10 reasons to apply to Startupbootcamp HighTechXL

This article originally appeared at the blog of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. You can find it here.

If you like this post follow me on Twitter

 

Startupbootcamp HighTechXL is the best accelerator in Europe, focusing on High Tech companies. We are looking for startups and early stage companies active in the areas of advanced robotics, advanced materials, autonomous vehicles, medtech and healthtech, energy storage, clean tech and 3D printing. This is not a typical business accelerator, but rather an accelerator on steroids. In November we will announce the 10 companies that will participate to the second Startupbootcamp HighTechXL program. Below you can find a list of 10 reasons to apply for our program.

1. We are not the typical accelerator.

  • Hundreds of accelerators exist worldwide, focusing on software, media and web startups. We have a clear focus on High Tech hardware. We understand the differences and special issues that high tech companies our facing and bring a lot of relevant entrepreneurial and investment experience.

2. We can open any door, worldwide

  • Startupbootcamp has an excellent mentor network in place of relevant professionals. Investors, entrepreneurs and executives in the high tech industry. Our mentors have embraced the accelerator program so much that they are constantly willing to open up their personal network to the participating companies. With such exceptional people on board, we dare to say that we can open any door, worldwide.

3. We are located in Eindhoven, the most inventive city in the world.

  • Eindhoven was recently named by Forbes as “hands down the most inventive city in the world.”  This specific study was based on patent density; one of the most commonly used metrics for mapping the geography of innovation. According to OECD, Eindhoven produced 22.6 patents per 10,000 residents, surpassing by far San Diego, which took the second place with 8.9 patents per 10,000 residents

4. We are part of the greatest High Tech Ecosystem in Europe

  • Eindhoven is the High Tech capital of Europe. Home to Philips, NXP, ASML and Oce amongst others, it has a whole ecosystem evolving around the High Tech industry.

5. You will have an office in the High Tech Campus Eindhoven

  • The heart of the high tech ecosystem in Eindhoven beats in the High Tech Campus. Philips used to have here its R&D center. Today the campus is an ambassador of open innovation and has more than 135 companies, from startups to big multinationals like Intel, at a walking distance. Companies that have the potential to be your leading customer or supply chain partner.
  • For a period of 6 months you will have a free office space in the High Tech campus. But even after this period, you will have access to low cost office space, in the HighTechXL Plaza, the startup hub that High Tech Campus is developing.

6. You will have access to a great talent pool of engineers and managers

  • Having Philips, NXP, ASML and more global OEMs in the same neighborhood, Eindhoven is full of other Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers of these companies — and of course full of highly skilled engineers from all over the world, willing to join any innovative entrepreneurial initiative.

7. You will be based in the center of Europe

  • Startupbootcamp HighTechXL is based in the center of Europe. One can take the plane and be in an important meeting in London within an hour; take the train to Brussels, Paris, or Germany; or take the car to drive in any city in Europe.

8. We are the best accelerator in Europe

9. EY is a co-founder of the program.

  • EY (former Ernst&Young), the global leader in Professional Services is a co-founder of the program. Participating companies will have access to the professional support and network of EY. Throughout the program, EY will host open days, where its consultants and business professionals will be available to solve any organizational, legal or financial issue.
  • Having EY actively involved in the program, opens up an enormous business network in every industry.

10. Last but not least, you should apply to Startupbootcamp HighTechXL because it is great fun. We will start a journey together and the first three months will be only the beginning. It will feel like a climbing a mountain. There will be moments with disappointment and there will be moments with great satisfaction. It will feel like a roller coaster. But in the end, this is entrepreneurship.

Don’t wait any longer – Go to www.hightechxl.com and Apply now for our accelerator!

The VC view on the CEO. The role that can make or break it..

If you like this post follow me on Twitter

When VCs evaluate a prospective investment, the founding team is one of the most important considerations. Most VCs consider it the most relevant aspect, openly stating that they are willing to back up great teams with not so great ideas than great ideas with mediocre teams.

