Why we didn’t apply to Seedcamp or running a startup in your 30s

Seedcamp is an amazing program for European startups. The best and brightest of European startups compete for a spot in the Seedcamp week in London. The week is stock full of amazing workshops, tutorials, hands-on training and perhaps most importantly world class networking with European and US serial entrepreneurs, investors and deal makers. If you are chosen as a winner the Seedcamp organizers (The Accelerator Group) will invest €50 000 at a quite rational valuation.

Sounds perfect for any startup. So why didn’t Everyplay apply to Seedcamp? Double why as I even participated as a mentor in the Seedcamp Helsingborg event?

The truth is yes, I really wanted to apply because I love the concept, but it is was made impossible by the “extended Seedcamp concept“. The main use for that invested €50 000 is to bring the core members of the startup team to London for three months to take the company further. By applying to Seedcamp you agree to this.

Let’s just stop there for a moment. This works perfectly for 20-somethings that don’t have obligations to anybody but themselves and who can just pack a suitcase and go. It also requires that your core team is quite small, so that you can get your whole core team over to London.

The concept fails when you or any core member of your team is married, has kids or in general has a life outside of the company. It also fails if you can’t bring all core team members over to London as otherwise you are totally impairing your company’s progress at a very sensitive stage by splitting the team into two (one part staying at home base and another part in London).

Everyplay’s core team has several people who are over 30 year old, are married and have kids. Packing up our lives and moving to London for three months isn’t an option, so we had to pass on Seedcamp. To be fair, this is not dig on Seedcamp. They are just doing the same as Y Combinator is doing in the States.

However, it is interesting to think about this selection criteria in the light of research results reported by TechCrunch that the average founder of a high-growth company launched his venture at age 40. I believe Seedcamp is limiting itself unnecessarily with this “move to London for three months” requirement.

(CC) by tibchris on Flickr

(CC) by tibchris on Flickr

Seedcamp aside, the bigger question is how can one succeed as an entrepreneur in a high tech startup and have a family life. Steve Blank recently posted about how he and his wife managed to stick together and raise their kids while going thru a couple startups. My own experiences and arrangements are very much like his.

The reality is that it feels like running two startups in parallel. It is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing, but also immensely rewarding. At the risk of sounding corny, seeing things thru a child’s eyes is eye opening. Being a parent is a monumental, continous learning experience. It does sound just like running startup =) and I actually do think that having an entrepreneurial mindset really helps in parenting.

I like to compare running a startup to having kids as both bring with them higher emotional highs and lower lows at a lot faster pace than before. With that in mind, it is easy to justify Seedcamp’s and Y Combinator’s selection criteria  – less hassle, just focus on the startup. But with age comes victories, mistakes, experience, and possibly even expertise and insight. To quote a recent post on Both Sides of the Table, one of my favourite VC blogs:

Good judgment comes from experience,

but experience comes from bad judgment

The finalists for this year’s Seedcamp were announced today. Congratulations and best of luck to everyone!

I wish I could have been there too.

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2 Comments on “Why we didn’t apply to Seedcamp or running a startup in your 30s”

  1. Interesting post. Thinking back to our (Scred) Seedcamp Week experience last year, our team was three guys, all over thirty, and were somewhat above the average age.

    Regarding the “three months in London” rule Seedcamp does (to my understanding) have a degree of flexibility. Seedcamp is based in London so they can help the companies more easily if they are local. But many teams have commuted, that is, spent some weeks at a time in London. As an example we can look at eg Zemanta and UberVU who have incorporated in the UK but still have bulk of the team in Slovenia and Romania, respectively.

    (Wrt TAG, they are a Seecamp investor along others but Seedcamp itself is an independent organization.)

  2. FinnWill Says:

    This is a really interesting discussion, makes me think about how family lifecycle relates to entrepreneurship.

    I personally think that the family lifecycle is the most important determinant of a management team’s productivity, meaning ideally the team should be diverse. It is really interesting to meet teams that have people ranging from 20s til 50s or even older.

    Being 46 now, with 20,18 and 11 year old kids, I actually feel much more productive than 10 years ago since the family kind of manages itself (OK, Jaana might not agree ;). But anyway, every year the dynamics change, and given the 24/7 limit you just cant max business output and keep a reasonable homelife all the time.

    I always really dislike programs that force entrepreneurs to choose a significant time window in the future, pay for it, and reserve it. Gotta be really really valuable program. Opportunity costs of not being able to take growth options when they happen is really high to me. Seedcamp/y combinator/launchbox/etc. has some merit, but as you say, its for pre-family people and generally for people.


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