Real entrepreneurs don’t do Seedcamp
Seedcamp is a bootcamp for entrepreneurs, but if you were a real entrepreneur you wouldn't need a bootcamp! You'd just haul yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it.
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Too much attention is given to raising VC money
And success isn’t measured by the amount of VC money you get. In Silicon Valley circles, this is some kind of badge people are proud to wear. This is very WEIRD and it’s an attitude that has blown over across the Atlantic. Very unfortunate. There are many faux entrepreneurs running around, bragging about how much VC money they raised. But their applications suck, they flame out after one year, and nobody hears about them again. This is not what entrepreneurship is about.
If Seedcamp is about anything at all it’s about building great companies. It is not a contest to get to VCs or to win large amounts of money. What most successful entrepreneurs have discovered is that getting to the right people and building an effective network takes many months or years. Seedcamp is trying to truncate this period. There are clearly many ways of funding start-ups and Seedcamp is attracting a number of other sources of funding aside from the VCs.
One gets tired of hearing from budding entrepreneurs that they can’t reach appropriate sources of capital. Seedcamp, OpenCoffee and initiatives like these provide the opportunity.
Lack of financing is not to blame for the absence of HUGE Internet players like Google or Amazon
So what is to blame? The absence of a HUGE integrated market, where everyone speaks the same language, has the same legal and financial system. I love these articles in financial newspapers (appealing of course to financiers) where the authors complain that Europe does not have as many start-ups as the US because of lack of VC funding or because large financial institutions that do not appreciate cute little start-ups, and so on. That makes a difference in a few cases but when we are talking about numbers – large numbers of people going out to start their own tech-related business and out of those large numbers, out come a handful that are hugely successful – I am afraid we are talking more of attitude and environment, not money.
You need the large numbers of people starting new things, otherwise you don’t even get Skype, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook (developed by students by the way), and Google. And as I mentioned earlier, you need a HUGE market. Skype succeeded because it developed an application that appeals to everyone from Algeria to Ghana. That’s not so easy. Most online services still rely on local markets to grow, especially the trend-of-the-moment, social networking sites.
How do you get large numbers of people throwing the dice and saying, “To heck with it, I’m going for it?”
Change in Attitude – see the point just above.
Europe is not supportive of entrepreneurs
People in the US are hugely supportive of those who go out and try something new. If you sit down with friends or even strangers at a cafe, and explain to them that you are about to start a new business, that you are worried about being able to support yourself and your family, and you wonder if the new business will make money but you think you have a good shot, they will say, “Go for it, dude!”
Try this in Europe. You will get 101 reasons why you shouldn’t.
But it is changing.
Ten years ago, I’d say you would get the 101 reasons all the time. Today, you’d get it 50% of the time. Why? Because a new generation of Europeans has grown up who are used to: (a) working on temp contracts, (b) seeing their parents laid off time and time again, (c) independence (travelling around, having their own money at a young age, valuing other things than security).
They realize that having a job in a big company is a joke. You are not supposed to take it seriously, except as a way to get training and new skills. For them, Dilbert is very real: the stupid, nasty managers who get promoted year after year, the idiotic company mission statements, the pretence around loyalty, the face time nonsense (showing up in the office just to show you are there, not to do real work because your manager is a control-freak who wants to see his staff present all the time, like an Army commander who oversees his troops).
Being an entrepreneur is great, but you don't need Seedcamp to make it
In the technology business, it’s never been easier or cheaper to start something new. You don’t have to launch a new product or online application. You can also be a very good web designer, programmer, etc. with your own business — that’s also entrepreneurship, but it’s yours, you are not working for an evil boss. You don’t need VC funding. Office space, if you need it, is cheap. You can also work from home because broadband in Europe is super cheap. You can source help from countries like India or the Philippines or Romania, if necessary. Countries like France and the Netherlands have made it more fiscally attractive and much easier (from a paperwork point of view) to start a company. There’s a growing network of tech start-ups in every country (and across Europe) so you won’t feel lonely.
Entrepreneurship is about having a more profound vision of what your life should be. You have one life on this earth and it is very precious. Do you want to waste it sitting around with Dilbert and his office mates complaining about the pointy-haired boss? Or do you want an interesting life?
You don’t need Seedcamp for this!
Seedcamp provides an opportunity to meet inspirational entrepreneurs and other companies at a similar stage
Real or budding entrepreneurs may not *need* Seedcamp but meeting the likes of Martin Varsavsky, Saul Klein and Niklas Zennstrom is truly inspirational.
Real entrepreneurs are born, not trained
University is good at training workers, who could follow instruction. It is not good at developing entrepreneurs or the entrepreneurial spirit
Many of today's greatest entrepreneurs were those who left school with virtually no qualifications.
What does that have to do with Seedcamp? Oh right, nothing. University is not only ‘training’ but also teaches critical thinking, which is necessary for any entrepreneur who plans to not destroy their business. It’s most definitely true that many successful entrepreneurs either do not attend or do not finish studies at higher learning institutions, but that does not exclude grads from starting businesses and being successful. cough Larry Page and Sergey Brin cough
Entrepreneurs are self driven and VCs will find them
Real entrepreneurs are self-driven, they experiment a lot (many of their initiatives generate results that they did not expect), they do not wait for cute little contests put on by VCs. If they manage to develop a compelling product (after experimenting, tinkering around), the VCs are banging down their door to invest.
