Three lessons from the Seedstars Summit

Stefan Kyora

08.03.2016 11:30
Seedstars Summit

The Seedstars Summit last week rewarded the best start-ups from emerging countries. It was an occasion of energy and emotion, and an ideal opportunity to learn about start-ups in emerging countries.

The Seedstars Summit, held in Lausanne last Thursday, was an entrepreneurship forum for emerging markets. More than 55 start-ups from emerging tech hubs around the world competed for equity investment of up to $1 million. Six start-ups were awarded prizes and 800 people attended the event.

In the finalists’ pitches, in conversations with start-up founders from emerging countries and at the press conference after the event, three important lessons became apparent about conditions and recipes for start-up success that are relevant to Swiss entrepreneurs and Swiss supporters.

1. Ambitious founders pursue concerns that go beyond the success of their own company

The best example of this was the grand prize winner, Giraffe, from South Africa. Giraffe’s platform optimally matches recruiters and job candidates by guaranteeing a two-day turnaround on staffing requests, and automates scheduling and CVs in the interview process. Co-founder and head of product Shafin Anwarsha stressed that the goal of Giraffe is the fight against lack of work and prospects in emerging countries, and spoke with pride of the success it has already had in South Africa.

2. Not all successful start-ups are spin-offs from universities

At the press conference, the founders of the six winning companies described what they did before they established their start-ups. Surprisingly, given the Swiss norm, none came directly from a university. Several had worked for large companies, such as Apple and Intel, and others had previous experience in founding a company.

3. Switzerland provides an excellent framework for start-ups

At the press conference, the founders also described the difficulties they face. It became clear that Switzerland, with its stable political system, excellent infrastructure and its reputation as a high-tech country, provides a very good base for start-ups. The often cited lack of venture capital is even harder for young companies in emerging countries, and Switzerland has a business angel scene, with a large number of wealthy private investors, of which founders in eastern Europe, Africa and south-east Europe can only dream.

The six winning start-ups
In addition to the main prize for Giraffe, five other prizes were awarded. Tripmydream from Ukraine won the best travel start-up, with its online destination meta search that finds, analyses and dynamically packages flight and hotel offers. The company will receive investment of up to $500,000 from group and will be able to leverage the group’s invaluable know-how.

The audience was asked to choose their favourite start-up for the public vote award, which was presented by Vaud’s Minister of Economy and Sport, Philippe Leuba, and went to Slidebean from Costa Rica. Its web-based presentation platform lets users input their content into a template and then automatically formats it into a finished slide deck.

MapTasking from Panama won a $50,000 equity-free grant from Inmarsat and AP-SWISS, as the top space start-up for its field operation management platform. The prize for the most innovative start-up went to Eora 3D from Australia, for its 3D scanning and modelling powered by a smartphone. The top woman entrepreneur prize was awarded to OmniUp from Morocco, for its free wi-fi service in public places against geo-located video ads. The latter two prizes were given by Hublot, the official timekeeper of Seedstars Summit.

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Much interest in Swiss start-ups