How ACE incubator uses Miro to power startups

ACE is a university business incubator owned by four academic institutions in Amsterdam. ACE supports early-stage businesses within science and technology founded by students, graduates, professors, and academics from these affiliated institutions.

The goal is to solidify their business case, validate all the assumptions, get introduced to the relevant network, and start growing their business. By providing startups with relevant resources and knowledge, ACE helps them make the right decisions and avoid mistakes.

ACE has incubated over 160 successful startups, including Dyme, Aiir Innovations, and Lumicks.

We sat down with the former Head of Incubation at ACE, Liza Kolesnichenko to find out how she uses Miro at ACE to manage its robust network of mentors, investors, and corporations, and lead the strategic development of its startup programs.

How did you start using Miro?

“I’d heard about Miro because it is a well-known Russian startup, but actually, I first tried the product because my colleague recommended it to me. I used it for my planning and workflow.”

What templates do you use for this?

“I have a very visual way of thinking, so I like to create my own visuals with shapes. Also, I use mind mapping a lot to make sense of all my thoughts, primarily for brainstorming or for strategy and planning brainstorms. The more visual, the better!”

How do you use Miro for the incubator?

“We use it for planning our programs. Roadmap templates are a user-friendly way to do that. Also, we host our Weekly Growth Session in Miro, where we meet with all the founders of the cohort at the same time. This meeting keeps them accountable for their progress and metrics. It is very KPI-driven and the key to the success of the startups. We add the Miro board to our weekly Zoom meeting to make sure that everyone stays engaged. We do a check-in to see how everyone feels, where they set their weekly goals, discuss obstacles, and ask for any help they need.”

What did you use before Miro for the Weekly Growth Session?

“We used to use Excel, but it really felt like a big wall of text and was not interactive.”

What do your startups think of Miro?

“The adoption is very smooth among our startups. We make it very clear at the beginning of the program that we will be using Miro, so they will need to use it. We notice that they really like using Miro instead of staring at a wall with text on it — they immediately appreciate the possibility of interacting.”

Do you have training on how to use Miro?

“Since Miro is self-explanatory, we do not think training is necessary. But we set aside time in the first session for one of our trainers to walk through Miro. We first explain why we want to use Miro, and we then demonstrate the basics: sticky notes, templates, sharing boards, etc. Then the trainer asks if there are still any questions on Miro.”

What are your favorite features on Miro?

“I really like the timer — this is an essential function when you want to run an effective session. It helps to keep the flow in the sessions. Also, I am a fan of the old-school sticky notes.”

Learn more about Miro

Top tips when you are working with Startups in Miro:

  1. Think about what purposes you need Miro to serve. This can be for the whole program but also for specific parts, like workshops or weekly standups. Identify what features you want to visualize and/or the ones that would benefit from real-time collaboration.
  2. Be consistent — make sure you have at least one weekly meeting with a Miro board. Consistency will help startups get acquainted with Miro and explore new features that can help streamline their communication. So keep the board updated and the flow going. As the organization, you should be in the driver’s seat!
  3. Create an open environment for collaboration. Set the tone with an excellent icebreaker and win the trust of your startups. Miro can definitely help create this environment because you will see what everybody else is doing on the board.

About Liza Kolesnichenko: As former Head of Incubation at ACE, Liza was responsible for managing its robust network of mentors, investors, corporations, and service providers, and for leading the strategic development of its startup programs. Liza has a background in cognitive neurobiology and worked for an early-stage software startup prior to joining ACE. She is originally from Russia but has since lived all over the world.

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