Last week I participated as a mentor for Seedcamp Berlin which was held on Thursday 14 april. Most notably the level of startups seems to be improving. The latest insights for startups could be heard mentioned by founders all the time which is a good indication people understand the startup context better and better.
Startups can profit from being acquainted with principles such as customer development, startup metrics, pre- and post money valuation, user experience (UX) design, agile and scrum practices, and business model strategies.
However, especially the mentoring for the latter category appears to be in high demand with the founders. Because they usually know how to build the product, test and improve it, get it online in stores and market but often seem lost when it comes to envisioning a feasible path to developing the company.
While it is great that you have developed a useful app that people seem to like and buy, what do you do in situations where for example (a) you are surrounded by competitors, (b) where the window of opportunity is closing, where (c) a lot of money is needed to quickly secure market share or (d) the users don’t know they have a problem? Many of these issues are not apparent to the founders as their focus is mainly product and organization and not external. Oftentimes the founders -say on average 24 years old and fresh in the world- do not have a clear understanding of external dynamics in certain markets, much less in market (segments) that do not currently exist, a common situation when developing an innovation.
This is a problem for mentors too. How can you help a founder in such muddy waters? Therefore, a Seedcamp mentor needs to come with a good deal of modesty. Helping with asking the right questions, to get the founders to think for themselves, is probably one of the better approaches.
All in all Seedcamp Berlin was a great success. The morning in the überhip Betahaus in the Kreuzberg district started with registration, coffee and croissants and five minute presentations of the 20 startups to get all present involved with the projects at hand. Around midday there was a paneldiscussion around successful startup SoundCloud where the investors and its founder shared the staged and discussed their interactions. Started in Stockholm the outfit decided on Berlin as their base of operations. Berlin having multiple advantages such as cheap housing, good infrastructure, ease of mobility and access to creative designers and engineers being among the most important.
After a tasty lunch (mmmm, Thai soup) the mentoring sessions took place. Every startup has 5 sessions of 45 minutes with a group of experienced mentors coming from all disciplines, tech, design, marketing, finance, operations, resulting in valuable arguments on how to best develop the seedling to the next level.
The winner of Seedcamp Berlin is yet still to be determined, but some strong contenders were Bonusbox (Facebook loyalty programme), eeve (get informed on local events on your phone), Hojoki (internal news feeds for organizations), Mopapp (analytics for app vendors), Pipedrive (usable crm for salespeople), Wirewax (sleek hyperlinks in video).
Seedcamp Berlin 2011 was well organized and Philipp (happy birthday!), Reshma, Kirsten, Carlos & Jakob once again put together a great, fun and useful startup event.
A complete list of Seedcamp Berlin participating teams: