Seedcamp 2009

For those who don't know, Seedcamp is Europe's version of Y Combinator. It was started by Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni a few years back and has grown into an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Europe.

I attended Seedcamp 2009 this week and sat through several panels, pitches, and did a panel and a masterclass talk.

The thing that struck me about this year's group of startups was the geographic diversity of the teams and the number and quality from eastern europe in particular.

The lessons and culture of silicon valley are being replicated all around the world. It will be decades before any other location has the scale of tech-based entrepreneurship that the valley has. But a week at Seedcamp tells me that it will happen.

There is no shortage of engineering skills around the world. The information that drives tech innovation and entrepreneurship is flowing freely in real time. The valley didn't learn about Pubsubhubbub and RSSCloud any faster than the entrepreneur/technologist in Zagreb.

So we are seeing teams and products coming from all sorts of places now. It reminds me very much of NYC fifteen years ago. What NYC didn't have then that it now has is the infrastructure for entrepreneurship, the role models, and a sophistication about how the game is played.

London is developing those things pretty quickly and it is now spreading them throughout europe through programs like Seedcamp. Europe is hard because of the geographic diversity but the internet shrinks things and I'm quite optimistic that we will see a lot more Skypes, Spotifys, and Vent Privees in the coming years. And I am also sure that at least a few of them will be Seedcamp alums.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Jose

    Hey Fred, did you met any interesting startups from Croatia? let me know since I go there very often.

    1. fredwilson

      I met one from zagreb. I think they are called Shout Me. I’ll track them down

      1. ivospigel

        Almost right, Fred, but more precisely it’s “Shout ‘Em” –

  2. csertoglu

    Fred, I am glad you are doing this. As much as US capital needs to see European innovation, European startups need the company building perspective from US VCs.I am on the selection committee for the European Tech Tour’s Web & Mobility Summit this year. (see… I am excited about the fantastic applications from diverse geographies.

  3. Dave Pinsen

    It’s worth noting that entrepreneurship in Europe isn’t limited to social media-type businesses. I found an inventor/engineer in The Netherlands who is consulting with me about manufacturing a tangible product I thought up. I’m sure there are plenty more where he came from.

    1. Joe Charakupa

      I’m not sure how you meant this, but I think that would have been a given.Correct me if I’m wrong but your comment sounds like you were surprised to find your guy in The Netherlands?

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Not at all — the Dutch have a long history of craftsmanship and enterprise. Just pointing out that there are also entrepreneurs in Europe today who work with tangible products.

  4. reece

    While the Internet does “shrink things,” I also think that the geographic (and cultural) diversity of which you speak is a great influence for entrepreneurs/developers. In different regions and cultures, there are different problems to solve, different value propositions and different markets.We’ve had many discussions about NYC vs. Silicon Valley – and how that affects the life of a startup – but the geographic/cultural differences are likely even greater across the pond and I can’t wait to see what startups in Europe (and elsewhere), start to create value for their niche, and then the rest of the world.Likewise, I want to see U.S. (particularly NYC) startups continue to go global.

  5. Mihai Badoiu

    My understanding is that there is an acute lack of VC money in Romania, my home country, as well as in Eastern Europe. Is this still the case? Is there any VC (US VC) that recently invested in Eastern Europe?

    1. fredwilson

      I think all of eastern europe suffers from a lack of early stage venture capital

      1. valto

        And it’s not just eastern europe, it’s pretty much everywhere, other than few locations in the globe, mainly US.

  6. Mihai Badoiu

    Eastern Europe is at a disadvantage, because talent seems to leave at an early age, generally right after high school or undergrad. This brain drain is the main disadvantage, but there are others. Academia is generally behind, in the subject being taught. There is little research too. And then you have city corruption. On the positive side, the human capital is cheaper and they adopt western values (such as technology usage) very fast. In a winner takes all environment, all these differences are magnified.

    1. ShanaC

      How do you see these transitions back and forth changing over time? Do you think it will ever be that the brain drain will reverse?

  7. Viktor Marohnic

    Fell faltered (from Zagreb) 🙂 Dave McClure and your sessions were definitely one of the highlights at this year Seedcamp.Seedcamp did a great job bringing top people from US tech industry to London.

    1. ivospigel

      Actually Viktor I’m sure you meant “Feel flattered” – but having just pitched at the conference a little while ago after returning from TechCrunch50 in SF I’m sure you’re so beat that a small typo can be understood – this is just a small clarification for the blog readersIvo Spigel

  8. mario2

    no hard feelings but I really don’t see much of talented business ideas from EU generally and especially not from Eastern EU. Do not create hype out of thin air because all this may end up like last crash. It is easy to find similar mistakes done as those that were commited during 2000’s crash period. This time consequences may be even harsher. So please be calm and realistic, which means do not make hype out of nothing. Thank you

    1. fredwilson

      Well first of all we have an investment in a company out of slovenia called zemanta. They don’t do ‘nothing’Second, this is not hype. This is based on observations I’ve made over the past couple yearsYou can disagree with those observations but its a bit much to accuse me of hyping things

    2. ivospigel

      That may very well depend on whether you are looking or not, and in which direction. Not many US VC’s are actively participating in the European scene so Fred and USV are a very welcome exception.Just for the record – out of 21 finalists of 12 were from UK and 6 – the next largest group – from Eastern Europe. Of the 6 winners, 3 were Eastern Europe (Czech, Estonia, Romania), 2 UK and one Middle East.Hopefully that says something.

