RFA for Software Engineering Studios for Developing & Executing Startup Macedonia’s Startup Platform

Startup Macedonia is looking for creative and skilled Software Engineers who will help us put into fruition our idea of creating a data-centric startup platform aimed to strengthen the Macedonian startup ecosystem.

Dear Applicants,

The non-profit organization Startup Macedonia is opening a call for applications for developing and executing a startup platform that will include data from the Macedonian startup ecosystem. The startup platform will include data and profiles of startups, startup support organizations, investors, donors and governmental institutions, and will be structured according to Startup Commons’ startup framework.

It is important to understand that the startup platform that will be built is not a short-term project with a direct impact, but it should be seen as a long-term support tool with indirect benefits that will affect the whole ecosystem.

Interested applicants can apply by submitting:

  • Letter of interest (up to 800 words) and project managers CVs that include specific knowledge and experience on similar duties and processes.
  • Companies’ background on Initiating, leading and participating in community projects with open source solution
  • Statement that the applicant has the Required qualifications (refer to Required qualifications on page 7)
  • Financial offer
  • In-kind support for the project in terms of maintenance or project management

Interested applicants are requested to submit these documents no later than March 26, 2019 end of business day via email to startupmacedonia@gmail.com in PDF format.

The Purpose of the Assignment

The Purpose of the Assignment is development and execution of Startup Macedonia’s new startup platform that involves data sets collected from the Macedonian startup ecosystem. The data sets include data from startups in various stages, startup organizations, investors, donors, government institutions and event data, all with the intent to improve connectivity of the overall ecosystem. This project is supported by USAID Business Ecosystem Project (BEP) grant support under number 1-11/2019.

Brief description of the organisation

Startup Macedonia is a non-profit organization formed in 2016 as a collective of experts, BSOs, founders and investors with the common goal to improve and strengthen the Macedonian startup ecosystem. The organization works on a variety of projects that involve various startup ecosystem stakeholders and investors.


The Startup Platform

The data-centric startup platform is envisioned to be a transparent and open information hub about the holistic ecosystem progress, events calendar, and as a place to find individual profiles of startups, organizations, investors, and mentors; with a goal to strengthen and empower development of the Macedonian startup ecosystem.

Major objectives of the platform:

  • Encourage the creation of new companies by educating entrepreneurs and help them connect with relevant talent pool, as well as mentors.
  • Improve growth of established companies with the supporting BSOs and partners to connect and matchmake with investors and mentors, in order to improve ecosystem growth and sustainability.
  • The platform will work to improved growth of startups, new job creation and increased investments and revenue across the ecosystem.
  • Ease the access to finance of the new and established companies by connecting them to investors, and other regional and international financial networks and tool and education to improve their business knowledge.
  • The data collection and management in the startup platform needs to follow Startup Commons’ startup framework which encompases specific services per phases of development of startups.
  • The platform needs to include services and features that will bring sustainability to Startup Macedonia and improve its revenue streams.

Description of the Agile Framework

Because the project involves working with and partnering with multiple startup ecosystem stakeholders, Startup Macedonia is building a platform according to Agile principles. We follow clearly defined objectives and we follow activities and milestones that are in accordance with the project. Agile development will include creating, minimum viable product that will be expanded in further stages, based on milestones and activities, based on feedback from ecosystem stakeholders.  We have early partners that will help us collect first data sets, and based on ecosystem stakeholders needs we plan to prioritize tasks in order to make the platform available for usin

Scope of Work & Activities

The platform should be an integrated solution that will aggregate data for the Macedonian startup ecosystem, using three different sources: startups, startup organizations and investors. The platform will have 3 different sections: public website, a portal for registered users and admin panel.

