Seedcamp firsts: New format, coming to Belgrade and hosted by the Royal Family

BY Alex Čović ON April 8

The first Mini Seedcamp event in Serbia took place last Friday, and it was a collection of firsts for the London accelerator. Their first visit to Belgrade, the premiere of the new format (scroll for our take) and the first time they have been hosted by a Royal Family. Not bad.

The event was attended by 100 entrepreneurs, investors, and other startup people from Serbia, the South-East Europe region and elsewhere from Europe. As far as the Serbian startup community is concerned, it is a shared feeling that this was a pivotal moment, especially in junction with Startup Standup the day after (to be covered separately).

A Royal event

The main thing that made this particular Seedcamp really special though was the fact that it was held at the Royal Palace in Belgrade, and that it was opened with an address from the host, HRH Crown Prince Alexander followed by HE Mr. Michael Davenport, the ambassador of Great Britain to Serbia.

Crown Prince Alexander, whose Foundation for Education partnered with SEE ICT to organize the event, expressed his enthusiasm and ongoing support for the local startup community and strong belief in the importance of entrepreneurship for all societies. As members of said community, we can only thank the Crown Prince for his support.

So, how do you NOT get an investment?

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Partner at Seedcamp, took the stage next to set the tone for the pitches by presenting Seedcamp itself, and following with an insightful masterclass.

He explained what makes a startup company “investable”, or rather what are some of the key mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid, if they are looking to gather interest from the investors.

Carlos further elaborated on the key elements of what makes a startup “good”, from an investors point of view at least, and explained the significance of the idea, the product, the market and the team. He stressed the importance of “thinking big”, and not limiting your chances of success by focusing on a small market and an idea and product that aren’t easily scalable.

This particular piece of advice should resonate with local and regional entrepreneurs who still dare not look beyond local markets, and encourage them further to aim for global market(s) and global success.

Coming from one of the key people in the best-recognized European micro investment fund (with almost a hundred funded startups, over 80% of which secured further rounds of funding after their initial investment, and several seven-figure exits), Carlos’ keynote was well received by the attending founders.

99 problems but a pitch ain’t one

At least for the vast majority of the teams. So, we had nine startups from the region present to the “Feedback surgery team”, consisting of Carlos himself and a few of the best known local seasoned entrepreneurs and investors, namely Bal Balaji, Boris Krstović, Ivo Špigel and Rumen Iliev.

We already introduced the nine startups, but they deserve another mention. The pitches from Cinematic, DataMaid, EarnCoupon, Gameleon, Infora, Pubsonic, TruckTrack, Vetcloud and Warrantly were well received, and the founders got some invaluable feedback from the team.

Seedcamp is yet to announce which teams will be invited to pitch at Seedcamp’s main event of the season, Seedcamp Week in Berlin, where they will have a chance to get accepted into Seedcamp’s programme, with all the perks and benefits that come with it.

My and my colleagues’ impression was that the members of the feedback panel were happy with the quality of the pitches and the potential shown by the startups, and that the future looks good for the startup community in Serbia and the region.

There’s definitely reason for optimism, and the notion that the SEE region is the next “hot spot” for tech startups and entrepreneurship seems to become the prevailing mindset, both in the community and among visiting investors and entrepreneurs.

The Panel: Should we stay or should we go?

Last part of the official Seedcamp Belgrade programme consisted of a panel and Q&A session, focusing on the role and scope of local and regional mentors and investors in helping companies scale.

Carlos and SEE ICT’s Vukašin Stojkov moderated the panel on which Bal, Boris, Ivo, Seedcamp alumni Tomaž Štolfa and Groundlink CTO Ivan Aksentijević explored the question of “if and when” you should move your SEE startup to the key market, and also brushed on the always popular topic of educating entrepreneurs.

As to the first point it really does come down to “it depends”, and on a lot of factors. One important thing that everybody agreed on — if you spend quality time in a developed ecosystem it really gives you a lot of value for the development of your startup, wherever you decide to do that. And as for education, we’ll cover this topic in a later post, for now it suffices to say that everyone has a unique opinion and a very strong sense of passion about it.

The new format and the value for the ecosystem

So, Mini Seedcamp Belgrade was the first iteration of the new format — does it work and how does it compare to the old one? Obviously there is no longer that great value old Seedcamps provided teams pitching, since there are no more mentoring sessions which one founder compared to “100.000$ worth of consulting“.

At the same tim, the event itself demanded a lot less from the participants, having a half-day event instead of a full day one and provided more room for networking.

The smaller number of teams (10 vs. 20 previously) is a great move in my opinion, since it makes it much easier to focus attention on the presenting startups. The old format was perhaps a bit demanding in this respect.

Having in mind the reasons Seedcamp made the decision to change the format it can be said that the move was in the right direction and that the new format works quite well. Having Carlos provide expert feedback in a manner many participants praised afterwards also helped a lot to make it an awesome event.

As for the community, as I mentioned in the beginning, it very much seems that this event gave a huge boost to the local ecosystem. The fact that the Royal Family attended the entire event certainly contributed to that.

We’ll update you on any next round invites from Seedcamp to any of the Belgrade companies, till then we hope to see the Seedcamp crew back here next year. if nothing else, there are more palaces that could use some entrepreneurial vibe.

NB: for the first couple of hours it was stated that Vukašin Stojkov is the author of the post, which was written by Alex Čović, with a wee bit of editing by Vukašin. 

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