Klinger describes his Seedcamp Week experience in pretty harrowing terms. “You have a table, and mentors come to you in turn, giving feedback. Their goal is to completely break you. With so many experienced people telling us we were doing so much wrong, it made us feel like giving up and going to do gardening or something else completely different instead,” he jokes. “And then when we were ready to give up, on the day before the investor pitches we were told that everything was fine – and we were like, seriously?” (via What one startup learned from Seedcamp Week) will remind you of a little company with European origins called Skype. It enables you to place free calls over the web right from your browser, no need to install any plugins or clients, it runs right in your browser.

I had the pleasure to meet Tomasz and the team at Seedcamp London a few months ago and was really impressed by their hunger, drive and expertise in the field. Listening to Tomasz talk about the vision of the product was inspiring back then and I was happy to meet him again for the Seedcamp Silicon Valley mentoring session at Google today. 

Just got the invite to the beta and really liked the welcome message pictured above. Can’t wait to place my first call - just tested it calling my own mobile number and it was as easy 123. 

Why you should apply to a startup accelerator in 2012

Recently I heard some rants about startup accelerator programs.

As a big believer in the acceleration process, I had to explain why I recommend joining such a program.

First, the rant:

Here are some of the arguments against joining accelerators*:

  1. If you are good enough to be chosen for the accelerator investment, it was likely Angels and VCs would have invested in you anyway. Just send them an Exec summary. You get the result you wanted, without giving 6-10% to an introducer.
  2. It is time-consuming to apply - spend that time building product
  3. If you are desperate for cash and think you have what it takes, go direct to Angels and VCs.
  4. If you want PR, write a press release, email it to all the blogs and newspapers, and then tweet.
  5. If your product isn’t ready, you know that already. You didn’t need an accelerator application process to tell you that. Customers will tell you that (you are talking to potential customers, right?)
  6. For all those people with an ‘idea’, think about this: Can you execute the idea right now? No? Ok, can you execute the idea FULLY with $15k? Not likely. So your problem is you need to get to the stage where you are ready to execute. Either you need to learn to code, design or convince people who can that you and your idea is right. All things you cannot do in an accelerator (plus the accelerator would not consider you before you do these things anyway…) 
Here are my arguments in favour of accelerators:
  1. In 3 months at an accelerator program, you will be able to achieve more work than you ever thought you can (around 3 times more than what you achieve regularly).
  2. Accelerator is a due diligence for investors. Investors will more probably invest in your company and give higher valuation for accelerator graduates. After all, it's harder to get into a top accelerator than into Harvard or Yale.
  3. You have a brand behind your startup - it makes it easy to open doors in the future.
  4. The heavy mentorship allow you to shape your product in the right way, instead of failing over and over again till you reach the right product or give up.
  5. It’s not about the money, it’s about creating a better product and becoming a better entrepreneur.
  6. The equity given is not an issue. The valuation is what really matters. So if for example the accelerator doubled the valuation of your company,  you can now give away half the equity for the same amount of capital.
  7. Networking - you create a huge network of supporters and of connections that want you to succeed (mentors and other startups that participated). Your success is their success. So therefore they will work to make you successful.

My suggestion for 2012: Apply to one of the top accelerators, and give your startup a boost into space.


* Arguments against - based on Rayhan Omar

So why is the GBP such a poor currency? Mervyn King wants to know why which is why QE nth edition starts again. He knows, like the IMF and everyone else, most banks are bust. Their assets are overvalued and their liabilities hidden off balance sheet. They employ too many expensive people and their business model is bust. They are however the lifeblood of the UK. No banks = lower GDP = higher unemployment = less taxes = lower real estate prices. I mean what else does the UK do these days?

Fintag’s Newsletter: Why isn’t GBP a flight to quality? AKA Finbar Taggit

And why focusing more human and capital resources on innovation, startups, entrepreneurs, new business models is a matter of necessity not “nice to have.”  #seedcamp #anthemis 

Seedcamp London

On Tuesday last week, I attended my third Seedcamp as a mentor.