      1. fredwilson

        It says something loudly and clearly

  9. David Noël

    Great to see that you spent some some time in Europe, Fred. Great also to read you’re positive about tech in Europe in general. Developing an equivalent to Silicon Valley in Europe is a different story and I hope to see much more startups operating cross-borders rather sooner than later. But I believe it’s a long shot.Looking at Berlin, it is the city with the most tech startups in Germany, low setup and operating costs, etc. But none of the German VCs is headquartered in Berlin apart from some incubators and angels.

    1. fredwilson

      I think we will see a real VC firm get formed in Berlin sometime in the next few years. It has to happen

      1. valto

        I think in general, when we talk about VC level startup and internet in the same comment, we should just forget these borders. Just makes no sense to me.

  10. Jared Salter

    Hi Fred, Just wanted to say thanks for making the trip out. I know our team and many others benefited from your remarks.

  11. hussein kanji

    Hi Fred. Agreed that role models and shared stories of success are crucial to good company formation. I set up a speaker series at London Business School to address part of this gap in Europe. You may find it of interest, http://london-entrepreneurs…. In some ways it’s a bolt-on to Seedcamp. We’re starting with a monthly series, where everything will be vidcast online, and going to a bi-weekly series to give the Spotify’s, Vent Privees and Skype founders a chance to share their lessons.

    1. fredwilson

      That is critical. Role models are so important

  12. deancollins

    I’ve said this before in many places and I’ll say it again.Come 2014 the USA is going to have a lot of trouble attracting foreign nationals to come and work in the USA because of the HEART Taxation Act.…It’s surprising how few Americans are aware of this coming issue and why quite a few foreign nationals will choose to no longer renew visas after 2014.If you think the Czech Republic eg. is an interesting spot to watch then now wait until people chose NOT to fall under the 10 year IRS trap.Cheers,Dean

  13. gwong

    wonder if you can share your insight about the other side of the equation? do you feel there are as many gr8 VCs as ready to invest vs. SFO or even NYC? my limited experience observe that not only there is a divergence of smaller markets (vs US), a good percentage of guys/ladies, that made it tend to disperse and focus on ‘lifestyle’ and ‘link out’ rather than in some way compete (amicably mostly) and look for bigger/next big deals..!?happy to hear your feedback here or via private email/DM.How about Asia?thanks@GarethWong

    1. fredwilson

      The great VCs of 20 yrs ago are different from the great VCs of 10 yrs ago and they are different from the great VCs of todayWhat we have to hope for is some of the great VCs of tomorrow will work in europe and asia. There are some now but we need more

      1. ShanaC

        And it will be true of the future ones, of course. Time has an interesting way of shaping us.

      2. gwong

        thks.;)btw, some semi-heated discussion going on about seedcamp.might be interesting to hear your thoughts on this Fred.…am looking at this closely and hope to be able to pull some cross EU/Asia transparent C-combinator, given the above post though, seems like it might be more complicated than I imagined.BR@GarethWong

  14. midtownninja

    Thanks for the post Fred. Speaking of geographic diversity, I just heard of India’s version of YCombinator called IAccelerator India is a good way away from entrepreneurial infrastructure of the sort we’re familiar with in the US, not to mention the fact that there’s still a bit of resistance to the idea of working for a risky startup. And yet, the startup scene in India is full of luminaries who cut their teeth in Silicon Valley and are on their way to creating a vibrant startup culture. The best is yet ahead in terms of startup innovation in India and it’s great to see the Internet slowly leveling the playing field between the US and other countries.

    1. fredwilson

      I am very bullish on india for the reasons you cite and others although we don’t invest there

      1. valto

        Ok. We have Y-combinator and techstars. Then we have the official and unofficial copies of there + several other normal incubators etc. everyone aiming their startups to go global. My question is, where is that next level? “going global, but where exactly is it?

        1. fredwilson

          Where as in what geolocation or something else?

          1. valto

            Something else. It’s amazing to me, that those helping to build global businesses could be acting much more global with their own business on daily activities. The same way as building a local ecosystem, there needs to be one for global as well (on top of internet).

  15. Farhan Lalji

    Fred have you given any thought to getting a EU partner, perhaps launching a Trafalgar Square fund?

    1. fredwilson

      Never say never but our firm are strong believers in a small team working out of a single office

  16. howardlindzon

    amazing how far this whole fad has come…

    1. ShanaC

      Is it a Fad or A trend? I’m not so fluent in all things Europe. I think if it does become a trend over a fad, it will be good for the tech scene overall. It is good when you have different sets of values permeating the tech marketplace. Europe is not the US, and they have different thoughts to offer us. Sometimes you have to choose. It’s a marketplace, and I’m hoping long term for consumer choice on the matter. Not everyone needs the same sort of solutions when it comes to what makes something valuable.

    2. fredwilson

      Do you think its a fad?

  17. valto

    As we are building an global internet based model for the early stages funding, if it would have been possible, we would have registered our company to “united states of internet” 🙂 (who knows, maybe internet could declare independence some day… Sure would make the international legal issues whole lot easier). But instead, since trying to look into future, Asia will continue to have ever greater meaning as well, so for now we have chosen HK to our “home”, just like HSBC.HSBC has decided to relocate their CEO (and his team) from London to Hong Kong. They and analysts have commented this that Asia is getting so important role in the finance world and this crisis is one turning point that Asia will in many ways be a leading finance market after the crisis.

  18. Sandy Mckinnon

    The energy and momentum of Seedcamp can’t be faulted – other great grass roots progs like springboard led by the Camb redgate guys (… + all the ****camp initiatives + real-time media are all creating faster feedback HAS to be good for startups, transparency and (dare I mention it) innovation distribution…

  19. Ronald

    Good to know that actions like this take place and that same values are promoted all over the world. At least we all play the game by the same rules and we become aware of the worldwide situation and we are less ignorant. See more good news at