Months of heavy work finally paid off this Monday for the Seedstars team as they officially kicked off the first phase of this year’s summit with the bootcamp sessions at the Swiss Tech Innovation Center in Lausanne, an event bringing together over 250 people including startup teams, mentors, staff and volunteers. The Seedstars bootcamp is a 2-day invite-only event designed to give to each of the regional startup finalists the support they need to rapidly scale their companies by providing direct access to an amazing international network and the most relevant mentors in their industry, as well as for partners and investors. Find out more in detail about what happened during the exclusive bootcamp, and the highlights of this long-awaited and exciting event.
Bootcamp day 1
Hervé Lebret during the keynote speech.
The first day started off with a much needed yoga session to warm up and get all the startup teams ready for the packed day ahead. Meanwhile the mentors were finalising details in a quick briefing before moving into the first breakout sessions. For the official opening of the week, well over 250 people including mentors, participants and staff were gathered to listen to the keynote speaker of the day, Hervé Lebret. As head of the start-up and innovation unit at EPFL, he officially welcomed all attendees, proudly shared some of EPFL’S key figures and stated with the greatest of confidence that Silicon Valley had better watch out because Lausanne is a hidden champion. Katarina, from the Seedstars staff, then took the floor, providing a recap of the 10 months of hard work that went into scouting the best startups from each region, and thanking all the Seedstars team for all their efforts. She stated that the day's key objective will be connecting to people, to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through entrepreneurship. She also mentioned this year’s key figures: 64 finalists, 63 mentors, 109 founders, 96 Seedstars staff & volunteers; presented the programme for the Summit and explained the selection criteria for the finalists that will deliver their pitch on the main stage. Stay uncomfortable, keep it Swiss, she said, as she advised founders and co-founders to embrace the process as a whole, even the stress and fatigue. This first encounter closed with Adriana’s presentation of the 18 domain groups that would be mentored during first day of domain sessions, including Agriculture Tech, AI, FinTech, MedTech, and Education, just to name a few.
First impressions of bootcamp day 1 – domain group sessions
Entrepreneurs and mentors during the first round of domain sessions.
Here are some of the first impressions from some of the mentors and entrepreneurs that we got during their well-deserved Nespresso coffee break after the intensive first day of bootcamp sessions.
Kathleen Mullaney, VP of careers at Udacity: “I'm mentoring the education group and so far it has been a very engaging morning. There is a really good distribution of people from all around the world. And what's really awesome is that they have so much in common about the challenges that they're facing in their markets. As a mentor I think what's been really a nice refreshing moment is that it's not the top down mentorship where I'm imparting wisdom on them. It's mostly facilitating conversation because they are sharing wisdom with each other and that's been really awesome”
Yahya Goleanye, Market Activator at YAPILI: “I'M SO EXCITED. I'M SO HAPPY!. Every moment, the whole experience has been very insightful. I have a lot to take back to our startup and actually help it accelerate”.
Enya Seguin, CEO of YAPILI: “For today I expect to learn an overload of things... I'm hoping to take very good notes so I know exactly what to report back to my team. I expect to feel uncomfortable, but I also expect to feel excited for the next day”
Pavel Pichardo CEO and co-founder at Madison: “ I am very impressed, especially with the mentors that we were assigned to. They are amazing people who have given us really good feedback. So far we had a great session.”
Jean-Francois Ricbour, Branding Director at aREa Real Estate: “The truth is that the level is very high this year. My role as a mentor is to try to help the entrepreneurs especially if gaps are detected, that is where I try to help and ask them questions... and the truth is that the topic flows and there is an exchange of knowledge. You also learn a lot from these creative and dynamic young people…”
Bootcamp day 2
One-on-one mentoring sessions on the second day of bootcamp.
The second morning of bootcamp opened with a quick introduction from Logitech’s President and CEO, Darren Brackell. Speaking to the participants, he said “I don’t want to hang out with people from big companies, I want to hang out with founders like you”, showing the kind of commitment to the future characteristic of Seedstars. This second day was devoted to longer, one-on-one mentoring sessions that allowed mentors and founders to work closely together, aiming at delivering incredible value, gaining ideas and insight on their projects, and working on how to improve their business and attract the right type of investors in a compact timeframe.