The very act of applying and getting in to Seedcamp demonstrates self-drive. It is also wrong to assume that VCs will be banging down the doors of all great ideas. VCs need to be introduced to the stars of the future and since marketing is one of the key challenges entrepreneurs need overcome, the practice of marketing to VCs is one which will stand Seedcampers in good stead.
It is absolutely right that ideas evolve through experimentation, but what better way to evolve an idea than to have it challenged by, and to get input from, some of the most successful entrepreneurs and internet professionals out there.
Real entrepreneurs should be focusing on getting their product launched
Three months in London doing a dog-and-pony show, listening to a VC advisor tell you how you need to hire a VP of Marketing when you don’t have a launchable product yet is totally ridiculous. Waste of time.
VC's interests are aligned in making the company a success and I'm sure they offer invaluable advice and connections along with the finance from time to time.
Surely it is helpful to budding entrepreneurs if they can have full and frank discussions about the pros and cons of VC money.
You can be successful with a big share in a small market and dont need Seedcamp for this
I am certain that successful European startups – not in terms of how much VC money they manage to suck up, but in terms of how many people in their target market find their product truly useful – will not come from Seedcamp or anything like it. It’s a waste of time. Success does not always mean having 10 million customers. If you create a product or service and are targeting a small market but have 80% of that market, you are successful.
Yes, but a big share of a big market is better if that's what the entrepreneur wants. Seedcamp will help entrepreneurs make their products better. The entire week isnt just about meeting VC's!
Europe needs a shift in attitude, not Seedcamp
It’s easier to have a job with a big company or the government. Sure, there’s no job security even in Europe but it’s still hard to fire people. The good thing is if you get laid off next week from Big Co, you get unemployment insurance compensation for months, sometimes years. This is why a lot of Europeans sit on their butts working for large companies, complaining endlessly about how boring and crappy their jobs are.
I agree with the premise that Europe needs a shift in attitude and believe Seedcamp serves towards that end rather than hinders it.
Seedcamp is sparking debate on the issue which in itself is a positive thing and encouraging those Europeans that sit on their butts working for large companies to think big, take risks and helping them to realise that there is a support network and finance available more readily than they might have thought otherwise.
The prize is greater than money
The real prize isn’t the 50k Euros, nor the ability to pitch to top-notch VCs (though three month’s practice will certainly sharpen any idea). The gold in Seedcamp is the people – both the mentors and the other entrepreneurs.
Seedcamp provides an unrivalled opportunity for European entrepreneurs to learn from those who’ve been successful before and to get together with those who are trying to be successful now. These two groups of people provide much needed inspiration and support and whilst ideas can be successful without them, they are much more likely to be successful with them.
Europe needs Seedcamp precisely because the environment here is less conducive to start-ups. We need to be around successful people to believe we can be successful ourselves. We need to understand how other people have solved seemingly intractable problems in order to understand our problems are equally surmountable. And we can get enormous amounts from being around other people in a similar situation to ourselves.
The Financial Times has an article on the growing number of start-ups in Europe, a region known for bureaucracy, high taxes and lack of entrepreneurial spirit, but now blessed with the arrival of . . . Seedcamp!
The FT article talks about Saul Klein, a UK-based British ven¬ture capitalist and entrepreneur, who created Seedcamp ("a week-long series of masterclasses for high-technology businesses from across the European Union”). Seedcamp began on Monday September 3 in London.
The Financial Times is covering the highlights (like the Olympics). A panel of VCs has already chosen 20 companies out of 270 to participate. The list is at http://blogs.ft.com/techblog/. S0 readers of the Financial Times can follow their “progress” online. This is looking more like a Big Brother-like media stunt.
What’s the prize? Free advice! From successful entrepreneurs, professional advisers and executives from Oracle, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Then, the start-ups get to do their elevator pitch to VCs like Accel and Index. Seedcamp will choose 5 companies who will get 50,000 EUR each. Unfortunately they will have to stay in London for three more months (ouch!) and continue doing elevator pitches.
This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs
All 20 of the finalists will get the opportunity to meet a who's who of the European VC community along with a whole bunch of mentors.
Kicking your product idea around with some of the finest brains in the industry is probably the best way you could spend a week on your product. Direction is more important than speed.
Thinking about developing an API? Oh ok, meet the guys from Mozilla, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft that develop and maintain their APIs
And if you are about to launch your product who wouldn't want to be involved in a media circus.
To associate the growing desire among Europeans to start new companies with a thing like Seedcamp is laughable.
If you are a start-up and need to participate in a contest to reach any of the above mentioned VCs and waste your time at the media circus studying how to be a successful entrepreneur instead of working on your product, you will not get anywhere, not with 50,000 EUR or 50 million EUR or all the advice in the world.
This is like saying that doctors don't need medical school
Doctors should just haul themselves up by their bootstraps and start helping people!
There are two major ways of learning:
1. Making mistakes.
This is the bootstrap pulling method. There are two types of mistakes that you can make; doing something you shouldn't have and not doing something you should have.
2. Mimicking other people. This is what bootcamp is. It's the chance for entrepreneurs to learn off other more experienced people, thereby hopefully bypassing learning via making mistakes.
However... you can prove me wrong by testing these two methods against each other.
Find people that learn solely by Making Mistakes and compare them against people who learn solely by Mimicking Others. You'll need to do this over a long period of time, probably around 60 years to see when each group does better.
All of this assumes that you can't have a combination of the two which of course is very possible.
What do you think?