Accelerator Portugal Startups Web3

Bullish On Founders: Chronicles Of Startup Wise Guy’s First Web3 Batch

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On March 14th, four startups graduated from Startup Wise Guys’ very first web3 accelerator program at a sold-out community event in Europe’s crypto capital, Lisbon.

It was a happy ending to a five-month-long journey of grind and play that had started under a cloud of controversy.

We don’t bet on web3 — we build it

Announcing our web3 program had raised eyebrows.

Scams, bad headlines and plummeting markets had pushed public and investor interest for crypto down to all-time lows — with eyes shifting to the new shiny toy, AI.

Blockchain was dismissed as tech in search of a problem, useful only for gambling and crime. Crypto insiders didn’t help either, mocking those that don’t get it rather than educating and building in non-crypto markets.

At Startup Wise Guys, we don’t care about narratives — up or down. In terms of those playing the markets: we are not bullish (optimistic) nor bearish (pessimistic) on crypto. We are bullish on bold founders working to better the world with technology. Progress is not about tech but about how people apply it to solve real problems.

For us, it was the perfect time to launch a web3 program. Teams resilient enough to build their way to product-market fit against all odds are likely cut out of unicorn cloth. We don’t bet on markets, we help founders build value in markets.

Like any other new tech, blockchain can unlock new business value and models to disrupt existing markets. It creates transparent, decentralized digital markets — out of the hands of the Facebooks and Googles — so users have ownership over their online assets and identities. This is the paradigm of web3: free and efficient digital markets everyone can permissionless-ly participate in.

This web3 promise has been lacking for its abuse by bad actors. Instead, we need pioneers with optimistic visions on how the world should be better and a relentless knack for market-driven execution to make them reality. Finding and championing such founders is what Startup Wise Guys does best.

Portuguese navigators by our side

We took the plunge together with our partners at 3Comma Capital. These Portuguese crypto-veterans acted as our co-investors and entrepreneurs-in-residence for the teams. Between our horizontal track record of scaling startups and their vertical web3 acumen, it was a match made in heaven.

In Lisbon, we were shown the way by the kind people of Unicorn Factory, who made us feel right at home in Europe’s biggest web3 ecosystem.

From fruit to fans: real-world web3 utility

For Startup Wise Guys Web3, we scouted building web3 products with obvious utility outside of the crypto bubble, solving real problems for specific consumers and companies in big markets.

  • TruMarket (Peru) — Solves financing for small-medium fruit growers by replacing intermediaries with automated blockchain smart contracts. The result is a more efficient and transparent supply chain that gives fruit buyers and financiers full traceability of fulfillment at every step.
  • Scorestars (Estonia) — Fantasy basketball game where fans play with ownable and tradable player cards to win prizes. A new fan experience for basketball leagues to engage and monetize young, digitally native audiences.
  • Nefture (France) — Peace of mind for DeFi asset managers with a set of tools that proactively protects their portfolios and transactions from exploits, hacks and scams.
  • Loyi (Germany) — No-code platform for lifestyle brands to engage, retain and monetize Gen Z audiences through web3-style loyalty programs — with digital collectibles, rewards and gamified challenges.

“What I appreciate most in Startup Wise Guys is the no fluff, no bs approach. Everybody is super direct and dedicated to help and support you — to push your startup forward.” 

From Zoom to Pasteis de Nata

The program kicked off with an on-site week in Lisbon. Here, batch team and founders bonded over dining, surfing, karaoke and mouth-watering pasteis de nata pastries. From the get-go, we build a culture of trust, safety and openness — where radical honesty always feels like the best option.

After Lisbon, the program alternated online sessions with two more in-person weeks; in Tartu (Estonia) and Lisbon again. This hybrid approach gets the best of both worlds: founders get to participate in the program from their homes and on their terms, without foregoing the human connection and creative serendipity that can only happen face-to-face. On-sites were also opportunities to pitch on-stage and network with wider startup communities.

Making waves in web3

Each team starts with early product-market fit and their own set of growth challenges. We help them sharpen product, market and fundraising strategies, so they come out of the program ready to scale and raise next rounds.

  • TruMarket optimized its business model for scalability and secured an extra $250k in liquidity for transactions. Its smart contracts have settled >$800k in transactions for >400 tons of agro-goods between fruit growers and buyers — all traceable on-chain. Cutting out intermediaries not only allows growers to be paid more and faster, but also cuts carbon emissions: ~77 kilotons to date.
  • Scorestars grew to 25k players across four European basketball leagues, generating >€60k in revenue. Internally, they’ve built a data-driven culture to maximize user retention and revenue growth — ready to scale and launch in new markets.
  • Nefture (currently raising) pivoted from a mass B2C product without clear revenue model to a focused B2B SaaS for DeFi asset managers. Their set of proactive security tools is now used by 5 big funds, protecting >$350 million worth of crypto-assets.
  • Loyi rebranded and shifted from a B2B2C to a B2B model. 9 known lifestyle brands have used their platform to launch loyalty programs. This traction has helped Loyi secure Germany’s second largest bank as long-term strategic partner and investor.

Once SWG startup, always SWG startup

Before the finale in Lisbon, we took the founders for a well-deserved “getaway” to Portugal’s stunning Algarve coast. Spending the weekend together, vibes were those of a tight group of people that had known each other for many years — not five months. It’s telling of how much the batch bonded surfing the highs and lows of the startup journey all together.

Graduating the program is just the beginning for the startups. Scaling is a different beast with a completely new set of challenges. But they can take it on battle-tested, with sharpened tools. Most of all, they can push ahead with confidence as part of a family that will always have their backs.

Betting on founders like you

While crypto catches fire again, our resolve remains unchanged. We’ll continue to bet on fierce founders over fickle markets. Opinions don’t move needles, daring startups like those of our first web3 batch do.

Humanity has and will always progress only through the hard work of people with big dreams and big hearts. Startups are the signal in the noise. If you are building — in web3 or wherever — we’d love to hear from you.

Check out the program’s after-movie to dive deeper into the experience and see the highlights of the batch’s journey! 👇