Traction Camp, changing the paradigm of failure in CEE


TRACTION Camp launched in 2015 as a USAID-backed project to support the business development operations of early-stage, scalable technology startups from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, and Ukraine.

After three events in 2015, in which 78 founders of regional startups took part, more than 50% of our participants have hired new team members, and more than 40% have raised additional funding for their companies.

For 2016, TRACTION Camp aims to go to a new level with a new topic focused on agriculture & technology, on which 15 founders will be taken into accelerator-roadshows to the US and Western Europe.

We reached out to talk a bit more with one of the key figures behind Traction Camp, Maxim Gurvits (eleven, Teres Capital, CCC Ventures and now Cross Border Angels), an entrepreneur who knows the inside-out of the startup scene of Eastern Europe.


How satisfied have you been with the previous edition of Traction-camp, and what was the aim around the first series? 

Max: I was actually extremely surprised with the output of TRACTION Camp. Not all three events were equal in quality, but overall more than 50% of participants reported company growth (and headcount growth) after the events, and many got into accelerators or received other funding (40%).


Why AgTech for the second edition of Traction Camp?

Max: AgTech is a field that is of particular strategic significance for the CEE. This is both because of agriculture itself being the major industry in our region (so we can push the needle extra hard with innovations here), and because of drones as well. Not only are drones a domain where CEE, traditionally strong in electronics and mechanical engineering, has an easier time being good in, but also because in most countries in CEE the rules for drones are still very smooth, or absent as a whole. Which means that building and testing them here is easier.

Max Gurvits


What is the goal for this years edition?

Max: This year we want to improve on the quality we had last year. In 2015, we were able to provide top-industry-level value for entrepreneurs by giving them a 3-day crash course with real industry experts. This year we’re doing the same, but also immersing them in the culture and daily operations of advanced markets, like the Valley or London. Our goals is not to get the companies funded or to get them clients, although we’re very happy when that happens. Our goals is to take away cultural and geographical disadvantages that founders in CEE face. Kind of creating a level playing field.


Who can apply and what are the criteria? 

Max: Unfortunately for people from EU countries, TRACTION Camp is only for founders that are either residents or company owners in countries where USAID-REG is active. That is Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, and Ukraine. We’re working on expanding the offering to other countries too, but for now we can only work with founders from these places.


Are we ready to put technology into the heart of agriculture?

Max: Yes, I believe in agtech we have a much better chance to excel than in general SaaS or consumer mobile apps. Companies like Farmeron are already proving that potential, and we want to create opportunities for others to do the same.


What are some of the benefits of participating on Traction Camp?

Max: As I said, we’re not doing this to help founders get an investment or revenue, although indirectly that’s what should be happening after TRACTION Camp. The real value is for founders to understand the business culture, sales culture, and business development operations of advanced markets. There is a massive cultural difference that most founders without outside experience cannot internalize. And that’s why most startups from CEE fail. TRACTION Camp has it’s main goal in changing that paradigm.


If you think that you’re fit for the program and got what it takes, then continue applying here.