The first TechCrunch Balkans meetup in Sofia begun with a loud whistle from Dilyan Dimitrov, founder of the Bulgarian accelerator Eleven, the host of this event. It was startup time! That is right, TechCrunch Balkans, organized by Netocratic, is being held throughout this week – we will have lectures, panels and the most important thing – pitches in front of John Biggs!
That is right, John Biggs, East Coast editor at TechCrunch, held a lecture at Eleven and listened to pitches from the local startups. The best one from last evening was Farmhopping, which won a table at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, while the second prize, a ticket to TC Disrupt, went to Sensika. Of course, every city will have a winner!
Word or two…
So, John Biggs messaged me that he wanted to make something in this region. And we did make something – times four. The idea behind these meetups is to further familiarize US market with Balkan startups and their potential.
Predrag Lesic, CEO at Domain.me, invited startups to join the .me family.
As a startup, you need to be online. And you will be online with your domain name. The value of .me is a call to action – you can send a direct message to the customers. Your name is the marketing message in the same time.
Cosmin Ochisor from hub:raum talked a bit more about this new innovation HUB from Deutsche Telekom, which focuses on startups related to mobile, technology and infrastructure.
Startups are all about ideas and focus. But, you need more than that – you need space, people, mentoring and money. Hub:raum lets you focus on what’s important. It offers a place, mentors and money. Also, it gives access to DT Group.
How to get attention?
John Biggs was pretty blunt. Nobody is paying attention to this area. That is why he told the startups how to escape from this black hole. By escaping, he means getting the media coverage.
He named three types of startup founder. First one is the Hard Core. He will kill and eat you. He has lots of friends in the valley. He works smarter, not harder, but lots of his ideas are ridiculous. Even though, hey get lots of funding. Then we have a Striver that won’t stop networking, is convinced of success, won’t pay developers, won’t pay anyone, and his idea is a permutation of something.
And there is you. But there is hope for you too! Biggs told us about his super-secret plan (which he tried to “sell” us for a few bitcoins).
I see poorly written pitches. That’s a big no-no. Find translators, get your stuff together! Also, there are a bunch of “do everything” founders. As well as ideas that have promise but a poorly.
But how to avoid that?
- Step 1 – Polish. Make sure everything is polished, even your front page. We need a working product that works really, really nice. User experience is one of the biggest things founders fail at, because they think that they are users. But they are not.
- Step 2 – Write your story. We see a lot of great startups that look terrible, because their story is terrible. The first two lines of their pitch need to be incredible.
- Step 3 – Figure out whom to tell it to – find the people that have an interest in your area.
- Step 4 – Find the next story to tell.
Success is a journey, not a destination. Even Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram – all of those projects are not done. If your assumption is once you get a million dollar or a post on TechCrunch, you’ll be a happy guy – you won’t. Think about the future, your 5, 10, 20 year plan. You can get out of the black hole. I’m here to assure you that there are people that care. Making the front page of TC is great, but getting in touch with people that care is more important.
Pitching, Bulgarian style!
One of the first startups that was presented is the same one that won the first prize – Farmhopping. It is an online place that connects small farms from all over the world with people who would like to provide their support and learn more about farm life. After that it was Imagga’s turn. It is a cloud platform that helps businesses and individuals organize their images in a fast and cost-effective way.
Number Picture is a data visualization startup that believes that the time or infografics is yet to come – it offers a beautiful graphical story telling. Voiceboard is a digital campus, space, where you save words that you can later pick up. Space or any projection screen will help you move ideas and words around.
Sensika is enabling actionable intelligence for the whole enterprise and improves enterprise productivity by delivering actionable insights to employees personal workspaces. StorPool develops software that allows companies to build data storage out of standard hardware. It replaces expensive specialized storage boxes while radically increasing performance, reliability and scalability. Playground energy is reinventing children’s playgrounds – they have a series of new toys for brand new type of playgrounds.
Of course, we could not do anything without our great partners – other than hub:raum (Deutsche Telekom) and .me, we need to thank to BlackBerry, Renault, Infobip and Celtra! Bulgaria was fun, but we have Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia ahead of us. And tonight we continue in Belgrade!