Earlier this week we held the tongue-twisting, inaugural, bi-annual, multi-fund office hours, The Seed Stage: a joint effort by six of the best early-stage venture capital funds in the UK, and Wayra — Telefonica’s start-up accelerator.
Episode 1 — True — Playfair — Fuel — Ascension — JamJar — Wayra
Taos and I first discussed something like this a few months back. We decided there was no definitive place where founders could access a wide variety of early-stage investors in one place. Most of the big accelerators like Entrepreneur First and Techstars have demo days, where cohort companies get to pitch to investors but to reach that point, you have to commit to the whole programme.
We realised there was a gap in the market for a demo-day-like experience, without the accelerator.
By bringing together investors covering b2c, b2b, pre-seed, seed, software and hardware, we could create a platform where any founder can reach a suitable investor.
We had over 300 applications. For a first go, we think this is a great turnout. What’s fantastic is that it attracted exactly the sorts of founders we hoped it would: those who didn’t quite know where to get VC intros. There’s a widespread perception of exclusionary introduction policies within VC which makes founders think you have to know someone to get a meeting. While in my experience this isn’t usually true, perception is 90% of reality, so there’s logic to the belief. We were pleased to have founders come up to us and specifically say that they were grateful for how accessible it was.
Each fund was asked to choose four companies to meet on the day. Out of the 300 applications, 20 companies were selected to come in. There were four companies that were selected by more than one fund. I was quite surprised at how little our preferences overlapped but this is partly due to the varied stage/sector focus of the funds.
On reflection, we feel that 20 out of 300+ companies is too few for what we tout as an inclusivity-focussed initiative. A 1/15 chance of getting selected makes it exclusive, in fact, but we live and learn.
Based on that, we plan to change the format for the next event in six months time. We plan to invite more companies, more funds, and those companies will get to pitch for about three minutes each, in front of all the funds. Happily, this removes most of the scheduling headache too (thanks Taos for managing that this time).
We can’t wait to run The Seed Stage again. It’s going to be bigger, better, and more inclusive. As the platform becomes an institution, the startup ecosystem will point more and more founders towards The Seed Stage, which will, we hope, become THE place for startups to raise seed funding and seek advice.
To make sure you hear about The Seed Stage next time, join our mailing list where we’ll advertise it. It’s also full of other interesting things 🙂
If you have a UK-based, b2b software company that’s raising between £250k and £2.5m, please send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.