Seedstars Summit 2018: Investor Forum Recap


Seedstars Summit 2018: Investor Forum Recap

Arthur Baetens

APRIL 12, 2018

After two days of invite-only bootcamp for 70+ startups, the 3rd day of the Seedstars Summit welcomed investors and Seedstars ambassadors coming from all over the world.



It's also at the end of the Investor forum that the 12 finalists of the Seedstars World Competition will be selected to go and pitch on the main stage on the last day of the Seedstars Summit, on April 12th.

The Investor Day is the only occasion for entrepreneurs to get connected with investors from their region and their industry and the one place to be for investors who are interested in impact investing.

Morning: Pitching session for the 67 finalists of Seedstars World Competition

We could feel stress on Wednesday morning amongst all the 67 startups that were selected throughout the year: they all had 1-minute pitch to convince the investors they were the most deserving to go and pitch on stage on Thursday 12th April and to compete for the Prizes.

Charlie Graham-Brown, CFO of Seedstars, opened the day by reminding that all Seedstars alumni created more than 2000 jobs over the last 5 years. He also highlighted the fact that the startups are always selected on the potential of impact they can provide and on how sustainable their business model are.

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Charlie Graham-Brown on the role model importance and the impact of Seedstars alumni throughout the years

Referring to the 18 UN sustainable development goals, Romulo Navarrete, COO of Seedspace, the entrepreneurs hubs network that was launched by Seedstars this year to ensure physical presence, mentioned the different helped choosing the finalists of each country: No hunger, Good health, Quality education, Good job and Economic growth, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Sustainable cities and communities.

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Audrey Uy from ServeHappyJobs, Philippines. Probably the most enthusiastic 1 min pitch of the day


Martin A. Mexia Ponce, founder of, Mexico: “We are concentrated on killing cash”

The investors attended 67 pitches of startups, from industries as Health Tech, Agri Tech, Food Tech, Green Tech, Energy Tech, Ed Tech. Mexican Payit team declared that they “are focused on killing cash”. The Kenyan M-Shule team, delivering personalized education by SMS, stated on their side that “every child should have access to transformative learning tools”.

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Alain Nteff, executive officer at giftedMom, Cameroon

AI, robotics and Augmented Reality are technologies that were mentioned many times, such as in Chessify's pitch, a very advanced chess games software.

Sustainable cities, new transportation models and green tech were also addressed many times. The whole list of startups competing in the finals is available here.

Afternoon: 1-to-1 meetings and Ambassadors sessions

After a brief lunch, startups and investors proceeded to an intense session of 1-to-1 meetings. Those 1-to-1s were carefully organized by Seedstars in order to ensure the maximum compatibility between the investors and the entrepreneurs. The majority of startups were mostly hoping to meet investors in order to secure first round funding. A total of 500+ meetings were organized throughout the day, resulting in a possible amount of $8.8millions invested by the 120 investors present during the day.

As stated by several investors such as Wilfried De Wever representing The Element Investments, 1-to-1 sessions “allowed to meet pretty cool entrepreneurs shaping the future, but a 30 minutes conversation is not long enough to really make that decision. And yes, there are quite some that I want to continue and follow up with for a possible investment”

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1-to-1 meeting between an entrepreneur and an investor

Alongside 1-to-1 meetings, all Seedstars ambassadors gathered to discuss ecosystem building strategies. The Seedstars ambassadors are mostly directors of incubators, coworking spaces, influential entrepreneurs, government officials, media and corporates representatives who are very active in their own region and in their local ecosystem.

A lot of energy animated the many discussions between the ambassadors. From Kuwait to Uganda, numerous ambassadors proudly presented their countries’ greatest assets, and latest government and corporate actions taken to facilitate entrepreneurship in their countries.

The session followed up with a short wrap-up of the regions’ main trends regarding technology, market and regulations.

Several takeaways include:

LATAM representative: “Brazil is the biggest startup ecosystem in LATAM. We have HQ of giants from all other the world in Brazil. We want to change Brazil from mining to entrepreneurship and knowledge economy, because oil prices are too volatile. Belo Horizonte is the city that has the highest number of bars per person. But why is that important ? For networking of course! “

African representative:Kenya is the big K of the Eastern Africa”. While explaining that the startup movement is gaining steam in the region, "the three main African challenges remain the lack of infrastructure, the lack of education and skills, and a difficult access to capital”.