Mark-Zuckerburg-Im-CEO-bitch

Although management teams can comprise of various people and roles, with the possible exception of the CTO, the CEO is the most important member of any given management team. VCs must feel comfortable that a particular CEO will make the venture fly. In general Venture Capitalists are looking for the following 5 skills when evaluating the CEO.

  1. Leadership.

Leader is a person who allows others to perform at the best of their abilities. And every start-up needs a great leader. The ability of the CEO to lead, motivate and manage his team is crucial. A startup feels like constantly being in a roller-coaster and without a strong leader many people might be scared and tempted to leave early. The strong leadership ability most of the times comes with experience. This is the reason why often, the most popular candidates for filling up a CEO position, among VCs at least, consist of executives of large, proven corporations.

 

  1. Decision making ability

The number of decisions any startup needs to take every single day is countless. The number of decisions any startup needs to take every single day is countless. The highest percentage of the important decisions at the early stage of a company are taken by the CEO. Therefore, VCs prefer to back CEOs with a strong decision making ability, people feeling comfortable of taking actions within a short period of time and with limited information available. As is often said, the best thing you can do is take the right decision, the second best thing you can do is to take the wrong decision and the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Indecision may slow a large company, but it can prove to be fatal for a startup.

 

  1. Communication skills

Early stage CEOs must be great at communicating, since they are the face of their company. Startups often attend pitch competitions, events and therefore networking is a vital part of their existence. CEOs must have the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently to customers, investors, press and peers. Having a great vision is one thing, being able to sell it to others is another.

 

  1. Administrative skills

CEOs should also be able to manage their company from an administrative point of view. This includes various functions, like recruiting new people but also making sure a project management structure is in place. The CEOs that VCs are looking for are organized people, hith the ability and skills to recruit highly skilled, enthusiastic tea members.

 

  1. Open for coaching

While a CEO should feel comfortable taking decisions under uncertainty, he should also seek for the advice of other, more experienced people. According to Arthur Rock, pioneer of the Venture Capital industry, “an essential characteristic for the entrepreneur is to know whom to listen and when to listen. Some CEOs only listen to what they want to hear, because of fear of the truth; in other cases its because they are arrogant or because they are surrounding themselves with yes-men. A lot of managers simply will not accept criticism or suggestions from other people”. VCs are looking for CEOs who are open to criticism and are using feedback to improve.

Being a CEO of a startup requires a lot of different skills. It can be the most fun job on the planet and at the same time the most challenging one. And the quality of the CEO tends to be one of the most important criteria when deciding whether to back a team or not. In the end, the quality of the CEO has the highest correlation with the success or failure of a business.

 

 

 

A lot of the ideas discussed were taken by a great book by Justin Camp, called Venture Capital Due Dilligence, a Guide to making smart investment choices that I highly recommend to anyone wishing to get a better insight to the criteria used by VCs when assessing an investment opportunity.

3d printing is changing the world as we know it..

If you like this post follow me on Twitter

Until now, 3D printing has largely been used by product designers and hobbyists and for a few select manufacturing applications. However, the performance of its machinery is improving and prices are rapidly declining, both for printers and materials.

With 3D printing, an idea has the potential to go directly from a digital design file to a physical product, skipping many traditional manufacturing steps and redefining the entire manufacturing process.

The interest of early adopters on 3D printers is overwhelming. Last April, only within 3 days, Micro $299 3D printer surpassed $2M on kickstarter. In total the project managed to raise $3.4M from almost 12,000 backers. The idea seems simple. A 3D printer designed for everyone, in order to turn ideas into life, offering a fantastic experience.

Entrepreneurs have been very creative in exploring the new possibilities opened by 3D printing. One month before Micro, Foodiny was on Kickstarter, with a goal of raising $100K. Although the company did not reach that goal (reached $80K) the whole idea is very interesting. A 3D food printer appliance. OF course Foodiny was not creating food, rather using fresh material imported into special capsules. TechCrunch was writing “Instead of forcing people to rely on highly processed convenience food that’s larded with additives and unhealthy levels of salt, as microwave meals generally are, they want Foodini to get more people cooking with fresh ingredients, rather than reaching for that pre-processed packet.”

