On Tuesday January 8th 2013, the Startupbootcamp Amsterdam team went abroad and visited London for another successful Pitch Day. We know from the flood of applications that there are a lot of great teams out there, many coming from the UK. So we decided to cross the North Sea and meet you guys! It’s all part of our active search for the very best teams.
We invited 12 UK teams that applied for our 2013 program to the Google Campus in Shoreditch. In separate morning and afternoon session, we had the chance to meet and understand the plans of some great teams! And to provide them with useful feedback, we brought along five mentors with us: Kees van Nunen, Edo Jansen, Jonathan Marks, Carsten Kolbek and Patrick de Zeeuw.
Odera Ume-Ezeoke, co-founder of Viewsy, one of our UK alumni teams that participated in Startupbootcamp ’12, was also present. At the beginning of both sessions Patrick (co-founder Startupbootcamp) did a short interview with Odera. Patrick: “Because I can keep bragging on for hours about what we’re doing with Startupbootcamp, but I realise that I am not so objective ;)”
Interview with Viewsy
Odera kicked off: “Startupbootcamp is really different from other accelerators. Whereas Seedcamp in London is more like an incubator, Startupbootcamp is far more commercially focused. And you very quickly learn to get your act in gear. At first, I was hesitant to move to Amsterdam. But their mentor network put me infront of leading international retail chains almost from day one. I shouldn’t have worried at all.”
Patrick explained to the teams: “Coming to Amsterdam means we deliberately take you out of your comfort zone. This is not a part-time program which you can combine with a some studies or a heavy social life. For 90 days it really is heads down and focus on building your company.”
Odera: “During the program, we grew from 2 to 12 people. Development really did speed up. My one piece of advice to startups: come prepared with a general direction that you want to take your company in. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then you’re best able to use the feedback you get from mentors and investors. Buy a bike. And bring a sleeping bag ;)”
After the interview, all startups were given the opportunity to pitch to our mentors as well as the other teams that were present during the session. Jonathan Marks, one of our mentors: “Some people think its going to be like The Apprentice, or Dragon’s Den. But those are TV shows for audiences at home. They don’t benefit the startups much. This wasn’t a show – it was a conversation. Our event was designed to help startups succeed in their search for the right accelerator. In return for pitching us their story, we gave them honest, constructive feedback. Our mentors have a wide range of business experience and we’re all entrepreneurs. I enjoyed both sessions, got up to speed on the scene around Shoreditch and Hackney and got good feedback during the coffee breaks.”
Some quotes from the participating teams:
“We got very good ideas from the mentors who were able to anticipate our next steps. I honestly simply expected just to make a pitch but I received many relevant questions that actually provided us with lots of ideas and honest advice. We were concentrated heavily on User Acquisition and I learned that we need to do much more development in Retention. A Great day for Pick Event Ltd!”
“Invaluable feedback that was 100% actionable. We’ll tune up our application before the deadline”
“You guys genuinely wanted to help. We stuck around to see the other pitches and hear what the mentors had to say. Useful, practical advice. ”
Some teams clearly struggled with finding focus. Softpoetry: “I admit it is tough for creatives. It is very easy to get distracted; we have so many great ideas and so little time!” Odera (Viewsy) responded: “Your team has to prioritize or you’ll fail very fast. The mentors in the Startupbootcamp Program are quick to point this out. But so are launching customers.”
Direct Feedback from our mentors
Our mentors gave advice to each team about the composition of the team, business opportunities, the customers´ perspective, the scalability of the product and next steps to take.
Kees van Nunen: ”You are strong on the B2B side, but not really on the B2C side. You have a hunch. But before you develop any further features, have you spoken to customers? And asked them what problems they really have? Developer time costs a fortune if you haven’t got paying customers yet.”
Carsten Kolbek (co-founder Startupbootcamp Global) about Shiftswap.me:”You absolutely nailed the problem facing many retailers. But you’ve got the pricing wrong. The challenge is in the scalability of your business model. Engaging, passionate, presentation style.”
Some of the teams were trying to get their product perfect before going to market. Our mentors’ advice on that: Your product does not have to be perfect. Just start and scale up later! The sooner you’re developing the market, the sooner you’ll know if your hunch is right. To myMzone: “Don’t be afraid to think big. Think scalability!”
Mentors were also positively critical about the pitch itself. Delivermix: “I loved it. It was tough, but fair. We learned to avoid giving technical pitches to investors. We need a clearer story”
Patrick de Zeeuw: “With so much competition out there, time spent on preparing a brilliant pitch is so important. Although it may be a difficult decision at first, sometimes the best pitch doesn’t come from the founder, especially if they have little marketing or presentation experience. If you lose the investors attention, you’ve lost, even if you have a brilliant idea”.
At the end of the pitching sessions, we had time to mingle during an informal Q&A session with all mentors and participants. It also turned into a networking opportunity for the teams. One of the teams: “Awesome afternoon… great feedback, met some inspiring people, excellent use of my time!”
Carsten, looking back on the event: “ We always say to our startups that they have to go out there and meet their customers. But we’re a startup company ourselves, following the guidelines of the Lean Startup Methodology. So we practice what we preach by reaching out to the startup community and understanding what’s working for them. I love it!”
Are you a start-up with a plan and a team?
We’re entering the last week of applications for our Startupbootcamp Amsterdam Program, starting April 2nd 2013. Applications close this Sunday January 20th, so you have only a few days left to apply! Are you hungry? Let us help you get there, fast! Apply now: http://bit.ly/SieuFK for our Startupbootcamp Amsterdam 2013 Program! More details about the program on the Amsterdam home page.