I had the pleasure of spending all day yesterday, from 9am to 6pm, listening to pitches from the finalists selected out of the mini seedcamps from all over europe this year. Seedcamp is Europe's premier startup accelerator. It is like Y Combinator, Techstars, Seedstart, and many other programs of this sort. Like Techstars, Seedcamp heavily emphasizes mentors and mentoring. It is a big part of the value proposition of going through the Seedcamp process.
I am not going to talk about the companies/pitches I liked best right now. But I will say that I came away with three interesting opportunities (out of about 20 pitches I saw). That is a good percentage. In talking to the other judges (there were about a dozen judges), there were another handful of companies that others took an interest in. So almost half of the presenting companies interested at least one or more judges in taking a closer look. That is a great percentage.
The thing that is most interesting about Seedcamp is that it selects teams from all over Europe and Israel (and now South Africa). They do mini seedcamps in Zagreb, Prague, Barcelona, Paris, Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, Berlin, Lodon, and they just added one in Johannesburg South Africa in a couple weeks (Aug 11th). This allows Seedcamp to find teams that might not fly to London on a whim but will travel to a regional hub to see if their project is interesting to Seedcamp.
I was particularly impressed with the quality of the teams coming out of places like Zagreb and Prague. Eastern Europe, from Ljubljana to Tallinn and everywhere in between, contains a ton of smart entrepreneurial technologists looking to build businesses on the web and on mobile devices. I am not going to leave NYC and focus on this emerging market but someone should. It is ripe.
Kudos to Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni for creating and building Seedcamp. It is building an ecosystem, slowly but surely, throughout Europe and other emerging technology markets that I believe will result in new vitality to startups in this part of the world.
The Seedcamp finalists for 2010 will assemble in London for Seedcamp Week this September. If you are in the VC business and want to see what is going on in Europe firsthand, Seedcamp Week is a great place to start.