Friday Funnies: Thought Leaders

 

Our Thoughts

Thoughts are very important. Leadership is very important. Thought leadership may be the most important development in thinking, or leadership, since before thought leadership.

In all seriousness, this video is a valuable teaching tool for StartupYard, and we use it to show startup founders that the elements of a convincing presentation are from a separate skill-set than a deep knowledge of what you’re actually doing.

Knowledge is never enough, but nailing the format is also never enough. Always, founders must compromise between what they know, and the things they need to do to gain the trust of others. We call it “being clear,” rather than “being accurate.”

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017
Central Europe Accelerator

StartupYard Announces Second Fundlift Campaign for 2 Accelerator Rounds

Last year, we gave qualified investors the opportunity to invest in StartupYard Batch 7, via the Czech investment crowdfunding platform Fundlift, backed by Roklen. As you may know, the campaign was more successful than even we had hoped, and the subscription limit was met in a matter of days.  

Because our community has expressed such interest, we are very pleased to announce that StartupYard will again be doing a private placement via Fundlift to invest in StartupYard Batches 8 and 9 and potential follow-on funding for the best performing companies. This will be our first fund to cover more than one cohort of startups, and the focus of Batches 8 and 9 will be “Deep Tech.”

Here is the official announcement from Roklen

The New Fund and Focus

The fund will raise a minimum of 13m CZK, and will include investment capital for 14-20 startups, and a potential follow-on fund for both rounds, giving investors an opportunity to further leverage the first-mover advantage of investing in very early stage companies.

Deep Tech, in short, means technologies and products that are unique, difficult to replicate, or are exploring areas of innovation where the barrier to entry remains high, and the problems scientifically complex and difficult, such as Robots, AI, IoT, VR/AR, and Cryptography. StartupYard will seek to identify more early stage startups with a profile similar to such Deep Tech-focused alumni as Neuron Soundware, TeskaLabs, Cryptelo, or Rossum.

Up to 150 qualified investors will be able to take part in this non-public offer, and they will invest alongside a group of professional startup investors. The minimum ticket for this Fundlift campaign will be 25,000 CZK.

Where Does the Money Go?

Funds being raised will be invested directly in 14-20 startups, in two rounds of acceleration. Each team will receive a direct investment of 30,000 Euros (half at the midpoint of the program, and half at the end), and the best performers may be considered for follow-on financing, either in cooperation with outside investors, or in-house.

Investors will own a proportional stake in each of the startups selected and accelerated for this round. StartupYard’s total stake in individual startups ranges from 5-10%, or higher, in case of a follow-on investment. 

Why Not Invest Directly In Startups?

Of course, we want those interested and able to invest in early-stage startups to consider investing in any of our portfolio companies (present and future) directly. That should go without saying. If you want to invest in individual startups, you should do so, and we are happy to help you in that process.

At the same time, there are barriers to entry in angel investing that many with an appetite for investment find too cumbersome. Legal knowledge of investment, assuring transparency, and vetting startups is a challenge for any small scale investor. What’s more, startups who are worthy of investment often are selective of early investors, looking only for those with experience and a track record in angel investing. We advise startups to protect themselves in this process, by working with investors who are proven and recommended by others.

More and more, accelerators like StartupYard bridge these gaps: connecting qualified and trusted investors with equally qualified and trustworthy startups. An accelerator also spreads an investor’s risk to a selection of startups in several verticals, keeping their investments diverse.

You can see this as an opportunity to build your brand among startups as a potential investor; someone who is willing to invest, and has shown their capacity to take appropriate risks in order to do so. Angel investing isn’t for everyone, but it can be for more people. This can be seen as a manageable first step.

This is a way of getting started. You shouldn’t expect to get rich quick as an angel investor, nor can you count on getting anything back, but investing through StartupYard can provide assurance that your investment is used appropriately, and that it has the best likelihood of success. We also ensure that startups follow industry best practices in legal and finance, and larger institutional investors, including VCs like Credo Ventures and Rockaway Capital, are also invested in the outcome of our decisions. In short, StartupYard can provide some protections against the pitfalls of angel investing that many are already familiar with.

