Hero House GateWay accelerator to connect emerging Europe with Southern California

Glendale-based start-up hub Hero House is set to launch its GateWay accelerator, connecting emerging Europe’s start-ups with Southern California’s opportunities.

In recent years, due to the rising costs of labour and housing in California’s Silicon Valley, many start-up founders have been foregoing the Bay Area in favour of Southern California (SoCal), which due to its favourable business environment and great talent pool looks set to be the state’s next up-and-coming area for the start-up scene.

Thanks to SmartGateVC’s Hero House Glendale hub, and the inaugural GateWay accelerators, start-ups from the emerging Europe region will be able to take advantage of everything that SoCal has to offer.

The GateWay programme will run from February 8 to July 24 and will include a 12-week mentorship programme to help start-ups establish their growth frameworks, as well as refine and validate their sales strategies. Then, it’s eight weeks of on-site business and customer development, culminating in a Demo Day at Hero House Glendale in front of more than 100 carefully selected US investors.

Programme partners include such big-name companies as IBM, Google, AWS, and Hubspot.

The latest programme is not the first time that SmartGate has collaborated with start-ups in the emerging Europe region. The fund has been operating between the US and the region for years, establishing a network of founders, scientists, and business experts which, it says, operate on the edge where science and entrepreneurship meet.

Mastering essential skills

One of the firms that has benefited from previous Hero House accelerators is Expper Technologies, a Yerevan-based start-up whose robotic companion, Robin, helps to provide social and emotional support for children in hospitals. UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital is among the start-up’s pilot clients.

“As a programme alumnus, I can attest that it helped me master the essential skills needed to run a start-up,” says Karen Khachikyan, founder and CEO of Expper Technologies. “I gained access to a wide network of industry experts, advisors, and investors. Also, the scientific team of Hero House helped us to develop technology faster and more efficiently.”

For the start-up, involvement with Hero House did not end with the accelerator programme, as Expper also received funding from the in-house SmartGateVC and other investors, allowing it to deploy the Robin robot in reputable hospitals and dental clinics.

“Start-ups that consider applying to the GateWay Accelerator can be assured that the training and mentorship opportunities will create an environment of continuous learning and growth,” Mr Khachikyan tells Emerging Europe.

Advice and mentorship

For start-ups in the deep tech fields especially, SoCal represents an excellent choice. The region is home to some of the world’s top research universities such as Caltech, USC and UCLA. Deep tech is exactly the focus of the upcoming GateWay accelerator, and Hero House plans to provide companies with connections to the scientists at those leading universities to solve the team’s scientific challenges and making path-breaking advancements.

Teams will also get guidance from leading artificial intelligence (AI) experts, if necessary, while retaining their intellectual property rights.

Another company that has benefited from the kind of advice and mentorship Hero House offers is Dzook, a start-up using AI to turn photos into illustrations and videos into animations.

As company founder and CEO Agata Badalyan explains, when the team joined the Hero House accelerator they had just released their mobile app and had about 500 users. But with the help and mentorship they received, they were able to grow to 10,000 users in more than 120 countries.

“Throughout the programme, I gained access to a wide network of industry experts, advisors, and investors,” Ms Badalyan tells Emerging Europe. “Moreover, Hero House has also helped us a lot in developing our technology – the scientific team of Hero House has provided us with valuable inputs on solving our technology challenges.”

Dzook walked away from the programme with 50,000 US dollars of investment from SmartGateVC and an angel investor, and is still receiving support from Hero House members.

The inaugural GateWay accelerator programme is funded through the City of Glendale’s Tech Initiative and is currently accepting applications. Founders with strong execution skills working on robust AI start-ups with early traction can apply by January 10. An info session will be held on January 6, where interested founders will be able to learn more about the programme and ask their questions.

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