“The best thing about the startup competition was no one from the jury fell asleep,” commented Christoph Sollich, the prominent Pitch Doctor from Berlin, who was also serving as MC of the DigitalK Startup Competition 2019, requiring, then forbidding the audience to applause. All in all, the competition was just another full of fun and awkward moments pitching event parallel to a big conference, where good startups are presenting great concepts and receive strange comments.
Except for two things. First, the pretty international panel of investors acting as jury and particularly interested in companies from CEE, and of course, networking with other VCs. And second, the size (around 2.5K attendees) and atmosphere that allows casual conversations and networking without having to use any apps. Indeed, DigitalK is the type of event, where well-known names from the global digital scene come to have some relaxed conversations because they know they are not going to be attacked by 18-year old founders.
Only fourteen carefully selected founders from seven counties were invited to entertain, impress and confuse a jury of investors including Founder Institute and Adeo Ressi, Volker Hirsch from Amadeus Capital, Max Postnikov from Baltic Sandbox, and Marvin Liao from 500startups in Silicon Valley.
We won’t bore you with a story of how it went and who said what. If you want to see who pitched, who evaluated and who won, click the links. Here are, however, some tricky moments pitchers might want to consider next time they prepare for such an audition.
Good to know
Don’t rely on networking apps. Come on, this is a pretty compact conference, and if no one ever said there would be an app, this means there’s no. We met a great example of someone who prepared well. Donatas Smailys from Unboxed.network did his homework, checked who’s there and arranged meetings with anyone he needed to know. Via LinkedIn. Keep on hustling, right Donatas?
Learn all those strange abbreviations that VCs use…finally. If you’ve reached the finals, and you are pitching on the big stage, chances are Marvin Liao from 500startups to feel forced to ask you what GMV is. It happened, the founder didn’t understand what was meant and didn’t make it much further. Use this:
Prepare for 5 words pitch. Often enough jury either doesn’t listen too carefully or you really miss the point. If at the end of your five-minute pitch someone says “what exactly do you do, I must have missed it somewhere” unpack the well-prepared super simple explanation.
Don’t blame it on the nationality. The fact that competition is in certain geography usually means most of the founders are from there. In this case – the half. As we received some feedback that all the finalists were Bulgarians, we decided to address this and ask organizer Stephane Gantchev. Here’s what he said: “In contrast to last year when a UK startup won, this time we just had very strong Bulgarian founders. In addition, the jury consisted of a variety of international investors who don’t really have the incentive to vote for Bulgarian founders, but for good founders,” he said. And true that we saw the calculations of the jury vote and it’s just a fact that the most votes went to Bulgarian startups. What is, however, surprising is the fact that the company with the most votes from the semifinals pitches didn’t won at the end of the day.
Last, but not least. Keep on hustling and see you next year!