There would be no StartupYard without investors willing to take risks. While we offer enormous value to angel investors who pick individual companies from our portfolio to invest in, that portfolio would not exist, if we did not have our own committed investors supplying initial funds. An accelerator needs funding- just as a fire needs oxygen. In order to accelerate, or to expand our services to startups, we have to have funding in place.

How to Invest?

Fundlift is not a donation platform like Kickstarter. It is an investment platform and you will be investing using Roklen as a licensed securities broker. In order to invest, a person must meet some legal requirements, including a full anti-money laundering process which is part of EU regulations.

Prospective investors should apply to open a brokerage account through Fundlift, and follow a verification process on the platform before being allowed to invest. It may sound daunting, but it is worthwhile. Once you become an investor, your investments will be duly recorded on your account and Roklen will administer all payments, change of ownership and key reporting until such time when we exit all investments and return money and profits to you, our investors.

If you are interested in the offering, please send an email to info@fundlift.cz . More info is available directly from Fundlift

Blockchain, StartupYard,

Blockchain Founders Need StartupYard: SY Alum Dite Gashi

Dite Gashi is the founder and CEO of Decissio, the blockchain powered investment management and smart-contracts platform that was accelerated at StartupYard this year. Dite has called Decissio the “Jarvis” of investment decision making. The company is working to build a data platform that helps venture investors and professional portfolio managers to actively manage their investments, based on blockchain verified and real-time data.

Dite has been a leading voice in the blockchain movement for years, and represented the first startup at StartupYard to focus on the technology. I caught up with Dite this week to talk about the future of Blockchain, and why startups in the space need accelerators like StartupYard now more than ever. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Dite, you’ve been working with Blockchain technology for almost as long as it has been around. Tell us how you got into Blockchain, and why it still fascinates you.

Decissio, StartupYard

Dite Gashi, left, participating in StartupYard’s voice training workshop

Blockchain has been an obsession of mine from when it came out as a research paper, all the way up to Bitcoin and Ethereum. My background is in computer science, business management and economics. This knowledge base, fueled by curiosity, allowed me to dive deeper into blockchain concepts first and then into their applications in the world of business quicker than the mainstream world, which to this day I believe has a superficial understanding of blockchain as an innovation.

What doesn’t the mainstream business world understand about Blockchain?

Most of the mainstream business world seems to be in a state of needing to get a piece of the action when it comes to this technology. I’ve literally heard phrases like – we are talking to you because our CEO said “we need blockchain.”

Why 'we need Blockchain' isn't a good reason to work with most Blockchain #startups - Dite Gashi… Click To Tweet

The fear of missing out is big. I’d go as far as to say that’s the money that keeps most blockchain startups running. Wanting to be part of the new revolution is totally fine, however the way that they go about it tends to be sub-optimal. Investors sometimes invest in shady schemes and promising ICO’s (Initial Coin Offering) without proper tech due diligence and auditing, just to find out a few months down the line that the tokens they got are suddenly worthless.

I think the greatest misconception lies in not understanding the basic utility that blockchain provides, which in most cases boils down to somehow cutting out the middle man. Only after understanding it, can you think of an investment opportunity through the filter of whether a blockchain application would be the best for that particular purpose. There are many applications out there who would do fine without blockchain.

You attended StartupYard as part of Batch 7 earlier this year. What do you think that other founders with Blockchain ideas can get out of StartupYard?

Having been present in the blockchain sphere for a while I can attest that most blockchain people tend to be technologically inclined, or as the world likes to call them, nerds. They have strong technical skills that they apply or a great ability to understand and aim to solve important problems. I believe that is great for building technology blocks, innovating and bringing about thought provoking questions of alternate models of functioning.

Where the blockchain community does fall short though is the ability to reach out to people. I believe blockchain founders can learn about marketing, how to sell and how to communicate with masses. They can better refine their offerings to match the needs of the market – something that many startups miss.