More and more ideas of 3D printing have appeared on the world wide web. People found a way to 3D print guns, starting lengthy discussions on this technology. WIRED magazine writes in a recent article that those partially printed semi-automatic weapons are powerful, military-grade firearms, and because their lower receivers were printed, they are largely unregulated.

The implications of 3D printing are also huge in medicine. In January 2014 Dutch surgeons successfully placed an entire 3D printed skull dome over the brain of a 22 year old woman suffering from a rare bone disorder. According to the surgeon, “The patient has her sight back entirely, is symptom-free and back to work. It is almost impossible to see that she’s ever had surgery”. In another case, a 3D printed heart model saved the life of a young 14-month old boy with heart defects. The doctors used the 3D model to study the heart’s defects and save the boy.

3D printing is a disruptive technology and we are currently only experience its beginning. In the following years the technology is expected to mature and start showing the true implications to the human life. No one can be sure on the possibilities that this technology opens. But what is beyond any doubt is that it is already changing the world as we know it..

 

PE forum in Athens

Last week I was invited to give a presentation at 4th pan European Private Equity and Venture Capital Forum in Athens. I was participating in the second panel, focusing on Venture Capital, together with Partners from 3 Jeremie funds operating in Greece. The event was organized by Financial Acedemy, organized of various conferences.

The focus of the presentation was about accelerating early stage, high tech companies in Europe and of course zooming in Eindhoven.

nick2

I started by explaining a bit what DEC does and then focused on Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. I especially concentrated on the rationale behind setting up an accelerator program, but also the main differences from a typical web-accelerator. High Tech startups are different, posing dissimilar challenges and needs from most software startups. Still, the accelerator model can add significantly to their value.

The panel finished with a discussion on the future of Venture Capital in Greece with many questions from the audience.

nick1

The other panels were also very interesting, with renowned speakers touching stimulating topics. The first panel focused more on the asset class of private equity, while the third panel focused on the Greek startups.

Wearable computing is here, and is opening so many opportunities for new companies.

If you like this post follow me on Twitter

 

The Internet of things is already transforming industries. In fact it is already transforming the way people live. More than 50% of internet connections are already “things”. And although there are already more than 15 billion permanently internet connected devices, still the volume of internet traffic that comes from things is the minority. The next big milestone is the Internet of Everything. In the internet of Everything things will be creating more traffic than information and people.

Everything is becoming smart. Smart fabrics, smart city frameworks and smart pills are on their way. Some of these developments might take years. And some are already there.

Wearable computers are one of the most talked about categories, and an important factor contributing to the growing adoption of the internet of everything. Wearable computers, are devices that can be worn on a person and have the ability to connect and communicate to a network, either through embedded connectivity or via another device (tablet, smartphone) using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or another technology.

These devices come in various shapes and forms, ranging from smart watches, smart glasses, health and fitness trackers, health monitors, wearable scanners, smart clothing etc.

We have been hearing about these devices for many years, but is 2014 going to be the year of wearable computers? Deloitte, in its Technology, Media and Telecommunications predictions for 2014, predicts that smart glasses, fitness bands and watches should sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating $3 billion. Of these, smart glasses are expected to generate most revenues, selling about 4 million units at an average selling price of $500. The mass launch of smart glasses is expected to be met by skepticism and delight, as is usual with the emergence of any new digital form factor. Therefore, the first models of smart glasses are likely to appeal only to a niche of early adopters. Still, Deloitte believes that at a global level the volume of early adopters, even in 2014 can well be in the range of millions, increasing to tens of millions only in 2 years time and surpassing 100 million by 2020. Cisco expects that by 2018 there will be 177 million wearable devices globally, growing at a CAGR of 52%.

