At Seedcamp, words about the key test for start-ups – trust between the founders

Day 19. September 2014 posted Elvisa Basailović
How was Mini Seedcamp Ljubljana? Fun and useful! We listened to pitches from the ten chosen start-ups that are contending for an invitation to Seedcamp Week in Berlin and a possible investment from the accelerator. In his lecture, Carlos Eduardo Espinal pointed out the key component for a start-up’s success – mutual trust between co-founders. The roundtable on the experience of start-ups developing hardware was also very educational, telling us all about the traps that await hardware manufacturers on the global market.

At the beginning, before start-up companies’ pitches, Carlos told us about new things happening in Seedcamp. The start-up accelerator started its path in 2007, when it invested into Slovenian Zemanta as well, but they recently launched Seedcamp 2.0 – a new fund worth 30 million euros – with the purpose of putting 25,000 to 250,000 dollar investments into Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian start-ups. Since there are a lot more European technological companies now than 7 years ago when they started, their new fund is four times bigger from the others and financially supported by investors from China, Russia, Europe and Silicon Valley. 

Let’s remind you: in the afternoon today, companies that will soon find out about Seedcamp’s decision have presented their ideas in front of the committee led by Seedcamp’s partner Carlos Eduardo Espinal:
  1. ANGL (Hungary) is the first mobile app for live streaming video content
  2. Doo Doo (Slovenia) is a platform for carpooling; an app for shorter distances and faster reservations.
  3. Fleapr (Slovenia) is a platform for creating attractive adverts for used things.
  4. Fliiby (Serbia) is a platform for digital artists, where authors can sell video content, photographs, illustrations etc.
  5. (Slovenia) is a mobile app for coaches
  6. (Austria) notes results of racing horses
  7. Jetmap (Slovenia) offers a quick overview of low-cost flights, currently in Europe
  8. Setting (Great Britain) is a platform for sharing an office
  9. Storesense (Slovenia) helps physical stores monitor and analyse behaviour of customers at the sales point
  10. Zenodys (Slovenia) helps create and connect sensors and devices in the “Internet of Things” field. 
The winner of today’s event will have an opportunity to participate at the Seedcamp Week taking place in November in Berlin, where Seedcamp will also decide on the companies receiving its investments. 

Experienced entrepreneurs gave feedback to start-ups during 1:1 meetings. The mentoring team consisted of Stan Sirakov from Launchub, Ivan Brezak Brkan from Netokracija, Aleš Špetič from CubeSensors, and Andraž Tori from Zemanta.


Battles are won by trust

After the start-ups’ presentations, Carlos had a short lecture on an interesting topic that can prove to be destructive to any start-up. He talked about a lack of trust amongst the company founders, and the subsequent disagreement and disintegration of teams. He presented the eight pillars of trust (as according to David Horsager, author of the book The Trust Edge), namely: clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution and consistency. 

Investment into trust lasts longer than any financial investment

For each of the pillars, Carlos gave an advice for avoiding conflict situations:
  • Create a strong and consistent start-up culture. Inform new employees about the tone, behaviour, vocabulary… You’ll quickly see whether they fit in or not.
  • Roles, duties and responsibilities have to be clearly assigned. In each moment, it needs to be clear who is doing what and who is responsible for what. Who is deciding, who is asked for advice, and who is only informed.
  • Frequent communication is crucial! Always be at least mostly aware of what your co-workers are doing. Regular meetings about the workflow, plans and problems are more than desirable.
  • Have a backup plan even for the case of failure. If you fail, do it with dignity.
And what should you do if there is a lack of trust? Carlos suggests five options:
  1. The first one is the least painful and is based on an honest conversation and restoration of trust between the founders. Include a third, neutral party in the conversation – for example an investor or a consultant.
  2. The second option is putting one founder in charge, while others get more operative tasks. For this step, you need maturity, as other founders keep their equity holding, but aren’t involved in decision-making anymore.
  3. The third option is employing a third party who takes over the CEO role.
  4. One of the founders leaves the company.
  5. The third and the worst option is an agreement to close the start-up or for the start-up to fail. Sadly, this is sometimes the only possible solution.
And don’t forget: invest into building trust – this will last longer than any financial investment.

Manufacturing hardware isn’t easy, but still pays off 

What followed was a roundtable on start-ups that manufacture hardware and are known for it on the Slovenian start-up scene. Aleš Špetič (CubeSensors), Staš Stankovič (Lumu) and Marin Medak (Oivo) participated at the roundtable, which was moderated by Ivan Brezak Brkan (Netokracija).

Two of the three projects that introduced themselves have something in common, namely crowdfunding. Lumu, device for measuring light on the smartphone, is the most successful Slovenian crowdfunding project, for which 244,000 USD had been gathered. The campaign for Ovio, the iPhone charger, is still going on Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is very popular in Slovenia and Slovenian hardware projects gathered more than a million euros so far altogether.

The good old school of engineering

The difference between software and hardware start-ups is…? Aleš Špetič (CubeSensors) said that software can be upgraded and fixed, while this is significantly harder when it comes to hardware, sometimes even impossible. This is why the “testing before selling” principle (or the so called good old school of engineering) still applies. Staš Stankovič (Lumu) admitted that without this type of financing, their ambitions would probably be smaller and would have stayed in the prototype phase or an attempt at sales. Marin Medak (Oivo) added that the type of financing platforms such as Kickstarter are great for checking the market reaction. If people wouldn’t have been supporting the project, this would mean that they had to change something.


Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.