We’re happy to announce our seven Seedcamp winners for 2008.
You can also read our official press release (PDF).
As you can tell from the length of that list we’ve exceeded our original target of five teams – by 40%. Stretching our rules that far is a clear signal of just how strongly we feel about this group.
It’s been a productive week for everyone involved, official winners or not. It’s also been a long one – which explains why you might already have read about the Seedcamp Winners on TechCrunch UK before we could post them here – but the thought of working with every one of these teams is keeping the excitement level at a permanent high.
We’ll have some thoughts, reflections, and recaps of the week overall a bit later, after all of us hibernate for week.
A quick list of items lost during our rather intense week:
The avocado has been appropriated and the passport remains missing.
The theme for our third day of Seedcamp Week was “scaling” – not only how do you plan for and react to expansion of your technology, but also your business as a whole. With that aim we assembled a group of technical experts and seasoned investors – often perceived as somewhat of an “oil and water” mixture (no clear answer for which group has the dubious honor of being oil) but in the right setting perfect compliments to each other.
The morning panel was moderated by Matt Biddulph of Dopplr, who was joined by Stefan Magdalinski of Moo, Toon Coppens of Netlog, James Aylett of Tartarus, and Simon Willison, co-creator of Django. The group discussed in-depth the criticality of a medium-term plan vs. the folly of a long-term one and the importance of using the right measurements to determine the necessity of scaling – something that would be reiterated later in the day.
Immediately following that our teams mostly broke into small groups to start their last day of mentoring, while the women in attendance stayed behind to discuss issues relevant to their existence in a male-dominated field – the start of a hopefully ongoing series of talks.
Next the attendees (teams and mentors both) had the chance to listen to Dave McClure’s fantastic Startup Metrics for Pirates presentation, which harkened back to some of the earlier morning mentions of mandatory measurement.
Dave then handed it over to our afternoon panel on investment, moderated by Tina Baker from Brown Rudnick and featuring Charles Grimsdale of Eden Ventures,
Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures, Robin Klein from TAG, Andrew Weissman of Betaworks, Anil Hansjee of Google, Tal Barnoach from Speed Up, and Andy Hart formerly of Ask.co.uk. Fred Destin of Atlas Venture also made a cameo as audience inquisitor extraordinaire.
Finally our teams had another mentoring session for several hours and returned for a quick wrap-up and preparatory advice for their Thursday presentations, where they’ll have to incorporate all they’ve learned during the week.
Tuesday – day two – focused on getting a product to market. That’s an ambiguous concept, and an ambitious one, so we had to find a mentoring group diverse and motivated enough to fit the concept. Luckily we had just such the groups.
The morning consisted of our familiar panel format, with Matt Jones of Dopplr, Matthew Ogle of Last.fm, Taavet Hinrikus from Skype, and Adam Seifer of Fotolog all talking about developing and implementing a product at which users will throw themselves. Ryan Carson of Carsonified moderated and contributed his own valuable take when applicable.
The teams then broke out to separate rooms for small-group mentoring, which if memory serves me right I’ve mentioned is the crux of the entire Seedcamp Week experience. If I have, it bears repeating. By collecting a “dream team” of talent at Seedcamp, we’re able to connect the right participants with the right advisors, fostering not just a good hour-long chat, but potentially a career-long mutually beneficial relationship. Some of the connections from Seedcamp Week, whether the team in question has “won” or not, will last a very long while, and prove to be of great value down the road even when the short-term proposition isn’t immediately apparent.
After a quick lunch we listened to another “fireside chat” with Brent Hoberman and Martin Varsavsky, an engaging one to say the least.
After they chat we were treated to a marketing panel featuring Donna Sokolsky of Spark PR, Obi Felten from Google, Blake Chandlee of Facebook, Brent Hoberman of mydeco and lastminute.com, and Jamie Kantrowitz of Myspace. Jason Goodman of Albion managed to hold the rambunctious group together and inject some topical humor (apologies to the badly-jibed and collapsing global financial system – best of luck landing on your feet!).
Finally we finished off with another multi-hour mentoring session in small groups, which – not to sound like a broken record – is the real reason both our teams and advisors attend.
All in all the several hundred of us had another superb day, and are looking forward to another.