The Venture Capital industry has shared this view. Recently various funds have been launched, targeting specifically the wearable technology market. Only in 2013, $458 million were raised in funding across 49 Wearable Tech deals, while Intel raised recently a $100 million fund to invest in Internet of Things and Wearables in China. Venture Capitalists expect that a number of new billion dollar companies will emerge from this new category of devices. Enhancements in technology have allowed the vast growth of these devices. Compression of computing and other electronics allow these devices light enough to be work. Still the opportunities for new entrants are numerous. More startup companies are expected to try to combine fashion to meet personal styles, especially in the consumer electronics segment. App development is also a key imperative for all wearable device manufacturers. A large range of apps will be core to the devices’ utility, those apps being fundamentally different from those of smartphones’ or tablets’, due to the different nature of the devices. Taking into advantage the unique characteristics of wearables, together with location based services and augmented reality will also foster semiconductor startups, which have vast problems with energy consumption to tackle.

To sum up, wearable devices are the next stage in the roll-out of digital connectivity in our professional, social and private lives. They represent continuity, which will enable people to stay permanently updated with the flow of information they need. Because of their emergence a whole new set of challenges arises, waiting for eager entrepreneurs to tackle them and eager investors to finance them, in the chase of the ‘next big thing’.

 

Sources

The Internet of things is coming, Gartner

Hype cycle for the internet of things, Gartner.

Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions 2014, Deloitte

Cisco Visual Networking Index. Global mobile data traffic forecast update, 2013 – 2018.

Wearable Tech Investing Snapshot: $458M Raised in Funding Across 49 Deals in 2013, CB Insights

 

Demystifying Venture Capital Funds. Part I

This article had originally appeared on emea.gr, but in the Greek language. Here is the first part in English.

You can find the original article here

 

Many articles have been written regarding Venture Capital (VC) funds. Still, most of the articles are placing too much importance on technical jargon and forget to answer the most important question regarding how VC funds work. Understanding the motives behind VC funds can be very useful not only during a negotiation of a term-sheet, but also later in the lifecycle of a company in case a VC is participating as an equity partner. The basic principles of operation of a VC fund are probably known. This post will try to demystify also the least known aspects of how VC funds operate, the initial stages, their management and also the internal and external pressures they have.

 

  1.        Typical structure

Every fund consists (normally) of 3 entities.

The first entity is the management company and usually belongs to the senior partners of the fund. The employees of the fund (secretaries, assistants, analysts, associates etc.) are registered in this company, which is also responsible for all the expenses of the fund (office expenses, travel costs, salaries etc.)

The second entity is the limited partnership. Every time you read an announcement about a new fund, in essence a new limited partnership has been established. The investors of the fund are called Limited Partners (LPs).

The last entity is called general partnership. This is the legal entity which has the role of the general partner in the limited partnership that was mentioned above.

Important for entrepreneurs: VCs also have a “boss” to whom they answer for their decisions and performance; their investors (LPs).

 

  1.        Life cycle

The life cycle of every VC fund consists of 4 typical stages, while its total duration (after securing funding) is approximately 10 years, with the option of extending it (normally for 2 years).

The first stage is called fundraising. During this stage, like every startup, VCs are looking for investors. They pass from the same experience that every startup passes, pitching their new fund, talking about strategy, the uniqueness of the approach, the experience of the team and past performance. 99% of the total amount of the fund coms from the LPs, while usually 1% comes from General Partners, so they would firstly show to their LPs their commitment to the fund and secondly also bear some risk by having skin in the game.

Potential investors (Limited Partners) of these funds are academic institutions, banks, companies,  and bigger funds called fund of funds. Furthermore other possible investors are insurance companies, pension funds, family offices and governments.

Important for entrepreneurs: It is important to know whether the VC you are discussing with is in the fundraising process or if it already has a fund from which it is investing.

 

The second stage is called Investment Period and lasts on average 5 years. During this period, VCs find and invest in new innovative companies. After the end of the investment period VCs don’t invest in more companies but only provide follow on investments to their portfolio companies. Usually with the end of the investment period of the fund, the fund managers start fund raising for their next fund..

