Posted tagged ‘seedcamp’

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

September 10, 2009

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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Mentoring at Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg on 5th of May

April 21, 2009

seedcamp

Seedcamp is a catalyst for European startups. The main event is a week long bootcamp for handful of pre-qualified European startups in London. Fellow Finnish start-up Scred was selected to participate last fall. I chatted with Kristoffer from Scred after the event and he was very impressed about the learnings they were able to take away from the event.

So I was definitely excited when I got invited to act as a mentor at one of the Mini-Seedcamps being held across Europe. Karri and the crew at the ever-so-fantastic Arctic Startup blog recommended me to the Swedish organizers of the Helsingborg event held on 5th of May and I jumped at the chance to participate.

The Mini-Seedcamp mentors are VCs and serial entrepreneurs including Daniel Blomquist from Creandum, Hjalmar Winbladh from Rebtel and Thomas Weilby Knudsen from Northcap Partners.  And yours truly. It’s an interesting situation to be a mentor when we are down in the trenches at Everyplay (with nothing public to show yet). I can’t offer recent “here’s how I’ve succeeded” type of lessons. Instead I can offer “here ‘s what I think works” and “this is how we are doing it”. There are definitely war stories and lessons learned in how Everyplay got off the ground, the 17+ years spent as entrepreneur in running ASSEMBLY (6000+ participants every year, over 200 person volunteer workforce) and the parallels between pitching video games to game publishers and pitching startups to VCs.

I expect to learn at least as much from being a mentor as the startups can learn from the successes and follies I’ve encountered on my road to Mini-Seedcamp at Helsingborg.