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Where will you be 4YFN (4 Years From Now)?

Recently, I was talking with Aline Noizet about this year’s must-attend events and top of her list was 4YFN. 4YFN (4 Years From Now) is the innovation platform of MWC, enabling startups, investors, corporations and public institutions to discover, create and launch new ventures together.

So of course, we caught up with Pere Duran, 4YFN Event Series Director to get the inside scoop on next month’s conference.


4YFN Barcelona

European Innovation Calendar | European Accelerator Deadlines | European Digital Health Conferences

4YFN has been around for more than 4 years, What has changed since you started?

This is the 6th edition of 4YFN and this year will be our biggest and best show. Having started with just 2,300 delegates in 2014, we are now expecting to welcome more than 21,000 international attendees and more than 700 exhibitors this year! This is going to be the most international edition ever with attendees from 136 countries and startups from around the world, with a big representation of Asian and African startups.

This year we have also focused even more on the startups. We have built a lot of activities and one-to-one meetings around them. One-to-one meetings with corporates, investors, other startups, communities, and press help these companies commercialize their products, raise funds and shine. This process also helps the key attendees to easily discover the startups shaping the future.

Where do you see the event in 4YFN?

We are moving far beyond the flagship Barcelona event and establishing our presence in LA, Shanghai, and LATAM and we hope to add even more locations to the list. More than that, we are a year-round builder of the startup ecosystem and are branching out more into creativity and design.

What highlights can we expect this year?

As always, startups, startups, startups. We are a champion for innovators and they form the heart of everything that we do. This year we have also introduced the Corporate Innovation Area where major corporations can showcase their innovation programs and we now have a Talent Area where people can find new opportunities and employers can find new talent. For me, this year I am really excited about our speaker programme too. Magic Leap, Alibaba, Facebook, N26 – we are featuring the biggest startup successes around to challenge and excite our startup community.

What can you say about the Healthcare track? 

The Digital Health Summit co-organized with ECH Alliance is such an important part of what we are offering. Technologies like robotics and blockchain steal a lot of attention, but nothing is more important than health. It’s amazing that even the most marginal improvements in public health have the most far-reaching consequences for society. It’s for that reason that we are extremely proud to support healthcare technology, through our health-minded startups and with the Digital Health Summit.

How does 4YFN support Women in Tech?

We host an entire programme dedicated just to Women4Tech. This is an initiative that spans both MWC and 4YFN and we are committed to driving greater inclusion and diversity in technology from all walks of life. Women are under-represented in the technology community and we want to change that, not just for the benefit of meeting quotas but for the benefits delivered by real diversity! Check out our Female Founders panel on 25 February for an insight into the women changing the world, or the Women4Tech programme on 26 Feb across the agenda.

What advice would you offer a startup pitching?

Passion, energy, relatability, and SCALABILITY. You have such a short amount of time to capture the attention of investors and corporates – you have to enrapture them with your passion and energy. People like to connect with other humans, so being relatable helps a lot – that means bringing a sense of honesty and realness. That might hook them in, to begin with, but what investors are really looking for is scalability. You might catch their attention with some charisma, but you will only hook them with a real opportunity for growth.

What can investors expect?

Investors can mainly expect to find seed and Series A fund stage business opportunities that are just starting to hit the open market. These are companies that are in their initial growth stages looking for that chance to take their business to the next level. There are more than 700 exhibitors this year which means there are at least 700 live investment opportunities and, with some luck, a few unicorns in the rough!

How important is an EU wide tech community?

We bring startups from all over the world to Barcelona, from every continent. But being a big tech event in Europe, of course, we attract a huge number of startups from across the region. For us, it is hugely important because it is the community in which we (mainly) exist. We host pitch battles across European cities to find the best startups and bring them to Barcelona. We benefit from the attendance of European initiatives like Next Generation Internet and more. The EU ecosystem is one of the most robust in the world and we are very lucky to call it home!

What other events are you attending in 2019?

That’s easy. We will be going to 4YFN Shanghai on 26-28 June and 4YFN LA on 22-24 October!

What’s the best thing about a conference in Barcelona?

There are a few things. Firstly, Barcelona is the greatest city in the world! (I’m from Barcelona.) But seriously, Barcelona is the kind of place people want to come to, so it makes it an easy decision for attendees or exhibitors who might have second thoughts. But secondly, we have an amazing ecosystem in Barcelona that is more and more international. We have so many great startups here like Wallapop, Travelperk, Socialpoint, and Redpoints to mention a few and many, many tech companies moving operations here too.

Where will you be 4YFN (4 Years From Now)?

Seasoned Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur

I met Jonathan Bixby (Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor and Venture Capitalist) at the 2014 How to Web conference in Bucharest.  I was the moderator of the Angel Investing Track Powered by Angelsbootcamp..

Several months later, I walked into a bar in Varna, Bulgaria.  I can honestly say I had no expectations of running into anyone I knew, let alone that guy from Vancouver.  But none the less, there was Jonathan.

Seasoned Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur

Over the next two days, we both presented, juried a pitch contest and advised startups. Being an American, I am often accused of being a tad too direct.  Apparently, Canadians suffer from this as well.  Jonathan closed his presentation with – “You’re all gonna die, better make the best of it!” That was the act I had to follow.

Jonathan is an active angel investor, board member and advisor. Jonathan currently invests out of both Stanley Park Ventures and Oak Mason Investments.

A serial entrepreneur, Jonathan has a wealth of experience in starting and leading technology companies. Jonathan has exited two companies and raised the biggest angel round for a tech company in the history of Canada. Now Jonathan acts as a program manager for GrowLab, one of Canada’s top tech accelerators. What are the most important lessons Jonathan has learned during his career about angel investing? How can an angel make the most out of his investment? Jonathan tackles these question in our discussion at the How to Web Conference 2014 – Angel Investment Track Powered by Angelsbootcamp.

Jonathan is a founder and on the Board of Advisors of HIGHLINE.VC a VC backed Co-Venture Platform with programming in four cities (Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, New York) and powered by some of Canada’s best entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem partners. HIGHLINE is a merger of GrowLab and Extreme Startups. Jonathan was the Executive Director of GrowLab before merging with Extreme Startups.

Seasoned Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur

Below Jonathan shares his thoughts on angel investors, growing companies and being a dad.

Europe’s Emerging Startup Ecosystem

With some high-profile activity in Berlin – Delivery Hero’s unicorn status with $600 million of funding in 2015 alone and others – what does that mean for the European startup landscape? ​

Atomico (Niklas ​Z​ennström​’s fund) recently published an analysis of unicorns created between 2003 and 2013. There were over 150 unicorns but ‘only’ 50 or so came out of Silicon Valley.  Many came from Asia and several from Europe and other places. Silicon Valley is still the leader by far but the center of gravity is definitely moving and I think Europe has a card to play.  I’m definitely bullish on European entrepreneurs.​

Europe’s Emerging Startup Ecosystem

Recently we caught up with Startupbootcamp co-founder, Alex Farcet. And, if you know Alex – you’ll know that’s no easy task.  Alex will be joining us for Angelsbootcamp as a featured speaker.

What has been your biggest challenge with Startupbootcamp?

​Growing from one program in 2010 to ten today in 8 countries (and several more in the pipeline)​.

​whilst keeping quality high. We originally grew via an affiliation model which worked super well to go fast; however we’re now operating more and more of our own programs which allows us to build our own operating teams and further harmonize. We too are a startup and it’s a work in progress.​

What are you most proud of?

​I ran 5 Startupbootcamp programs myself between 2010 and 2014. After every program I got one or two personal notes saying “Startupbootcamp changed​ ​my life, thank you!”  There aren’t too many opportunities to directly impact people’s lives and that will get you out of bed every morning.​

What are the advantages of angels working with an accelerator?

​Qualified – and accelerated – deal flow. As a solo angel you can only meet so many startups and you have limited bandwidth in terms of supporting your investments.  To get down to ten selected teams each Startupbootcamp program will run 15 to 20 “Fast Track” events (one-day mentoring and networking events) in as many cities which allows us to meet hundreds of startups in various ecosystems. We also have scouting teams building lists of 1000+ startups per program and we’ll invite the most interesting ones to apply.  Finally, the startups that do get selected get the best possible start to their venture: access to 100+ mentors most of whom are serial entrepreneurs with a five to ten year jump in terms of experience; connections to global corporate partners (from Cisco to Airbus, MasterCard, Google, Paypal and many others); ​​and exposure to hundreds of investors at our world-class demo days.

How important are mentors?

​Mentors make the program what it is. They show their scars, share their wisdom and open up their networks.  Money is a commodity, there is plenty of it chasing a few good startups. One key connection to the right person, however, can be game changing for a startup.​

How are European Accelerators different from those in the US?

I don’t think they are, really. There’s more density and probably competition in the US but Europe already has north of 200 programs and more by some counts.  There are a number of EU funded programs and plenty of corporate programs. As with everything, quality and motivations vary. My best advice here is to connect with program alumni to hear directly about their experience.​

What’s your best advice for Demo Day?

​For startups: if you’re on (a Startupbootcamp) stage then you’re ready. Take a few moments to enjoy the achievement of getting here then get back on the horse, it’s going to be a long journey. For investors: hand out those business cards and meet the teams you were most impressed about-face to face once the excitement is over.

Would you want your son or daughter to be an entrepreneur?

Absolutely! ​To me it’s clear that the classic career is over. There are already over 23 million freelancers in Europe alone​. Another indicator is the explosion of co-working spaces and the $5B valuation of WeWork. It’s not only startups sitting there. Companies get formed and disbanded like movie crews. Instead of a script author, director and editor, you now may need an app developer, designer and business developer. You have a go a move on to the next project. We’ve seen several Startupbootcamp teams blow up only to get absorbed into other teams. Once you’ve had a taste of the freedom (and roller coaster adrenaline) it’s hard to go back. As for my kids, they’ve done plenty of hanging out at Startupbootcamp, they’ve seen demo days and met founders. I don’t need to tell them, they’ve seen it ;).

