What is BlockStart?

BlockStart is a 3-stage intensive mentor-led programme that provides blockchain/DLT solution providers with the best resources to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are in the EU Member States or H2020 Associated Countries.

BlockStart is run by Bright Pixel, a company builder studio that invests in early-stage projects, including DLT-based; CIVITTA, an innovation consultancy building DLT know-how across Europe; and F6S, the largest social network for startups in the world.

Startups/SMEs accepted into BlockStart will have access to a variety of perks, including:

  • equity-free funding (up to €20,000 for blockchain/DLT solution providers; up to €4,500 for SME adopters);
  • piloting opportunities to help developers explore new value streams for market ready blockchain-tech;
  • support from BlockStart team and network of fellow participants, intermediaries and advisors;
  • individualized coaching/mentorship from Bright Pixel, CIVITTA and F6S teams;
  • networking with industry leaders, technology pitching and showcase opportunities at blockchain events and industry conferences.

BlockStart is a 3-stage intensive mentor-led programme. It will have 3 Open Calls. Each batch will go to a 6-month programme that starts with the Ideation Kick-off (an online event where startups present their DLT/blockchain solutions, end-user SMEs present their needs/challenges and exploratory meetings are held between both), after which the most successful blockchain/DLT solution providers are admitted to a 4-month Prototype phase aimed at supporting the product/market fit. Finally, during the 2-month Pilot phase, startups/SMEs working with blockchain and other DLTs will have a unique opportunity to validate their solutions, pilot their innovations with end-users and work toward product/market fit.

BlockStart invites startups and SMEs to provide innovative blockchain based solutions in the fintech, ICT and retail sectors.

Applicants must fulfil the following criteria:

  • registered as a company that complies with the Commission Recommendation for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) 2003/361/EC*;
  • located in EU or H2020 associated countries;
  • able to develop solutions to the following sectors: fintech, ICT and retail.

When there is not a constituted SME the applicants could be an individual or group of individuals legally established in a H2020 eligible country and with a written commitment to set up a legal SME if reaching the Prototype phase of BlockStart’s programme (selection to the Ideation Kick-off event).

Yes. Although the project/blockchain solution is expected to target end-user SMEs (that will be running to BlockStart in a parallel Open Call) in a B2B model, the DLT/blockchain startup can target other clients, such as individuals or large corporates, if there is an SME in the project’s value chain (B2C model).

The SME’s involvement must make sense for the piloting and implementation of the blockchain solution (e.g., to provide feedback, foresee future partnerships, help the solution reach its target clients, etc.). Therefore, BlockStart is not only relevant for B2B, but also B2C projects.

No. Only the selected beneficiaries will be benefiting from BlockStart services.

No, BlockStart Open Call #3 already closed. There won’t be further open calls.

Submit your application until the 26th of May 2021 at 5pm CET time (Brussels time) if you are a DLT/blockchain startup developer, and until the 10th of November 2021 at 5pm CET (Brussels time) if you are an SME adopter.

For DLT/blockchain startup developers, evaluation & selection will run between the end of May-beginning of July 2021. The final decision about the 20 DLT developers that get accepted will be communicated by the beginning of July, the latest.

For the 1st cut-off date (submissions closed on the 6th of July), SME adopters will be evaluated in early July 2021, and at least 10 will be invited to participate in the Ideation Kick-off, around 2 weeks before the event. For the 2nd cut-off date, SME adopters will be evaluated in mid-November 2021, and up to 20 will take part in BlockStart’s Pilot phase.

If you are accepted into the programme, you are expected to attend the Ideation Kick-off (2-day a remote event) on the 27th and 28th of July 2021, with no exceptions. At least 10 DLT developers selected at the Ideation Kick-off will then move to Prototype stage, happening from August and November 2021.Finally, a minimum of 5 DLT developers selected at the end of Prototype stage will move to Pilot stage, alongside up to 20 selected SME adopters. This final period of BlockStart’s Open Call #3 will take place from December 2021 to February 2022, culminating with a Demo Day event.

English is the official language for BlockStart open calls. Submissions done in any other language will not be evaluated. English is also the only official language during the whole execution of the BlockStart programme. This means any requested submission of deliverables will be done in English to be eligible.

Funding is given by the BlockStart consortium under a Sub-Grantee Agreement signed by the selected proposers and the BlockStart consortium. The funds are given by the European Commission (Horizon 2020 Framework Programme), which uses BlockStart Acceleration Programme as intermediary.

The aid provided is relying on a cascade-funding scheme involving H2020 funds. The scheme is based on a Grant Agreement signed by the European Commission and the BlockStart Consortium partners. The Consortium partners as such receive the H2020 funds which are then transferred to the winners of our 3 Open Calls based on the rules and regulations explained in Annex 2 – Guidelines for Applicants, available at our website.

