Simona Strimaityte summarises what she learned at the Startup Games in London.
“Cap ou pas cap?” Entrepreneurs instinctively accept such a challenge. For a reality check, hundreds of them came to compete at Startup Games at Hackney House during the last days of Summer in London, co-organisted by entrepreneur and networking guru Oli Barrett.
The diversity of entrepreneurs that came to Tech City made it difficult to generalise about participants in one industry or another. Some media start-ups aspire to geekery, though the winning companies are far away from the clouds and close to their markets.
Gold was received by advanced materials start-up Versarien from Gloucestershire; silver went to a Portuguese outdoor advertising start-up Tuizzi; bronze was picked up by British accessories producer MediaDevil.
Chief executive of winning start-up Versalien, Neill Ricketts, sought to highlight Britain’s tech nous: “This is a great story of team GB fighting back in technology battle. Versalien was a UK invention from a UK university, supported by the Technology Strategy Board, commercialised in the UK, invested in by a UK angel network and then helped by the UK to expose its technology to the world.
“We have been overwhelmed by the offers of support and interest since the games with some very big meetings over the next few weeks,” he said.
Winning companies were rated on outstanding growth potential, with Nick Berry – not the EastEnders actor – serving as chief judge.
There was no shortage of advice floating around. Judge Debu Purkayastha, principal of new business development at Google, shared his insights during the Startup Games. “Externally, focus on one thing: addressing a real user need with a great product.
“Internally, focus on one thing: creating a team which is fun and creating a culture which fosters innovation. One of the things that really struck me when I joined Google was how people interacted: you could reach out to anybody and they would help you immediately.”
At Google, says Purkayastha, “The really big stuff came out of really small teams. If you are going to do something really big, have a small team. It focuses, it concentrates. And as you get more mature, spend a lot of time maintaining that culture, because there is a reason why you’re successful, a reason that came from inside.”
Purkayastha says that Google never searches for products by geography. However, out of the 15 most successful start-ups in the games 10 were UK-based. Opinions were divided among the entrepreneurs about whether that is significant.
Jan Stasz, co-founder of Polish start-up ShowRoom, says he’s happy to continue developing his e-commerce platform for independent fashion and design brands in Poland and stay local.
Mindaugas Puniskis, co-founder and CEO of ResponSell, based in neighbouring Lithuania, creates a proposal management tool for small businesses, and is purely focusing on the UK market.
What was the Startup Games about? Simulation. You got £1 million to spend on an app, then circulate around other start-ups and in the hubbub of pitches pick the ones worth your investment and buy some shares. (Gold for the best pitching practice also went to Team GB.)
The games are now over, and it is time for the best and brightest to turn these simulations into reality. The Versalien team is on its way. “We have got through the first part of the third round of the regional growth fund where we hope to commercialise 15 of these new opportunities, employing up to 600 academics, engineers, technicians and apprentices.