Berlin has been a fixture on our Seedcamp calendar since 2008, not only because of the great entrepreneurs and the startup activity but also because we have always had great relationships with local investors and mentors. This, and of course, the recent surge in activity and attention for the German Capital’s startups, makes us more than excited to come back for our fourth Seedcamp in Berlin.
Last year’s Berlin event was a full-on success for us: not only did we invest in three companies as a result of the event – Mopapp, EfficientCloud and Crashpadder (who was recently acquired by Airbnb) – but other great results also followed. Our recent guest post by Christian Thaler highlighted how he met Bonusbox at Seedcamp Berlin last year and made an investment after being in touch with the founders for a while. Similarly, Passion Capital invested in wireWAX, who were one of last year’s participants. Since we set out to not only invest in great companies, but also to facilitate connections beyond our events, we couldn’t be happier with last years’ event.
This year, we are playing an even bigger fiddle. Fresh off the back of our huge U.S. trip in March, Tel Aviv this week, and April’s Seedcamp in Tallin, we will come back to Berlin in May, where we will be hosted by our new investors at BDMI for what looks to be our biggest and best event in Berlin yet.
Seedcamp Berlin will take place on May 15 in the beautiful “Unter den Linden 1”, one of the most iconic buildings in the capital. We already have some of the best German and European startup investors, entrepreneurs and mentors signed up, and can’t wait to see what the applications will bring.
If you are a web- or mobile-orientated startup, focusing on an exciting space apply before 25th April. We invest from a prototype to a live minimum-viability product through to launch with a few users or customers. As usual, we are excited to see companies from all over Europe applying. We are especially looking forward to see what Berlin’s and Germany’s startup communities are working on, and also expect to attract a record number of applications from the neighbouring countries.
On Thursday we’ll be hosting our fourth Seedcamp Tel Aviv event. This year we have chosen to work closer with lool ventures as our Israeli partner and will be investing in any winners jointly with them.
The lool team headed by Yaniv and Avichay are well rooted in the vibrant Israeli scene, and their deep involvement with the entrepreneurs they partner is a profound component in their investment process, which is well aligned with the Seedcamp approach. We are delighted to be welcomed back by Afeka College who have generously loaned us their fantastic event space, and to have The Windows Azure Accelerator as our local sponsors.
The region has developed impressively since we first visited in 2009. This is most quantifiable in the huge surge in mentors – all industry leaders who are keen to give up a day of their time to meet and mentor some of Europe’s most exciting startups. We’re proud to have 90 mentors for this year’s event.
Applications have also seen a surge in quality. We received applications from over 18 countries ranging as far as the USA and Australia. Last year we selected 14 teams; this year, as quality has been so high, we’re very happy to announce that we’ve selected 18 fantastic teams. We are delighted that there is a stronger international demand to participate in a Tel-Aviv-based event, proving that Israel is a key location for startup activities, with teams travelling in from Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia to attend.
So, without further ado, please meet the 2012 Tel Aviv teams.
Once again our gratitude goes out to our local sponsor The Microsoft Azure Accelerator, which is a four-month programme aimed at helping early stage startups doing big things in Cloud, Internet, and mobile. Microsoft will provide the best workspace, top mentors, and all the tools needed to create the most successful startup.
Also to our local partners lool ventures and Afeka College both of whom have been giving us endless support to ensure this year’s Seedcamp will once again be a huge success.
We’d like to thank our yearly sponsors Bizspark, Qualcomm, Google and Paypal for their ongoing support.
This is a guest post by Christian Thaler-Wolski, Principal at Wellington Partners, who has been a mentor at many Seedcamp events in the past year. A couple of days ago Wellington Partners announced an investment in Berlin-based social commerce provider Bonusbox (see the press release here). This blog post is less about Bonusbox itself, but rather about how the investment came about, and how big the value of relationship building really is.
I’ve been a more or less regular mentor at Seedcamp for a while and think their team do an awesome job at how they build a great network of mentors and supporters around their mission. I mentored Bonusbox at Mini Seedcamp Berlin in April 2011 in a mixed group of industry veterans, product experts and other VCs.
We gave them some great advice but my final thoughts were this team needed to further flesh out the idea and also bring in a technology co-founder in order to be fundable. Nevertheless it sounded like an interesting story and I decided to keep them on my radar screen and do some initial light research around the topic.
About 2 months later I met Marc Strigel, who was in my group of mentors at Seedcamp, and he told me that he had agreed to an angel investment in Bonusbox. A few weeks later I got a generic email from Robert Heesen, one of the co-founders, updating me about their progress. Specifically, he informed me about their progress of the last 3 months, their current challenges (e.g. going from interim CTO to permanent CTO), and that they’d be closing a small angel round soon.
I archived the email and that was it. In September, I got an email from Paul Gebhardt, the other co-founder, saying he’d be at the Pirate Summit conference, and whether we could reconnect there (I guess he had read the events page on our website). We had a small chat about their progress and ambitions, and agreed to have a meeting in Berlin. That was the initial impetus for us to pick up talks in Berlin and deep dive the idea and potential business models. Early this year, we closed a seed round where we pulled in some more business angels such as Christophe Maire.
The primary message of this blog post is that VCs often (and maybe it’s just me) like to be in the loop early to follow progress for a while. Especially in seed stage companies, those major progress updates can be complemented by informal meetings at conferences or other networking events. Then, it helps a lot to have relevant business angels interested (or already invested) that not only help to make introductions, but also help with their expertise in the early phase of the company.
To close the story, no one should underestimate the value of networking and relationship building and the value of follow ups. I may miss an email, I may not have time to focus on it or I may change my opinion – so please keep in touch!
After spending an exhausting first week in New York and Boston, we continued to the West Coast, specifically San Francisco, for our next stop.
Coming in from cold Boston, the first warm weekend weekend in San Francisco was perfect for digesting meetings, contacts, and new introductions from the first week.
On Monday, we were invited by Twitter to see presentations about a range of highly interesting topics. Besides a surprise welcome by CEO Dick Costolo, the team around our host Jason Costa talked about growth, product, design, platform/API, engineering, M&A and corporate development, and gave us a full picture of the diversity of issues that the fast scaling of Twitter brought along. The afternoon was spent racing to the bay to meet the linkedIn team for an overview of their developer network and API, and of course the Biz dev and Corp Dev activities. Afterwards, we got a tour of the Mozilla’s new webFWD accelerator space and heard about Pascal Finette’s experiences of playing David vs. Goliath during the early days of the “browser wars”.
Tuesday morning brought us to the cool offices of OATV – Bryce and Renee told us a bit about their investment thesis, their backgrounds, and the San Francisco tech scene after listening to the teams’ pitches. These pitches were well oiled by now – something we were proud to see during the mentoring afternoon that was held at Orrick’s offices in the afternoon. Like in the previous week, about 80 of the city’s best entrepreneurs, investors, and startup experts were present to spend their day with the Seedcampers. In comparison to last year, we could really feel a surge of new activity and action in San Francisco – which also reflected in the intense mentoring sessions of the day.
After a few catch-up sessions with investors and partners for the teams, we spent a few hours of Wednesday at the Angellist headquarters with Naval and Nivi to talk about fundraising, the success factors of startups on Angellist, and key learnings from the platform over the past year. Especially with Angellist getting a more important tool in the fundraising tool belt, this session held a lot of valuable insights. Terrence from Index Ventures – a truly tried and tested Seedcamp mentor and investor – spent parts of his afternoon with us, and gave each company some feedback on their businesses and products. Afterwards, we made a dash to the Rackspace offices to meet Robert Scoble, who interviewed a selection of the companies, gave them feedback, and listened to what they had to say about the European startup scene.
Most of Friday and Monday was spent touring up and down Sandhill Road – the Mecca of the fundraising entrepreneur. In sessions with some of the most successful VC funds, the startups had the opportunity to pitch the partnerships in a very intimate setting, getting direct feedback and input from folks who have funded and worked with the best companies in Silicon Valley. After already having met a lot of investors during the mentoring days, this very direct interaction was an immense value add for the companies, and the highlight for many.
We met with the teams of Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Greylock, Softtech, and a new kid on the block, the Social+Capital Partnership in Palo Alto. Besides the valuable feedback on the businesses themselves, some of the experiences the VCs shared of learnings from their own portfolio companies were extremely interesting. Besides this operational input, the warm welcome and the genuine interactions were a reminder of how engaged the investor community in the Silicon Valley is.
Also on our list was a visit to Dave McClure‘s 500Startups tower – Saturday afternoon was a great time to meet both Dave and some of the startups for a more informal pitch and feedback bartering session that culminated in a relaxed happy hour with a view over the Bay Area. Some more Valley highlights included a Stanford Basketball game, a tour of the dSchool on Monday, and the obligatory pilgrimage to the Apple Campus. Jeff Clavier at Softtech hosted us with a Panel of successful founders from their portfolio – Victoria Ransom of Wildfire, Sam Chaudhari of ClassDojo, Ariel Seidman of Gigwalk, and Manish Chandra of Poshmark shared not only their own backgrounds, but much more importantly talked about crucial decisions they took in terms of fundraising, building their teams, and being foreign founders in the Valley.
The last batch of meetings were instrumental in a different way: A view on how larger companies do things, how they grew out of being startups to major global players and category leaders. We visited the Microsoft Research Center to hear about Windows 8 and Mobile, Foursquare’s San Francisco offices to hear about their expansion and local presence from Holger, and the PayPal and eBay HQ in San Jose where we talked about the future of commerce, new products, and the trends in connecting offline commerce. We were also glad to be part of Facebook‘s first startup day – a good opportunity to hear from different product teams about new features, the possibilities of using Facebook’s APIs to expand feature sets in products, and to chat with the relevant people in person.
Off to the north we went on the following Wednesday to visit Seattle. Microsoft welcomed us in the computer museum and showed off past and present – quite a showdown of technologies and upcoming products – Bing Maps, the new Bizspark Plus program, and Windows Mobile. Amazon didn’t disappoint either – the AWS team made sure to shed some light on all the features and offerings of the platform. Just as last year, Seattle was impressive – home to two of the biggest names in Software and the internet, and seeing to such massive players in one day.
Northern California was a great place to finish the trip for most of the teams who came along – welcoming and sunny, with friendly people all around. Qualcomm welcomed us to their Campus in San Diego and showed us some impressive upcoming products, and had us spend some time with the corporate venture unit. After a drive up the coast, we were invited by Siemer Ventures in Santa Monica, who treated us to sundowner drinks on their terrace right on the ocean. The last day for most of us kicked off with a visit to Idealab – the original incubator started by Bill Gross in 1996, which built successes like Picasa, eToys and IPOed more than 30 companies. A pitch session with about 30 LA investors, co-organised by our friends at confluence, and hosted by netxstpace in Culver City, and a visit to Santa Monica’s Betterworks were a great opportunity to round off the trip and call it a day after these whirlwind three weeks.
Most teams from there on made their way back home – some with a stopover in New York, some with another exhausting weekend at SXSW. Suffice it to say, all of us had bags chock full with business cards of new friends and contacts, an overflowing email inbox from 3 or more weeks on the road, and certainly a sleep deficit that put everyone to REM state within 2 minutes of sitting down.
We want to profoundly thank all of the old and new friends we met on the road – this years’ US trip was an incredible journey, and included more highlights than possible to list in even multiple blog posts. The unspeakable openness and support we received in all cities made it possible for us to pull this off, and the insights and experiences we were able to share surely put the Seedcamp companies ahead of anything they aimed to achieve. Thank you for making it possible.
Want to check out our diary? This is what happened on Tumblr.
Want to see some pictures? Here’s our Flickr stream.
Here are some posts from the companies on the trip:
Checkthis, Transferwise, Socialbro reflect on the first part of the trip.
Cenk of Bilbus – his cofounder Sanjeev even wrote a rap.
Talented Estonia Estonia has established itself in our eyes as a firm hotspot for incredible talent ever since we first encountered Erply in 2009. Since then, this view has been further strengthened by a number of other awesome teams that have joined the family: GrabCAD, Sportlyzer, Campalyst, Qminder, TransferWise and, most recently, Pult.
As a country with a population of 1.34 million, it’s one of the least populous members of Europe; yet it has a phenomenal pool of talent. The Seedcamp Team will be packing their bags and we’re super excited about exploring the startup community in Tallinn further on April 18.
Estonia IT College has very kindly offered us its premises to host Seedcamp Tallinn. They pave the way in connecting academic knowledge with the commercial world. An impressive one-third of all their lectures come from IT firms and companies, making them a perfect partner for us. We are also very proud that Skype – one of Europe’s most successful startups ever – is sponsoring the event alongside our original Estonian investee, Erply. In addition to their support, we are happy to announce Enterprise Estonia as a major partner and sponsor. Their mantra is: “the more startup entrepreneurs there are, the higher the survival rate of their companies and the greater the number of fast-growing enterprises will be.” This is obviously very much in line with Seedcamp’s core belief that Europe needs to work together to support and accelerate our fantastic startup talent.
Besides the immense local talent, we are looking forward to receiving applications from teams from the broader Baltic region and Scandinavian countries. We’ve previously enjoyed hosting Seedcamp Copenhagen and Stockholm, and hope to see many more teams from those regions apply. Obviously we’re all about timing rather than location, so if you’re ripe for disruption and want to make it big – apply now from anywhere in Europe of further afield!
Please familiarise yourself with the process: check out the FAQs and read up about Seedcamp on our website and blog. The more you know about us, the more you will get out of the whole Seedcamp experience (and you might also learn an interesting thing or two on the way!). Applications are open until Thursday, 29th March 2012.
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