The first edition of “Next Top Startup” took place in Barcelona over the course of June 16th and 17th. Contestants braved the journey from as far afield as South Africa and Brazil just to take part in the competition so at f3fundit we believed it was extremely important to give the participants real added value, key learnings, and new connections that will help facilitate their growth both in terms of strategy, commercialisation, and raising capital.
Two intensive days of workshops saw many teams work closely with the experts to answer doubts and improve their business models to the extent that the overall response was very positive. The winners – Touchland – were asked to join CEO Collaborative Forum and invited to their main forum where more than 100 CEOs of growth companies with a combined turnover greater than $3 billion are present. In addition, five other teams are either being put forward for financing or in talks with our experts to continue collaboration in some form. Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to support them and hope to confirm more news about the progress these ventures are making following their time with us.
As with any competition, some teams fared better than others and we feel that the value they received from the competition depended greatly on their approach and openness to the experts, as well as other teams.
On another note, we would like to thank all the people outside of f3fundit who helped make Next Top Startup a reality, these include the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the organizers of the Day of the Entrepreneur, ESADE Business School, CEO-CF, Maroon Analytics and both Freixenet and Damm for providing refreshments for the networking cocktail that took place after the final pitches at the Mies van der Rohe Pavillion.
However, aside from in kind services we had hoped that the business community – and especially those companies who actively claim to support entrepreneurial initiatives – would have come forward and helped sponsor the final prize. While here at f3fundit we did what we could and waited until the final moments to hear word of a cash prize for the contestants, at the end none came. Even though it was a freshman effort we can honestly say that we considered the level of experts, and contestants as well as the locations in which the competition took place to have been sufficient to at least secure some form of commitment, unfortunately, we were disappointed in the outcome as surely as the winners were.
In all however, the event was a success, both the experts and participants were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the experience and so with that, we close the 1st chapter of Next Top Startup, and open the second. Be sure to check the site for info on the next competition and our development of the community…
Design should never compromise functionality, nor should functionality ever compromise design
Design is something that startups tend to miss, forget about, or pay little attention to. This is especially true for those with an engineering background.
Engineers tend to think that as long as it’s functional, and works right, it will appeal to the masses. These engineers forget that the majority of the population are not engineers. They’re everyday folk, and if your product targets the masses, one of the best pieces of advice we can offer is – DON’T SKIMP ON THE DESIGN.
Remember the Volvo’s from the ’80s and ’90s? Great cars on the inside, but ugly, real ugly. Then comes Ford, buys the car division, redesigns the body and sales go through the roof, the cars, are now not only safe but cool.
Cut and dry, if you can’t tell me what your entrepreneurial project does in a sentence, you’ve got a problem.
I can’t begin to tell you how common a mistake it is among budding entrepreneurs to delve into the mundane details of their projects. It usually starts off like this.
“We at New Mobile Platforms Ltd. have developed a revolutionary platform that will change the way in which people communicate. By utilizing free wifi access across major urban areas we were able to relay signals and triangulate the locations of other individuals using the same application on their mobile devices, thus pinpointing the users location to 2.3m. Other users and subscribers to friend’s devices, can see other users via real time database query’s that are updated on their mobile devices from street to our data centre and their handset every 15 seconds via, GPRS, EDGE and G3 network connections, as well as free Wifi hotspots. If you look at our programming schematic, you will see that etc… etc… etc…”
Long story short, to most investors, individuals, and to the general public you might as well be speaking Ancient Greek. The majority of the population are not engineers, do not know industry jargon, and most importantly are not interested in detailed programming schematics. What it is that they are interested in is how the product will help them in the course of their day to day lives and what need it satisfies, and when dealing with investors, they’d also like to know how it makes money.
So let’s take the above example, and rephrase it into something that can be pitched in an elevator setting.
“We’ve developed a mobile app that lets you know where your friends are on a map. It’s great for trying to meet up with people and can help you navigate unknown areas, find meetings, and the like. We monetize via Mobile Advertising.”
And that’s it. No long elaborate explanations, no technical details, just what we do, what it offers, and how we plan to make money off of it. Now whether or not this idea is a good one, is a different story all together, but being able to summarize what it does in a sentence is the most important part of any elevator pitch. You get your message across clearly, effectively and quickly.
- Stay away from lengthy explanations that can be confusing.
- Cut away all industry jargon.
- Get to the point and keep it simple.
- Say what you do, how it fulfills a need, and how you monetize it.
There’s a reason why firms pay top money for MBA interns from some of the top schools across Europe and the U.S. They’re worth it. So the question is… how can you capitalize on what large established companies such as Goldman and McK have known and used for years?
