Last week, me and Giuliano have participated in the Seedcamp Week in Berlin: our goal was to win the selection and be enrolled in the acceleration program that starts today (May 20) in London. Things did not go as we expected.
Let’s start from the beginning. We arrive in Berlin on Saturday morning, go to the apartment rented through AirBnB, connect the computer to Wi-Fi and begin to review all the materials, from pitch to captable. We make only a few changes to the pitch, deciding to use the version that we used at mini-Seedcamp in Kiev.
We continue to work until the next day. Sunday afternoon we have a review of the pitch: the Seedcamp team suggests us to clarify that we are a platform to build web applications, not websites. Actually, it is a very common mistake, especially among non-technical people, so we add a slide to emphasize this point.
On Monday, we meet the investment committee of Seedcamp at 13:00 at the Bertelsmann’s headquarters. We do our 3 minutes pitch and spend the next 7 minutes answering questions. In these contexts, you can never tell wether you have activated the right triggers in the head of who is listening to you or not. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly who we are facing, their names, skills and history and had no possibility to do a specific research on them. Investors are not all the same, they have their professional background, specialization and attitudes.
We say goodbye and go to lunch. After an hour we receive a message that tells us that we must return to make another pitch. We take a taxi and go back in a hurry. The second pitch is like the first one, but with a different audience. We answer diligently: after some working on this project, we think we are prepared. And we wrote a long list of questions and answers to be more confident.
While we wait, other five startups arrive. We understand that we are in a short list and that we are the subject of further study. One of the partners of Seedcamp tells us that not everyone is convinced and that we are under discussion. He asks us to prepare a small documentation on the fly and to talk with their entrepreneur in residence. We discuss at length with Turi Munthe and talk on the phone with some people. So we are called to a third pitch: this time it is a group of entrepreneurs who are completing the program. The questions are more or less the same.
In the evening, we talk again with the partner of Seedcamp and he tells us that there is not a decision jet and that we have to do our best with the mentors. The reasons for the concern begin to emerge: someone thinks that the market that we have decided to address is not scalable.
On Tuesday, the day begins with the pitch of all the startups in front of an audience of about sixty mentor. We continue with a master class by Andy Budd (Clearleft), we have lunch and then we prepare for the afternoon with the mentors. We have studied carefully, checking in advance all the profiles and identifying the people with whom we want to talk. In a few hours, we talk to fifteen people, with very different backgrounds. The quality is very heterogeneous, but some of them give us extremely interesting feedback. We diligently take note of all the comments.
At the end, the partner of Seedcamp tells us that they have decided not to enroll us immediately, but to give us a second chance. We’re a little disappointed, but the main feeling is curiosity. We want to put together the puzzle to understand what are the warning signs that turned on in the heads of our stakeholders. It’s obvious that there is a problem: is it structural (our project sucks) or is it a matter of communication (we are telling something wrong)?
In the evening, during the barbeque, we chat at length with the partner of Seedcamp. He gives us a summary of all the opinions gathered about Stamplay. Finally, we understand what the problem is: «you do not think big enough».
Stamplay is the result of a work begun some months ago. In this period, we have gradually expanded the vision of the product, but the process is not complete. Today we have a product that can do many things, and that has enormous potential, but we continue to think that it can only be used by a group of people to do one thing. It is as if we had invented the automobile, but we decided to sell it only to parents and only to take the kids to school.
On the last day, the four selected startups present their projects to an audience of European investors. The quality of the pitch has improved a lot since Saturday: they are all more confident, they changed the slides and made them more beautiful and precise. Together with the new entrants, there is a group of startups that are completing the program. Some of the projects are very interesting; I like CrowdProcess. The evening ends with a cocktail on the roof of the building with musical accompaniment by Lino Modica (not bat at all).
Things did not go as we expected. In many ways they went much better 🙂