Public Website

The public website should give an overview of the platform, make it easy for all the stakeholders to log in or register and make it easy for them to navigate through all the public report. In addition to this, the main features the public website should have are:

  1. Represent the state of the Macedonian Startup Ecosystem through an interactive graph, demonstrating all startups, organizations and investors and their respective stages using the Startup Commons framework.
    ● The selected provider should develop a detailed algorithm for converting the gathered data for the Macedonian Startup Ecosystem into a comprehensive visual representation.
    ● The selected provider should suggest the most appropriate tools to use for visualizing the report and making it interactive.
  2. Integrate with Google Startup Digest, for displaying the relevant events taking place in Macedonia.
    ● Everyone should be able to subscribe to the digest and get notifications for events or activities of their interest.
  3. Have an integrated blog where the latest news or helpful articles can be published.

User Portal

The user portal is the place where every stakeholder can log in and manage their data. There will be 3 different user types: Investor, Startup and Startup Organization. The platform should be developed in a way that will allow for easy extension in the future and enable every stakeholder to add other users that are part of their organization and set permissions for them.

Main features of the user portal:

1. Log in and register functionality for every user type.

2. All users should be able to participate in Startup Macedonia surveys through the user portal and provide the data needed for keeping the reports up to date. In addition to this, Startup Organizations should be able to import relevant data in bulk, using Excel import.

3. The users should be able to filter through a list of startups/events/finance opportunities accordingly, depending on their type.

  • Startup should be able to browse through events, workshops and other support using advanced filters. They should be able to subscribe and be notified for future events.
  • Startup organizations and investors should be able to browse through the list of startups using advanced filters.

4. Startup organizations should have the ability to add new events and workshops, which will be automatically integrated with Google Startup Digest. They should have tools for importing and exporting event data. This feature is connected with cohort profiles for managing, adding, and attendance count on an event.

Admin Panel

The admin panel should make it easy for Startup Macedonia staff to manage all users, events, reports and gathered data used for the visualization with the Startup Commons framework.

1. The admin should be able to list all users and manage them.

  • This includes features for adding, editing, previewing and deleting users, as well as the option to impersonate the selected user.

2. The admin should be able to import existing data sets from Excel documents, normalize them and use them for the visualized reporting.

3. The admin should be able to create different surveys for all user types and automatically ask the platform users to participate in order to keep the reports up to date.

4. The admin should be able to map all survey fields to the related parameters of the Startup Commons framework in order for the platform to display the visualization properly.

5. The admin panel should have features that help collect data from events and connect data with various data sets, including demographics, interest, and location, among others.

6. The admin panel should integrate with a CMS that will allow the administrators to easily manage the content on the website, as well as publish news and articles easily.

7. The admin panel should include integrated sustainability tools for promoting events, organizations, programs, and startups.

Third Party Integrations

The platform should be developed in a way that allows for easy integration with third-party systems.

  • The selected provider should build REST APIs that will make it easy for other startup organizations to access Startup Macedonia report data. The goal is to be able to collaborate with other startup organizations on an international level and participate in mapping the global state of the startup ecosystem.
  • The platform should allow for external integration of various tools and APIs that are necessary for data collection and management. This includes tools and features for secure third-party extraction of predefined data by BSOs and investors.

Requirements

Startup Macedonia expects all applicants to be able to provide, as minimum, some experience, case studies, references, and resources to undertake the aforementioned objectives. The score of work will be defined according to milestones defined in advance that correspond to the following criteria:

  • Activity #1: Designing, developing, testing and executing workable version of a startup platform for connecting the ecosystem by utilizing the following technologies and methods: Laravel, PHP Unit, REST APIs, Vue.js, Extendible Code Design, Responsive Design, Continuous Integration.
    • Design skeletal framework, wireframes and mockups with a prototyping tool like Axure that can support the creation of the platform according to Startup Commons Startup Development Phases Framework (Wireframes and Mockups – done by end of May 2019)
    • Design Database structure with MySQL according to the technical specifications, which includes implementing the API services in Laravel for retrieving data from the database and using it on the frontend through Vue.js; and execution of unit testing for the APIs.
    • Ensure stable platform deployment, which includes setting up an AWS server; updating existing data to fit DB schema, creating SQL migrations, and performance tests.  (done by end of July 2019)
  • Activity #2: Enable web tools and APIs for data-collection and mapping of the ecosystem (startups, investments, events and programs, and services from startup organizations).
    • Developing of the platform needs to be done in RESTful fashion in order to support creation of REST APIs for data collection and data management of data sets gathered from startups, BSOs, investors and other institutions.
    • Implement frontend functionality, which includes, among other things, development of  the frontend components and user-side functionality with Vue.js; connecting the frontend with the implemented Laravel APIs to be able to use the real data dynamically; implementing the admin panel with the needed functionality to add, edit and delete records; manage users; and organize the stages of development and services in each phase according to Startup Commons framework of the important entities in the ecosystem (first public version of the platform done by end of December 2019)
  • Activity #3: Establish various processes for long-term maintenance of the startup platform and ease data-collection, which will help with establishing long-term sustainability model for the organization, as well as enable long-term ecosystem development with the feedback from the ecosystem stakeholders. 
    • Designing the system by using good software design practices which will ease the maintenance and extension of the software, as well as ease connectivity and usage of third-party APIs and services.
    • Develop new sustainability tools and features using various technologies and services, including custom CMS, automated data sync, and API integrations, which will enable Startup Macedonia to improve its research capabilities, connectivity across the ecosystem, as well as integrations with third-party services.
    • Establishing data management and data maintenance processes that will ease the platform usage by the Startup Macedonia staff, by developing a comprehensive custom CMS.
    • Establishing stakeholder management to improve the connectivity across the ecosystem.
    • Establishing lean startup processes, including other startup frameworks, that will ensure collection of relevant data that is needed for the long-term strategy of the project. 
    • This includes usage of design patterns, SOLID design principles and RESTful architecture which will ensure data sets are streamlined with third-party APIs and data collection is made possible across organization and web technologies and tools. (done by end of December 2020)
  • Activity #4: Ensuring data security across the platform in accordance to GDPR rules and in accordance to the Macedonian Laws on privacy and data protection on personal information. This includes ensuring security which will include not only the platform, and the collected data-sets, but also the third-party APIs alignment and connectivity.  (done before data gathering)

 Deliverables and Timelines

The project starts from 1th of April 2019 and ends 31th of January 2021. Startup Macedonia expects that a data-driven startup platform will be developed, tested and a workable version executed within 9 months starting from 1th of April 2019 ending 31th of December 2019.  Adding new features based of revenue models  from 1th of January 2020 – end of December 2020).

The deliverables needs to be set within the aforementioned timeline.

Selection Process and Financial Allocation:

Any award to be made will be based on the applicant’s proposal with appropriate consideration given to the required qualifications, technical deliverables, cost, and management requirements.

The method of payment will be agreed based on milestone deliverables, agreed between Startup Macedonia and the applicant before the official start of the collaboration. The terms of the payment schedule will be developed in one of the following ways: a) After delivery of the completed milestone; b) According to the timetable;

Selection process will include scoring based on milestones and activities, aforementioned in detail in “Requirements”, which is define in the following scoring order:

  • Letter of interest (up to 800 words) and project managers CVs that include specific knowledge and experience on similar duties and processes – carries 10 points
  • Companies’ background on Initiating, leading and participating in community projects with open source solution carries 30 points
  • Required qualifications carry 15 points
  • Financial offer carries 30 points
  • In-kind support for the project in terms of maintenance or project management carries 15 points

Required qualifications:

The selected provider needs to be a company with the professional expertise and track record in the following technology areas and services:

  • Back-end development, RESTful architecture;
  • Front-end development and usage of Javascript frameworks;
  • Developing scalable solutions, easy to extend and maintain;
  • Data collection and management;
  • Project and team management.
  • Experience and expertise in security and privacy, including basic understanding of EUs GDPR rules.

Evaluation criterias will include also: companies’ background on Initiating, leading and participating in community projects with open source solutions;  experience and expertise with development of startups, lean methodology and other startup frameworks; in kind support for the project in terms of maintenance or project management; local personal availability and responsiveness during the duration of the project.

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