For the application form and detailed guidance for applicants, please download the files available at www.blockstart.eu/open-calls. The BlockStart consortium will organise webinars and be present at events between March and May 2021, to connect with interested applicants. Please check the BlockStart F6S page, follow our social media accounts and subscribe to our newsletter if you want to stay tuned with this programme.

The BlockStart consortium will provide information to the applicants only via www.f6s.com/blockstart, so that all information (questions and answers) will be accessible to all potential applicants.

No binding information will be provided via any other means (e.g. telephone or email).

More info at: www.blockstart.eu/open-calls

Apply via: www.f6s.com/blockstart

FAQ: https://www.blockstart.eu/open-calls/faq/

Online Q&A: www.f6s.com/blockstart/discuss

Support team: hello@blockstart.eu

How to participate

The accepted applicants for the BlockStart Open Call #3 are startups in the form of SMEs.

An SME will be considered as such if complying with the European Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC and the SME user guide. As a summary, the criteria which define an SME are:

  1. Headcount in Annual Work Unit (AWU) less than 250.
  2. Annual turnover less or equal to €50 million OR annual balance sheet total less or equal to €43 million.

An SME is considered eligible for BlockStart Open Call if it complies with ALL the following rules:

  1. It is a legal entity established and based in one of the EU Member States or an H2020 Associated Countries as defined in H2020 rules for participation.
  2. It is a technology provider or technology adopter/user able to develop solutions to the fintech, ICT and/or retail sectors.
  3. Startups that do not have yet annual turnover or balance sheets are also considered eligible given that they fulfill the criteria Headcount in Annual Work Unit (AWU) less than 250, in accordance to Recommendation 2003/361/EC.
  4. In case an SME is awarded a sub-project, it will remain eligible even if, at a certain point during the sub-project execution, it does not fulfill the criteria “Headcount in Annual Work Unit (AWU) less than 250” or “Annual turnover less or equal to €50 million OR annual balance sheet total less or equal to €43 million”.

When there is not a constituted SME the applicants could be an individual or group of individuals legally established in a H2020 eligible country and with a written commitment to set up a legal SME if reaching the Prototype phase of BlockStart’s programme (selection to the Ideation Kick-off event).

All applications MUST be submitted via the F6S Platform. In order to apply, please register first and fill in the BlockStart Application Form. Submissions received by any other channel will be automatically discarded.

Should you have some questions regarding the Open Call, please post your query via the F6S Platform and remember to read Annex 2 – Guidelines for Applicants to get all the information you need to apply successfully.

Each SME blockchain/DLT developer may submit only one proposal at each BlockStart Open Call. In case an SME submits more than one proposal per Open Call, only the last one received (timestamp of the system) will be considered, and all the following proposals submitted will be automatically excluded from the evaluation process. If the last submitted proposal is declared then non-eligible or fails to reach the thresholds of the evaluation, the other proposals submitted earlier will not be considered for evaluation in any case.

No. Unfortunately, Open Call #3 will be BlockStart’s final Open Call.

You should also take into consideration that it is only possible to apply for the current Open Call #3 for DLT/blockchain developers if you have not been invited to the Prototype stage in previous Open Calls. For SME adopters not invited to the Pilot stage in Open Call #1 and #2, you can apply to the current Open Call #3. In other words, SMEs already selected at the Ideation Kick-off (Open Call #1 and #2) to move to the Prototype stage are automatically excluded from participating in Open Call #3, even if they submit a different proposal. However, developers participating at the Ideation Kick-off, but not moving to the 4- month Prototype stage, may apply to the current call.

If you have not been invited to the Prototype stage of BlockStart programme (as DLT/blockchain SME developer) and/or pilot stage (as SME adopter) you can apply to the current Open Call #3. Unfortunately, this will be the last call of BlockStart.

No. As it is stated in Annex 2 – Guidelines for Applicants, an SME is eligible for BlockStart’s programme if It is a technology provider or technology adopter/user able to develop solutions to the fintech, ICT and/or retail sectors.

Yes. When there is not a constituted SME, the applicants could be an individual or a group legally established in a H2020 eligible country, with a written commitment to set up a legal SME if selected to the Ideation Kick-off phase.

As long as the Brexit has not been formalised, it is business as usual for H2020 projects. This means that for Open Call #3, British applicants are eligible and must comply with H2020 grant rules.

Yes. To process and evaluate applications, BlockStart will need to collect Personal and Industrial Data. The consortium will act as Data Controllers of the personal data applicants supply throughout BockStart. In particular, data submitted for the purposes of the Open Call(s) will be managed through the F6S Platform, whose system design and operational procedures ensure that data is managed in compliance with The General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR).

