Ok, it has been a little more than half-way post Seedcamp Week. The challenge put forth to the Seedcamp 6 was to demonstrate significant development in their company in 12 weeks given dedicated access to a very helpful group of mentors and a small amount of funding.
2 weeks ago we had Demo Day where the Seedcampers presented their product builds to a small group of investors. Here were 5 key takeaways:
* Focus and Progress go hand in hand – There was a clear link between the companies that were able to have a laser focus on the key deliverables for Demo Day and the significant level of progress they demonstrated
* Customer, customer, customer – It may seem obvious but the devil is in articulating who your customer is and what pain of theirs are you solving. Some teams believe they understand this but it is important that the audience and your customer understand their importance to you and how you are helping them. For some this message weighs heavily and they are working to articulate this by Investor Day.
* Product, Partners, People – The standout teams focused on these areas and within these had clear 2-3 milestones they honed in on. These are the foundations for their businesses early on and areas where early feedback can mean going back to the drawing board or moving at a faster pace
* Pick your mountain – That was an oft-repeated phrase in the room for good reason. A company still forming it’s raison d’etre can go in different directions. Yet, it’s critical that it chooses which moutain to climb wisely and quickly and gets on with the climb
* Leverage the network, that’s why it is there – Again, teams that leveraged Seedcamp Week contacts and the network available to them during their time in London and at events like FOWA and Web 2.0 Expo are showing incredible progress in terms of partnerships, investors for the next round, and coaches/mentors
These were some general but important takeaways applicable to a lot of early stage companies. I will write more in the next 2 weeks with detail on which companies showed what kind of progress. The proof we recognize will be in their launches and the partners they are able to sign on.
David Langer is a 22-year old former Seedcamp applicant working full-time at the Oxford Centre for Innovation on GroupSpaces, a funded start-up which he co-founded during his degree. He studied maths at Oxford University, and recently came 2nd in the UK Graduate of the Year competition. Here he shares his views about Europeans getting into entrepreneurship, the size of European visions and what’s useful about Seedcamp.
I graduated in June this year, and have been working on my start-up for nearly 2 years since forming the initial team at an Oxford Entrepreneurs Society event. I recently took the decision to reject some well-paid City Investment Banking job offers in order to work full-time on GroupSpaces . We aim to make it easier for people to discover, share and promote their passions in life. We do this by providing free web-based tools for clubs, societies, charities and other groups.
In August this year, I visited Google, Facebook and Bebo HQ during a recent trip to Silicon Valley with my co-founder Andy Young.
David Langer (left) and Andy Young (right), Facebook HQ, Palo Alto
During the trip we frequently contemplated the question:
“Why are there more successful start-ups coming out of Silicon Valley than anywhere else in the world?”
A lot of Europeans have a satisfactory answer, and perhaps like me, can think of some obvious reasons:
– most people there know someone who’s hit a home run previously, so the prospect of start-up success seems more realistic – more accessible capital floating around, both at angel and VC level, and this allows more people to give their ideas a proper chance – a much more positive attitude to failure leads to less inhibition and insecurity around going for it
One of the main motivating factors for starting Seedcamp was to close this gap between Europe and Silicon Valley. The first sentence written on “What we believe” by the Seedcamp team is:
“Europe has all the right ingredients – environment, talent, capital and role models – to build world beating technology businesses”
On Monday 3rd September, I was at the opening session in Seedcamp week where Saul Klein gave a short opening speech. Within this, he mentioned the importance of young founders not only having a big vision, and going for it, but also the importance of them knowing when to stop, pick themselves up and start again. Essentially, he was saying that failure is OK – it’s an inherent part of entrepreneurship, and provides many valuable lessons.
As Oxford Entrepreneurs has shown me, it is possible for young Europeans think big. Other than Andy and I with GroupSpaces, there are 3 other recently funded start-ups with very big visions and A-Teams fully immersed in entrepreneurship:
Auctomatic – making selling on eBay easier. Founded by Kulveer and Harjeet Taggar. YouNoodle – a social network for student entrepreneurs. Founded by Bob Goodson and Kirill Makharinsky. Academia.edu – a social network for academics. Founded by Richard Price.
In Silicon Valley and also within the European ecosystem, I doubt many would beg to differ with Saul’s philosophy above. However, a side effect of traditional European cultures (particularly British) – with their harsh attitude to failure and strong aversion to the associated risks – is that many young Europeans are scared off by the prospect of their start-up failing. And as a result, they never end up devoting the necessary time and effort to make it a success. The other point Saul made was about having a big vision. Again this is something the Europeans aren’t traditionally great with. Even if they can logically quantify a large, addressable market, having faith that they can successfully go after it is often lacking.
My belief is that it is not geographic location that’s the problem – as quoted above “Europe has all the right ingredients”. The actual problem is that Europeans lack the ‘Silicon Valley mindset’ – that of having a big vision and really having faith in yourself and your team executing upon that vision. This is what I believe is missing from many Europeans. This is what I want to encourage other young European founders to have. This is what I’m hoping initiatives like Seedcamp will address.
Silicon Valley is just a state of mind.
It’s also home to the Podtech show LunchMeet on which David and Andy were interviewed by Eddie Codel under their former brand “ClickUni”:ClickUni Manage Social Groups
You can read more about David’s thoughts on his blog
We were really happy with how many great folks joined in at The Getting Started session at the Web 2.0 Expo. More than 60% of the room was made up of entrepreneurs from Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, UK, and many other countries. Fantastic to see so many start-ups. We got a lot of candid conversation from Seedcampers about raising funding and learning to focus their businesses. We also combined a group of entrepreneurs, Angel investors, and VCs to get a diverse view on getting a company started. We then broke things up for a lot more 1:1 interaction.
We want to thank the wonderful group of mentors on the panel and in the audience. Lukasz Gadowski of Spreadshirt, Stefan Tirtey of Doughty Hanson, Oliver Beste of FoundersLink, Max Niederhofer of Atlas Venture, Paul Jozefak of Neuhaus, and Christophe Maire of gate5 and now an investor as well shared their different perspectives on starting up and raising capital. During the mixer between entrepreneurs and mentors I overheard many getting feedback on their ideas, ask questions, and share their ideas. Thank you to all the mentors that came in from outside Germany and a special thanks to the local mentors such as Olivier Schuepbach of Wellington, Gayathri Radhakrishnan of Earlybird, Oren Michaels of Mashery all the way from California, Eric Wahlforss of Soundcloud, Gerald Heydenreich of BuyVIP, and Bjoern Baehre of Result.
I was also excited to see some more investors from Netherlands and Austria. Finally, we turned the tables on the Seedcampers. Instead of being in the audience, we had them on a panel answering some hard questions about their Seedcamp experience and how they are continuing to build their businesses.
Thank you to the entire Seedcamp community for taking part. Nice to see some Seedcamp applicants in the room too such as easyCity and MyId.is.
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