What has been your biggest challenge with Startupbootcamp?
Growing from one program in 2010 to ten today in 8 countries (and several more in the pipeline).
whilst keeping quality high. We originally grew via an affiliation model which worked super well to go fast; however we’re now operating more and more of our own programs which allows us to build our own operating teams and further harmonize. We too are a startup and it’s a work in progress.
What are you most proud of?
I ran 5 Startupbootcamp programs myself between 2010 and 2014. After every program I got one or two personal notes saying “Startupbootcamp changed my life, thank you!” There aren’t too many opportunities to directly impact people’s lives and that will get you out of bed every morning.
What are the advantages of angels working with an accelerator?
Qualified – and accelerated – deal flow. As a solo angel you can only meet so many startups and you have limited bandwidth in terms of supporting your investments. To get down to ten selected teams each Startupbootcamp program will run 15 to 20 “Fast Track” events (one-day mentoring and networking events) in as many cities which allows us to meet hundreds of startups in various ecosystems. We also have scouting teams building lists of 1000+ startups per program and we’ll invite the most interesting ones to apply. Finally, the startups that do get selected get the best possible start to their venture: access to 100+ mentors most of whom are serial entrepreneurs with a five to ten-year jump in terms of experience; connections to global corporate partners (from Cisco to Airbus, MasterCard, Google, Paypal and many others); and exposure to hundreds of investors at our world-class demo days.
How important are mentors?
Mentors make the program what it is. They show their scars, share their wisdom and open up their networks. Money is a commodity, there is plenty of it chasing a few good startups. One key connection to the right person, on the other hand, can be game changing for a startup.
How are European Accelerators different from those in the US?
I don’t think they are, really. There’s more density and probably competition in the US but Europe already has north of 200 programs and more by some counts. There are a number of EU funded programs and plenty of corporate programs. As with everything, quality and motivations vary. My best advice here is to connect with program alumni to hear directly about their experience.
With some high-profile activity in Berlin – Delivery Hero’s unicorn status with $600 million of funding in 2015 alone and others – what does that mean for the European startup landscape?
Atomico (Niklas Zennström’s fund) recently published an analysis of unicorns created between 2003 and 2013. There were over 150 unicorns but ‘only’ 50 or so came out of Silicon Valley. Many came from Asia and several from Europe and other places. Silicon Valley is still the leader by far but the center of gravity is definitely moving and I think Europe has a card to play. I’m definitely bullish on European entrepreneurs.
What’s your best advice for Demo Day?
For startups: if you’re on (a Startupbootcamp) stage then you’re ready. Take a few moments to enjoy the achievement of getting here then get back on the horse, it’s going to be a long journey. For investors: hand out those business cards and meet the teams you were most impressed about-face to face once the excitement is over.
Would you want your son or daughter to be an entrepreneur?
Absolutely! To me it’s clear that the classic career is over. There are already over 23 million freelancers in Europe alone. Another indicator is the explosion of co-working spaces and the $5B valuation of WeWork. It’s not only startups sitting there. Companies get formed and disbanded like movie crews. Instead of a script author, director and editor, you now may need an app developer, designer and business developer. You have a go a move on to the next project. We’ve seen several Startupbootcamp teams blow up only to get absorbed into other teams. Once you’ve had a taste of the freedom (and roller coaster adrenaline) it’s hard to go back. As for my kids, they’ve done plenty of hanging out at Startupbootcamp, they’ve seen demo days and met founders. I don’t need to tell them, they’ve seen it ;).
How many cities have you been in in the last six months?
Let’s see… off the top of my head: Copenhagen (where I live), Berlin, Paris, Miami, San Francisco, Istanbul, Amsterdam, London, Helsinki, Talinn, Stuttgart, Sevilla, Lisbon.
What can we expect next from your team?
We’re in it for the long run and our objective is to run the best global accelerator. More vertically focused programs in more global cities.
Really exploiting the incredible drive and inventiveness of all our programs and team. More partnerships with top global brands. And taking the lead as the most founder friendly program out there.