The main thing

As part of the ongoing series of contributed blogs from Seedcamp’s 20 finalists, we hear today from Anne Soh at Picolex– an technology to help lawyers and bankers easily access detailed, industry-specific information through their Blackberries.

Danny Rimer’s quote on Day 1 of Jim Barksdale’s folksy mantra resounded throughout Seedcamp week. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. I certainly was inspired by the founders, developers, product people, and marketers who came to give us their time, tell us their stories and answer our questions. The panels and the contact felt intimate, supportive and unbelievably exciting. It was like getting a preview of a very small club whose members are brilliant, world changing visionaries, and who seem to always work within 3 degrees of each other. I wonder if this feeling would have been the same at a camp in Silicon Valley. My guess is ..not now. The community and market there, as in New York’s Silicon Alley, are already too mature. Although Seedcamp was modeled on YCombinator in Boston, there has been a significant amount of advance chatter about the likelihood of a Silicon Valley-like community working in Europe (slim). However, the feeling in London that week, gateway to Europe, Eastern Europe and beyond, was pioneering. More wildcatter, less jaded.

I asked Hussein Kanji from Accel whom I met at the Techcrunch party to define what was so singular about the Valley. “I miss the intellectual vibrancy of the place [Silicon Valley]. … there’s a lot more diversity in thought and there is a can do attitude that only really exists in the bay area.” I think what Seedcamp succeeded in doing was to import a critical mass of the “elders” of the industry who all share the change-the-world ethos that exists in California and also believe that it can be replicated in Europe. Put in a petri dish with 20 passionate European teams and mix with chaotic spontaneity.

I can see so clearly why Ryan’s Buildersite was chosen as one of the winners, in part because he almost made me cry on Friday morning with his simple, quiet explanation of why he does what he is doing, and the very personal, emotional seed from which his idea and company sprang. Someone during the week, probably one of the excellent women from Sparkpr, told us to find our stories. Our “Steve Jobs in a garage” story that we would one day tell to a reporter who was interested in our beginning. Ryan already has his. Mine was much less compelling and in the end, it and the lack of a strong team with chemistry (kind of like those guys and gal at schoolofeverything) knocked Picolex out of the running. Robin Klein, a gentleman, kind soul and curious mixture of old school and modern day VC, told me very simply on the last day of camp, “You needed to demonstrate your ownership of the idea, the product and your company.”

We took a straw poll at the end of each day of camp, as to which of the twenty companies we would buy shares in if we could, and three of my early week votes were Reavia, Wallstreetdocs and Zemant. Zemanta for its thrilling auto hyperlinking idea, Wallstreetdocs – which served a hyper-targeted parallel demographic like my own, and Reavia, whose idea was so solid, whose market pain as so obvious, I considered it in my own lay opinion to a globally disrupting force.

But in the end, I really just wanted to vote for everyone. For the Scots of Playfair, Dale and Gordon, because Gordon was good sport enough to change his serious, historical, and academic presentation on Monday by opening with a Paris Hilton joke by Thursday. For Oron, so modest as to ask me whether co-inventing the USB drive was really that much of an “impressive fact.” For the Urbee and Tagmore boys for their sweetness and camaraderie. For Richard of Tickex, honest enough to admit the real reason why he won’t join Facebook. For Dutch-American Ed, whose pre-occupation with a Ferrari on Friday was an interesting segue to what women really think about men. For Debatewise David for the many interesting discussions about everything, particularly the psychological underpinnings of public debaters and whether Arsenal is really all that. For the Ave 7 boys, for taking my Day One teasing with such equanimity. And finally, for Gary of WSD for putting up with all of my crap.

I had a really great time.

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