Seedcamp for European entrepreneurial start-ups: Past, present and future

Since Seedcamp was founded in 2007 it has gone on to mentor 800 companies. Co-founder Reshma Sohoni sits down with GrowthBusiness to talk about its evolution and what plans the accelerator has in store for 2013.

European micro seed fund Seedcamp mentors and backs internet technology start-ups. It now has its base at Google Campus London where it provides access to 2000 mentors. However, the accelerator has global plans for 2013 as part of its ambition to add more entrepreneurs to its process. Reshma Sohoni, who joined Seedcamp from the venture team at 3i, co-founded the organisation and tells us more about what is in store.

What was the motivation and rationale behind setting up Seedcamp?

We recognised that Europe had huge talent but had a significant disadvantage due to the fragmented landscape. Our aim was to showcase this untapped talent pool and connect investors and mentors with unexplored regions and talent.

In many locations, we inspired a local start-up network to develop and added value by injecting the cities we visited with the knowledge, expertise and peer-to-peer learnings by hosting ‘Mini Seedcamps’ across Europe. To each event we would bring up to 80 mentors from our network and catapult early-stage growth for many of the selected teams participating.

Who is it targeting?

Seedcamp is aimed at entrepreneurs across the globe. Our 80 investments originate from over 33 countries. All the start-ups and founders share common traits:

  • They have an international mindset and global ambition from the start
  • They have the potential to be multi billion dollar companies
  • They are moving at the speed of light
  • They are are going after significant and high growth markets
  • They have disruptive technology
  • And, they have a talented team able to execute ambitious plans

What is your involvement in the process?

We provide a platform for acceleration. It’s really a year-long program. There is the Google Campus Office where the teams share workspace with each other and with us for three months.

We have weekly problem-solving and updates that happen via email and there is an online Yammer group for the teams with 200 alumni and mentors.

We put together topical and timely monthly learning days in London and there are two US trips to help further accelerate the business. Being year-long allows these young start-ups to grow into some critical phases of their business.

I co-founded Seedcamp alongside Saul Klein in 2007. Since then we’ve come a long way, in 2008 we hosted four events, which gradually over the years increased to 12 a year.

This included a month long road-trip to the US with over 70 meetings across the East and West Coast. In 2010 Philipp Moehring joined the team and later that year my current business partner Carlos Espinal came onboard. We now have a core team of four with three rotating interns.

How has it evolved over the years?

We encourage our teams to be agile and pivot if necessary to ensure they remain on the road to success. We certainly share this mentality within Seedcamp and always adjust our programme. Many aspects of the Seedcamp programme have evolved over time, to name but a few:

  • We’ve introduced monthly learning days for the teams we’ve invested in. It’s a fantastic learning platform for them
  • With 200+ founders from 80 teams we now have a strong peer support network
  • We launched Seedsummit, a forum for reader-friendly and standard financing guideline documents making the process of raising investment for the first time entrepreneurs less daunting
  • Seedhack is another initiative, a hackathon which will see its third outing in February with a focus on Fashion and Online Retail

How many people has it effected?

Since launching in 2007, we have come a long way. We have reviewed 5,000 applications and mentored 800 teams through 8,000 mentoring sessions making 48,000 1:1 connections. We have funded just over 1 per cent of these companies (80) across 33 countries who have since gone on to raise a total of $90 million in funding.

More on early-stage funding:

What kind of changes are you bringing in?

  • More local events in more cities across Europe (20 versus 10) and more involvement for our partners
  • Mini Seedcamps are back
  • Focus on core locations (London and Boston) by putting together four Seedcamp weeks instead of our one time a year main Seedcamp

    Better bridges to the US by going to the key hubs two times a year instead of one time in the year

    How teams apply to Seedcamp now through Angellist and through Seedcamp website

    The investment structure for teams that join Seedcamp. More choice beyond the standard €50,000. We invest at €25,000 level and even include companies without investing in them. We have been doing this for a couple of years now but are rolling it out more broadly

What do you hope this will achieve?

Adding more locations, making the key locations more intensive, and adding more investment levels we hope will attract more of the top entrepreneurs to Seedcamp and encourage them to apply.

These changes will bring more structure and clarity to what we have to offer. A huge advantage is making the programme more scalable by relying on our strong local partnerships. This will enable us to visit more locations and meet more companies.

By ensuring that all events are more open, we aim to add more value to nascent ecosystems by combining the network of Seedcamp with the unique knowledge of local partners. Local winners will be invited to the start-up hubs of London and Berlin, and we hope to open up the knowledge of these hubs to companies from areas with less developed start-up ecosystems. Furthermore our winners get to benefit from Quarterly Demo Days and two US trips so they can go when the timing is right for them.

What do you hope Seedcamp can become in the future?

It is already an incredible platform for identifying the talent that is spread across Europe, selecting the best, and bringing the best of Europe in terms of support. We hope that the platform grows from here and we are able to support even more founders in the future and see some massive successes. That will really be a win for the whole ecosystem.

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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