Day one of Seedcamp kicked off with each team presenting briefly to a packed house of fellow teams and entrepreneurs. While some understandable nervousness was apparent as they spoke to the room of over 150, each team made it through unscathed. Our appetites were certainly whetted for the longer pitches on Thursday.
Next up Danny Rimer of Index Ventures moderated a Founders Panel featuring Kevin Cornils (formerly of Buy.at), Petteri Koponen (Jaiku/Google), Michael Birch (formerly Bebo), Martin Stiskel (Last.fm), and Christophe Maire (Plazes/Nokia), together representing some of the biggest European exits in recent memory. With a diverse set of backgrounds (and even the numbers of companies they’ve started and run) their comments were sometimes dissonant, but they answered as a chorus to some important questions, making a clear impression on the teams present.
Following the panel session and an all-too-brief lunch Marten Mickos (of MySQL and now its parent company Sun) waxed managerial, sharing invaluable advice on handling mega-growth and global expansion – not to mention the importance of giving employees space and trust.
The afternoon was taken up by the core of Seedcamp Week: small-group mentoring between our finalists and advisors. This being “Founders’ Day” those in attendance advising the teams consisted mostly of fellow entrepreneurs, which as an umbrella term encompasses an enormous amount of potential experience. To that point several of the teams remarked that the different – and often contradictory – advice they received served as fodder for new avenues of thought well beyond their existing spheres of consideration.
All in all a great start to Seedcamp Week. Our teams’ exhaustion (and that of the Seedcamp team as well) is clearly more than balanced by their anticipation of day two.
After seeing that someone had created a prediction market about Seedcamp Week winners on Hubdub.com, we asked the site’s creators if they might want to comment in a post. Here’s what they came up with –Morland
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest startup of all? Or rather, which of the 20 finalists will win this year’s Seedcamp and be crowned Europe’s hottest seedling? The competition is tough, but to add a bit of fun to the mix Hubdub is running a prediction market to forecast who will be taking the podium. Check it out here.
Users bet play money on the company they want to back and win more if they are right. As well as letting users compete at predicting the future, the site combines everyone’s predictions into a forecast of who will win (as it does for thousands of other news questions like Who will be the next President of the US?, How much will Digg sell for? or Will Britney have a top ten single in 2008? But are the results of any use?
Academic research suggests they are. Prediction markets have consistently outperformed polls in election predictions because of a number of inherent advantages: people can express their confidence by the amount they wager, they output a real probability, and they can react immediately to developing news. In the same way stock prices jump when significant news breaks around a company, Hubdub’s prediction markets change over time as information emerges. This happens because people change their minds, cash out old predictions, and make new ones. For example, the market on which sport the US flag bearer in the Olympics would be from shows a nose-dive for the Swimming option when it was announced Michael Phelps wouldn’t be in Beijing for the closing ceremony. Other markets on certain events occurring by certain dates (a popular format on the site) like this one about Brad and Angelina splitting up often trend gradually towards the correct outcome as the deadline approaches, as you’d expect.
A recent volatile and unpredictable market was the one on the winner of TechCrunch50 – its lead changed several times as new companies pitched or got positive write-ups. Could we see a similar pattern for the Seedcamp market as ideas evolve over the week? Perhaps. Though this information will not be public, research has shown only a small number of people (15-20) are needed to generate accurate forecasts and there will likely be that number or more ‘insiders’ making predictions on the site – not least the companies themselves! So, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a tech pundit who knows how to pick a winning start-up and want to put your virtual money where your mouth is go make your Hubdub predictions. As for the companies themselves, there’s still everything to play for – and all of us here at Hubdub wish them the best of luck.
Hubdub.com is an Edinburgh based start-up that launched in January 2008. CEO Nigel Eccles will be at Seedcamp next week
We’ve temporarily turned our home page into a one-stop shop for keeping abreast of Seedcamp Week. Not only will it aggregate the text recaps we’ll be posting here, the video highlights over on Vimeo, and our Twitter thought-stream, but hopefully also content around the web published by our attendees. Since much of the week involves small-group interaction between teams and advisors we can’t open it up in the style of MIT’s OpenCourseWare, as much as we’d like to – but hopefully this is the next-best thing.
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