Bringing together the right investors with the right companies is an incredibly tricky business. That makes it all the more impressive, then, that the European Venture Market (EVM), which looks to do exactly that, has just marked its tenth birthday with its latest event in Berlin.
Part of Berlin Web Week, the EVM took place on May 6-7 at the Ludwig Erhard Haus. Organised by Markus Kuntze and Olaf Gantenbrink together with their team at Continua, the event attracted a full house with experts, investors, angels and 31 startups who were given the chance to pitch.
The opening keynote speech was delivered by Philipp Mißfelder, the foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, and he was followed by Stephanie Wear, the economic development director of Tenerife, speaking on behalf of Carlos Enrique Alonso Rodriguez, President of the Cablido of Tenerife – the Spanish island’s development agency Why Tenerife was one of EVM’s sponsors; check out more about them info here.
Following a few startup pitches, Christian Nagel of Earlybird gave an insightful speech explaining some of his past experience with the venture capital company, including how many of the expected returns in their portfolio had not been realised making it difficult for them to raise for their next fund. So, after a change in policy, Earlybird now only invests in companies who can provide a €200 million return on exit; practically in the range of €400-500 million in exit valuation – this is part of the challenge facing VCs operating in this market today.
‘Clash of innovation cultures’, meanwhile, was the title of a lighthearted keynote by Eran Davidson which provided some insights into the Israeli startup vs. the German startup, and focused on the similarities and differences between the two business cultures and traits. He highlighted how Germans practice over-feature and pursue perfection while Israelis follow a more practical approach of “if it’s good enough, launch it” and then improve it as they go along while it’s in the market.
He also elaborated about German business models which tend to call for slow upward revenue growth (which is usually accurate) compared to the Israeli extreme hockey stick pro-forma revenue models that are usually off the mark. The EVM conference again proved to be the perfect platform and conduit for startups, investors, angels, and the community of experts that cater to and surround this community.
Following the event, Silicon Allee caught up with Markus Kuntze to see where the EVM is heading in the next ten years.
SILICON ALLEE: How did this year’s EVM go?
MARKUS KUNTZE: It went very well. We were very happy – the people showed up, the presentations were generally very good.
SA: As you look back over the ten years of the EVM, how has it grown and developed?
MK: It has become more focused on specific areas. Before when we started out it was pretty much a stage for anybody who was looking for something, but within the last five years in particular we have become a lot more focused on different areas. This time in Berlin of course we looked at the ICT sector because of Berlin Web Week. But we have also done events for life sciences in Liechtenstein, and we are looking to do that again for a general industry or something. But we will always try to be focused.
SA: What do you feel the EVM has achieved?
MK: That’s a good question. We are always asking ourselves that. We can definitely say that we have presented more than a thousand companies and we have given them all a big networking stage where they can make contacts. The only problem that we have is that we cannot really keep track of everybody who was ever a participant. That would be a dream, if we could follow the outcome of all of these companies! But we can occasionally see things happen – maybe a few percent of participating companies have found funding directly through the event.
SA: What makes the EVM stand apart from other events?
MK: Somebody told me this – he had been to another conference previously, and when he came to us, he said he had had a really good time at that first event and that it was fun, the presentations were good, and that he had met two people he hadn’t known before, two new contacts. In the six or seven hours he had with us, he said, ‘I met many new people, because everybody here was somebody I didn’t know.’ He exchanged a lot of cards with investors and other companies, and said, ‘At the other conference I had a good time, but I could have had a barbecue in the park and I would also have met two new people and had a lot of fun.’
It was nice feedback for us, proof that we’re more focused and more business-oriented. We have a nice evening event where people gather for dinner, and there’s maybe a little music, mostly jazz. So it’s more conservative, and really oriented towards giving really early-stage companies the possibility to present for the first time, and companies who are more experienced or a little further ahead the ability to really get involved with investors. And that works.
SA: Looking ahead to the next ten years, what are your plans for the future?
MK: The next ten years, it will go really European and we will do it in different cities, plus we are planning to add an educational aspect. We will look to provide training for people, and probably create a second connected series of seminars that we will link to the EVM to make sure that our quality gets better and better and better.
With additional reporting by David Knight