How 6 startups, 4 speakers and 400+ participants have made Startup Standup “the best conference in the region”

BY Uglješa Erić ON April 9

Startup Standup: Academy Edition took place on Saturday, April 6th in a large theater hall called UK Vuk. Startup Academy teams held their first presentations, 400+ participants heard four keynote lectures, and foreign tourists evaluated the event as “the best startup conference in this part of Europe.”

SEE ICT, the organization I’ve recently joined is known as a dedicated team, but regardless, we were pleasantly surprised by the great compliments we had received from all the participants.

If you hadn’t been present at the conference, you’re probably wondering – what’s so special about the Startup Standup event? 

Focus on Education

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It all began with the initial Startup Academy presentation. The Academy had lasted three and a half months and the participants learned about the best principles and practices of tech entrepreneurship from experienced entrepreneurs, investors and other experts.

Participants started working in teams and created new ones on-site, developed their concepts and products while consulting their mentors and helping each other. The best indicator of their success is the fact that half of the teams at the first mini Seedcamp in Serbia were actually from the Startup Academy. Mission accomplished!

In addition to stories about the Academy, four keynote lectures also took place at the Startup Standup. The lectures shared valuable knowledge and information with the entrepreneurial audience.

Founding a startup? It takes a plan.

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The first keynote lecture was given by a Seedcamp partner, Carlos Eduardo Espinal ,on planning startup development  in the early stages. The lecture was adapted to the needs of most of the audience.

By making such plans and highlighting the key points (MVP, release of the public beta, the launch) with appropriate limits, you not only facilitate the work of business development, but you are also making your startup far more interesting to potential investors.

 

I would like to point out a few tips from this great lecture:

  • The most important thing for a startup is to have an exact plan on how and when they will reach certain phases and to clearly present it to investors.
  • A good investment plan is down to taking the right amount of investment to reach a certain phase that will lead your startup to becoming more interesting for the next investment.
  • Beware of the valley of death , if you don’t take a sufficient investment and run out of funds when you still haven’t finished the product, your startup is probably doomed.

More about this lecture can be seen in Carlos’s blog post on the subject , and we will post the video here as soon as it’s available.

Pitch: 6 * 3 * 5

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The main part of the conference was, of course, the best Startup Academy teams’ presentations. They held a 3-minute on-stage pitch to the audience and the jury, which assessed each presentation individually.

For this occasion, we gathered a group of experienced investors and entrepreneurs: Carlos Eduardo Espinal (Seedcamp), Balaji Bal, Tomaz Stolfa, Dan Lupu (Earlybird) and Dilyan Dimitrov (Eleven). Six best Startup Academy teams who pitched on Saturday were (alphabetically ordered):

Arena – An online football strategy with a focus on an interesting game play. The team merged football manager, chess and Panzer General. It works better than it sounds and it’s a finished product, and the presenter, Saša Šijak, announced that it is launching in a month.

DataMaid  – an application that collects (multi) media content and information, which then gets organized into meaningful units, easy to view later. A productive and sexy tool, presented by Katarina Popovic.

EarnCoupon  – a service intent to start a revolution in online marketing by generating a “word of mouth” promotion tool in which a customer gets a discount once they’ve shared a review of a product or service on social networks. Presented by its CEO, well known Rade Joksimovic.

PubSonic  – A new way of searching through publications on stem cells. Ivana Gađanski has explained her closely-professional concept to people who are not in the field, presenting problems of her colleagues, along with a review of existing solutions and the market size. The team with perhaps the most ambitious mission.

TRAVELICO  – Like a quicker Airbnb, but with the customer in the center of attention: When you make a request, you get landlords competing for your stay by offering different (better) conditions. An ambitious but realistic project by Ivan Kovacevic.

Warrantly  – your device is broken, you lost your warranty certificate, you have no right to a repair and you’re starting to get annoyed? Warrantly, pitched by Nikola Todorovic wants to help you as well as manufacturers and retailers making all warranties digital and adding value to all the parties.

After each presentation, members of the jury asked questions, provided participants with comments and suggestions, often very useful even if you were not a part of the startup team.

The government support program – not bad at all

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After a 90-minute lunch and mingling break, Slobodan Markovicappeared on stage. The  most committed activist in the Serbian ICT industry, spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and presented the government IT support programme. In a nutshell we heard the main provisions of the programme ( which we were the first to publish the first in Serbia ) and then Slobodan answered the audience’s questions.

