7 Lessons Learnt From The Alumni Summit

7 Lessons Learnt From The Alumni Summit

07-Jun-2016 by Sam Ahmed

It’s hard to believe almost 350 startups have now graduated from Startupbootcamp programs. Almost more unbelievable is that this year alone we’ll invest in close to 150 startups across 14 accelerator programs.

One of the most frequent requests we receive from Startupbootcamp alumni is to connect with fellow founders to share learnings. A close second is to expand their network even further through connections to investors and corporate partners.

We have taken this advice on board, and for the past three  years held an ever expanding annual Alumni Summit at our Global Headquarters in London.

This year’s the two-day summit was attended by 50 alumni from across almost all Startupbootcamp programs. Having this many founders in the same city is exciting, but when you add 50 additional investors and corporate partners to the mix, that’s some serious startup love in the air.

While you just had to be there to fully experience what is one of Europe’s most exclusive innovation summits, below are 7 lessons from the summit which we believe is valuable to the wider ecosystem.

Lesson 1: Don’t Pitch A Ready Solution. Pitch A Flexible One

At the summit, there were a number of corporate-led unpanels but the panel that highlighted the challenges and opportunities of corporate and startup collaboration was a case study presented by Lloyds Banking Group.

A local partner of both our FinTech and InsurTech programs, the Lloyds team shared some of the ways they have moved forward as a financial institution to incorporate collaboration with startups within their business.

This collaboration, however, has not come without challenges. According to the Lloyds innovation team, startup ideas are often pitched as ready solutions rather than solutions that are open to further development.

Furthermore, startups often failed to communicate important changes to the originally proposed solution.

To navigate through these challenges and create an environment prime for collaboration, the Lloyds team shared key learnings.

Accordingly, communicating regularly on any changes the startup goes through and building prototypes with multiple options allows both parties to collect tangible data that builds a robust use-case for the collaboration.

We learned that after successfully navigating these challenges, a collaboration between a startup and a corporate can be both successful and innovative as it’s the case with our alumni, WoraPay.

WoraPay, a FinTech alumni was introduced to Lloyds Banking Group’s LBC Innovation lab while taking part in our London FinTech program in 2015. This introduction led to a partnership whereby 3000 Lloyds employees are currently ordering their coffee and tea through the WoraPay app.

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Lesson 2: Get To Know Investors Even If You’re Not Raising

There is a general confusion on how founders should pitch to investors. Everyone has their views; based on either hearsay or an experience that didn’t result in the desired outcome.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is the relationship between the startup and investor. But how do you build a relationship with a stranger? As a founder how do you decide if there is a fit between your startup and the VC you’re targeting? And as an investor, how do you make sense of all the noise – the endless cold emails and pitch decks?

It takes an average of 9 months to raise an A-round. For many startups, this crucial fundraising period includes countless meeting requests, pitch deck iterations, and un-opened emails.

But what if startups created a highly targeted network of investors who they have already met? Similarly, as investors, wouldn’t be convenient if potential startups were pre-vetted and introduced to you by someone you know?

These are some of the questions we wanted to answer during the speed networking lunch that took place at the alumni summit.

We created an environment where our alumni could meet the people behind the VC firms so that they could start building those relationships. Guests attending the lunch included investors from Northzone, Highland Ventures, Piton Capital, Octopus Ventures, Hoxton Ventures, and 14 others.

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Lesson 3: Delegate & Create Processes To Allow You To Scale

One of the keynote speakers at the Alumni Summit was Jess Butcher, co-founder of Blippar. Blippar, a leading augmented reality (AR) startup was founded in 2011 to quickly becoming one UK’s big tech success stories.

During a captivating 40-minute keynote, Jess shared some of Blippar’s early learnings – from changing the original business idea to one that attracted the biggest FMCG brands in the world, to selling technology that was yet developed.

One of the most interesting learnings Jess shared, however, was the challenges founders face in hiring the right staff that they could delegate responsibilities to.

For Jess, the pivotal moment came when she became pregnant few years into Blippar being founded. Jess said:

“As founders, we have learned to delegate responsibilities and create processes that allowed us to scale.”

The founders learned to hire employees that not just looked good on paper, but also fitted with their company culture.

Lesson 4: Use Customer Stories To Take Your Startup To The Next Level

Storytelling is a powerful tool. Some of us are natural storytellers, while others struggle to keep their story engaging. For Salesforce – also referred to as the “Founders of the SaaS industry’ – storytelling is an integral part of their business.

During a panel called “Turning Customer Stories Into Sales” – Julia Barrett from Salesforce For Startups, shared the role customer stories have within their business. From new employee onboarding to marketing and sales, Salesforce puts customer stories at the heart of everything they do.

This is something startups should adopt from early on. Beyond creating solutions to real problems, or understanding what your customers need, founders should learn how their solutions have helped their customers and then re-tell those stories to their prospects in creative ways.

Lesson 5: What’s News To You, Isn’t News To The Press

The old saying goes: ‘There is no such thing as bad press.’ But for startups, this saying can sometimes be interpreted as ‘There is no success without a Techcrunch article.’

For the final panel at the summit, Deby Penton from Wildfire PR shared the secrets of DYI PR. It’s a commonly accepted reality that during the early stages, many founders bootstrap and do not have the funds for PR.

In addition to sharing her top PR tips, Debby invited three tech journalists who shared the stage with her at the summit. Lynsey Barber, City A.M. Technology Editor, Alex Wood, Founder and Editor of The Memo, and Yessi Bello-Perez, a reporter at Tech City News.

The trio, shared some of their pet hates as journalists who receive countless startup pitches a day — from technical jargon, pitches without angles and contacting them at the wrong time of the day.

The biggest takeaway from this session was learning what to pitch. In other words, founders need to learn when their latest company update is news to the journalist and their readers and not just to them.

Lessons 6: Going To America? Understand Why First

Another burning question faced by European founders is deciding if expanding to the U.S. is for them and at what stage they should break into that market.

Fried Frank, an international law firm specializing in corporate matters delivered an informative session called “Coming to America’ where they shared their tips on navigating some of the common pitfalls startups face when expanding to the  U.S.

In addition to advising the startups to approach expansion differently – depending on whether they’re going to raise funds or open U.S. offices  – the firm shared this great checklist for all startups thinking about expanding to the U.S.

Lesson 7: Talk To Other Founders, Don’t Bottle It Up

Understandably, being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s stressful, intense, all consuming and often lonely. Part of the intimate founder-led group discussions at the end of the summit, we wanted to create a session where our founders talked about the issues they’re facing….with each other.

Introducing alumni to each other; who’ve never met, yet have a shared path, experiences and challenges was the core mission for this annual alumni gathering.

The closed-off session was only attended by founders, but judging by the below photo, this group of founders spent more than 2 hours in the room….even at the expense of missing a beer pong session!

Did you attend the Alumni Summit? What was your favorite session or favorite take away?

If you missed the summit, don’t worry you can watch the video or check out the event album here.

Startupbootcamp Alumni Summit 2016 Sponsored By:

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Sam Ahmed

Sam is the Global Marketing & Communications Manager at Startupbootcamp. With a BA in Journalism & MA in Brand Development, she is passionate about content marketing, branding, diversity, and all things startups.