Important for entrepreneurs: It will be useful for you to understand at what point of the investment period the fund you are discussing with is at. When a VC is in the beginning of its investment period it might be more selective with its investments, while when it is in the end of its investment period it might be less selective and decide easier on making an investment.

The third stage is called Holding Period and is the stage where VCs are trying to increase the value of their portfolio companies. They usually take a seat on the Board of Directors in every company in which they have invested to and they try, using their experience and network to find the best strategy, make the most useful partnerships and help companies grow.

Important for entrepreneurs:It will be useful to understand the amount that VCs have reserved for every company, and especially for your company.

 

The last stage is called exit period and during that stage they are trying to sell their equity stale or even the entire company. This can happen by either having an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and take the company public (in the stock exchange), have another player acquire the company or find another investor who might be willing to buy the VCs stake. Another possibility is that the founders of the company might want to buy back the stake of the VC in order to have back 100% of their company. Entering the stock exchange is almost always the preferred exit path, but also the most difficult.

Important for entrepreneurs: When signing a term sheet or a contract with a VC read carefully and understand the rights you give to your investors regarding their decision powers on the potential exits. It can be the case that VCs veto an exit that looks great for an entrepreneur because it is far away from the financial return targets they have set together with their LPs.

Startupbootcamp HighTechXL investor demo day

If you like this post follow me on Twitter

The investor Demo Day of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL took place on 21st of February at the Evoluon in Eindhoven.It was a very exciting day for everyone. All the startups on stage, but also for the team running the accelerator program. The startups had the opportunity to give an 8 minute presentation of their company to an audience of 700 people, including investors, entrepreneurs and executives of high tech companies.

Dream location

Evoluon is a symbol of the city of Eindhoven, as it was a science museum by Philips. The building is unique due to its futuristic design, resembling a space ship. During the demo day guests were seated in two levels and there was also the opportunity for networking in a third level.

12743179024_c08ca80d04 12742294585_d627657936 12742728835_82329fce9d

Pitches

The pitches of all the teams were excellent. After weeks of continuous training all teams gave their best in telling their story to the audience. You can see all the presentations here:









Furthermore you can read more about the pitches from a nice article by startupjuncture here.

Prototypes

Some teams brought with them a prototype of their devices to showcase. Watly introduced their machine for cleaning water and providing power and connectivity, Ingeny showcased their DNA PCR machine and ThinkSilicon demonstrated Nema, their latest GPU amongst others.

12742868403_622337b881 12743200574_9d2ec22c16 12742741405_c3e5a3d3fe

Networking

It would not be a successful demo day if it did not include opportunities for networking. During the break but also after the last presentation the companies had the opportunity to discuss with the attendees about potential investment opportunities, new partnerships and  future collaboration. Big names also were there. The former Prime Minister of The Netherlands, international investors from India, US, Singapore, Greece, Belgium etc, as well as the Dutch Ambassador in Athens.

12742875153_5a523f2b01

12743192344_143f706bb4

 

Pictures from Jonathan Marks

Tagged ,

10 reasons Eindhoven is the dream location for a High Tech company

A slightly different version of this article, named 8+1 reasons Eindhoven is the dream location for a tech company appeared on VentureBeat.
If you like this post follow me on Twitter

Yesterday the Financial Times published their annual study on European Cities and Regions of the Future for 2014/2015. In this study, Eindhoven was ranked in the third position as European city of the future after London and Helsinki. The city of Eindhoven is a new entry to this specific list, thanks in part to the incubation facilities existing in the High Tech Campus. After the study national television came to the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL office to interview once again the participating companies and discuss about  the reasons why they chose Eindhoven over all these possibilities that they could choose from.

As I have been working in Eindhoven for the past 1.5 year, I firmly believe that Eindhoven is the best place to start and grow a High Tech company. By High Tech, I am referring to sectors like semiconductors, nanotechnology, advanced materials, health tech, internet of things etc. Below you can find the 10 top reasons that back up my belief.