A summary of the proposals and the participants’ information will also be shared with the EC. Moreover, we can publish basic information data and funding received in our project website, with your agreement. All the information that will be made public is clearly indicated in Annex 2 – Guidelines for Applicants. Unless you want to, no technical insights will be published anywhere.

Please note that BlockStart requests the minimum information needed to deliver the evaluation procedures or the acceleration programme. Annex 6 – Bank Account Information and Annex 7 – Sub-Grant Template are provided for reference and will only be requested if the SME is accepted in the acceleration programme. Please refer to www.blockstart.eu/data-protection/ to get informed about the BlockStart data protection policy and security measures.

This information is mandatory.

The applicant must upload a signed version of Annex 3.1 – Proposal Supplement, Annex 4 – Declaration of Honour and Annex 5 – SME Declaration in PDF format as part of the application process. If the files are empty or incomplete, your proposal will be automatically discarded. Later submissions of these documents will not be accepted.

It is highly advised to go through all the questions of both annexes, to make sure you have filled in all the required information.

If there is not yet a registered SME, the applicant should fill in and sign Annex 5.1. – Declaration of Commitment to Establish and SME (a prerequisite to participate in the Ideation Kick-off). However, if selected to the Ideation Kick-off, the beneficiary will only be able to receive the corresponding €1,000 grant payment after registering an SME and filling and signing Annex 5 – SME Declaration.

Each application will be reviewed by (at least) 2 business and technology external experts. Applications will be scored based on the following evaluation criteria:

  • Criterion 1: Concept – Design, reliability, feasibility, novelty of the product or service concept proposed.
  • Criterion 2: Technology – Technology and business fit to BlockStart scope, innovation, technical capacity to achieve TRL 6-9 at Pilot stage (to cross the valley of death), technical milestones.
  • Criterion 3: Impact – Expected output should target clear economic and societal impact, market potential, European dimension, cross-sector/-border business scalability, and define a clear exploitation strategy/ business plan and commercial milestones.
  • Criterion 4: SME/Team –  Capacity to perform the task, knowledge, technological and business expertise, commitment.

Selected participants

A total of, at least, €265,000 will be allocated for the direct benefit of these SMEs (both providers and end-users/adopters) through our Open Call #3.

The maximum amount of funding that each DLT developer may receive is €20,000 (i.e. €1,000 after the Ideation Kick/off, €15,000 after the Prototype phase and €4,000 after the Pilot phase); while an SME adopter may receive €4,500 (i.e. €1,500 after the Ideation Kick-off phase and €3,000 after the Pilot phase).

BlockStart funding is results-driven, where the funding is associated with the full achievement of the relevant milestones across the different phases. Therefore, as a general rule, there will be no pre-funding.

Selected blockchain/ DLT Solution Providers (Developers) and SMEs will be funded as follows: €1,000 after the Ideation Kick/off; €15,000 after the Prototype phase and €4,000 after the Pilot phase; while an SME adopter may receive €1,500 after the Ideation Kick-off phase and €3,000 after the Pilot phase.

Not for this project. Payments are provided in a lump sum mode, which are released if some conditions are met (check Annex 2 – Guidelines for Applicants).

The Kick-off funding serves to compensate for the business development costs, that is, putting together a business case (i.e., a pitch deck and a 1-pager summary of their project) and attending the Ideation Kick-off event (presence of at least one team member is mandatory – online presence, if the event ends up being virtually held, due to Covid-19). The Prototype funding amount is used towards the technical development/adaptation of the blockchain/ DLT solution towards the needs of SMEs adopters, as well as business development costs such as doing on-site visits. The Pilot funding phase allows the developers to implement the solution within their systems – as well as the costs to the developer to eventually work on-site with the SMEs adopters.

On the other side, SMEs adopters will receive up to €4,500; this is to cover the costs of their participation at the Ideation Kick-off event (€1,500) and compensate for their engagement with developers along the Pilot stage (€3,000).

Sometimes subcontracting could bring added-value. Therefore, SMEs can use part of the money of the sub-grant to subcontract services from a technological partner to implement the project. Nevertheless, it is up to the evaluators to see if the part of the grant intended to be subcontracted is reasonable and in line with the milestones to be reached.

BlockStart will organise physical and/or online events for the teams involved. It will be compulsory to attend those events. At least one representative per team will be required on each event. Failing to attend any of the mandatory events defined at the beginning of each phase by BlockStart will automatically disqualify the team from the BlockStart programme.

The foreseen events are: Ideation Kick-off (for selecting the projects to enter the Prototype stage), which is expected to be held online on the 27th and 28th of July 2021 and the Demo Day Event (for the completion of the Pilot stage), which will take place in February 2022 (date and place still to be defined).

For more Q&A on Open Call #3, please join the F6S BlockStart Platform

Follow BlockStart on F6S

Take a look at our 3-year journey: