We’ve asked the 20 finalist teams to contribute blogs about what their Seedcamp experience was like, and we’ll be posting these entries over the next few weeks. The first comes from David Crane at Debatewise.
It’s Friday 7th September and I’m sitting in a university lecture room anxiously waiting to hear whether Debatewise.com, a site in which I’ve invested a great deal more than just money, will be one of the Seedcamp winners. As the names get called and the cameras pan round I grin my best Oscar losers smile (“oh it’s an honour just to be nominated”) and try not to grip too hard when congratulating the lucky six.
We didn’t win, and I really wanted to. Winning would have meant another three month’s mentoring. It would have encouraged extra effort from the organisers to ensure our success. It would have come with €50,000 of investment and it would have delivered much sought-for validation, of which more later.
Besides, it’s the taking part that counts isn’t it? Well in this case it really is. The very act of applying was useful because you can’t answer 32 probing questions in a concise and compelling way without thinking very carefully about your business and how you intend to carry through your plans.
Get through the application and you’ve got a week with some seriously good, seriously smart people. The sort of people who’ll listen to your idea for 30 seconds, totally get it and bang out a stream of great suggestions and next steps (thank you Mike Shaver, thank you Sumon).
It wasn’t a week-long of fantasticness, oh no. Eleven hours of each day is packed choc-full of conversations and insight and pitches and that’s exhausting. Then there are the people who take a cherished idea and with one shrug of the shoulders condemn it to future obscurity.
But ultimately that’s good too. It’s good to be challenged and questioned and probed. It’s good to be faced by people who know their stuff and demand that you know yours. It’s good practice for the time when you need a solid reason why the Group Director of Digital Strategy and Development is wrong and na na na na na na na just wont cut it.
Which leads me back to validation. I’ve always found it very difficult to decide between the ideas to pursue and the ones to abandon. Most of us have a limited amount of cash and all of us have a limited amount of time and I don’t know about you, but I’ve often looked for a sign that this is the idea to devote myself to.
The problem with Seedcamp is that there were no clear signs; some people thought it a great idea others did not. The difficulty is that if you seek validation the tendency is to focus on the people who don’t think you’ll make it. Or in other words seek validation and disappointment is pretty much guaranteed.
So Seedcamp taught me that it’s not important everyone love the idea, in fact it’s impossible that everyone would. If the feedback were universally negative it might be wise to consider something else. As long as some people thing you’re onto something, as long as the idea is good enough to get you out of bed, then it’s a good enough idea. The market will shape it into a great idea, provided you let it of course.
The other great thing I got from Seedcamp was the knowledge that successful entrepreneurs have nothing that you or I don’t. There was nothing in particular about their experiences in life or their attitudes toward life that set them out from the crowd. Apart, that is, from an unwavering desire to succeed.
It’s been mentioned in a thousand self-help books and Anthony Robins seminars but it was never more true until I saw it for myself. Creating a successful business does not depend upon the parenting you had, the school you went to, the brains you were born with or the hard-nosed approach you’ve developed. It depends upon having the courage to change when necessary, the drive to continue when appropriate and the wisdom to differentiate between the two.
If you haven’t got it you can learn it or you can hire someone with it. There’s a whole ecosystem of support which is being developed to help you be successful and there are many people just like you aiming for similar goals and struggling with similar problems. The very existence of which I must thank Seedcamp for knowledge of.
So thank you Seedcamp. I learnt a huge amount in a very short time and one day hope to be able to give back to others what you gave to me.