Right now we are seeing a sort of valley between the promise of Blockchain innovation and the realities. Right now, the technology is too geeky and complex for ordinary people to use, and too fringy and speculative for corporations to really get behind it. A team I put together last month took 2nd place in the KB Fintech Hackathon in Prague, working on a blockchain contract verification system, so it’s obvious that banks are starting to see real potential in the technology.

Still, we are in the very early days, and blockchain founders are going to need a lot of exposure to the perceptions and expectations of existing industries, in order to come up with solutions that have a chance of being adopted widely. StartupYard is an ideal environment for a really speculative technology to come face to face with the hard reality of the market. I think Decissio is a perfect example of that: all the traction we’ve gained has been thanks to the feedback we got directly from potential customers at StartupYard.

What do you see as the biggest barriers for Blockchain founders right now?

Probably more than any area in tech in recent history, blockchain does have a credibility problem. A big part of that has been the ongoing saga of Bitcoin, which has unfortunately attracted a lot of negative attention. Rightly so, I think, because Bitcoin brought some of the worst elements to the blockchain community, and became an attractor for the get-rich-quick schemers and for cyber-criminals and extreme political ideologues.

Actually this is nothing new: the internet itself did basically the same thing in the 1990s especially, and it suffered its own credibility gap, until serious, in-depth businesses started to make the web safer and more usable for regular people and business. Any really disruptive area of technology has this cycle built in. Now we need serious, sober thinkers to apply themselves to making blockchain useful in real life, and not just in fringe communities. That is a blocker for good people to take Blockchain technology seriously, and a blocker for them to pitch new blockchain ideas in the business and consumer worlds.

This is also a reason why I see StartupYard as a great platform for serious Blockchain innovators. Working with an accelerator like StartupYard brings much needed credibility to ideas that many would-be customers and partners might not take seriously. But with StartupYard, you have a chance to be heard by the right people, and given a chance to convince them you’re doing something interesting.

What was your biggest surprise attending StartupYard? What were you not expecting to change?

The biggest shock for me was to figure out how mainstream customers (in my case, investors) think in relation to products and services they purchase. We tend to turn it into a complex equation, however it boils down to really simple factors when facing a buying decision.

'At Sy I learned that mainstream customers don't buy technology. They buy solutions.' -Dite Gashi Click To Tweet

I believed that I could relate to customers and if we had a great technological products sales would soar. That is the case sometimes, however if you can’t really explain how it relates to people you are selling to, the product is a lost cause. I thought I was good at that, but being faced with mentors, customers and advisors it is obvious that I had a lot of catching up to do – which has lead to tremendous growth of knowledge on my end.

What do you think are the biggest weaknesses in the Blockchain community, when it comes to turning new ideas into businesses?

Blockchain is a maturing technology that has tremendous potential. I like to make comparisons with the early days of cloud computing – companies like Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, Azure capitalized on new technology breakthroughs, and built great products. Blockchain has the potential to be as transformative as cloud computing in the near future.

When you really look at it, Blockchain can form the backbone for a whole new way of looking at the web. There are really not many areas of commerce or government, or even interpersonal relationships, that Blockchain won’t touch. Imagine things like credit card fraud or political corruption being impossible, because at every level, monetary transactions and activities can be audited by powerful AIs. Imagine democratic processes that are un-hackable, or messaging systems that are impossible to hack into. Scary ideas for some people, I’m sure, but an amazing vision of the future for most of us.

The internet has created unprecedented prosperity, but also unprecedented opportunities for fraud and abuse. Blockchain technology, or something very much like it, may be the answer as to how we move forward into a trust based society, where everyone has really powerful tools for protecting themselves and being treated fairly.