53703_Lichttoren

  1. The High Tech Campus. It is considered to be the smartest km2 in the Netherlands, maybe in the whole world. With more than 125 companies and 10,000 researchers, developers and entrepreneurs, everyone in the High Tech campus is working on developing future technologies and products. Everybody can have access to highly specialized facilities (like clean rooms), and network in the variety of the events that take place there. In the past this place was hosting the R&D laboratories of Philips and nowadays is the epitome of Open Innovation.HighTechCampusEindhoven1
  2. Eindhoven was recently named by Forbes, as ‘by far the most inventive city in the world’. This  specific study was based on patent density, one of the most commonly used metrics for mapping the geography of innovation. According to OECD, Eindhoven produced 22.6 patents per 10,000 residents, surpassing by far San Diego which took the second place with 8.9 patents per 10,000 residents.
  3. The number of big High Tech OEMs. Eindhoven is the home of Philips, NXP, ASML and Oce, amongst others. It is named also the ‘city of Philips’ and when you enter the city you can easily recognize it. The logo of Philips is everywhere. Old factories, big buildings, even the city stadium is called ‘Philips Stadion’. But Philips is not the only OEM in the city. ASML, the largest supplier in the world of photolithography systems for the semiconductor industry  has its headquarters near Eindhoven. In July 2012 ASML received a $4 billion funding from Intel . And of course there is also NXP, one of the worldwide top 20 semiconductor sales leaders.
  4. With the previously mentioned companies in the same neighborhood, Eindhoven is full of other Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers of these companies and of course full of highly skilled engineers from all over the world, willing to join any innovative entrepreneurial initiative.
  5. In 2012 The Netherlands ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in the EU according to the lobal Entrepreneurship Monitor survey. 7.2% of Dutch between 18-64 years old own or are planning to start a new company. The same number 10 years ago was only 4.9%.When compared to UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Germany , France and Belgium, the Netherlands has the highest media attention for entrepreneurship, the lowest fear of failure, the most perceived opportunities and also the highest score regarding the perception of entrepreneurship as a good career choice..
  6. Brainport Development is the local development agency trying to promote the region. The task of the organisation is to drive the region forward and make the economy of the region ‘future proof’. Brainport 2020 – Top Economy, Smart Society is a vision and a strategy along with a tangible implementation programme that can help to make the Dutch economy one of the world’s top 5 economies. The strength of the  region lies in High Tech Systems & Materials, Food, Automotive, Lifetec and Design. The aim and ambition of Brainport 2020 is to be among the top 3 economies of Europe and the top 10 in the world.
  7. It is in the center of Europe. One can take the plane and be in an important meeting in London within an hour, take the train to Brussels, Paris or Germany or take the car to drive in any city in Europe.
  8. Everybody speaks perfect English. Although Dutch is the official language, every person in The Netherlands is fluent in English, making doing business a lot more easy.
  9. Technical University of Eindhoven is in the city center and is considered to be one of the best technical Universities in Europe.
  10. Last but not least, Startupbootcamp HighTechXL, the first business accelerator targeting High Tech startups is located in Eindhoven. The HighTechXL team is looking worldwide to find the best and most promising high tech startups and bring them in The Netherlands for an intensive 3-month acceleration program.

Of course, as we are not living in a perfect world, not everything in Eindhoven could be perfect. Every person moving to Eindhoven to start or grow their business should be aware on the local weather. Rainy, cold and windy as it may be, the weather will make sure you stay indoors working on your company.

10 reasons why London is a dream location for european (web/mobile) startups and 1 why it’s a nightmare

This article originally appeared at emeastartups.com

 

I must admit I might not be 100% objective on this, since I love London. I have visited the city multiple times, but every time I am there I find another great place. On 23rd and 24th of January I visited London again to attend the Startupbootcamp Summit. This was a 2-day event, organized by Startupbootcamp Global, inviting all Startupbootcamp programs and alumni to visit London, attend interesting presentations and workshops and meet on 1on1 speed dates with exciting brands and renowned investors. The top European VC funds like Accel Partners, Index Ventures etc. were there to meet and talk with Startupbootcamp alumni. I visited the summit, together with the rest of the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL team and some of our portfolio companies. All in all, it was a very interesting experience, a chance to see again
people from the Startupbootcamp family and an opportunity to meet new interesting people.

