From Fairytales for Immigrant Children to Extreme Tourism: How Jump For CEE Changed the Course of One Promising Startup
Just this summer, Startup WiseGuys rolled out its Jump for CEE project—a pre-accelerator program aimed to help aspiring startuppers join the world of entrepreneurship with brand new knowledge, skills, and a network of mentors who’ll give them guidance and a better sense of direction.
Fairytales was one project that probably went through the biggest changes over the course of the program. So we’d love to share the adventurous story of a promising startup idea that’s coming to fruition as you read.
Founded by Natalya Koval, a UK-based Ukrainian designer, Fairytales is an extreme tourism startup. It’s an immersive VR project that gets people through something they would otherwise never have the chance to experience—a war zone. Think of it as a gamified VR setup that gets you into a conflict zone so you can experience danger from the comfort and safety of your home.
The first experience Natalya is planning to create is about the current war in Ukraine.
Fairytales: The story of changes and evolution
Just as there’s no fairytale that doesn’t evolve and develop its plotline, this startup’s story is also all about changes and transformation. Initially, Fairytales was supposed to be a VR project that would immerse children into the wonders of national fairytales. The aim was to help immigrant children stay closer to their roots and not lose touch with their culture.
As you can see, Fairytales is now a completely different project.
After a few discussions with mentors, Natalya realized that Fairytales had to be transformed into something new.
“I approached our mentors with my original idea of Fairytales but quickly realized that it’s not going to fly. I could see how there simply wasn’t any commercial space within the market for such a project. So…my initial idea didn’t survive the validation part of the program.”
“Being challenged like this was invaluable. That’s how you get good at this whole startup thing”
You’d think this would be discouraging and too overwhelming to see your idea killed. But, Natalya came to the program with a purpose—to shape her idea in a way that can be financially lucrative and interesting to mass audiences.
“I was surrounded by people who were going through the same thing—you see serial entrepreneurs and first-timers who are all facing the same problems. So I was really inspired by all the flow of ideas and discussions we held.”
With a few transformations, Natalya landed on the idea that would tackle both the social impact and the business viability sides of the story. This is how the current version of Fairytales came into play.
Meeting mentors from the industry—those who had access to analytics and had hands-on knowledge of the VR and immersive experiences industry—sure helped with polishing the idea. There was always someone who knew someone who could help out with a certain part of the project’s development.
“It was incredible to get to meet and talk to the program’s mentors—you get people who are from the industry you’re in and who can tell you whether or not there’s a place for your idea. If it wasn’t for Jump for CEE, I’d never get access to people like these—they challenge you, give honest feedback, but also help you find a way”.
Talking to peers was also nothing but helpful and about support—because creating a startup isn’t just about the financials, legal, and product development, it’s also about learning how to deal with stress and staying motivated. Fellow startuppers sure helped with that, sharing tips and tricks on how to face these challenges.
Jump for CEE: The biggest takeaway & tip for fellow startuppers
These 8 weeks weren’t just about transformation and shaping the idea, though. The educational side of the program was also in—and Natalya kindly shared her biggest takeaway from hours-long conversations and workshops.
“There’s one piece of advice that I’m finding absolutely invaluable. I was a bit hazy on the network-building part of the hassle. I learned how to search for investors and structure my research. But…the biggest struggle—for most startuppers—is always about how to approach them. And here’s what one of the mentors told me: if you want to sell something, you ask for their advice; if you want them to test something for you, you have to sell it to them”.
And this strategy is working for Fairytales up to this day—helping to differentiate between the people you want in your project from those who aren’t the right fit, and shifting the focus from purely financial support to networking and future scaling opportunities.
Fairytales: An outlook into the future
“Programs like this provide you with an external drive—if you feel low, they help to keep the energy high and find the strength to keep developing your startup idea before it actually comes to life”.
And indeed, over the course of the program, Natalya fetched the final shape of her idea.
As for further steps now that Fairytales is finally on the right track, Natalya decided to take the mentors’ advice and iterate her efforts in order to scale into the future:
- Dig into analytics and see what exactly people are looking for when they want to take a deep dive into extreme tourism
- Finalize the plot of the first immersive experience that focuses on Ukraine
- Create a sizzler reel that would help with the promo and pitching
- If things go well with the first story, find financial support and possibly more team members—all to help Fairytales span into other war zones and create new VR experiences with a wider geo
Keep an eye on Fairytales’ progress by following Natalya’s account and if you also have a startup idea that could use some polishing and a brand new look and skillset, feel free to apply to the next batch of SWG’s Jump for CEE program, and keep in mind that, the last Idea Hacks of JUMP for CEE program are happening already next week on September 13-15.