Well, here’s the good news. On average entrepreneurial interest in MBA programmes is high, and annually approximately 10% of MBA’s go off to start companies on their own or join start-ups. Figures differ from school to school and when approaching a MBA programme it’s advisable to see what the school specializes in. NYU Stern for example is known for Finance, whereas IE in Madrid is known for Entrepreneurship.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
That said, get involved with the school, call up the school’s entrepreneurship club, see what activities they have planned and see if you can participate. MBA’s are hungry to know what the life of an Entrepreneur is like, some of the trials and tribulations you’ve gone though, issues that you’ve had with acquiring funding and so on and so forth.
If you’re and earlier stage entrepreneur MBA’s are a fantastic source of critique when it comes to your business model.You can often have them analyze it, dissect it, and present their findings for next to nothing.
When it actually comes to getting an intern. The best thing to do is present your company at the school. Many professors will happily invite you to speak, and if for whatever reason you’re not able to book a class, then the school’s entrepreneurial club will be thrilled to have you. Also, be sure to advertise your position with the school’s career services. They’ll add you to the database, and will in all likelihood include your offer in their weekly newsletter as well as their online application system.
GETTING TO KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU
When it comes to the interview there are a few major things to remember, and while they may seem obvious we’re still going to mention them.
- Treat current students as equals. Nothing is wore than heading in for an interview and having the interviewer ask you to sing your favorite song (true story from a Forture 500 company interview, in fact why don’t we call them on it as this type of practice should stop, it was TechData), and after all you’ll be working with them for a few months.
- Ask questions to see the way the person thinks. Being a start up, you’ll be working closely together, and culture, fit, mix, whatever you call is about the most important thing in building your team.
- Pick someone that compliments you. It’s easy to hire someone just like you and with a similar background. See where your lacking, what can you improve on, and what area of your business needs the most attention, and get the person who can do that job right.
GETTING TO HOPE YOU LIKE ME
Once you’ve chosen your candidate and shortlisted two more be sure to give them an offer that’s fair. If you’ve been funded, offer them a salary. It doesn’t have to be a Morgan Stanley salary, but try and offer something. MBA’s know that you’re short on cash, and they’ll be appreciative of the fact that you can pay them.
If you haven’t been funded and can’t offer cash incentives, be frank and say so upfront. But do express what you can offer, knowledge, insight, networking, day to day entrepreneurial experience.
Did we miss anything?
When we started planning for Next Top Startup, we had in mind that the first installment of the event would span maybe two to three European countries, and that if we’d get any traction whatsoever from across a major body of water, it would be excellent and a successful achievement on it’s own.
We had no idea however, that the scale of this competition of ours would reach as far and as wide as it did – in the end, people from 14 countries are coming together to participate in this competition in both a mentor-ship scope and contestant capacity, and as of now we still haven’t reached out to the investment community.
By trying to challenge convention, and doing what we can not to become just another Y Combinator copy, we opened the contest up to all industries – and as such saw projects come in from across the board, some of the more interesting sectors applications that we received came from the following industries: Sports, Clean Tech, Aerospace, Cloud Computing, Social Enterprise, Fast Moving Consumer Goods, amongst many others.
There was one concurrent theme in all this – technology – in one way shape or form it’s the decisive communal factor which is driving today’s entrepreneurs forward, and while we would have liked to invite all our applicants to participate, ten does seem to be about the right number, and with that we would like to announce the ten finalists to compete for the title of – wait for it – Next Top Startup.
In alphabetical order they are…
. FastTaxi – will be an interactive platform for taxi drivers and customers to get real time information through their smart-phones in order to find and order cabs within easy reach in urban centres.
. Foundation for Global Collaboration & Peace – A serious non-profit concern that aims to build a virtual peace network that benefits the global community through the dissemination of universal human commonalities.
. Getagreatboss.com – The concept is built around a crowd-sourced Interactive Manager Review.
. INBLOON / Zero2Infinity – is a start-up whose mission is to raise our planetary consciousness by offering near-space experiences.
. Lexpertia – aims to commoditise the legal services profession by creating a database and online directory for lawyers based on specialty, operating as a legal advisory search platform for lawyer services.
. Teambox.com – Is an online resource collaboration tool for enterprise and project management.
. Touchland – provides environmentally friendly disinfectant hand wash to the consumer via direct sales and 3rd party resellers that install their dispensers.
. WeCard – is not a typical static loyalty card but an innovative smart channel of information, and user-business relations.
. Wellknown.as – A mobile platform for delegates, exhibitors, conference organizers and sponsors.
. Xtremgo.com – enables people to easily access action sports through Internet by creating a one off marketplace to book activities online.
Good luck to all of them, and we’ll keep you posted as to the winner, and we ought to have some other treats in store for all our readers after the competition closes. Stay tuned!
And to get you as excited as we are about our contestants, we’re including those videos that we received from them. Enjoy f3fundit TV 🙂