This guest post is written by Adam Bird, Co-founder & CEO of Cronofy – the unified calendar API that allows you to integrate your apps deeply within your customers’ lives. Adam joined Seedcamp for the twice-yearly US Trip, meeting investors and tech companies across the USA. This article was originally featured on Medium.
The Seedcamp US Trip is an assault on the mind, body and senses. In my case it was an amazing opportunity to understand what it’s going to take to fully realise the Cronofy opportunity.
The premise is deceptively simple. Start in the East Coast of the US and travel from VC office to VC office pitching in quick fire succession. Three days in New York followed by two days in Boston. Then fly across to The Valley and continue. Each pitch a more refined and punchier version of the one prior.
Throw in visits to notable tech giants and startups, must-do culinary experiences and a group of other founders going through the same journey and you’ve got a recipe for transformative thinking.
Success is so much about communication, almost beyond your ability to actually execute, that this intense pitching bootcamp will stand as a pivotal point in my personal journey.
The East Coast week was definitely the most intense pitch week in terms of numbers (20+). We very quickly learned to focus on working out how to pull out as much insight as possible. For example, a question posed by Zak Schwarzman of Gotham Ventures caused me to rethink the way I framed the future market opportunity. Jeff Bussgang, author of Mastering the VC Game, was quick to point out some key funding strategy choices we had.
Boston and New York were very similar in outlook from a VC perspective. And in truth not a million miles from the feedback I’ve received from the better London VCs. Profitability/revenue was a question that came up pretty frequently. I’m not sure I talked about it once on the West Coast.
Best office award goes to Kickstarter. A welcoming and unassuming converted pencil factory on the Brooklyn shore. Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO, was incredibly generous with his time. His insight and perspective into building an incredibly successful company that wasn’t motivated by maximising shareholder returns was a welcome counterpoint.
Best view of the entire trip went to Gunderson Dettmer, lawyers to Michael Skok who hosted a team session with Michael. The view across Boston Bay was quite breathtaking but was soon forgotten when Michael started discussing our businesses and some of the challenges we were facing.
I was lucky enough to see Michael talk at the Business of Software conference last year so was in some way prepared for how erudite and considered he was. Our group session was another level. He genuinely approaches life as an opportunity to learn and to help others discover the answers they need.
By the time we got to the valley I’d decided to ditch the pitch deck and just talk. The people we were meeting were incredibly time constrained so articulating the vision within a couple of minutes was crucial. You had to allow time for feedback, thoughts and concerns.
Three minutes with Josh Elman (growth impresario for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and now VC with Greylock) was one such moment to maximise. His insight resolved a key strategic decision we have been navigating.
Brian Schreier of Sequoia was similarly insightful. Immediately identifying the key transition we’re going to have to demonstrate if we’re to achieve our goals of redefining the calendar platform for all.
There is a reason why Seedcamp is the ultimate European Acceleration Fund. Years of hard work, networking and cultivation has enabled them to open the biggest doors and in turn European entrepreneur’s minds.
It’s not just the doors they’ve opened. I shared this experience with ten other entrepreneurs who were also on the same journey of enlightenment. As we digested meals and experiences together we could share and consolidate thoughts and ideas. Doubling down and maximising on everything we were learning.
I’ve returned from the US with an extended group of friends, a different sense of what we are as a business and steely determination to do everything I can to make it happen. To do anything else would be a waste.