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Recently, our Co-Founder Aljaxander Skrabowsky had an interview with Devby media outlet. Below are his most insightful ideas about various aspects of the venture studio phenomenon — from the model of working with startups to fundraising issues and DŌBRA’s unique features (published in abridged form with minor changes).

About Skrabowsky and “Dobra” before DŌBRA

Aljaxander Skrabowsky is an independent entrepreneur and impact investor, former co-founder, and director of the Belarusian Dobra Foundation. It was a non-profit organization dedicated to developing social innovations, promoting responsible and sustainable business practices, and organizing the Social Weekend contest of social projects for over 8 years.

During this time, more than 4,000 unique ideas took part in Social Weekend, with the contest supporting ideas worth over 1 million dollars. However, Dobra was liquidated by Belarusian authorities in the summer of 2021.

DŌBRA Studio Features

— We have tried different approaches to working with startups, so we came to the venture studio model evolutionarily, — Aljaxander explains. — The studio format seemed promising, as it allows the best of both the accelerator and the fund.

Our unique approach is focusing on one topic domain for all projects in a batch. We believe this increases startups’ chances of survival. Startup teams exchange expertise and developments at the operational level, strengthening each other. At the same time if a studio concept fails to pass validation and is shut down, the teams are redistributed without losing their accumulated expertise and onboarding time.

The core team of the studio, all the way up to the Seed round acts as operations team distributed across the startups, not just advisors, mentors, or board members. This is one reason why studios today have higher project survival rates than funds or accelerators.

The Cornerstone of Positive Impact

As a venture studio with a strong focus on impact, we conducted a large-scale survey before launching the first batch to find the issue that most affects society today. The result was a focus on mental well-being.

According to WHO, 1 in 8 people in the world suffers from a mental disorder (970 million people), and 1 in 4 will face mental or neurological problems at some point in their lives. There are over 10,000 apps and tech solutions for preventing and treating mental disorders worldwide, but only a few significantly improve the situation.

While working with startups from the idea stage, we held a Grand Prix — a series of modified hackathons to gather insights and consider around 1,000 ideas on the topic. We concluded with 98 promising insights for solutions and managed to pre-validate 14 tech product concepts within the studio. Four turned into pilot products and have already entered test markets:

Global Expertise and Unified Vision

Our team comprises 17 people living in 7 countries and 4 time zones. We have a core team covering HR, legal, marketing, expert scouting, and other areas. Another part — designers, developers — focuses solely on the products.

Our product owners don’t need to look for contractors or team members for product design, marketing, medical consultants, or enablers. These are all handled by the core team. This makes us the best option for those who dream of their own startup but realize they cannot manage solo-founding or work as a developer for a share on vesting for 4 years. Note that up to 60% of the share of startups is reserved for our co-founders.

Additionally, 10% of the value of future startups in the form of Grand Prix tokens is reserved for mentors and advisers. During Social Weekend, I observed many times when a mentor’s advice or recommendation had a tremendous impact on a project: founders found PMF, partnerships, investors, etc. Often, those who gave this useful advice received nothing but words of gratitude for their contribution.

Therefore, when launching the venture studio, we wanted to establish mechanics that would allow us to thank all those involved in our success. As a result, we reserved 10% of the value of future startups in the form of tokens. To implement this idea and guarantee fulfillment of this obligation, we have an agreement with KOOS.io.

Venture Studio Fundraising Dynamics

Studio fundraising has significant differences, and it is the task of studio co-founders rather than startup teams. Generally, it’s the same stages as a conventional startup: with investors’ pipelines, pitch decks, and lots of meetings. This work is ongoing: we raise about 200–250 thousand euros per quarter on a permanent basis, not from round to round.

At this stage, private investors have invested in our projects, and we have also attracted R&D grant money. Altogether, about 500 thousand euros.

Closer to the fall, all projects will become separate startups at the legal entity and team level. The studio will remain a shareholder. Further development (inside or outside the studio) will depend on the investor’s wishes and capabilities. At the same time, we plan to raise external funding for each of the startups.

Learn more about our latest event and our startups here: https://meet.dobra.world/