After 2+ weeks on the road, we’re now back from the Spring 2014 Seedcamp US road trip. Souvenirs for the Seedcamp founders that joined on the journey include stacks of business cards, a smattering of stickers for their laptops, fresh perspective and insights into the US market, new friends and advisors, and for many, a well-fed fundraising pipeline.
We kicked off in our usual first port of call – New York. When we first started the US trip in 2011, NYC was one of the quieter legs of the trip compared to Boston, SF and the Valley. But it’s no secret that New York is now a startup and capital hub in the US. The strength of this burgeoning ecosystem was clear to us as we hustled the grid for three days, meeting with various facets of the community with a focus on learning and connecting to fuel funding and growth.
Next up was Boston, where we are continually impressed with the deep expertise this city produces. Heading to California over the weekend, we split the second week of the trip between SF and the Valley. The momentum towards SF we felt last fall was even stronger now. It’s an exciting place to be with so many startups, deeply knowledgeable and seasoned experts and investors.
15 Different Perspectives on Venture
Taking the approach that fundraising can be strikingly similar to dating, we met with a diverse group of investors in each city on the trip. In NY we jumped right in, meeting with 5 venture firms including iA Ventures, Bowery Capital, RRE Ventures, Greycroft and even skateboarding with the team at Valar for our founders to get a sense of the funding scene in NY and just how important the right investment relationship fit is. We rounded out the east coast in Boston with visits with Spark, Flybridge and NextView Ventures, and had a masterclass with Michael J Skok from North Bridge Ventures. Heading west, our teams met with some of the top investors out there – a16z, Greylock, OATV, Index, Felicis, 500 Startups (with more skateboarding!) and more – to get to know each and get an understanding of their approach and ideas on investing.
With each having differing interests and takes on the world, each investor’s feedback on the startups’ pitches and the discussions on the funding ecosystem in each of their geographies in particular and the US in general made for a steep learning curve for our founders on fundraising in the US. It also was an opportunity to truly jumpstart the fundraising mindset for them and get that “first date” out of the way.
Founder to Founder
In between investor meetings, we stopped by a number of startups who are tackling the growth phase and offered to share their experiences with our teams. Jeremy Le Van and Pierre Valade shared their experiences as European founders building Sunrise in New York, Jason Jacobs of Runkeeper talked through his journey of staying focused and building with your customers at heart and Clement Gires led our teams through the Local Motion story. We also visited some players in the later stages, including Square, MongoDB and Return Path.
East and West Coast Angels and Mentors
We arranged for Angel meetups on each coast to get to know the local angel investor scene better. Pitching in front of a room full of angels and fielding their questions was a great way to connect with the local angel groups. We also held mentor networking events in each of the 4 destinations to catch up with our 100s of friends across the US. More pitching, with a healthy dose of learning and connecting from the local experts, movers and shakers, and rockstar founders.
Platforms and Partners
A Seedcamp US trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the platform and partners. It’s learning and connecting with a hefty helping of inspiration at these visits. A stroll through the Facebook‘s Disneyland-esque street, enjoying the sunshine on Twitter HQ‘s roof garden, watching cat videos on YouTube at YouTube, or a bike ride through the Googleplex are icing on top of cake of these visits. Spending time with Victoria Ransom to hear her story of building Wildfire and selling it to Google, learning the practices Twitter uses internally to make rockstar product, discovering the best ways to leverage YouTube as a startup, and hanging out with Robert Scoble mano-a-startup made these visits highly valuable.
Masters and Masterclasses
Throughout the ten days of our trip, we made time for six masterclasses by world class gurus. Topics focused on different areas in a company’s life cycle, and formats ranged from socratic method style with Michael J Skok of North Bridge as he shared pointers and pitfalls in building a product into a company, to a hike through the hills of Palo Alto with Konstantin Guericke, co-founder of LinkedIn where insights into building a community were shared along the trail.
Mexican is the new burger
While in past trips the burger tally was in the double digits, this time around the food theme was south of the border. We’re not complaining! But not to worry, we did have our share of burgers and BBQ.
Let’s do it again! Will you join next time?
All in all, this US trip was an experience rich in learning, mindset shifts and connections. A big thank you to all those along the way who made our trip possible, and for taking the time to share your stories, insights and tricks with our teams.
Our goal each time we hit the road for the US is to help our founders build bridges to the US and to help them garner the necessary tools to make the process as fruitful as possible. And we’ll be back at it again in the fall.