Asian representative: “Thanks to high manufacturing productivity in China. The strongest sector has been transportation in Asia”, mentioning the tremendous Indian and Indonesian growth over the past few years. “The number of mobile users compared to people is 133 % !. The top 5 entrepreneurship countries to look for are: Singapore, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia."

MENA representative: "MENA is changing from an oil economy to an economy of knowledge. Most of the public sector in MENA is involved in the development and funding of startups ecosystems. E-commerce is at the forefront of such investment, counting 15% of all investment. A forecasting trend is the growth of coworking spaces, as the mentalities are slowing evolving toward a collaborative work. This is probably changing because people understand startups is about synergies”

CEE representative: "Economies of the countries of Eastern Europe were highly impacted by the political context of the Cold War at the end of the 90s. That's why CEE is famous for the great tech skills of the people there. However the region still lacks of business skills. CEE is leading new technologies such as blockchain, with “17% of worldwide ICOs coming from CEE” .

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Roundtable during an ambassadors session about "How to build sustainable startup ecosystems in emerging markets?"

Pierre Alain Masson, co-founder of Seedstars, and Igor Ochvarenko, CEE General Manager at Seedstars opened the Ambassadors sessions explaining the “blended model” vision of Seedstars of creating at the same time an online and an offline community through physical entrepreneurs hubs and a networking and mentoring app. With the intention of opening 25 entrepreneurs hubs all around the world within 2 years, the team highlighted the importance of the ambassadors' actions on the ground in the 65+ countries they are in.

As a plan to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystems in all emerging markets, the next year for Seedstars will be focused on building physical hubs to host all different kinds of stakeholders and strengthening the community through events and trainings. The whole Seedstars network is going to benefit from transmission of knowledge through the Seedstars App and the Seedspace hubs.

«Money is not a problem. There is money everywhere. We just need to propose the right projects to the right people who actually have the money.» Pierre-Alain Masson

The last session for ambassadors was made of three roundtables about burning topics such as “Building sustainable startup ecosystems in emerging markets”, “the role of corporates and governments in the country's startup life" and "How to stay connected with key people after tech events?".

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Seedstars ambassadors, the local network boosters!

Afternoon part 2: panel discussion and wrap up

Before announcing the finalists, a panel made of Alisée de Tonnac, Olena BoytSun, Shruti Chandrasekhar, and Ngozi Edozien discussed the obstacles that female entrepreneurs are faced with when building a startup.

"Considering failure rate, female co-founders appear to be more successful than men."

The panel pointed out that female co-founder fundraising strategies appear less aggressive compared to the ones launched by men while investors present in the room expressed their willingness to have a more balanced ecosystem, with a more adequate proportion of women.

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Vivian Nwakah, Co Funder of Medsaf, surrounded by a large majority of male funders and investor

The wrap-up was made by Marc Berrebi, Co-Founder and CEO of eDevice Inc, told about his long and diversified entrepreneurial journey and lessons learned. Among numerous advices, he argued that entrepreneurs should “always keep fighting and listen to people, and sometimes refuse reality”. About the mentality on the entrepreneur’s journey, he stated that it is “not a sprint, but a marathon”.

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Marc Berrebi: “As long as you’re not dead, you’re not dead, so keep fighting”

Finalists announcement

At the end of the day, Charlie Graham-Brown mentioned that 50 out of 65 startups got at least one “Yes, I want to invest” from the investors present today, leading to a potential total deal of about USD$9million.

Based on the three criteria mentioned above, the 12 startups selected for the big final, happening on April 12th are:

CMED, Bangladesh

Celcoin, Brazil

Agrocenta, Ghana

Junkbot Robotics, United Arab Emirates

Redcapital, Chile

Payit, Mexico

Eve.calls, Ukraine

GiftedMom, Cameroon

KarGo, Myanmar

Medsaf, Nigeria

SayurBox, Indonesia

EMG Technologies, South Africa

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The 12 startup finalists selected for the Seedstars World big final

The Seedstars Summit continues onTuesday 12th for the big final! Keep updated to see who wins the world's biggest startup competition in emerging markets!

Many thanks to Arthur Baetens from Innovation Time magazine for providing this article.

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