The fitness test

A lot of the teams whose applications we read and whom we saw in person last week were objectively great teams, but just not the right fit for Seedcamp. As we’ve been monitoring the range of reactions to our finalist announcement it seemed worthwhile to try and explain why briefly.

Fit is a word bandied about often by VCs, and many others, as a catch-all – sometimes out of expedience and other times as an act of purposeful ambiguity. Its meaning varies based on when, why, and by whom it’s being used, resulting in a large variety of particular definitions for a large variety of particular contexts. That’s why many of the companies we regrettably turned down to get to our final 22 might be wondering what we meant when we employed that dreaded f-word.

Seedcamp has some structural constraints we’ve intentionally put in place to prevent emotional attachment from sabotaging our long-term goals. We won’t do ourselves or the community any good by flaming out after a few years, so we do need to keep afloat financially as a means to our long-term end of helping start-ups bloom in Europe and beyond (in keeping with the horticultural connotations of our name). The result is that sometimes we’ll have to forego inviting a company to Seedcamp Week that has just the right set of people, technologies, and ideas, and which would be perfect for us in our role as advisors, but which isn’t perfect for us as investors.

Sometimes it’s the wrong stage of a company’s life – either too soon or too late (given our focus though, usually the latter). We have fairly inflexible investment requirements and one of the reasons we’re so transparent about them is to prevent ourselves from caving. We’ve made a public standard against which we can be openly judged. If a company doesn’t feel those requirements will work for them we have to let them go, amicably.

Other times we might feel like the market being targeted is still a tad early in its development. It’s ironic coming from an organization with young companies and emerging technologies at its crux, but we do need to strongly consider the potential for, and timing of, growth.

Of course there are a number of additional reasons as well. None of them, nor those I’ve mentioned above, preclude a company from being a great success – in fact we think many of those that won’t be coming next week have a very bright future in store.

In particular there were some teams that really made us think about bending our rules – teams with exactly the right kind of moxie, motivation, methods, and mastery to succeed but that for Seedcamp this year unfortunately weren’t, well, the right fit:

We’re listing them partly as a kind of honorable-mention for our competition, but also because there are undoubtedly other organizations out there with different constraints from ours with whom they might fit quite well.

Best of luck to them all, though we suspect they won’t need much.

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