Thoughts after Mini-Seedcamp

seedcamp

I spent today mentoring fellow entrepreneurs at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg. Going in I felt that most value I could add would come from sharing what we have learned on the road of getting Everyplay off the ground. It turned out that while that was valuable as a background for the day, most of the time was spent in brainstorming ideas for growth, monetization and financing together with the other mentors and the entrepreneurs themselves.

After each one of the twenty startups had given their five minute pitch in the beginning of the day, we started in-depth sessions with two startups at a time. It was great working with passionate entrepreneurs and experienced fellow mentors to dig thru the startup’s assumptions and try to nail down how they could get more customers, create more revenue, scale faster and finance all of that.

There were a couple of startups that had big ideas ranging from really creative and cutting edge uses of peer to peer technology (Peerialism) to transforming paper receipts into electronic ones on any point of sale terminal (Kvittar). On the other end of the spectrum it was great to see real operational and growing business like Red Apple Apartments, who are adding a lot of value to the apartment rental business and are struggling to manage the fast growth (what a happy problem! ;-)).

The high points of the mentoring sessions definitely were those couple breakthroughs where the entrepreneur and the mentors would jointly come up with a new twist to the startup’s take on the market and you could literally see the entrepreneur’s eyes light up in a heureka moment. One of those moments took place in the mentoring session with 1Calendar, who simplify the hassle that juggling university course schedules is. After thinking thru the market and how they could scale faster, we came up with a pretty nifty crowdsourcing twist for getting more universities rapidly into the system. I can definitely see 1Calendar running with that idea and scaling a lot faster than they could have done before.

Most of the startups were really early and one shared criticism between every mentor I spoke with was the challenges in articulating what they really were doing. Way too many dressed up their perfectly good business idea into a Dilbert mission generator-esque mumbojumbo that you’d need 10 gigawatt lasers to pierce thru. It was also obvious that many of the startups need more practice on pitching and presenting as the morning presentations were somewhat lackluster except for a five-six standouts. It’s easy to critize, but I’d hope that every single startup pitching would video record themselves pitching, analyze the recording and repeat at least 15 times before appearing in front of a demanding audience like the one at Seedcamp.

One thing I felt that could have been added to the mentoring sessions is the notion of methodologies or approaches that a startup could use to structure their business development activities. I’ve become a huge believer in Customer Development, and I can’t help thinking that every startup founder needs something similar to help guide them.

Personally I’m totally stoked after working the day with fellow entrepreneurs at the Mini-Seedcamp. The passion and energy totally swept me along. Each startup had their own unique approach and I could learn something from every single one of them.

Best of luck to all of the Mini-Seedcampers – follow your passion and execute relentlessly!

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8 Comments on “Thoughts after Mini-Seedcamp”


  1. ArcticStartup has more coverage of the event at http://bit.ly/10JH9U

  2. Odin Says:

    “Way too many dressed up their perfectly good business idea into a Dilbert mission generator-esque mumbojumbo that you’d need 10 gigawatt lasers to pierce thru…”

    Any example? Somehow every startup should listen to Guy Kawasaki about drafting a mission for a startup (which he referred to as “mantra”)

    http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/mantras_versus_.html


  3. I’m hesistant to point fingers at any one startup as these were often early stage companies there to learn.

    In general you’d see a relatively simple and often effective idea turned into a multiheaded hydra of an idea that was the latest curve-bending, paradigm-jumping concept that could do anything. In one of the worst examples (names & concepts with held intentionally) you could read thru their 5 paragraph description of the startup and not understand what they were doing. I mean it was obtuse to the level that you couldn’t tell if they were doing content management software, content delivery network, streaming, advertising or what. However, even in this case once you got to sit down and let them tell you in plain English what they were doing, you could get it fast.

    The problem is in pitching and how to represent their ideas. Not in the ideas themselves.


  4. The problem is many startups think their simple idea is “too simple” and thus not interesting enough. Believe me, as someone who has been there, there is never something too simple. Sure you might have all kinds of interesting possibilities, but make absolutely sure people are told the very simplest of simple concepts. Some will then like the idea, others won’t. That’s OK, as long as they understand it.

    And, to be honest, this is something we are still learning and still refining.


  5. […] I found the mentor sessions especially interesting, because it really gave both entrepreneurs and mentors a possibility to dig a bit deeper and get into discussions about how to develop the business. However, it also made it quite clear that many startups in their initial 5-minute pitches hadn’t really managed to explain what they do (Jussi Lakonen also covers this in his blog post). […]


  6. […] but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot to learn. We have the “happy problem” (according to one of the entrepreneur “mentors” at the event, Jussi Laakkonen) […]


  7. There is great advice in this thread. Reading the number of three-page executive summaries and seeing the number of pitches we do, we are always talking about how early stage companies completely fail to tell us what it is they do. I would therefore add one further piece of advice. For the avoidance of doubt, always include a description of the key use case as an example early on. It can really help crystalise all of that mumbo jumbo.

  8. David Says:

    Stumbled over the blog and this post by accident and I’m glad I did!

    As somebody about to start talking to seed-investors – it’s been a real help -thanks!


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