Oh my blog, long time no see. Reality is that after Seedcamp London we were in stack overflow, and needed some time to reboot and defrag. Before going there we felt honoured, like Ad Avengers’ Farhan Lalji says in his post, and after we’ve been really on crack like the guys from Mob1serv (here they are). It doesn’t happen often to be spotted by TheNextWeb, TechCrunch Eu and, most of all, to meet such a great group of people, with european startuppers and highly valuable mentors – have a look to the photos here or here.
So here’s the story. You apply to Seedcamp (check the calendar here), then wait. Afterwards it may happen that Philipp writes you saying “You’re in”. You just have the time to think “Don’t panic” that Reshma (Seedcamp’ former CEO, now partner) writes an e-mail to the group saying “Best thing to do is prep prep prep”. Kinda three days before going. How prep? Prep what? “Ok, panic”.
But, as all the other Internet professionals out there, we’re born prep, and used to work in the worst conditions (except for absence of gravity). “Just go on and do the job”, we say to ourselves. So, pack ev’ up and take off.
Perfectly in late (we’re Italians, it’s not our fault), we enter the briefing the afternoon before the event. We do not understand anything, but, luckily, stupid questions are allowed, so I go on asking. Don’t miss the brief and do the presentation trial with other startupper’s and available mentors. Very useful: we got valuable feedback and changed our prez accordingly.
That’s Seedcamp: relentless. 20 pitch one after the other, with a learning session at the end. We listened from Eldar Tuvey, co-founder of ScanSafe, the story of his startup, difficulties, changes, ups and downs and the $183 million exit to Cisco. Great startup advice: everybody loved “Never ever ever ever EVER give up!”. That’s another quality of Seedcamp. People is not here to teach a lesson, but to tell their story. We’re all peers. Gazillionaires and pirates work together.
Lunch buffet, casual chatting and first business cards exchange – that’s where experience helps: you have to do it while holding a sandwich, a coffee and, of course, your notebook. Then, the real game begins.
Presentations were just a warm-up. They do are important, definitely. Don’t miss this post from Ian, Publisha founder, with useful suggestions (my personal preferite is “I had one person tell me that if I did SaaS I’d be crazy, and another that if I didn’t do SaaS I’d be crazy. With some simple mathematics I soon cancelled this down to “You’re crazy”, and went to lunch”. It happens, actually). But the challenge – and another really, really great value of Seedcamp – is the afternoon with the mentors.
Five 45 minutes sessions, circa five mentors each. The first we met, sat exactly in front of me, was Nathalie Gaveau, fresh of her Priceminister exit made at a rumored €200 million. “What are the arguments that attract your users most? What is your Unique Selling Proposition? How do you think to boost sales? Your growth strategy? What do you want to be leader of?”. I was not surprised reading in this interview that her role model is Bruce Lee. Kiaiiii!
This was just the beginning. All encounters have been valuable, from the most positive to the most contrarian. And this is THE point @Seedcamp. All mentors wanted to be helpful. They weren’t there to challenge, joke or, typical among the Italian defects, egoboost. Just business. They gave the startups a great, free consultancy because they want to do business.
There’s a number of reasons why this works. Seedcamp is made by investors, so there’s money who wants to make more money. A good startup entry selection is made, on a European level. Mentors comes from companies of different sizes, interest and experiences, so they like to network among themselves, too. Some of them are ex-startuppers, on the other side of the table just until few months before. Networking is useful for everybody because it’s taken seriously, so if you aren’t open people doesn’t open (this is for my italian friends: I’d give a speech on this topic only). But there’s a final rule of the game: the double prize.
Startups go there with the hope to be financed. And it actually happens: while I was fine-tuning this post Seedcamp announced the winners. Read their post and then check out the three compelling startups that have been selected: Vox.io from Slovenia, GrabCAD from Estonia and Psykosoft from France. But what makes Seedcamp unique is that startups are also asked to give a feedback about mentors. This will be taken in consideration for their participation at future Seedcamps. Great model. Organizers, mentors, startups all work together because every part has its motivation. Balanced. No top-down. Peers. Win-win-win.
And a win it was for us @Blomming, in very valuable knowledge. Now it’s our job to do the job. In fact, we’re still going through the notes, de-compiling our story down to the metal, fixing, compiling again, etc. And we do this because Seedcamp, for Blomming, generated two follow-up meetings with italian investors. No news but additional knowledge and an introduction to a fund that can be more suitable for our needs. Let’s see.
So, Italian startups: prep prep prep. Next Seedcamps are coming.
PS A special thanks to Permjot Valia (here’s his point on Seedcamp) for the additional coffee-mentoring the day after, to Leonardo Camiciotti of TOP-IX for convincing us to apply, and to all the other people that approached us via e-mail and LinkedIn. You’ll hear from us again :)