TBC Bank in Georgia has launched a project – Startuper – aimed to support startups and promote entrepreneurship in Georgia. Interview with Nika Kurdiani, Deputy CEO at TBC Bank, about the project was done by GEORGIA TODAY, and we are publishing the full text of it:
Why did TBC Bank decide to support Startups?
At TBC Bank, we very well realize that, as a financial institution, we are one of the key contributors to the country’s economy. We employ thousands of people, have thousands of clients, and more than 80,000 business clients that we serve. In other words, we’re a very big corporate player and that’s what I would like to underline: when you’re a big corporate player you have to understand that corporate social responsibility is crucial; that your behavior and the decisions you make affect society and the country as a whole.
We’ve been doing a lot in the corporate social responsibility dimension for several years now, be it arts and culture, or rugby, for example. The same goes for the business support programs that TBC Bank started in 2013 together with organizations like IFC and ADB. We’ve been serving large corporations, small and medium size and micro businesses. Now we see that supporting startups is a necessary extension. They need support from an early stage. It shouldn’t only be through banking products, but also through various non-financial services-from trainings, consulting, and third party solutions to marketing and PR support.
Tell us about the Startuper program
We divide start-ups into two. One is an idea at the so-called incubation stage, when an individual has an idea, makes a prototype and finds the first client, gets enough money from the first client to make another prototype and, with his own capital invested, starts production. The second stage begins with the sales: if you’ve been able to sell your product for the first three months and you’ve already established that cycle, the risk that you won’t be selling it for the fourth one becomes lower and that’s when we offer our assistance by providing loans. We will not offer loans at the idea level, but as soon as the startup gets going, we’re there.
The program Startuper has different components: operational products like business cards, for example, which are available for clients even at the idea level. I would divide the program into three, actually: non-loan products for all types of startups, loans that we offer after the initial three-month operation period and onwards, and nonfinancial support like trainings, consulting and more. We’ve put it all together under the program umbrella concept and we’ll be adding even more components to it as it develops.
IDEA #1: “INCUBATION STAGE, WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL HAS AN IDEA, MAKES A PROTOTYPE AND FINDS THE FIRST CLIENT, GETS ENOUGH MONEY FROM THE FIRST CLIENT TO MAKE ANOTHER PROTOTYPE AND, WITH HIS OWN CAPITAL INVESTED, STARTS PRODUCTION.”
What are the non-financial components the program already has?
At this stage, apart from financial products within the program, we offer startupers non-financial components as well:
- Trainings in marketing, finance and developing startups.
- Networking and educational events.
- One-to-one consultations for startupers.
- Startuper web-catalogue.
- Media support.
We also plan to have various competitions on different topics related to the startup ecosystem and are currently working on creating a partner network of companies who will support startups with discounts or special propositions. In other words, our new Startuper project is to unite many different activities and offers that startupers will benefit from. That’s the main statement. Startuper is a place where you can find numerous products, offers and services that you can use for the development of your startup.
What about the financial support?
The Startup loan is for legal entities and entrepreneurs who have a minimum three years’ experience in business management. At the first stage, we intend to have a business category covering startup businesses that operate in the manufacture and service spheres. It is important to mention as well that a company must already have a history of sales for a minimum of three months, which means a startup has to already be serving clients and have sales. The minimum loan for startups is 20,000 GEL, however, lower loans can also be considered. The maximum amount for loans is 100,000 GEL. Startupers can fill in the application and present their business plans on www.startaperi.ge.
IDEA #2: “THE SECOND STAGE BEGINS WITH THE SALES: IF YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO SELL YOUR PRODUCT FOR THE FIRST THREE MONTHS AND YOU’VE ALREADY ESTABLISHED THAT CYCLE, THE RISK THAT YOU WON’T BE SELLING IT FOR THE FOURTH ONE BECOMES LOWER AND THAT’S WHEN WE OFFER OUR ASSISTANCE BY PROVIDING LOANS.“
What are the long-term results you expect from the project?
There are two things to be considered. One is the general corporate purpose, and the other is a concrete business goal. In terms of business, we have an extremely strong market presence, with every sixth newly established company opening its account in TBC Bank, so we don’t have any issues in that regard. Our purpose is to increase awareness of startupers in general in our country. We want being a Startuper to become trendy. In a way, we want it to be a network of people sharing their new ideas on a daily basis, getting to know each other and connecting.
If, with our efforts, there will be more startups and new initiatives created in our economy, at the end our part of corporate social responsibility will be fulfilled. Of course, that’s combined with a long-term business goal and expectations, too. Why are we doing it? Because we’re investing in our future customers. What is the interaction of state and private sectors in small and medium business development?
The State is doing quite a lot in that direction in the last two years alone we’ve seen the launch of a lot of programs: Startup Georgia, Produce in Georgia, the Innovation and Technology Agency and Techno Park projects, as well as programs for agriculture development. All resulted in getting more individuals involved in promoting the concept of startups, be it hackathons or startup weeks, and that’s encouraging. We at TBC Bank got inspiration from that; when we saw how active the State is. In November last year, the Prime Minister presented a startup friendly program in Techno Park, and TBC Bank was one of its first participants. When the State supports the promotion of startups and more new initiatives, the private sector is of course there to assist its development.
How will the Startuper program be linked with the TBC Business Awards?
There will be a startuper nomination added and, of course, all of it will be integrated in the wider Business Awards scheme.