We’ve been thrilled at the interest Seedcamp has generated in such a short time since we announced it a few weeks ago. In the spirit of the new web, we’ve had some great guest blogs , our forums are slowly getting more active and even our Facebook group is growing like crazy – we’re just crossed 600 members 🙂
We want Seedcamp to really help stimulate a community and conversation around European startups – so please join in, online or physically at your local Opencoffee Club. So if you’re an entrepreneur with an idea, a developer with a killer app – there’s no excuse to feel alone anymore.
You have until midnight August 12th to submit your completed application, we’ve already had nearly 100 from all over Europe including France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the UK. We’ve also had applications from India, Israel, Russia, South Africa and Latin America – keep them coming.
Seedcamp is completely focussed on supporting the entrepreneur. So we’re thrilled that we seemed to have tapped into something that seems relevant and valuable to you. In fact, one of the things which has excited me the most is that people are recognizing that although capital is key, Seedcamp is more about the contacts, coverage and connections successful applicants will receive both in the week of September 3-7 in London and in the 3 months afterwards.
With this in mind, I’m really excited today to announce the first wave of Seedcamp supporters, who are really stepping up to play a major role not just in Seedcamp 2007 but for the years ahead. These are all people and organizations who have played a critical role in putting European entrepreneurship on the map and I’m thrilled to have them on board.
The cast in order of appearance so far are: Index Ventures, Niklas Zennstrom and Mattias Ljungman’s Atomico Investments , Atlas Venture, Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Europe), TAG, Forsyth Group and Brown Rudnick. We are also thrilled to have FT.com and Techcrunch as media partners and the NextWeb Conference as an event partner.
We look forward to act two and announcing our new cast of characters in the coming weeks.
Matt Jones, who will be a mentor during Seedcamp week, has written a great post about how core interaction design is to a great startup.
If watching Jonathan Ive’s influence on Apple hadn’t made things clear enough, then the importance of Marissa Mayer in driving simplicity of user experience at Google should have been a clue to how important product design is in business success.
For years usablity was a relatively small domain, but if you’ve been driven out the shadows by Jakob Nielsen and Mark Hurst or better yet you’ve been lucky enough to work with great product designers you’ll know just how important it is.
I was really lucky in the States in the 90s to work with some excellent thinkers and practioners like Upe and Scott. These guys made me realize how important usability and design were to the building of great services.
More recently, since moving back to Europe I’ve again been inspired by some really incredible product designers. Niklas and Janus were some of the biggest believers in usability I’ve met and Skype invested heavily in product design – both in time and people. It really reaped the rewards.
Janus Friis has almost preternatural consumer instincts. His focus on simplicity has helped turn phones into software with Skype and now with Joost, he and Niklas are performing the same trick with TVs. But Skype would not be Skype without two other very big product design brains and their superb teams – Malthe Sigurdsson and Rodrigo Madanes.
There are awesome product designers in Europe (remember where Jonathan Ive is from!). In fact, its no surprise some of the world’s product design leaders like Nokia, IKEA and Porsche are European – we have an incredible heritage in design from furniture to couture.
So if you are selected for Seedcamp, you can expect to rub shoulders and be inspired by some of the best product designers – including Matt, Malthe, Rodrigo and Leisa Reichelt.
If not, check out some of their work, or some of Europe’s new generation of usability inspired businesses like Carson Systems, Moo, Jaiku, Netvibes and Dopplr.
If I can’t convince that design matters, maybe they can.
All I know is there isn’t company that I’m working with now who either has product designers front and centre or is desperately seeking them.
Guest post from Joel Selvadurai of Messagr.com:
My name is Joel Selvadurai, a 23 year old Entrepreneur living in London. I graduated with a BSc. in Computer Science from the University of Durham in 2005. I learned to code java at University and worked as a java developer after I graduated for around six months. I’ve always had a passion for creativity and innovation on the web and was fustrated that my job didn’t let me innovate or let me vent my creativity. Eventually, I decided to take a year out and work on my own web projects to see if anything would come of it. I was inspired by the blogs coming out of silicon valley of young entrepreneurs creating new ideas and getting the backing they needed. It was around this time that meebo had set up, I would read their blog everyday, track their progress, see how they raised their first few rounds and go from an idea into one of the most popular sites on the web. I was inspired, so I quit my job in the hope of doing the same, in London.