If you’re not familiar with Seedcamp, it’s a European (and more recently, international) version of TechStars or YCombinator. The gist: early stage (often pre-product) startups pitch their projects to a group of mentors (entrepreneurs, investors, product & marketing folks) and spend the afternoon in rotating mentoring sessions to ask mentors for advice on their idea, product, go-to-market strategy, business model, fundraising etc. 

For startups, it’s an amazing and valuable experience to tap into a fantastic pan-European network of tech industry professionals from a variety of sectors: seasoned entrepreneurs, angels & VCs, product, marketing and engineering folks. Everyone is attending to give something back to the community and maybe advise a potential next big hit startup early on. Startups get early and honest feedback about their idea, prototype or product and have mentors help them find answers to the questions that keep them up all night.

For myself, it’s a welcome break from the day-to-day work at SoundCloud, a nice way to broaden my perspective, make new connections and maybe even find inspiration for my daily work. I was lucky to spend the afternoon with Obi Felten (Google’s Head of Consumer Marketing EMEA) and Chirag Patel (from Wellington Partners) and we had a great time and promised to stay in touch.  

Something I’ve pretty much heard every team say after all three Seedcamps I attended included the words “brain” and “fried” in the same sentence. It’s true. During Seedcamp, founders get hammered with insights, suggestions, introductions, tough questions and opinions that can leave you exhausted and perhaps even disillusioned. Be prepared for it, make notes, take a break and review your notes after a few days of distance. You’ll find the experience to be extremely valuable and your job is to find the golden nuggets that will help you move ahead. 

A few tips for Seedcamp teams:

  • Make sure you can explain your product in simple non-technical terms
  • If you can, tell the story about what made you want to solve this particular problem
  • Ask mentors if they remember your pitch. If they don’t, do a short recap
  • Ask mentors to briefly introduce themselves so you can ask them specific questions
  • Time and attention are scarce, make the best use of both
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree with a mentor. If you can back up your logic, do it
  • Be prepared for food for thought rather than specific answers to your questions. Your job will be to translate these thoughts into something actionable for your own product
  • If you liked a mentor or found them to be valuable, keep in touch. Seedcamp London 2010 finalist Profitero asked mentors if they want to be added to a quarterly email update about the progress. I love this. 

If you’re an entrepreneur you have to apply for one of the Seedcamps in the future. Saul, Reshma, Carlos and Phil are a truly dedicated group of people passionate about the European tech community and beyond. Watch them expand to Tel Aviv, NYC and Asia in the coming months. 

Photos from Seedcamp London are here.

Where will entrepreneur Kristian Hiiemaa take his startups Point of Sale and Erply?

Entrepreneur Kristian Hiiemaa has done alot of great things in a short period of time.

He’s founder of 2 fast growing and well-funded startups (Point of Sale and Erply).

He’s a Seedcamp winner. (Seedcamp is a European micro Seed Fund for internet technology companies.)

He’s a CEO twice over.

And he’s helping put Estonia on the map. (Estonia is where Point of Sale and Erply are based.)

With millions in funding, thousands of customers, and hundreds of possible countries to expand to, the sky is definitely the limit for Kristian Hiiemaa and his startups Point of Sale and Erply.

Four reasons why the 2011 Seedcamp USA Tour rocked our world (aka: why you should finish your Seedcamp application ASAP)

(EDIT 25/03/2011 - with the annoucement of the Seedcamp Facebook partnership this should now really be 5 reasons.)

Offset Options kind of stumbled across Seedcamp originally, we didn’t know who they were or what they really did. To be honest it was late in the day one afternoon just before submissions were due for Seedcamp Barcelona 2010 and I was leaning more towards meeting up with friends than finishing this random application form. Fortunately, I finished the application and to cut a longish story short ended up on the 2011 Seedcamp USA tour.


There were obviously a few stops in between, i.e. we were selected as one of the winners from Mini-Seedcamp Barcelona (along with rockstars Robot Media), invited to Seedcamp Week last fall and were a selected as a 2010 winner.


And getting to the point, here are the top reasons the Seedcamp USA tour rocked our world:




(on the NYSE trading floor for the ringing of the bell)

A quick list of some the companies whose offices we visited and some of the many more we met in mentoring / networking events / personal meetings etc.:


Foursquare, 500 Startups, LinkedIn, Twitter, IO Ventures, Amazon, Microsoft, Sequoia, Google, MassChallenge, Sermo, Atlas Ventures, Union Square Ventures, NYSE, MongoDB / 10gen, AOL, Sandbox, ERPLY, General assembly, plus many, many more.

And in the companies we visited, we had more than just a tour of HQ - we had ACCESS to the right people. There is access and there is ACCESS. For the majority of the meetings, we had senior staff available for us to explore any questions / partnerships / technical questions you can fire at them. I have to specifically admit Google, Facebook and Amazon blew me away with this. Such openness, engagement and support from companies that have big things on their plate right now. This is not normally possible when traveling on Biz Dev and Partnership trips, especially when you are an early stage company (even later stage companies would kill for this!).


( & @davemcclure & Anil)

Being part of a supportive network is a fundamental element of Seedcamp. The mentoring, as always, was great. We had access to a few hundred exceptional mentors over the four sessions in NYC, Boston, San Francisco and Mountain View. This is particularly useful for early stage companies trying to work out how relevant the concept is to the US market.


(Seedcamp crew checking in @foursquare)

Meeting companies trying to change the world with amazing staff who can achieve the vision  is always a privilege. Sermo, Facebook and Google were all kind of mind-blowing in their own ways. All provided us a perspective that I didn’t expect. Sermo was so genuine, FB and Google so eager to engage.


(pitch training @blackboxmansion)

A key take away is also the shared entrepreneurship experience. Starting a company can be an isolating exercise. Being able to travel around the USA and be able to get to know the other SC teams and the SC team itself - who are also on an entrepreneurial journey - was a once in a lifetime opportunity and an invaluable boost of moral support.

To see the strengths of our colleagues, gain their feedback and have very impassioned chats about different parts of our growth (often over a beer or 4) as people trying to build companies is one of the most valuable outcomes. It is very hard to manufacture this experience and make it genuine - but we did it.


I believe the SC teams of 2010 & 2011 are now connected with a sense of common purpose and will be providing greater support and engagement with each other, as we all work to build significant companies.

Some other standouts and quick mentions

> Sermo


This is the most memorable company visit for me on the trip.


The self-awareness of the staff but particularly the CEO, Daniel Palestrant, was amazing. This in one of the events that really resonated with me, in trying to build a business on a much more personal level.


So much discussion naturally focuses on the sexy elements of entrepreneurship - financing, biz dev and tech. The area of creating and leading a company is an area we have covered less and Daniel’s articulation was particularly eloquent.


> 500 Startups

The 500 Startups event was a standout as there was a delightful cross over of early stage companies pitching and giving feedback to each other. This was an open session where we received many frank but useful comments. I believe a few of the presenters made a real transition with their pitches.

warning - A warning to anyone going to this in future – Seeing Reshma Sohoni and Dave McClure taking turns pushing around each other’s startups is a spectacle.



On a side note, while at 500 Startups, Dave mentioned for translation services. I sent their details back to Offset Options HQ for review, my team came back two days later saying they are fast, cheap and high quality. So we will be working with them from now on and are loving their service. These guys are Japan-based so our thoughts are with them on a personal basis as well.



Perfect way to wind down at the end of the trip. There is no better way to finish a tour of the USA than the chaos of nerds and free beer as far as the eye can see and a last bit of bonding between the teams before heading back Europe. There were infinite sessions - Seth Priebatsch’s Gamification keynote was the standout.


From Offset Options, we loved the rising focus on Environmental aspects of technology and how this is becoming core business for global companies.

