Φωτογραφία νεαρών επιχειρηματιών που συνεργάζονται και τριγύρω σε διάταξη το εικονίδιο μιας λάμπας, το σύμβολο του Next Stage και ένα βάθρο νικητών με ένα έπαθλο

Your startup effort taken to the next stage.

A competition with awards and prizes worth over 20.000€, for startup founders from Northern Greece.

Στο φόντο διακρίνονται δύο νέοι επιχειρηματίες που χαμογελούν ενώ στο προσκήνιο φαίνονται τα σύμβολα του Next Stage, μιας παρουσίασης κι ενός καπέλου αποφοίτησης

next stage
CHALLENGE 2021

If you are working on an innovative idea, or have already taken your first steps in the market, and your team members come from Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, or Florina, then this challenge is for you.

At Next Stage Challenge:

  • You will receive support through training and personalized one-on-one coaching to get your startup to the next stage
  • You will present your work in front of venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate actors looking for innovative ideas
  • You will claim awards and prizes worth over 20.000€

Winners announced!

Three grand prize winners and several additional prize winners have been announced.

Check out the winners

What stage are you in?

Submit your application in one of the following three stages

Εικονίδιο σταδίου ιδέας, μία λάμπα που φωτίζει

I have an idea

You have an innovative idea and the next stage is to validate if the market you are targeting is the right fit for your product or service

Εικονίδιο σταδίου πρωτοτύπου, ένα μολύβι πάνω σε ένα μηχανικό σχέδιο

I have a prototype

You have created an early version of your product or service and the next stage is to attract your first customers

Εικονίδιο σταδίου εσόδων, ένα νόμισμα ευρώ

I have early revenues

You are already in the market and have early revenues and the next stage is to grow your business

How we will support you in your journey

  • Training

    to be able to identify the risk factors of your business model and learn how to manage them

  • Practical tools

    to perform a better market analysis, map the competitive landscape, evaluate the financial opportunity, etc.

  • One-on-one coaching

    adapted to your stage of development in order to better assess and communicate your business model

  • Networking

    with experienced entrepreneurs and market stakeholders

  • Awards & prizes

    worth over 20.000€ to help you get to the next stage

Ομάδα νεαρών επιχειρηματιών που συνεργάζονται

Important dates

Εικονίδιο ημερολογίου

May 5th

Submissions deadline

Εικονίδιο ημερολογίου

May 15th

30 applications are selected to participate in our program

Εικονίδιο ημερολογίου

July 13-20

Semi-finals for the selection of the finalists

Εικονίδιο ημερολογίου

September 16th

Final competition and awards ceremony

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Idea stage

4.000€

Prototype stage

6.000€

Early revenues stage

10.000€

Εικονίδιο επάθλων

Awards & prizes

The 15 teams selected at the semi-finals will present their business models to a panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate actors, to claim awards and prizes worth over 20.000€.

The awards will be claimed in the form of monetary support and/or the provision of services based on the needs of the winning startups.

A wider network of supporting organizations will select some of the 15 teams to receive extra prizes.

Coaches & Trainers

Dimitris Kourtesis, Nikos Tsoniotis, and Stefanos Tsiakmakis are tech entrepreneurs, co-founders of Ideas Forward, and coaches at OK!Thess. They have supported more than 100 startups at different stages of their development. They are responsible for training and coaching the teams of Next Stage Challenge 2021.

Dimitris Kourtesis

Dimitris Kourtesis, PhD

 LinkedIn

Nikolaos Tsoniotis

Nikolaos Tsoniotis, MEng

 LinkedIn

Stefanos Tsiakmakis

Stefanos Tsiakmakis, PhD

 LinkedIn

Introductory courses to the training program of the competition will be conducted by experienced members of the Center for Volunteer Managers of Greece (KEMEL). KEMEL is composed of active and former senior executives of Greek and multinational companies with a strong willingness to volunteer.

Dionisis Spiliopoulos

Dionisis Spiliopoulos

 Profile

Pantelis Kontaxakis

Pantelis Kontaxakis

 Profile

Ioannis Kotis

Ioannis Kotis

 Profile

Organized by

The organization of this year's competition is co-financed by the European Union's European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and by national resources under the Interreg program and the iCBA project.

Sponsored by

Implemented by

Next Stage Challenge is a startup support platform developed by Ideas Forward, which also provides the competition's monetary awards.

Frequently asked questions

No. The participation in the program is free.

Yes. Participation is open: a) to existing companies, b) to groups of co-founders or individual founders of business ventures who have not yet started a business.

The cost of organizing this year's Next Stage Challenge is covered by the iCBA program, which aims to help startup founders and businesses operating in the specific Region.

Yes. Not all team members have to be from Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, or Florina, as long as one member of the founding team lives there.

Yes. A company can participate if it has a headquarters or branch in the target areas, or if a legal representative resides there permanently.

You should be ready to invest about 25 hours, over a period of 8 weeks, in order for us to work together on your project. Preparation for the 30 startups that will be accepted starts on May 15, 2021, and lasts until July 15. Every week you will be doing either a three-hour training workshop with all teams participating, or a coaching session for your team only.

Full attendance at the training program is not mandatory but we believe that in most teams it will be catalytic, in order to claim their qualification to the 15 finalists and a distinction in the finals. A minimum level of participation in coaching and training sessions is a prerequisite for participation.

The preparation of the 30 teams (15/5 - 15/7) and the semifinal will be conducted online. If the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic allow it, the final competition may take place in Thessaloniki, requiring a physical presence.

In brief:

  1. Degree of clarity in the description of the customer need and the value proposition
  2. Complementarity and team readiness
  3. Market size / economic perspective
  4. Degree of innovation

In more detail:

1. Degree of clarity in the description of the customer need and the value proposition

  • Based on the stage of the project, how clear is the problem faced by the potential customer or the opportunity/gap that exists in the market? *

In particular, for groups at different stages:

  • Idea stage: Has any need of the client been described in the form of pain to be solved, desired benefit, or job to be done? Is a potential client profile identified to the extent that it would allow market research to be launched or would identify some interested parties for the initial interviews?
  • Prototype stage: Have the customer needs been identified to a degree that would allow specific stakeholders to be involved in testing the prototype?
  • Revenue / business stage: Is the data collected so far sufficient to consider the customers' needs confirmed? Is the target audience identified to the extent that it would allow a systematic promotional process to be launched through specific channels?

2. Complementarity and team readiness

  • To what extent do the team members have the necessary skills in order to take the project to the next stage? *
  • Idea stage: Are the skills of the existing team members enough to develop a minimum viable version of the product / service that could be tested by potential buyers?
  • Prototype stage: Can the existing team develop a functional product / service and promote it in the market to acquire its first buyers?
  • Revenue / business stage: Are the skills of the existing team enough to lay the groundwork for the whole project to scale (securing and managing capital, finding and managing new human resources, scaling up production and promotion processes)

3. Market size / economic perspective

  • Based on the data presented, how big does the market seem to be? Would it allow the business to scale? Could it have international potential? *

(Common criterion for teams of all stages)

4. Degree of innovation

  • How innovative is the team's approach compared to existing direct or indirect competition in the market? *

(Common criterion for teams of all stages)

Not necessarily. We strongly encourage participation by founders who seek to bring innovative technology to market, or seek to utilize technology to create new services and products. The key objective is business model innovation and this does not necessarily have to come in the form of new technology.