We recently reported on the launch of Seedcamp, a VC-backed project that will provide a shot in the arm to Europe’s technology startups. I caught up with Seedcamp founder Saul Klein to find out more…
You’ve just launched Seedcamp to harness and help technology startups in the UK and Europe. Why does the UK need Seedcamp?
Seedcamp is really a European thing, not just focused on the UK, and Europe is in a great position right now. It has all the ingredients to be a serious force in technology’s next generation; talent, capital, ideas, and examples of success; but what it lacks is the confidence and tradition of entrepreneurialism that a place like Silicon Valley has, and possibly takes for granted.
What comes with that is an established network of resources for entrepreneurs who want to go from idea to company. Almost a built-in support system. That’s what we’re hoping to catalyze with Seedcamp.
Who is behind Seedcamp? What’s in it for them?
Seedcamp is about energizing the next generation of European entrepreneurs to think big and take risks. Everyone who has been successful in the European technology scene or wants to nurture further success is keen to see this happen. So, the response has been enthusiastic, to say the least.
We have several well-known entrepreneurs and VCs involved including Index Ventures, Niklas Zennstrom and Mattias Ljungman’s Atomico, Atlas Ventures, Balderton Capital, TAG, Forsyth Group and Brown Rudnick.
Check out the team section of the Seedcamp website to see a full list, and keep an eye on the blog, where we will continue to announce Seedcamp supporters.
Can you briefly explain the key benefits to participating entrepreneurs?
Seedcamp is most importantly about giving talented entrepreneurs the contacts, coverage and connections they need to supercharge their business.
One of the biggest benefits for the selected teams is that they’ll have the chance to build a rolodex in one week that would normally take years. We will be bringing in experts that can help with all aspects of building a company – product designers, online marketers, technical architect, VCs, seasoned entrepreneurs, lawyers and recruiters. People who work with startups every day and are experts at helping companies get off the ground.
In addition, for the five winning teams, we will provide 50,000 euros in funding to stay an additional three month in London and get continued support from the network of mentors. The funding is nice, but we think the connections that teams will make are invaluable.
What’s the timeline in the run up to September, and, for the week itself?
Right now we’re accepting applications from entrepreneurs who want to get involved. They have until midnight on August 12th to get their forms in, but we strongly recommend that they don’t wait until the very last minute.
Then, the top 20 will be selected and invited to London for the week of September 3. During Seedcamp Week, entrepreneurs will have access to the high-caliber resources I mentioned earlier. At the end of this week, we’ll announce the five winning teams.
What kind of support can these startups expect from Seedcamp? Is it only going to be a valuable experience for the winners?
Everyone who comes to Seedcamp Week will benefit from the impressive group of people who have signed up to help. Whether they’re looking for advice on how to structure a company, protect their IP, put together a team, or market an idea, we’ll have people around who can help.
Just as importantly, though, is the benefit they’ll get from being around like-minded entrepreneurs from all over the world. They can share ideas, talk about the challenges they’re facing, and create this European network that we hope will just continue to grow.
Obvious parallels will be drawn between Seedcamp and Paul Graham’s Y!Combinator. Similar ideas, right, but how is Seedcamp different?
We really like what Y!Combinator has been doing and are inspired by the progress it has made. What we’re doing is more of a community effort, however, and we have to address different challenges here in Europe. There isn’t a built-in culture of entrepreneurialism, so we have to work hard to create a strong foundation for the next generation of company starters.
I’ve previously criticized Paul Graham for being too focused on techies and technology. Will Seedcamp welcome entrepreneurs with a broader range of skillsets, or, are you also hoping to unearth only genius techies?
We are interested in ideas and the people behind those ideas. They may be developers or creatives, but we do think it needs to be a team that can successfully act as the basis of a solid company.
I recently blogged about the importance of strong partnerships, and think it’s critical to realize what you’re strengths and weaknesses are and find someone who compliments those. If you’re not tech-minded, find someone who is to play that role, while you focus on the commercial ideas.
What are you looking for? Team? Idea? Technology? Experience?
We have a good list of selection criteria that people should check out on our website, but what we’re basically looking for is a strong team of at least two people who have a creative idea and the energy and commitment to execute.
You don’t need a ton of experience. In fact, we’d really like to see first-time entrepreneurs with early, seed-stage ideas.
What kind of projects might widen your eyes?
We’d love to see people attacking big problems that address real needs. We want teams to think big and really leverage some of Europe’s environmental strengths – broadband, mobile, design, multiple languages, huge talent pool – to go after some big ideas.
Will Seedcamp become an annual event?
Right now, we’re really focused on doing this first one right, but yes, we’re setting Seedcamp up for at least the next few years.
Entrepreneurs looking to apply for Seedcamp should aim here. Let us know how you get on, and good luck if you do.