After visiting London for another time, I am almost convinced that it is the dream location for European startups, at least for those in the web/mobile space. Even more importantly, after spending some time with two Greek startupers currently living in London I am even more convinced that it makes a great sense for startups coming from the periphery of Europe that experience lately a startup ‘boom’ to spend some months there. The ten reasons are following.

Reason 1: It is the financial center of Europe. Most banks are there, and most importantly most Venture Capital funds are there. The big European VC funds, like Atomico, Index and Accel are there. But also the big corporate funds, like the Samsung Ventures, or Qualcom Ventures are there. Last but not least, London will always have plenty of the ‘next round’ investors, either that is Round A, Round B, or even a buyout fund.

Reason 2: More events targeting startups are taking place in London. Although every city has its local meetups, I don’t believe these can easily be compared with the quantity and quality of the meetings and startup events taking place in London.

Reason 3: You can find more experienced entrepreneurs there. Either locals or internationals that moved to London, created their company and maybe sold it. I don’t know if the entrepreneurs attracted the VCs or if the VCs attracted the entrepreneurs (this discussion can go like the chicken and the egg argument) but in any case the place is full of (successful and least successful) entrepreneurs.

Reason 4: There are more startupers. Really, there are so many! And although this means that more people are competing for getting financed from the same investors, it also is a great opportunity to learn from other people, exchange ideas and expand your team!

Reason 5: People that matter are close by. Although Brussels is the capital of Europe, I think that London is the center of it. There you find most people that matter in the tech scene, and you can just approach them. To give you an example, during the first day of the Startupbootcamp Summit, Mike Butcher, European editor at TechCrunch gave a presentation at Rainmaking Loft, the place hosting the summit. He stayed there for the whole day, and you could see people continuously talking to him.

Reason 6: In general and summing up all of the above the ecosystem is more developed. All the above make everyone, even big corporate executives more receptive into accepting the new ‘startup reality’. Therefore the opportunity to expand your network and create new business deals is enormous.

Reason 7: The Language! Everybody speaks English. It makes it easy to socialize, it makes it easy to understand everyone, it also makes it easy to apprehend the local culture. It goes without saying how important this is into knowing your customers.

Reason 8: Makes the step to the US easier. The language barriers are eliminated and the culture is the closest you can get in Europe to the US. Furthermore the connections from the local network to the US are enormous.

Reason 9: It is a huge diverse city. If something works there, chance is with you that it will probably work everywhere. __ million of people live and work there, therefore you have a huge potential target market.

Reason 10: British regulation is a lot more business friendly than other countries. Many VCs, although they might not be British, might push you to setup a British Limited Liability Company.

But let’s also be fair. There is one reason that London is a nightmare for a startup. And this is the cost of living. Voted as the most expensive city in the world, London will make your cash out sky-rocket, effectively killing your burn rate and shortening your runway.

All in all, I think this is a city that every startup should at least consider to relocate. Even if it is just for a few months, it can help you expand your network and find your next investor. Especially important for European/regional startups, that should get out of their comfort zone and internationalise. I am not saying this is the only place to go. For really High Tech companies I would still argue for Eindhoven, since it is the most inventive city in the world. And for web and mobile startups, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris are also well known hubs, but I still would go for London. Why? Well, except from all the above reasons, as I said in the beginning of the article, I am not 100% objective on this; London is just a place you fall in love with..

 

Setting The Deal

The first “Setting the Deal” event took place in the auditorium of the High Tech campus on Friday 31st January.  A typical Venture Capitalist might see over 200 companies per year and might participate in more than 20 negotiations per year. On the other hand a typical entrepreneur most of the times has never experienced such a negotiation before. In this event we shed light into the dark secrets of Venture Capital and the term sheet negotiations.