I spent two months creating the first protoype of messagr.com, an instant chat search engine for people. This was around the time that TechCrunch UK was setting up. Once I had a rough demo ready, I wrote to TechCrunch UK (Sam Sethi) and got a great review. Soon after I attended Second Chance tuesday where I got to speak to some investors and arranged some meetings. At this point I was full of hope but was disappointed when I found that the investors were very critical of my position, not having a team with a track record, not having a track record myself, not having any revenue, not having any significant traction. The world seemed to turn red when one prominent VC said to me “There is no chance that you’ll raise any seed money in the UK, you have a better chance in the US”. I was expecting inspiration, encouragement and perhaps even a little money to take my idea a bit further, but all I got was a feeling that I was crazy for even trying. In addition, my fellow entrepreneurs in the UK felt the same, and were fleeing the US to start their companies. Networking events seemed closed to young entrepreneurs often costing upwards of £50 and being held in swanky private clubs. I even contacted the organisers of such events to persuade them that young entrepreneurs were valuable and that some concessions should be made. Only to be told that “the price was the only way to maintain quality at these events”. It was a stark contrast to the open mindedness I had read about in Silicon Valley.
I felt that the only way to take my idea further was to find the money myself, somehow. A month later, I had a stroke of luck which eared me £10,000 to do some development for Rabble to integrate some of the IM technology I’d created for messagr into their product. This money kept me afloat for a while and gave me some time to develop more ideas. I decided at this point that I needed to create a revenue generating business to fund the further development of messagr which I was still very passionate about. So, I sat in a room for three months and created livechat2im.com in the hope of generating a little cash. It was a great learning experience and got some great reviews in the blogosphere. Despite having over 1300 users, the number of paid users are minimal and I had to resort getting a development job again (this time developing in Adobe Flex).
A year on, although having learned an immense amount and meeting some amazing people, I felt my enthusiasm sapped and my morale low. On reflection, it was a mistake to do it on my own, so I’m currently looking for a co-founder to join me in my Seedcamp application. The ecosystem is starting to change, the best networking events are now free like Opencoffee and young entrepreneurs are being valued. OpenCoffee has been a great way to access some significant investors and pitch to them. I recall one OpenCoffee session that I took my laptop to where I got time with Mattias Ljungman and Nicholas Gilodi-Johnson, both significant investors, and was able to show them my creations and get their feedback. These sort of chance interactions wouldn’t have happened a year ago and is a sure sign that things are changing significantly for the better.
I’m applying to Seedcamp because it has everything that a young entrepreneur needs to take an idea forward. Encouragement, inspiration and a little cash to keep those bills at bay while you develop the next killer app.
One of the things I’ve experienced first hand over the years in starting businesses and observing start ups is that single founders are rarely successful. Partnerships or teams are always much better.
There is a long and pretty obvious list of examples — Bill Gates & Paul Allen (then Steve Ballmer), Jerry Yang & David Filo, Larry Page & Sergey Brin, Niklas Zennstrom & Janus Friis, Chad Hurley & Steve Chen, Pierre Omidyar & Jeff Skoll. Even Steve Jobs needed a Steve Wozniak once upon a time. In fact maybe the lesson is you need a Steve 🙂
It’s a rare business that succeeds with a single visible founder. In fact even in situations like Facebook where Mark Zuckerberg is front and centre, in background there is Dustin Moskovitz playing the role of co-founder. Jeff Bezos and Amazon is one of the few super-successful solo examples that springs to mind.
People need people and great founders need partners — and great founder partnerships need great teams.
Great partnerships are like marriages, they need a lot of common ground, strong mutual attraction and a willingness to work hard – especially through the inevitable issues. In fact some of them are like Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake.
This is not a post on what to look for, that’s been done well elsewhere and we’ll deal with it in later posts — as well as team-building.
This is some practical advice on what you can do if you have a great idea – for Seedcamp, or otherwise – and you want to go about finding a partner.
It’s not easy, but in this age of networks, here are some suggestions which grease the wheels.
You can start easily online:
But there’s no substitute for the real world, so:
Good luck in finding your partners – it’s worth it and your business will be better for it.
Guest post from Mattias Ljungman at Atomico:
We’ve been privileged to be involved with SeedCamp right from its early stages, when Saul’s ideas around the initiative were still in their embryonic stage. Our early discussions revolving around how we can strengthen the European entrepreneurial ecosystem have crystallised into the creation of SeedCamp, an initiative that aims to assist budding entrepreneurs in Europe.
