In Technology Park Ljubljana on 29 and 30 September, we carried out this year’s autumn DEMO days for the already fifth generation of startups contending for SK75 and SK200 investments of the Slovene Enterprise Fund. They were assessed by a committee of startup mentors who think that among this year’s candidates, there are quite a few excellent ideas that are disruptive in their fields. Their pitches were also watched by representatives of business angels and institutional investors from Kolektor Ventures, STH Ventures, Iskratela, Save Re, Conda and Meta Group. It turned out that startups convince potential investors most with passion, commitment, knowledge and experience. And they drive them away by being too convinced in an untested idea, not knowing the market they are entering, and looking at acquiring funds from tenders as their business model. It’s also not surprising that at these DEMO days, the most exciting teams were those that already gained the startup grant P2 or seed capital SK75. After successfully reaching the milestones on the market and acquiring private investments, they are now continuing with steps of rapid global expansion and growth, for which they need additional fresh capital from the Slovene Enterprise Fund.
As an evaluator, Jure Mikuž, leading partner of venture capital fund RSG Capital, also joined the Thursday’s DEMO day for teams contending for the autumn SK75 investment.
According to Jure Mikuž, the teams were very well prepared and the quality difference between them was obvious, which is why his marks were either very good or very bad. He was most bothered by the fact that there were some candidates who started looking at the tenders as their business model. On the other hand, some teams thrilled him so much that he sees potential for rapid growth in them to the point where they will be able to talk to him about a new investment round of venture capital.
Andraž Grahek, leading partner in Capital Genetics, joined the DEMO day on Thursday and assessed candidates for SK75. Our startup mentor, who is more known by the business public as a financial analyst and asset manager for investment funds, also answered the question of how startup most convince him or drive him away, saying that for him, mostly achieving milestones and economic indicators are key.
When talking to investors, visualization of success is also important, meaning that teams know what they want and how they will get to it in as much detail as possible, thinks Andraž Grahek, who detected a couple of very interesting teams amongst this year’s SK75 candidates, which we should keep an eye on in the future.
Startup mentor Andrej Muževič and business angel and mentor Matjaž Krč shared their view on how to convince or repel an investor, what are the chronic problems of Slovenian early stage startups contending for an investment, and what is the quality of the ideas and teams of autumn SK candidates.
Muževič warned that investors are definitely deterred by teams who are infatuated with ideas that they haven’t even tested or validated on the market yet. Meanwhile he sees a couple of brutally good ideas amongst this year’s autumn SK candidates, and thinks that they could truly be disruptive in their fields and have a good chance of exploiting the Slovene Enterprise Fund’s investment for international breakthrough. The entire statement from Andrej Muževič after his assessment at Friday’s SK200 DEMO Day can be found here.
According to Matjaž Krč, a lot of startup teams that are in early development stages and are contending for an investment have a problem that they don’t make a thorough effort to find the “woooow” effect of their product. As an example, he names the famous sweet, the Raffaello praline, which was invented by a cook who spent 20 years before that doing other things, not inventing white fluffy dessert hits. The entire statement from Matjaž Krč after his assessment of SK75 candidates can be found here.
Matej Golob, ambassador of lean startup entrepreneurship from 30Lean, didn’t participate at DEMO days as an evaluator, but he did help SK75 and SK200 candidates perfect their performances and pitches at both dress rehearsals for DEMO day. As an experienced mentor who has been collaborating with us since the first generation of SK startups, he has discovered, much to his and our great satisfaction, that the planned transition of early stage startups between products P2, SK75 and SK200 actually truly works!
As one of the reasons why many startups today transition from P2 to SK75 and from SK75 to SK200, successfully achieve market milestones and get additional private investments when doing so, Matej Golob states the fact that these programmes were set up like this from the beginning. At the same time, so many teams have participated in them by now that entrepreneurs can exchange experiences, and they see this as a natural, logical process.
Similar to Matej Golob, the main purpose of products P2, SK75 and SK200 and the logic of naturally transitioning between them was also confirmed by Rok Upelj, co-founder of ABCS SISTEM developing a device for automatically cancelling turn signals on the motorbike, and Boštjan Lipnik, CEO of the startup developing the web platform RibiskeKarte.si for buying e-permits for fishing.
As Rok Upelj said, if it weren’t for Slovene Enterprise Fund’s resources, the Smart Turn System team couldn’t have embarked on the business path, talk to investors today and think about global sales, because they are developing hardware which takes a lot more time and capital than developing applications does.
“P2 resources were entirely dedicated to development. The idea was at its very beginning, so we couldn’t have even started without these resources. Then we obtained the SK75 investment, with it we fully developed the product, certified it and entered the market with the remainder of the resources. We would dedicate the SK200 investment exclusively to the expansion of global sales,” said Rok Upelj immediately after pitching at DEMO day for SK200.
According to Boštjan Lipnik, company Terra Nullius, developing the web platform RibiskeKarte.si, wouldn’t have survived the first two years without the P2 startup grant. And even though they first thought that they don’t need the SK75 investment, they quickly realized that they need additional fresh capital for expansion.
As pioneers in a narrow, but potentially very profitable niche, members of the team RibiskeKarte.si thrilled the evaluation committee. They are planning on using the investment SK75, for which they are contending, mostly to expand the team that would work on penetrating to Italy, Austria, Germany, Italy, Croatia and Serbia.
The entire pre-selection process for obtaining the SK investment, which includes pitch training at Demo day rehearsals, thorough work with mentors and gaining precious feedback, is something “truly needed by any startup selling their idea to anyone, be it the Slovene Enterprise Fund or a private investor”, says Gregor Štorman, CEO of a startup developing a device for moving planes in hangars. The entire statement from Gregor Šturman after pitching at DEMO Day can be found here.
Žiga Vesel, CEO of the startup developing the application Boomerang (which uses the concept of lottery to solve the problem of unnoticed ads), said that they found the entire pre-selection process truly great, because at the dress rehearsal for DEMO day mentors helped them change their entire pitch so that it was a lot more understandable than the previous one. The entire statement from Žiga Vesel after pitching at DEMO day can be found here.
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