How SEEDSTARS channels investors toward the most interesting start-ups in Asia
On 29th May during Seedstars Ho Chi Minh, MimosaTEK won the Vietnamese round of Seedstars World and will represent the country at the Seedstars Summit in Switzerland in March 2017, to compete before an audience of over 1,000 attendees, and for up to USD 1 million in equity investment. The event took place this Sunday at DreamPlex, and seven shortlisted startups were invited to present their ideas in front of a jury panel. The winner, MimosaTEK, an integrated cloud platform that helps farmers monitor their crops, was selected as the “best startup in Vietnam” for its innovative solution for agriculture.
“We provide data, advice, and remote control for farm optimisation through sensor network, cloud platform and mobile application,” explains Nam Dang, CEO of MimosaTEK.
Nick Feneck, Associate at Seedstars Asia is traveling to 15 markets over the next nine months, scouting and evaluating the best seed-stage startups in the region. He was able to take a few minutes during the pre-competition workshop training to sit down with us and share his experience.
Why did you join SeedStars?
I joined Seedstars because I wanted to gain an insight into what is going on in emerging markets. I wanted to see a wide range of ecosystems. Asia’s is quite relevant for that, because it encompasses really mature [markets], like Singapore and South Korea, to developing ones like Myanmar and frontier markets such as Vietnam and Thailand. So you get this large spectrum and are able to see what makes each market unique and their varying levels of innovation.
Tell us about your experience traveling through Asia managing, promoting and hosting Seedstars World pitching competitions
There is a genuine sense of community in the start-up world. There is often this collaboration amongst partners, though more often than not they are battling a form of resistance to change from the wider culture and establishment mindset. These challenges often stem from trying to innovate in a working culture that remains quite conservative and where employees value stability over ground-breaking innovation.
In many western countries, as a start-up entrepreneur, you will often have access to organisations and support structures that are there to help you, to build you. [In a lot of emerging markets] there are more often than not tensions between new enterprise and established interests.
How do you adjust the pitching contests to fit each country’s context?
We are in constant dialogue with our local partners. Pairing with our local experts is critical to our success within these ecosystems. One of the main things that I always say is that we are not local experts. We are experts in startups, entrepreneurship and international business, so we bring that to the table, but we need to speak with our local partners and just have this really transparent conversation and say, right, What are the strengths of the ecosystem, the weaknesses and the opportunities. [Our partners] will say, pretty openly, that they need help with their pitch training, growth hacking or branding. Sometimes [the problems] are really universal, other times they are super granular, and it will just be things like, how to deal with accountancy for SMEs. It really is this wide selection, so when we get their requirements and needs, we then try to figure out who can best deliver the right solutions to them.
For three years now, Seedstars has built a network in over 50 countries to source innovative start-up investment opportunities. Seedstars is able to provide curated investment opportunities to business angel, institutional and corporate investors. What can an investor look forward to as a Seedstars partner and what types of investors work particularly well with your organisation?
There are two things, first of all we have strength in our network. We operate services of curated deal flow. If you are part of our investor network we give you weekly and monthly briefs depending on your requirements. We do that on anything of a specialist nature, such as EdTech or FinTech. We also have regular newsletters featuring startups relevant to your investment interests. Secondly, our global summit and our regional summit are great opportunities for investors to meet a lot of different startups in a lot of different sectors. Beforehand, we issue them briefs, and ask them who they want to meet and what kind of solutions they’re interested in. We also do this for startups and see how many points of intersect there can be. It gives visibility to startups but also to investors who probably don’t know what’s going on in specific emerging markets.
Start-ups from 54 emerging markets compete to win up to USD 500,000 in equity investment. What is the post-summit exit process for start-ups awarded equity investment?
We pair them up with the right mentors. We aren’t just a start-up competition, our strength is in our network. We give them training before the competition, and after the program [the start-ups] will be in touch with alumni, the investor network and with other players in the ecosystem, whether that’s VC’s, mentors or co-working spaces that give training. We make sure that these start-ups have the right expertise and guidance to execute their plan. For example, Giraffe, a mobile recruitment platform in South Africa was our winner last year. They’ve already cornered South Africa and they are looking to expand across Africa. This is something that is going to take off and we want to be there every step of the way.