It has been an amazing couple of years starting up Seedcamp. We are excited by what lies ahead and want to announce some key Seedcamp dates in 2010 for start-ups, mentors and investors across Europe.
A Little Bit of Background
When we started Seedcamp 2007 we planned to address the growing need for micro-seed funding in early stage start-ups across Europe by holding a Seedcamp Week every year in London for 3 years and investing in a total of 15 companies in that period.
But what we discovered was that to do justice to the opportunity in our region we needed to create more of a network and go deeply into local markets. We will never recreate Silicon Valley – and nor should we try – instead we need to make a strength of our region’s cultural diversity and geographical distribution.
Mini Seedcamp’s role in our distributed model
We found that to tap into the talent in the time zones from London to Tel Aviv, we needed to have a different, more distributed model which aimed to bring start ups together in a sustainable distributed network with all the key elements of a healthy different strands of ecosystem: entrepreneurs, investors, great product, marketing and technology advisors, academia and corporates.
Core to this model are Mini Seedcamps, which we started as an experiment in 2008 in Paris, London, Berlin and Kiev and then expanded to a fully fledged program in 2009 with 7 Mini Seedcamps in Tel Aviv, Paris, Warsaw, London, Helsinborg, Ljubljana and Berlin.
Going to the next-level
We like to practice what we preach and like any lean start-up, we keep trying to evolve Seedcamp by incorporating feedback from teams, advisors and investors along the way and we hope to make the next generation of Seedcamp, starting in 2010 even better and give Mini Seedcamps an even more important role.
We are planning to hold 8 Mini Seedcamps in 2010 and expanding our geographical coverage (Spain is new) and doubling-down on the traditionally under-served regions of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, where we have seen such great start-ups like Erply, Codility, Zemanta, Ubervu and Brainient emerge since Seedcamp started.
We will potentially have other partners organizing events jointly. More news to come on that front!
Dates for 2010
So without further ado – here are next years’ Mini Seecamp dates:
>> Zagreb – 11th February
>> Prague – 2nd March
>> Barcelona – 23rd March
>> Paris – 15th April
>> Tel Aviv – 6th May
>> Copenhagen – 27th May
>> Berlin – 16th June
>> London – 20th July
Can only local teams apply to a Mini Seedcamp?
No, each Mini Seedcamp is open to anyone. In fact we encourage teams to apply from across the region. Last year we saw a Romanian team in Paris, an Israeli team in Sweden and an Estonian company in London. We are blessed with short flights and great low cost airlines in Europe, so take advantage and come along to which every event you want – in fact some teams successfully applied to more than one last year and learnt a lot along the way.
What happens if you are a top team at Mini Seedcamp?
The top teams from each Mini Seedcamp in 2010 will go directly into a final selection process in July of up to 40 teams for investment – in some rare cases we may invest in teams directly after a Mini Seedcamp.
At the end of the final selection process in July we will choose the top teams to invest in. Historically we have invested in 5-8 companies per year but from 2010 we will aim to invest in more.
What happens if you’re selected for an investment?
Following selection in July, the teams Seedcamp invests in will be able to benefit from an intensive three month support program, where we work closely with teams to develop their business and ideas. At the end of this period the teams take part in our annual Seedcamp Week.
Why are Mini Seedcamps valuable to teams and us?
Other than the awesome mentoring and validation teams get at the Mini Seedcamps, we’ve seen that 60% of teams who come through to Seedcamp Week came from a Mini Seedcamp and 50% of teams we invest in we met at a Mini Seedcamp. We’ve found that the feedback teams receive and the milestones that are established help to drive real team progression plus it really helps to get to know people better – the results speak for themselves.
Looking forward to next year
Each year the strength of the Seedcamp teams and their ideas continue to impress us and we look forward to seeing what next years’ talent will bring. We have increased the number of hubs across the region with a view to attracting great teams not only from Europe, but also Africa, the Middle East and Asia and the US to give them the opportunity to apply. Applications for each region will go live 4-6 weeks before each Mini Seedcamp.
More Seedcamp resources available
We’ve recently revamped our Resources page with our daily video blogs from previous Seedcamp Weeks, along with insightful and often entertaining panel sessions and masterclasses from some of the most prestigious entrepreneurs, VC’s, investors and developers in the community. We strongly encourage you to view and share these, as they provide good content as you’re thinking through your startup growth and also help you understand what being a part of Seedcamp means.
So, if you’re a web-tech start-up with a strong team, a great idea and the passion and drive needed to take it to the next level, then please join our Twitter, Facebook and blog to keep updated on when it’s all happening near you! And be sure to apply to the Mini Seedcamp timing that best fits you.
On Friday 11th December Seedcamp brought together over 60 angel investors including Jeff Clavier, Martin Varsavsky, Brent Hoberman, Lukasz Gadowski, Stefan Glaenzer, Dave McClure, Andy Philips, William Reeve, Robin Klein, Jyri Engestrom and Sherry Coutu for the inaugural Seedsummit.
Seedsummit is a new event produced by Seedcamp, which aims to bring together twice a year a critical mass of our region’s most active seed investors to try and establish a stronger, more cohesive network to support entrepreneurs.
We will post soon with a follow-up but Saul wrote about the ambitions for the event shortly before it was held and so we would like to share that blog with you here.
Creating a distributed network for European startups
To succeed in creating an start-up ecosystem that can repetitively and sustainably build global leaders, Europe has to deal with the critical issue of fragmentation.
Seedcamp has spent the last few years very focused on building the beginnings of a network model for entrepreneurs. We’ve tried to lessen the constraints and isolation of geography by giving people the best possible access to a distributed network of advisors, funding and investors across our region, who can help them aim high and build ambitious global businesses.
At Seedcamp we believe we need to make our geographic distribution and cultural diversity part of our strength, so we’ve pushed the network out across the region with programs in London, Berlin, Paris, Ljubljana, Helsinborg, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Kiev and San Francisco. In 2010 we intend to extend this to Copenhagen, Barcelona, Prague and New York.
This network model is the right focus and one that Seedcamp will deepen and maintain.
Leveraging the network for seed investors
One of the things we’ve learnt with Seedcamp is that there is a huge amount of seed investment activity across our region.
But right now it is fragmented, in pockets, shares no learnings and almost never networks. In fact, there is no dedicated regional network that brings together active seed investors in a concentrated way and these are the folks that entrepreneurs (including Seedcamp ones) often look to as their first source of capital.
So with Seedsummit, we are trying to create an informal forum where the people most actively investing in seed can get together, share best practices and dealflow.
Why is seed so important?
While micro-seed funds like Seedcamp, Techstars and YCombinator do an awesome job of helping start-ups get off the ground and traditional venture firms are great at providing early stage and growth capital, seed investing provides a vital bridge between prototype and establishing product/market fit.
Even before today’s well worn arguments about the lower cost of starting businesses, seed has always played a vital role in any vibrant and successful start-up ecosystem. In the Valley, enlightened seed investors like Mike Markkula ($250k into Apple in 1977), Andy Bechtolsheim ($100k into Google in 1998) and Peter Thiel ($500k into Facebook in 2004) have given some of today’s biggest technology players their start.
But more than just capital, the best seed investors provide critical advice, mentoring, connections and qualified access to top-tier capital when and if that becomes appropriate for start-ups.
Seed networks are developing strongly outside of Europe
While seed investing used to be the preserve of a few well intentioned individuals, seed in all key markets is becoming professionalized and there is now an incredible network of active stage investors and firms.
In the Valley there are folks like Jeff Clavier, Aydin Senkut, Mike Maples, XG Ventures, Reid Hoffman, Ron Conway and the SV Angel crew, Dave McClure, Chris Sacca, Allen Morgan, True Ventures and OATV. On the East Coast there is Union Square, First Round and the emergence of Betaworks and Founder Collective. Obviously there are also great investors in Boulder, LA, Vancouver, Boston and Seattle as well. In Israel there is Yossi Vardi of course and the TechAviv angels and across continents float Esther Dyson and Joi Ito.
In all of these markets – especially the Valley and Tel Aviv – there is enough concentration and flow that not only do startups have great choice but investors can share best practices, access more filtered dealflow and find great syndicate partners. As with any network, everyone improves by more participation and information flow.
So what about Europe?
In Europe we do have some very active seed investors and some venture firms like Index, Mangrove and Eden are institutional investors who are active at the earliest stages in the market.
People like Oliver Jung, Lukasz Gadowski, Martin Varsavsky, TAG, the Samwers, Atomico, Morten Lund, Brent Hoberman & Michael Birch, Klaus Hommels, Stefan Glaenzer, Sherry Coutu and the Cambridge angels have collectively done hundreds of deals in the last 5 years.
But the market is fragmented – syndicates which form easily in the Valley, Israel or New York often are hard to create. Sometimes it even hard to get people in London and Cambridge investing together, never mind Germany and France.
This is the goal of Seedsummit
Get these guys together – at least twice a year and make it easier for these active seed investors to work together and learn from each other, so it becomes easier for entrepreneurs to source and experience superior seed capital.
As with so much else in Europe we have a long long way to go, but like Seedcamp three years ago we have to start somehwere and that where is tomorrow when we have ove r 50 active investors from UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Nordics and the US come together to connect….
I’m really looking forward to it and seeing what happens.
A recent email exchange between the Seedcamp teams focused on how to involve MBAs in a startup. A man with particular experience on this topic is Mohammad, CEO of Patients Know Best, so for the benefit of the community we decided to publish his insight below.
“Like everyone you want to work with, the most important thing to think about is what you can do for them. So, thinking like an MBA student, each has 100k of debt looming. What they want the most is a 100k job, which none of us can hire them for. Instead, you must help them get that job. And that means:
To find the students, get yourself invited as a speaker (for example if you start-up made server monitoring software, track down the technology society president and say you want to present about trends in the technology industry). You should also make very good friends with the administrator for the MBA projects so that they can include you in the year’s graded project propsals.
The job to give them should be one you are terrible at (in my case, market analysis, whatever that means) but requires intelligence and hard work. And finally, do not forget what an incredible network each of them has from their previous jobs, and their fellow students. If you need to get to someone, the MBA students can help make it happen.”
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