The US trip in fall 2013 was the second time we took our companies on the road this year. There are two simple reasons for this: We’re investing in more and more companies, and we want to give the companies timely access to the US market.
The second Seedcamp US trip in 2013
Just as before, the US trip is a focused 2-week trip which sees a crew of about 20 Seedcamp entrepreneurs to the most important technology hubs in the US, where they meet with the top investors, entrepreneurs, platform builders, and local startups. In reality, it feels like a mixture between a class trip and the speed learning technique in the movie Matrix.
This year, more than ever before, was focused on extending the learning and networking opportunities for the founders on the trip, much like the Seedcamp Academy program does in London. Fundraising is always an important part (and the reason for the fact that a third of our companies raise capital from US investors), but the long term learnings and inspirations from the most successful people in the business are what we find most transformative for the founders.
Our tour always kicks off in New York, as it is the natural next step across the Atlantic for many of our founders. Zemanta and ERPLY, two Seedcamp veterans are based there, and shared insights into the very different ways they built their companies. Besides them, we spent time with Kitchensurfing, Barkbox, Fueled, Percolate, and heard how they are innovating in community building, the mobile space, and engaging in social media. MongoDB, who we visited on all of our trips for the last three years just moved into a new office – besides their big funding announcement, a very impressive sign of the size and impact of the New York Tech scene today compared to three years ago. We met Union Square Ventures, Betaworks, RRE Ventures, and Bowery Capital – four investors with a very different outlook on the world, who shared their insights with us. These discussions always go far beyond pitching, and are highly useful for founders to make sense of the fundraising ecosystem and current developments. We also held a mentoring meet up with our friends in New York to introduce the Seedcamp startups to some of the most connected people in the city and get feedback from seasoned entrepreneurs and investors.
In Boston, we were focused on the great opportunities to learn from some great practitioners and theorists alike: Michael Skok of Northbridge shared his thoughts in a masterclass on company building from a VCs perspective, Seedcamp Investor Fred Destin told us both about the Boston tech scene, and cautioned reasons for startups to fail. Bill Aulet, who runs the entrepreneurship centre at MIT talked about the 24 steps of disciplined entrepreneurship and shared the learnings the MIT put together over many years of breeding and educating entrepreneurs. Company visits in Boston ranged from hardware design – GrabCADs new office space in Cambridge – to consumer champions like Runkeeper, where Jason Jacobs talked about his learnings in an incredibly honest an open session.
Both cities showed us the incredible activity on the East Coast of the United States – and while in previous years, there seemed to be a lot of talk about Silicon Valley and San Francisco, the local scenes were much more in focus now. It seems that both investors and founders are much more focused on building their businesses and supporting great talent locally, which is a great thing to see. Both Boston and New York are always most welcoming to us and our startups and we thank mentors and investors for the warm reception.
Our focus in San Francisco itself was mostly on meeting the great companies that have evolved over the last few years, and are defining success of the San Francisco tech scene. Twitter, AirBnB, Pinterest, Stripe, and AngelList are all deeply disruptive for their respective industries, and have already developed a strong reputation on a global scale. We learnt about the different founding stories, saw the progression of teams and platforms we met in the past, and were inspired by the scale of thinking (and, the office buildings…). Besides mentoring sessions with our local mentors, we also organised an angel investor meetup including the investors from SV Angel, Crunchfund, Index, Bloomberg Beta, and many more local seed investors.
The Silicon Valley is still reigning supreme with some of the biggest names in Tech: our visits to Facebook and Google are a fixture. Being driven around in a self driving car is not, and it was definitely a highlight to experience the new areas of innovation Google is busy exploring. Insightful thoughts came from the investment team at both Greylock, where John Lilly talked to our founders, and at Andreessen Horowitz, were Sten Tamviki, one of Seedcamp’s early investors is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence. Sean Ellis took time out of his day to share important growth hacking tips, and Dave McClure and the team at 500startups invited us to their Mountain View tower.
One phenomenon was clear to see: a lot of activity has shifted from the Valley to San Francisco – especially in the early stages of funding and company building. Not only are our friends from 500startups opening a San Francisco office, but many investors are now living or working exclusively in San Francisco, and focusing on the vibrant scene that is evolving. Seedcamp Alumni Blossom, BrandID, and former Seedcamp founder Tomaz Stolfa, who is now building Layer.com, also showed us how the city is evolving, and innovative company builders like Heavybit are an interesting addition to the options founders have in financing their companies.
The next Seedcamp US trip will take place in February 2014 – just before the SXSW interactive festival. We will once again take our founders on the road to meet the best local investors, entrepreneurs, and tech companies. If you want to be part of the US trip, and would like to join the Seedcamp Family – apply to Seedcamp London now.