The essential thing for startups – a 25.000 euros grant programme, available to any startup chosen for an investment. The criteria for potential investors haven’t yet been specified but should be available soon.

Markovic’s overall opinion is that the importance of the IT industry has been recognized by the government and that the future amendments to the law will make tech entrepreneurship so much simpler.

Bal Balaji: A One-Man Army

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“Who is that guy Bal?” was a frequently asked question by those who are not part of SEE ICT or Startup Academy participants.
Bal Balaji is a serial entrepreneur and investor, who collected 40 million worth of investments during his career and many endeavors. During 20 years of an entrepreneurship career he has built a network of contacts and partners, almost unimaginable to domestic entrepreneurs.

After a lot of traveling, working and living in different countries, such as Switzerland, India, the USA and Britain, he built successful global businesses everywhere, which he has been trying to accomplish again in Serbia recently.

At the beginning of his lecture Bal pointed out the value of a good contact network that may be one of the most important resources for startups. Self-confidence of the founder of is also pointed out as a key item, with a fine line between self-assurance and arrogance.

Pitch is just the ticket for negotiations and behind it must stand a well-developed plan and an excellent and confident team. If you base your preference on the statement “We are better “, you are doomed. Measurable and clear data is a benefit indicator.

One of Bal’s goals in Serbia, in addition to business development with the first phase software house Ballab, is to work on the development of the local startup ecosystem. On this mission Bal is a long-term SEE ICT partner, and provides support for projects such as the Startup Academy.

Equally important, Bal is generous with sharing his experience, knowledge and connections with prospective startups, to accelerate the development of the domestic and direct it toward success in the global marketplace.

One of the key points that Bal seen as necessary for the successful development of the startup ecosystem is the existence of a startup co-working space, one abrasion that would be a central place for gathering and interaction of the startup community members.

What is Betahaus and how do we do it here?

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Perfect addition to Bal’s conclusion was a keynote held by Maximilian  von der Ahe, the co-founder of Berlin’s most important startup hub and co-working space – Betahaus. Their story began with gathering quite ‘ordinary’ people who had nothing but a vision and desire to succeed.

A time has definitely come to start a similar thing in Belgrade and in its favor speaks a number of great initiatives. Max pointed out the traps of founding a co-working space, explained whether it is better to rent or buy a space and if it’s worthy developing a European franchise (not really).

A video of the lecture will be available soon and Max offered help to anyone interested in founding a co-working space.

And, the best Startup Academy team is…

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DataMaid!

In a time when digital creation and virtual interaction tools of all sorts are in our pockets, this web and mobile app will offer a way to organize all this content and media into meaningful and well-structured data units.

Katarina Popović and her team indentified a real problem they want to solve and from the sole beginnings of the Startup Academy, you could see how the visiting investors paid them more attention. The beta version launch is set out in the next few months and if you need more info, you can apply for their newsletter.

On behalf of the Academy, we congratulate DataMaid and all the other startups which came a long way and created some truly impressive concepts and products at the Startup Academy.

The win of the scene

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As a participant of the event organization, I won’t even strive to objectiveness, but I am certainly very happy and proud of what we’ve achieved at the Startup standup.

400 young entrepreneurs that filled UK Vuk with positive atmosphere and amazing energy combined with great lectures and 6 fresh and good startups pitching have left an extraordinary impression on the participants that used the breaks to share their thoughts with us.

The somewhat most valuable feedback came from our foreign guest whose job is to visit all kinds of startup conferences in Europe which can result in one’s high criteria. Still, each one of them complimented the Startup Standup conference honestly and enthusiastically. They lauded praised the  great organization, refreshing startups and the number of participants gathered to see and hear what they had to say.

Eleven representatives even found the conference best in Southeastern Europe. Seedcamp, LaunchHub and Earlybird representatives were also rather generous with their compliments and we even got requests of the investors to connect them to some of the startups seen earlier.

Hearing these compliments pleases any organizer but there’s one thing that’s even more appealing- Our startups and the maturity of the scene must have changed the perception of Serbia in the world and pointed out the country as a place to visit in the future, a place where good startups come from.

If you were with us at the conference, we would love to hear your impressions in the comments.

Until the next conference, work on your big idea, meet some great people and don’t forget the motto of one of the people who changed the Internet – “stay focused and keep shipping”. 

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