‘Powwow’ for SBC Mentors as Startups Eye Selection

By David Knight |

This is the mentor wall at Startupbootcamp’s new office in Kreuzberg, an impressive who’s who of the tech scene in Berlin and beyond – Andreas Ehn, Eric Wahlforss, Stefan Glaenzer, Christian Weiss, Edial Dekker… the list goes on and on.

And as this eclectic group gathers tonight for what SBC co-founder Alex Farcet calls a “powwow,” startups around the world will be feverishly working on their applications, with June 17 the deadline for entries. With Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Dublin already under its belt, SBC is bringing its brand of straight-up accelerator to the German capital.

Startupbootcamp is a three-month program where ten international teams are selected and given a year’s worth of knowledge and connectivity before taking part in a special investor demo day.

Initially, Alex wanted to find someone in Berlin who was already interested in setting up such a project and partner with them, much as in Ireland and the Netherlands. But he was so keen on the city that when no such person was forthcoming, he relocated personally to kick start the program.

He told Silicon Allee: “Berlin is so attractive, there is so much going on and it’s such a talent magnet, that I thought we have to be here and I want to be the first pure accelerator here. So I jumped off the cliff in mid-March and said we’re going to relocate. Here we are two months later with an amazing set of mentors, and we’re still fundraising but the first program will run in September.”

The selection process is lengthy, at least when you’re talking startup timescales – applicants fill out the entry form, and then Alex and his Berlin COO Wilken Bruns, together with some mentors and investors, reduce the competition to around 50. Then there is a round of Skype interviews to knock that down to 20 who are invited to Berlin for a two-day mini-bootcamp in August.

At the conclusion to those selection days, the final ten are picked for the program starting in September. But is Alex worried that the cream of the crop will find alternative funding and assistance in the meantime?

“It has happened,” he added. “We’ve had teams that said, we want to come but we have already found angel investors. Things move quickly. If they are just looking for an angel investment, they can go and do that. But there is a lot more to startup bootcamp than just an angel investment.”

And that’s where the value of the mentors comes in. Alex calls them his “secret sauce”, and most are serial entrepreneurs who want to give something back. Another draw for them is networking with each other – hence Tuesday’s powow!

So how can startups improve their chances of being picked? The program is aimed at early stage projects, idea stage or early revenue, usually with a team of two to four people. Above all, the quality of those involved is more important that what they are planning, as Alex revealed: “If we are impressed by the people, we may even take a team with an idea we don’t like because we know the mentors will get to work… In the first program in Copenhagen, we had a team that got beat up for two weeks; everybody hated their idea. They dropped it and felt really bad about it. But I told them it was awesome news – they had have just saved everybody a year’s worth of effort.”

The team had another idea up their sleeves – one that eventually became Webcrumbz.

“We look for human qualities. They have to be personally impressive, smart. I don’t care about a diploma or whatever, I want people who have achieved things, but who seem coachable – if you’re a dry sponge and you soak it all up, you’ll get a lot out.”

The promise of the big investors’ event at the end will definitely seem enticing – the first program attracted 70 investors, the second 200, and Alex predicted the first Berlin edition will be “crazy”.

Starting from today, there’s a new way to book your startup’s place in the final 20 with the Wildcard competition – details here – while lindenpartners has been confirmed as the latest addition to the Startupbootcamp Berlin team, providing legal advice and support for teams in the program.