Setting the Deal recreated a whole Venture Capital negotiation. An experienced Venture Capitalist against a successful entrepreneur and his legal advisor are negotiating the terms of an early stage financing deal. Sjaak Deckers, COO of Sapiens was playing the role of the entrepreneur. He has been the driving force behind the creation of Sapiens and was involved in raising two rounds for Sapiens. Matthijs Ingen-Housz took the role of the legal advisor of the entrepreneur. Matthijs is one of the most experienced lawyers in Venture Capital financings in The Netherlands . For example, he assisted startup Wercker on the investment by leading Silicon Valley VC firm Greylock Partners. Eric van den Eijnder, Managing Director of Dutch Expansion Capital played the role of the Venture Capitalist. Eric has 15 years of experience in fund management and private equity and in the past he has been jointly responsible for over half a billion of investments. Patrick Gabriëls, Partner at EY and Nick Kalliagkopoulos analyst at Dutch Expansion Capital were moderating the discussion, in an event hosted by Guus Frericks of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL.

Upon arrival the audience received a termsheet and viewed a short presentation of heartVALVE, a fictitious company that was the basis of the negotiation.  The termsheet was the offer of the VC to the entrepreneur and the first negotiation of Eric, Sjaak and Matthijs took almost 2,5 hours. During this live mock negotiation the audience had the opportunity to observe discussions os five key topics. After every topic had been sufficiently negotiated, the moderators stopped the negotiation and asked the VC, entrepreneur and lawyer various questions regarding their strategy, motivation and thoughts behind each term. The audience also had the opportunity to ask detailed questions during the event.

DSC_0281

The five terms that were negotiated, as well as the main conclusion points are summarized below.

1. Valuation

Valuation comes in two forms, pre-money and post-money. Although these terms are pretty simple, entrepreneurs often confuse them and VCs try to take advantage of that. The equity percentage of the investor is directly linked to the valuation and the amount to be invested. Although this is one of the most important items of the negotiation everybody concluded that it is not the only one that the entrepreneur should focus on. According to Sjaak, “you should be willing to accept a lower valuation than expected, if it will help you fulfil your dream and goals”.

2. Liquidation preferences

Liquidation preferences specify who gets paid first in the event of a liquidation (for example sale of a company). Venture Capitalists would try to negotiate hard on this and entrepreneurs can strengthen their negotiating position by investigating what is the norm of the industry and time period. Liquidation preferences used to be at 1X for many years, but when the internet bubble burst they even reached levels of 11X. VCs also have a boss, their shareholders and they need to manage somehow the downside, as they are taking huge risks.

3. Antidilution

Antidilution protects an investor if at the next financing round the company raises money at a lower valuation than the current valuation. As a term it is very investor friendly and comes in many variations. Although entrepreneurs should negotiate in order to have more entrepreneur friendly antidilution clauses, everyone in the panel agreed that this term is pretty common and should never be a deal-breaker from the entrepreneur side.

4. Founders’ stock vesting

Vesting means that instead of founders getting their equity percentage immediately, they get it regularly over some period. Although this term can be perceived as unfair, it is happens very often in Series A transactions. According to Eric “We don’t see this term in later stage transactions. But in early stage companies, the founders are the biggest asset of the company and the investors need to ensure that they will stay in the company for a long period”.

5. Veto Right

Venture Capitalists will almost always ask to have the right to veto certain corporate actions, like the change of strategy, the change of the CEO, getting loans and the executive compensation. All participants agreed that it is very hard for an entrepreneur to avoid these veto rights. As Matthijs added, “you should choose your battles wisely, and this is not a battle that is worth fighting”.

The audience of the first “Setting the Deal” was very enthusiastic after the event and had the opportunity to share thoughts and discussion with the members of the panel during the networking drinks, offered by the High Tech Campus. After seeing the interest of entrepreneurs coming from every city in The Netherlands, the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL team is considering to roll out “Setting the Deal” in various cities throughout the world.

%d bloggers like this: