The brainchild of Saul Klein of Index Ventures, Skype, Glasses Direct and LoveFilm (among others), Seedcamp could be described as the X Factor competition for tech startups. An annual pan-European business competition to identify the very best entrepreneurs and help them take their businesses to the next stage, Seedcamp has attracted 2,500 applications over the past three years. More than 550 teams have been mentored and 22 investments have been made.
Forget Dragons’ Den with its somewhat variable quality of applicants. This is a more nurturing approach to supporting young businesses – and it is about way more than fund raising. Over the course of this week, the 20 finalists from the mini Seedcamp competitions across Europe will be mentored by dozens of experienced entrepreneurs in short, high-powered “speed learning” sessions to help them perfect/test their product propositions and business plans with people who have been there, done it and are happy to share their war stories. Out of the 20 finalists, there will be five winners. Each will receive €50,000 seed funding and further mentoring, legal and business support, plus a trip to meet investors in Silicon Valley.
The energy levels at these types of events are contagious and remind you just how much can be achieved, at speed, with very limited financial resources if you have the passion, focus and support. It also shows just how effectively the business community can work together in tandem, with no need for costly, bureaucratic government intervention and quangos.
Many of the finalists’ businesses revolved around using technology to help us manage, aggregate and analyse the vast amounts of information we receive and to help us make better decisions. These technologies are potentially scalable across multiple geographies.
There is no doubt in my mind that the UK is ideally placed, both geographically and structurally, as a European “hub” for the next wave of successful entrepreneurs. The Seedcamp format has much wider potential – the business community has much to offer in the form of corporate venturing, providing access to skills and distribution for Europe’s bright young companies.