Feedback from the one-on-one mentoring sessions:
Bernie Akporiaye, CEO at MaTontine: “Day 2 has been the best day because we met some really relevant mentors like Oscar. Especially people who could really help us through their network directly.” He later commented: “Our biggest challenge has been how do you raise debt equity to be able to re-lend loans to our members. But we talked to our mentor today and he shared with us how some people who have done this already in South Africa are able to do it and how you leverage your equity founder to a banking partner to be able to solve that problem. So that was a way to look at it a bit differently and it will change the way we go about trying to solve that problem.”
Another significant part of this day were the workshops hosted by many of the leading figures in the start-up scene. Amongst these we had:
Samuel Lagier, from SamSpeaksScience, offered founders great advice on how to transform their knowledge into powerful and inspirational talks, on how to “be remarkable through your performance.” He pointed out that the key to master public speaking is to “show you are knowledgeable (master your content), to be in control (Stress, breath, pace) and to be a leader (connect to audience). “Public speaking is a dialog, so establish a dialog”, he added.
Rachel Crawford, Innovation Manager at Village Capital, taught entrepreneurs through her viral workshop how to view their business from a perspective of an investor so that they are better able to communicate to investors that align to their interests: “So a lot of the time the same type of entrepreneurs receive funding because they're able to position themselves better to investors and not necessarily because their businesses are better. And so what we do is we run a lot of self-awareness activities which teach entrepreneurs how to switch their perspectives and look for aha moments that allow people to view their businesses more objectively.
Carlos Da Silva, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the HEG School of Management Switzerland and Managing Director of the Founder Institute. Mr Da Silva focused on scaling your startup and helping entrepreneurs write a business proposal that can be used in a timely manner and when landing a new investor: “When you’re about to propose a deal I need to be 99.9 sure that it will be accepted, so I will show you how to write an effective proposal that’ll be accepted,” he said.
Mangala Karunaratne co-founder of Calcey Technologies talked about Neuromatrics: UX and common mistakes, emphasising the importance of performance: “It's not just to have a nice website but it should be performant as well”, he later added that “The hamburger menu doesn't work when you are asking for feedback, it's better to have a big button to attract attention”.
Raphael Conz, Seedstars partner and Manager for the Economic Promotion of the Canton of Vaud, talked about the state of entrepreneurship in Switzerland and said to the audience that “Switzerland is more than lake, mountains, and chocolate!”. He continued, “Switzerland is not only known for its security and trust but now we can say that we are also one of the countries driving innovation and technology.”
According to him, “One third of startups in Switzerland comes from canton du Vaud”. He also emphasised that besides the strong Multinational presence in diversified economy with world-class clusters, the canton of Vaud is home to strong academic institutions and offers a bridge to access the best talents and the most advanced technologies. He also touched on Government policy in terms of innovation supports. To show what Switzerland can offer to international startups, he presented LEDSafari and Monito, two startups that received great support from the Canton of Vaud.
Paul Ark, from DV Accelerator, discussed with the startup teams about the importance of identifying, connecting with, and negotiating with the right investors: “You have to know what kind of investor you are dealing with. Some of them are like sticky girlfriends or boyfriends and want to be updated everyday, while others are more chill." He also advised founders on how to raise funds: “ The key of successful fundraising is connections. Connect with people, surroundings and venture capitalists to talk about your business. Do not go for contacting every VC around, one connection is worth 100 calls!”
Seedstars partner and Manager of SPECo, Raphael Conz, during his presentation.
Wrap up time!
A group of startup founders enjoying the happy hour.
After a very busy and extenuating day, the Seedstars team had prepared a well-deserved happy hour event with the EPFL for all the mentors and startups to celebrate the end of these two days of bootcamp, but more importantly, to recharge batteries for tomorrow’s Inventors Day.