The idea is to support young entrepreneurs who show immense promise and vision, and who have the ability to build the next Google, Skype or Ebay. At a week-long SeedCamp, they will be immersed in an environment offering first-hand experience, knowledge and best practice, as well as initial funding, resulting in a well-rounded skill set that accelerates their chances to build world-class companies.
For SeedCamp to be successful, we believe the broader the involvement of all parties making up the current ecosystem, the better. That’s why we want current entrepreneurs, lawyers, web designers, recruiters and investors to participate in any way they can. In essence, it’s all about bringing together people who want to be part of shaping and improving Europe’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We’re extremely excited about SeedCamp and believe this is one of the initiatives that will transform budding entrepreneurship in Europe.
Everyone talks about how much easier it is to do business in the Valley and that things move a lot faster there. Having worked in the Valley versus the East Coast, Asia and now Europe the difference in the pace of things and energy is prominent. Things do move fast and business gets done quickly but what most people don’t realize is that work and play are intermingled. Life in the Valley is centered around technology and entrepreneurship and it is hard to separate where work ends and play begins and vice versa.
It is one of the things I find critically different in my Europe experience to date. The two are very separate, which is great to some extent because it provides a better sense of balance. But if you are an entrepreneur or in general trying to move your business fast, you want and need more of that mixture because it is a key element of what creates a community fully focused on supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.
This is one of the biggest reasons I am involved with Seedcamp. I strongly believe that it is very possible to build such an environment and community in Europe. It is a key part of the secret sauce. So, Seedcamp clearly provides funding. But even more importantly, its purpose is to help build this community because it is learning from product design, technology, business development, IP lawyers, and other experts that the inherent community can become stronger. And ultimately a company is not an island but is interdependent with many external parties. These same experts will one day become partners, customers, employees, and even competitors that will push you to build even greater companies.
There are so many similar qualities in the young entrepreneurs in Europe to those in the Valley: Fantastic education, energy, openness to sharing, and big goals and dreams. The main thing lacking is a thread that ties it all together to create a tight link. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a nurturing environment to create a lasting cycle of entrepreneurship. The YouTube – Sequoia – Google community is the quintessential example of mixing work and play and the importance of who you know much more than money. Are you ready to immerse completely, blur the lines, and build this community?
Starting a company can be likened to a game of probability. Not roll-your-dice and see what happens kind of probability but a game of where actions YOU control maximize the likelihood of your startup succeeding. So if you were to bet a young entrepreneur succeeding from Silicon Valley versus one from the South of France – who would you choose?
If you were being rational you’d be torn between the two. Here’s why
-Opportunity: So Europe is a few cycles in the entrepreneurial ecosystem behind silicon valley, but if you are an opportunist that should set off alarm bells. Imagine being part of the second wave of entrepreneurs in silicon valley – vast opportunity, markets ripe for disruption and internationalisation opportunities beyond belief. This is Europe right now.
-Originality: Geographic separation leads to original insight, lack of group-think and an international outlook. In a global internet, killer design and original thinking separate the Skype’s from the vonages of this world. So why haven’t we seen a Betfair, a Stardoll or a Moo emerge in the valley? Sometimes cultural diversity can breed a different type of thinking.
-Ambition: Its hard for a young entrepreneur to stand out from the rest in the valley. So everyone starts companies, so what? You are sitting there in Stockholm or Riga with a killer prototype for a consumer internet service and your friends think your are crazy. What would have happened if Niklas & Jaanus had taken the rejections from investors literally, would Skype exist today? Would RJ and Felix, the founders of last.fm been able to live in tents without believing in the vision of last.fm? By starting up in Europe you’ve already marked yourself as being different to your peers.
But, you state that the probability of succeeding is influenced by being surrounded by those who have been there, can help you and have done it before, so Silicon Valley still wins. Even if Europe has the calibre of Serial Entrepreneurs who have given birth to companies such as last.fm, netvibes, fon and Skype, geographical separation means young entrepreneurs can’t feel that influence despite having huge ambitions.
Seedcamp Europe is going to change that. By bringing together the top young founders, together with some of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs & world class mentors the limit on the probability of entrepreneurs succeeding is not where you are but how big are you thinking.
As Niklas Zennstrom said, disruptive ideas which can yield mass adoption come from simple propositions which 100 million people can understand. Now imagine refining your disruptive ideas with the best in the business. The only factor now influencing your probability of success is whether you click apply.
Sumon is a 24-year old, Young Founder based in London & Seedcamp Board Member. If you are a Young Entrepreneur applying to Seedcamp get in touch . Sumon [at] seedcamp [dot] com
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