How many cities have you been in in the last six months?

Let’s see… off the top of my head: Copenhagen (where I live), Berlin, Paris, Miami, San Francisco, Istanbul, Amsterdam, ​London, Helsinki, Talinn, Stuttgart, Sevilla, Lisbon.

What can we expect next from your team?

We’re in it for the long run and our aim is to run the best global accelerator. ​More vertically focused programs in more global cities.​

​Really exploiting the incredible drive and inventiveness of all our programs and team. More partnerships with top global brands. ​And taking the lead as the most founder friendly program out there.

From – 10 Questions with Startupbootcamp’s Alex Farcet

How Techstars Evaluates Startups

Is your startup investible?

At the recent How to Web conference, I sat down with Jens Lapinski (Managing Director, Techstars Berlin) to talk startups and early investment strategies.  captured some of the highlights of our chat.

How Techstars Evaluates Startups

If you’re the founder of an early stage tech startup and you’re looking for funding, it’s important to understand the investors’ mindset first, as well as the criteria they take into consideration when evaluating early stage ideas. To help you set your expectations straight, we’ve discussed this at length with Jens Lapinski (Managing Director, Techstars Berlin) in a talk moderated by Mike Doherty (Program Director,Angelsbootcamp).

As Managing Director of TechStars, Jens is responsible for selecting startups for investment, while providing support for the Techstars Berlin program operations. On a yearly basis, he looks at around 3000 potential investments and ends up selecting 10 to 12 startups. Before joining Techstars, Jens was a partner at Forward Labs, a London-based startup studio focused on building profitable startups at high speed using lean startup principles. Jens talked about the key criteria he uses to identify promising investment opportunities and he presented the Techstars approach last November at How to Web Conference 2014 – Angel investment track.

So what should you do to make your startup an attractive investment?

Put the foundations right

“The vast majority of startups don’t get the foundations right: there’s no committed team, the founders have not worked together before, they are geographically distributed across different cities, they outsource technologies to somebody else, they don’t have the required skill set or experience, they haven’t really done their homework […] 80 to 90% of the deals I look at don’t make it exactly for these kind of reasons”, explained Jens.

It all comes down to the team

And in order to put this foundation right, it all comes down to the team. It’s true that the team is not enough, but it’s a deal breaker: investors would definitely talk to a very interesting team, as Jens points out, and will not take into consideration a team that cannot prove its execution capability and competitive edge.

“When you’re hiring people, you always look for two things: motivation & past accomplishments. People that have great accomplishments in the past prove their motivation and are more likely to keep going on the same line in the future. The same goes for startup founders”, explains Jens.

Know your customers

Once you’ve got the team and you’ve set the foundation right, it’s important to understand your customers.

“The first question I ask the teams is “Who are your customers”. If they have a precise answer to this question, than the probability to build a product that actually serves their need is higher”, says Jens.

Understand the market you’re operating on

Not only should you know the market your operating on (trends, competitors), but you should also convince the investor that there is a market for the specific product you’re building and that this market isn’t already overrun by dozen of competitors. And the situation may get tricky here: even if you may think that addressing a huge market is great news for you, this may scare investors off.

“If the market is very large, you will require boatloads of capital to address it and it’s highly questionable if you are going to make it.”, as Jens points out

As a result, he is looking for companies that can grow quickly enough without requiring lots of capital early on, and the really interesting ones are those that address a meaningful market (and not a huge one) that is expected to grow over time.

Choose your business model and the investor that’s right for it

There are three fundamental approaches you can use when choosing your business model: you can charge consumers directly, charge businesses directly, or develop an advertising monetization plan. There’s no wrong or right here, but you have to understand that investors generally have their business model of choice, and understanding their preferences will increase your chances of raising money. Jens, for example, is very comfortable investing in B2B companies, while he only looks at the B2C products that don’t require physical inventories, such as booking apps. And this varies from one investor to another.

Avoid using buzzwords

Let’s take a simple example: you’re a sharing economy business. That’s great, but what does this mean and what do you actually do? Contrary to your expectations, the buzzwords you use are not helping you, but shutting you down. Investors don’t like big words: they invest in you and your product, so you’d better make sure they understand from the start what are you working on.

Aim low / talk low

“If you want to raise 1 million, say you’d like 500k. That’s because if you only manage to raise 800k you can end up being a failure, or you can announce you’ve been oversubscribed and get anyone to believe that your company is hot”, he advises.

Go the angel route first

Last but not least, Jens recommends founders looking for money to try raising an angel round first, before approaching VCs.

“If you raise angel money and get really large, you will also become interesting for VCs and you will close the round faster than if you go the VC route first, now that you have the social proof from all the angels”, he concludes.

Curious to find out some more insights on the Techstars approach to selecting startups for investments? Than take a look at the “Evaluating early stage ideas”panel from How to Web Conference 2014 – Angel Investment Track

Watch the interview –

How Techstars Evaluates Startups



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