'Blockchain is like cloud-computing. It can change everything.' - Dite Gashi on #Blockchain… Click To Tweet

I believe there are many disruptive blockchain applications and companies waiting to be built by ambitious founders. The weaknesses that community faces is monetization. Many blockchain ideas sound good on paper, however for an idea to work and thrive it has to benefit all stakeholders involved, including founders and investors. With the cloud, there was also a learning curve around how it would be monetized: there was uncertainty about where the defensible value of new products was, be it in hardware or software. Blockchain has the same issue, only more so: it is about distribution and de-centralization, which makes it more complicated to create a business model around it.

It doesn’t help that blockchain people seem to be a part of a bubble and are often isolated from actual customer needs. Disruptive technology needs to have people behind it that really understand the customers whose industries they are disrupting. As became very clear to me working with the mentors at StartupYard, just because we see ourselves as creating new technologies, doesn’t actually mean that customers see us that way: people rarely buy technologies, they buy solutions to their problems, in whatever form that takes.

What would you say to a Blockchain startup founder who is thinking about applying to StartupYard?

Having blockchain experience I receive loads of requests for consultation ranging from technology architecture to cryptocurrency trading. It has led me to grow a bit reluctant to provide strong advice, just because the field is changing so often and I would like to be accurate with my proposals.

However in the case of StartupYard I am 100% convinced that it would benefit a blockchain founder tremendously. Trust me on this one, do it and then thank me later.

While at StartupYard I would encourage them to go in with an open mind towards receiving all sorts of feedback and then incorporate what they believe applies to them. In the same time be ready to handle the frustration of “people not getting it”. Just because you have been breathing, living and working blockchain it does not mean the rest of the world stopped. People have their own jobs and industries they work in. Focus on learning as much as you can and apply the lessons to refine your product. Good luck!

You can now apply for StartupYard Batch #8.

  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • VR/AR
  • IoT
  • Cryptography
  • Blockchain
Applications Open: Now
Applications Close: June 30th, 2017
Program starts: September 4th, 2017
Program ends: December 1st, 2017

StartupYard will be at Startup Safary Budapest: April 20-21

We’re pleased to announce that StartupYard will take part in Startup Safary Budapest, April 20th and 21st, 2017.

What is Startup Safary?

Budapest turns into a startup exhibition for 2 days

For two days only, most of the tech community of Budapest opens its doors, and takes part in a broad series of meetups at dozens of locations around the city. This year, an estimate 3-5,000 people will participate.
As an attendee, you can register online and pick from the program sessions you want to attend. This way, you create your personal schedule, which you will follow during the event, traveling around the city and visiting various offices.

 

StartupYard Events

From Genius Idea to a Global Business: creating AI startups from Scratch

20/04/2017 17:30 – 18:00 – thehub.hu, 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 65.

21/04/2017 TBA Mosaik, 1136 Budapest, Pannónia utca 32.

StartupYard helps technically sophisticated developers and makers turn their ideas into real, growing businesses. In recent years, we have helped launch a series of high tech startups including TeskaLabs, Neuron Soundware, Cryptelo, and Rossum.ai. Find out how these startups went from a brilliant idea, to companies serving clients all over the world with cutting edge technologies.

 

Office Hours with StartupYard

20.04.2017: 13:00 – 16:00 – thehub.hu, 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 65 

21.04.2017: TBA – Mosaik, 1136 Budapest, Pannónia utca 32.

This is your chance to meet the management team of Central Europe’s leading seed accelerator for tech startups, and find out how we can help you turn your experience and knowledge of AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Blockchain, or Cryptology into a globally scaleable business. Come to find out about our program, pitch us an idea, or make a connection.

How do I meet the StartupYard team in Budapest?

There will be a few opportunities. First, we warmly invite you to join our workshops at TheHub and Mosaik, where you can hear about real-life examples of startups that have been through our program, and what they have accomplished as a result.

You can also sign up for our office hours. Because this event is happening under the umbrella of Startup Safary, you should sign up directly on their platform, and you will need to purchase a ticket on their website (tickets are just 8 Euros, and go toward organizing the events).

We will update this post when we have times for our appearances at Mosaic on April 21st.

We look forward to seeing you!