We have to give a shout out to Chinwag for great food and generally providing great support to Seedcamp @SXSW

If you want more insight into how to deal with SXSW for those who have not been, or those who wish to get more out of the event check out our friends at CultureSlurp

> Carlos’ (@ceduardo) Movie Tour of NYC

If you are thinking bring it, I want some of this action, Seedcamp Berlin applications are still open until 27th March.


If you want to read more about the Seedcamp USA Trip 2011 check out the following:



Luke & the Offset Options Team


Visiting Google Campus in London

Here are some more impressions from our visit to Google Campus in London. It is a non profit endeavour by Google to provide London with a hub for collaborative innovation in the tech startup scene. It’s located in Shoreditch, opened in 2012 and provides entrepreneurs with speedy wifi, a café, frequent networking and speaking events, a co-working place and access to accelerator programs like seedcamp

With a free permanent resident membership you can gain access 24/7 and hang out at the café or join the co-working space on Campus managed by Techhub at unbeatable rates. Also you can pitch your startup idea or any other input you might have at the CampusCam and it will be seen by the world on the corresponding Youtube Channel

We met with Eze Vidra, the head of Campus London and Google for Entrepreneurs Europe at the Café to take a look at the vibrant culture at Campus. It is mostly organized by him with the help of Google 20% “volunteers” and provides more than 1000 events per year (e.g. Campus for Mums), weekly hands on feedback sessions, mentoring by Googlers and many things more. It’s alsways packed with people, so if you want a seat at the café you have to be there really early. 

Apparently, it is a huge success for Google since it seems that Google Ventures might be coming to Europe. So far Google Ventures is only active in the US, so this would be a huge step forward for both the UK and the European startup scene. They might even come to Germany since Google just opened the startup hub Factory Berlin in June 2014. Techcrunch is already rounding up potentially team members for Google Ventures Europe.

Not surprisingly, Eze Vidra is at the top of that list:

“First up to be cited as a possible General Partner at Google Ventures in Europe is an obvious choice: Eze Vidra. As head of Campus London and (this year) head of Google for Entrepreneurs Europe, the reach-out programme aimed at startups, he is already a GV adviser.

Vidra is also a long-time Google employee, having launched Google Shopping in Spain and Local Shopping in the UK. Prior to that he held management leadership roles at in Israel, Gerson Lehrman Group in New York, in Silicon Valley and AOL Europe in London, where he was the principal product manager for Search in EMEA.

And Vidra has become a well-known person in the tech startup scene in Europe, speaking at multiple conferences and turning his social media feeds into link bait for startup entrepreneurs. In 2012, he founded Techbikers, a non-for-profit cycling community for entrepreneurs that raises money for charity. We approached him about the speculation, but his email says he is on vacation.

One investor told us: “Eze is a slam dunk and has been seconded with GV for some time now as a part timer. As he’s head of campus he’s earned his way forward.”

The omens are strong. Sarah Drinkwater replaced him three weeks ago as head of Campus London and sources say he is very active on Product Hunt.”

Source: “Hire Someone Already! Google Ventures Mulls Its European Moves” July 3 2014

Internet of Things event at the iMakr Store

On Thursday 25th Feb 2015 iMakr and MyMiniFactory held an Internet of Things meetup at the iMakr Store in London. It was the perfect occasion for makers to exchange and learn more about their ideas and their visions of the IoT over a few drinks in the warm and friendly atmosphere of the largest store in the world fully dedicated to 3D printing.

Keep reading


Checkthis for iPhone is finally live - go tell your stories!

I’ve used the app in the last few weeks, and it’s a lot of fun. Fred and his friends did an amazing job - you can clearly tell he’s a designer and cares about details in the app.

I’m sure it will be pitched against tumblr a lot, but I really like the use case of “telling stories” better than the tumblr mobile experience. The user interface is incredibly simple and powerful at the same time, and you can give each story a unique look.

Check these:

Here’s a writeup by TNW. And yes, checkthis is a Seedcamp company, of course!