.
The key mentor of EcoPetBox was Riivo Anton, who said that there were several things that set EcoPetBox apart from other companies. “Firstly, the pet sector is on an upward trend and secondly, it is important that their product has an environmentally friendly nuance. In addition, the founders of the company know how to sell – they have found big players in the market and managed to sell their product to them. Together, these things form a company that investors are interested in,” said Anton.
Tehnopol Startup Incubator is waiting for candidates for this year’s final growth program until September 9. More information and the application form can be found here: https://www.startupincubator.ee/en