Seedcamp is happy to announce we’ve opened applications for our main event this September: Seedcamp Week 2008. Entries are accepted via our Seedcamp online application form, with a deadline of 23:59, 10 August. More information can be found in our 2008 application guide.
Considering last year was our inaugural event we were bound to learn a few things about the application and judging process, and we’ve tried to incorporate that learning to make the run-up to this year’s event even easier for us and the teams applying.
One of our biggest challenges when running a competition that hopes to elicit applications from an entire (heterogeneous) continent is the language barrier. We’d love to have official translations in the dozens of languages indigenous to Europe, but as we lack Brussels’ small army of translators we’ve had to standardize on English.
This year some of the questions that were difficult for non-native English speakers have been reworded, and we’ve included some further explanation in the application guide linked above to help native and non-native speakers alike.
We’ve also streamlined some behind-the-scenes judging processes, decided to hold short-list interviews in person rather than over the telephone, and taken advantage of Seecamp Week’s slightly later placement on the calendar to provide more time for entry submissions.
Hopefully these changes will help to make what was already a smooth process even smoother. Good luck to everyone, and remember not to leave your application to the last minute!
As my first Seedcamp event, I wasn’t completely certain of what to expect at Mini Seedcamp-Berlin 2008. I’d heard personal effusive approval of previous events, and the coverage I’d read was uniformly positive, but could Friday the 20th of June live up to the impossibly glowing reputation of the past? Well… yes.
Berlin was, much like the Kiev and Paris events, a microcosm of our full-fledged Seedcamp Week: company presentations, a panel discussion, small-group mentoring sessions, and the election of a winner all bottled up into a single day. Unlike our main event, however, there was no goal of immediate financing propelling the competition – instead the emphasis was on sharing ideas with peers and taking full advantage of the unique access to battle-hardened and sagacious mentors.
With just over 20 teams presenting their ideas, the early morning was replete with potential to outlive the audience’s attention span, but the high energy of the participants (not to mention some effective timekeeping by Saul) kept the pace and information flow brisk. The second half of the morning consisted of a panel discussion featuring:
Following the panel discussion and a pleasantly light catered lunch (my stomach was thankful after the previous night’s meal of delicious but hearty Käsespätzle, enough of an arterial logjam before they heaped on the bacon) start-up teams and mentors broke out into small groups for two hours of rotating consultation – consistently the most valuable part of the day for both parties. We organizers had to fight the urge to intrude just to soak up all the valuable knowledge.
Just before I had to grab my taxi to the airport we tallied the votes, revealing <tickerTXT> – a grassroots mobile exchange system – to be the winners. Congratulations to them and all our Seedcamp Berlin participants. We know this is only the start of our repeated presence in one of Europe’s strongest entrepreneurial epicenters, and we hope to see even more great ideas next year.
My apologies this is late but alas trying to see my family (all the way in US) meant I was out of blog circulation. Great gems from Alasdair Bell (on loan to us from Oxford) about the Ukraine event. Imagine this will be good food for thought for all applicants this year to Seedcamp 2008!
Seedcamp Kiev – May 21-22
The past few days have seen Seedcamp pitch up in Kiev as part of its mini-Seedcamp tour. This involved bringing together 20 of the best early stage companies from Ukraine (mainly), assembling 27 mentors from the UK and the Ukraine, and offering spaces at Seedcamp week in September to the two most promising teams.
Here is how we got on…
Mini-Seedcamp consisted of several elements: panel discussions on product development, going to market, and internationalisation; one-to-one discussions between experts and the teams, and presentations about each of the companies. Extracurricular activity took place in the evenings, with our engaging discussions on investing in start-ups, web, and markets gradually slurring into the night as Max, our fearless Ukrainian host, insisted on repeated vodka toasts.
This wasn’t a ‘pop idol’-style event with winners and losers, the point was to help all the teams develop. As one team described it, Seedcamp allowed them the “possibility to turn big ideas into great ones”.
The Ukraine is hot for tech. At Oxford Entrepreneurs I mostly see business minds looking for developers; in Kiev, we saw teams of techies needing business minds. One doesn’t work without the other: you either end up with a polished but pointless gadget or with a lengthy business plan, but not a company. I think this confirmed one of the most important reasons why Seedcamp was out there; we’re not a London thing, we’re pan-European. Seedcamp is piecing together teams from around the Europe to invest in and develop. Growing big European tech companies requires Seedcamp’s wide angle approach to nurturing start-ups.
The Ukrainian teams were an impressive bunch. Semantic search, online games, medical networks, and mind mapped browsing all featured. Some had polished products, others hazy demos; what the judges focussed on, however, was potential. An early stage company doesn’t need a polished product, just the potential to produce one.
Judging was tough but exhilarating. The decision-making process took many twists and turns as everyone added their opinions to the pot. The judging group consisted of entrepreneurs, VCs, marketers, lawyers, and product designers all bringing their unique take on the teams to the discussion. A dramatic moment occurred when two teams were brought back into the room only to be corralled by inquisitive mentors.
After extended deliberation the winning teams were F-Dreams and Deepmemo. F-Dream consists of three young (18-21yrs) hackers who have been working on their online football management game for over a year and have produced a good product. The judges were impressed by their drive, the huge market potential, and the consideration they had given to all aspects of the business. Deepmemo, on the other hand, provide a web service to aggregate “quotes” of web content and share them – another bright team who should benefit from the development opportunities and instant network offered by Seedcamp.
The assembled mentoring talent contained all imaginable expertise needed by start-ups when considering how to grow: entrepreneurs such as Alex Hoye (GoIndustry), marketers like Stephanie Bouchet (Skype), product experts from Google , Fjord , and VCs from abroad like Index , Wellington and Atlas and also several local Ukraine-based VCs.
Aside from their obvious expertise, I also discovered, whilst socialising with this inspirational group, that they seriously like to party, that the Ukrainians mentors really like their vodka, and that mixing the two was not advisable for my health.
It is easy for forget that Seedcamp is a start-up itself. It is still developing and refining its offering: lively discussions continued into the evenings about the best way to pick teams and help them create value. How ‘early stage’ should we go? The general consensus was that it is better to have a great teams and OK product rather than vice versa. But how much guidance can you give to a team with no defined product? Is it best to make teams travel to an interview or does that discriminate? It is these exciting discussions that will continue to build Seedcamp as the place for European start-ups.
Alasdair Bell is the sabbatical president of Oxford Entrepreneurs , Seedcamp fan and will be supporting the Ukraine in the Eurovision song contest.
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