Seedcamp Week: From a Startup’s Point of View

This article was first published on Carbon Voyage’s company blog. We announced our investment in Carbon Voyage after Seedcamp Week London 2014. Having completed the process they wanted to share their experience. This is their story.

The first rule of fight club is don’t talk about fight club.

The first rule of Seedcamp is… put your Out of Office message on.

Not quite as melodramatic, but definitely a crucial rule for companies who get to Seedcamp Week in future, as you won’t have time to do anything else. A month ago, we somehow got our Seedcamp application in on time; now, we have not only attended Seedcamp Week but have made it through to now being part of the Seedcamp family – one of the apocryphal twenty winners out of 3,000 applications.

Attending Seedcamp Week was an incredible experience; yes, it was an affirmation that perhaps we had finally got a business idea that was valid from the perspective of the VC community, but more importantly, the effort put in the Seedcamp team, and the support provided by mentors was absolutely priceless (sort of like a Mastercard experience).

The focus of the week really revolves around the all-important three minute presentations; having a few backup slides is good, but it’s all about the three minutes of craziness.

Fortunately, we had read the experiences of Al Mackin from Formisimo who attended previously, and so I thought I would provide a slightly updated version given that the program has changed a bit (and we will continue his theme a bit, although thankfully without the tube strike issue he had).


Day 1: Lots of coffee, no beer (green tea instead)

I missed the embarrassing ‘tell us something interesting about yourself’ bit as I had a pre-existing meeting I couldn’t get out of (thankfully) – so Tom had to mention how we had met in the army.

By the time I had arrived, the teams were going through their three-minute presentations and getting very constructive, if not brutal, feedback. Having been very used to pitching to potential clients and partners over the last twelve months, it was unbelievably valuable to get an outsider view – which fundamentally resulted in a total re-write. Having a compelling story was key. At the start of the week, we barely mentioned our backgrounds; by the end, our presentation sounded more like an operational plan to go to war (replete with a picture of D-Day)!

The presentation had been fatally wounded, and something pretty dramatic had to be done. Fortunately, the Hoxton Hotel was open until 2am so armed with green tea (demonstrating remarkable discipline), we were able to do what we thought was needed …

Day 2: More coffee, a quick beer

At this stage, we were pretty bullish – we’d fixed our presentation and thought we were on track for success. We got our 15 minutes with Seedcamp investors to presentation (3 minutes plus 12 minutes of question time); thankfully there were lots of questions, and actually some interest in what we were doing. I think silence would have been deadly at this point! That being said, the key take away from the presentation was that our messaging was still missing the mark, which Carlos, one of the Seedcamp team, ‘eloquently’ put to us afterwards. One of the mentors also said that our presentation was good, but our 1-pager which we’d submitted the week before was terrible. The refining fires of Seedcamp were doing their magic!

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Day 3: An even mix of coffee and beer (well not really)

There was a real buzz about day 3 – the chance to present to a big room of grown ups, get lots of advice and listen to the CMO of Just Eat, Mat Braddy – and of course try V3 of our presentation (which in reality was V3.100 or thereabouts). The presentation sort of worked, definitely a big improvement, but we knew that at some point, we needed to fix it. More on that later.

The talk from Mat was hilarious; more importantly, it has fundamentally caused us to reconsider how we position our product. That led into an afternoon of mentoring sessions with a dizzying array of people from many different backgrounds, and we were able to get some great perspectives on some burning questions that we had.

In the evening, our friends at Silicon Valley Bank hosted a party for us. My intent was to not have as big a night as I had the last time I went to one of their parties. We were partly successful. Sadly though, at 11pm or thereabouts when the party was over, we still had our brief to finish off. Fortunately, the Hoxton Hotel hove into view and we were sorted for the next few hours, with beer to help really get our presentation perfected (green tea was definitely not going to make an appearance that night).

Day 4: Need coffee thanks to beer from the night before, then lots of beer that night

Having the ability to present the business to about 100 investors at Amazon’s London HQ is pretty cool and the slight aftertaste of beer from the night before gave way to the real enormity of the opportunity before us – give a hopefully refined presentation that makes sense to a bunch of people who can really help us scale our business.

Luckily I was second up, so the pressure was all off pretty quickly. The transformation of the presentations from all of the teams from the Monday to Thursday was remarkable; I guess in the end it was sort of equivalent to seeing the change of Olivia Newton-John’s character in Grease! Fortunately, giving orders to soldiers or talking to large groups is something I’ve been used to for a very long time, so I think I held most people’s attention, and even a few laughs (and even a complementary tweet).

The presentation session was followed by a brilliant talk again, this time from Richard Reed, one of the founders of Innocent Drinks, where he went through a set of maxims that helped them in their path to success. The mentoring sessions on Day 4 were more focused around investor issues given the audience, but again provided the opportunity for us to think about what we are doing more broadly in the business.

The four days of craziness finished with a great party hosted by the Amazon Web Services Team, and given that there was no need to get the presentation changed again, it was time for quite a few celebratory drinks!

Next: Down the Rabbit Hole

Getting through to Seedcamp Week was awesome; succeeding at that is the next level of awesome, so it is now time to see what happens as part of the program. There are some great stories about how Seedcamp has been the real stimulus for startups to get serious investment both here and in the US, and hopefully that will be the next chapter of our story too!

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