With 2008 coming to a close, we’re getting very excited at the prospects of the New Year and even more excited that the first stop on our Mini Seedcamp tour de force next year will see us tapping into the web-tech talents of Israel…and happy that that we might grab some winter sunshine to boot!

Mini Seedcamp Tel Aviv will bring together 20 of Israel’s best early stage web tech start-ups with over 50 industry leading and highly experienced entrepreneurs, investors and developers from the region and across Europe to participate in a day of mentoring, panel discussions and presentations.

Participants include Saul Klein of Seedcamp, Yaron Orenstein of the.co.ils and Tovi Riegler of SAP Labs to name but a few. From product designers to venture capitalists and marketing specialists, they will share their knowledge and experience to help the selected teams put together the foundations of a viable business. The teams will benefit by listening and spending time with the mentors to get feedback, ask questions and learn as much as possible from their collective experiences. It also gives the selected teams a chance to get to know other entrepreneurs and be inspired by each other.

The teams are then invited to apply for Seedcamp Week in September 2009 held in London, whereby 20 teams are selected from around the EMEA to attend and compete for seed funding and garner world-class connections for start-ups. Along with this, Seedcamp may also invest locally into a start up team that has an exceptionally winning formula.

Israel has a strong reputation for technological start-ups and by hosting a Mini Seedcamp in the region we hope to extend the entrepreneurial ecosystem further, increasing ties with Europe, so that talented teams of entrepreneurs can take the leap and start world-class businesses.

Investor Day during the Seedcamp 3 months is one of the two major milestones 11 weeks post Seedcamp Week for the teams to show how they have progressed on the relationships and company development that was accelerated during Seedcamp Week. Just like Demo Day, we were positively impressed by how the teams are maturing, developing their products, and moving confidently in the face of the obvious challenging times ahead.

The day brings together the Seedcamp companies and investors together for update, debate, and feedback.

Some key updates were:

Here is a quick summary of what the teams presented.

uberVU have made great progress developing their product which maps the conversational web. It targets the gap in information between Google Alerts and media monitors. They have excited power bloggers, PR professionals, and the Thomson Reuters film crew who have been following them around

Basekit’s demo has the power to knock socks off. A simple web creator with massive potential as it creates dynamic sites or “mashups”. All calls were for launch, launch, launch! Private beta will go up January so sign up at www.basekit.com

Kyko is still in stealth mode but credit must be given for achieving the most on the least amount of money (and Aly isn’t a hacker). Watch this space for a beta launch in January as well

Soup helps you express yourself. Their Tumblogging platform has a strong following across Europe and pays special attention to user design. They are up and running so create your own soup.io and you’ll probably be as addicted as us. Launching in Polish very soon and other languages after.

Stupeflix have invested in the technology to make their web based professional video product the best on the market for their target consumers. The product is showing strong early interest as they have their first customer

Toksta’s social chat plug-in is a great solution for social networks and other such sites looking for time-saving easy as copy and paste implementation. In their pitch they provide a clear differentiator from competitors. Look out for some major announcements in January

Our good friends at Swede recently hosted workshops with each of the Seedcamp 7 companies to discuss brand, user experience and design, Swede’s specialities. The teams found it very useful indeed.

For those too busy to read the whole post, here were our key takeaways:

  1. Balance of speed and introspectionStartups are under constant pressure to move fast and show step change in progress all in a short time. It’s critical, especially at the early stage to take a step back and go back to what problems are we trying to solve and what users needs are 

  2. Let others in – I think all the teams learned to bring others into their small nucleus and use that fresh insight to really develop their offering and products. It’s hard to let go but important to learn how to as you grow 

  3. Guidance versus direction – There is an art itself to taking feedback and applying it. We see real growth and maturity in the way the teams participated in the sessions, took in feedback, and retained ownership rather than letting others direct their business and products  

    For more, here were the insights gleaned by the teams in their own words.

    “Swede have an excellent way of merging creativity with business logic. They walked us through the creation of a high level visual representation of the market prior to BaseKit – helping us to understand the key problems and pains that need to be addressed. We then projected an ideal solution forward into the future, creating a visual of a new better market with BaseKit as a central point. Swede helped us to see our business from refreshing angles, have helped us to gain a deeper understanding of our customers – and have helped us start to shape our ideas regarding the delivery of an exceptional user experience. Thank you Swede!”

    Richard Best, CEO BaseKit 

    “It is said that about entrepreneurs that they are so focused on their daily startup work that they can no longer see the forest from the leafs. It was our case and I think the case of every web entrepreneur out there. What Swede managed to do so elegantly was to help us extract all the things we knew about our business, mix them with our goals and aspirations and sketch a clear path for our company and us as entrepreneurs. Don’t think of them as consultants as they will not push ideas at you, but as trainers who will help you crystallize what you already knew and felt. Working with them was extremely rewarding for us, useful and fun.”

    Vladimir Oane, CEO uberVU  

    “You rarely get the chance to go into this much depth about your product with someone not immediately involved in it — such a several-hour mentoring session is immensely useful, and I’d recommend it to anyone starting a business. It’s not that *they* necessarily give you new ideas, but they make you re-examine your own assumptions by putting them up on a big board, which can lead to all kinds of insights.”

    Chris Clay, CEO Soup.io 

    Swede also wrote a summary post stuffed with useful start-up advice on brand, user experience and design. Good stuff.

    Thanks to Swede for hosting the workshops, Scottish Equity Partners and Eden Ventures for letting us use their offices.