Empowering entrepreneurs, not just picking winners

So we’ve announced that 20 teams have been selected to come to London next week for Seedcamp Week 2007. You can see some of the coverage at Techcrunch and the FT.

These 20 teams are definitely all winners, but we’ve had 268 teams from over 40 countries who are in the process of starting business – so it was really tough for the selection panel to choose only 20 teams to come through to this stage.

The class of 2007 is a diverse group, including teams from Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Dubai, Sweden, France, Russia and several from the UK.

The Seedcamp team and all our mentors are really looking forward to an intense program next week, meeting the companies and spending some quality time giving feedback and getting to understand their businesses better.

But we want to make sure we don’t lose focus on Seedcamp’s long term vision is about really empowering Europe’s young entrepreneurs. This is not something which will happen overnight, we have a lot going for us in Europe these days but there are still significant structural issues to challenge and years of institutional inertia to combat.

Most of all we must challenge the fact that we have a culture that tends to censure rather than celebrate risk and is afraid of making mistakes.

Seedcamp is also a startup and it’s only a few months old. We have great support, but we know we’ll make lots of mistakes along the way. This is why we’ve made sure that we and our partners are thinking about this as a long-term project, not just about 20 teams for one week in London and then 5 winners for 3 months. Seedcamp is about creating a great environment for entrepreneurs, not just about picking winners, so it’s as much about the teams who applied this year and didn’t get selected as the teams that did.

One of the things which has given me the biggest kick in the last week since we announced the class of 2007 have been emails from people who didn’t get through but felt Seedcamp’s process:

  • gave them better focus for what they were building,
  • forced them to find co-founders,
  • made them determined to prove us wrong in the market,
  • convinced them to try harder to get selected next year.

This is a real entrepreneurial spirit and I have no doubt that these teams will come back stronger than ever. It can be very lonely being an entrepreneur and some of the best advice you’ll ever get is from another one, so its thrilling to see people really supporting one another.

The spread of Opencoffee to over 70 cities has shown me that community really matters to young startups, so we want to continue to provide a forum, community, feedback and resources for all the teams who applied this year. In the coming month we’ll be making it easy for all the teams that applied to promote themselves on the Seedcamp website and holding office hours to give people feedback on their plans.

So thanks again to everyone who applied, good luck with your businesses and keep challenging the status quo and making new mistakes.

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