You can start me up, angel

Business accelerator’s latest crop of startups practice the art of the investor pitch

Det Kongelige Teater’s art deco stage Stærekassen was the setting last week on Thursday for a different brand of theatrical drama: the live investor pitch. In this form of theatre, if the director and performers do their jobs well, the audience of investors throws cheques instead of roses.

The event was Investor Day 2011 – the second one held by Startup Bootcamp Copenhagen (SBC), a business accelerator started in 2010 and based at the Nokia campus in Sydhavn.

The smart, ambitious and young entrepreneurs (one was just 23) on Stærekassen’s stage last week came from around the world, but all had just spent three months in Copenhagen tweaking business plans, developing prototypes and sparring with experienced entrepreneurs. Finally, it was time to raise capital – starting with the investor pitch.

Briefix (Romania), a software solution that streamlines the design process for art studios and their clients; Trialbee (Sweden), a platform for aggregating participants for clinical trials to help fast-track new drug therapies to market; and BalconyTV (Ireland), a zany, live music production company that claims to be the MTV Unplugged of the internet generation, were just a few of the eleven startups pitched.

But as promising, inspiring, and entertaining as many of the presentations were – and there was plenty of applause to confirm that – the billion dollar question remained: could any be the next Skype, Google … or MTV? Could any, for that matter, ‘just’ be the next Podio? And would a few angels alight from the audience?

While it’s still uncertain whether the entrepreneurs’ pitches struck a chord with investors, ironically, the most lucrative business idea of all might be SBC itself. The accelerator has attracted hundreds of applications from around the globe from startups competing for a place in its business-creation bootcamp.

Startups that win spots in the programme give SBC eight percent equity in exchange for €12,000 in seed money, a temporary office space at Sydhavn, and a three-month crash course in entrepreneurship, including an intensive mentorship with experienced entrepreneurs and access to SBC’s international network. 

“I don’t think it’s possible to learn to be an entrepreneur, but Startup Bootcamp is all about the network and working with other startups,” Gerald Bäck, the chief technology officer of Archify, one of the standouts at SBC Investor Day 2011, said. Archify’s software solution lets you search for and retrieve information from all your social networking streams simultaneously.

Having created and sold other companies in his native Austria, Bäck was already an experienced entrepreneur when he entered Archify into SBC.

“All my previous companies were local, so we only had a network in Austria. Startup Bootcamp helped us build a European network,” Bäck said, explaining why he exchanged equity in Archify for a spot at the Copenhagen-based accelerator.  

Danish entrepreneur Sune Alstrup and his team have PhDs and have all poured years of research into the technology behind Eyeproof, a startup with an inexpensive, ready-for-market eye-tracking device and analytics software package that is targeted at the advertising and marketing crowd.

Despite the advanced stage of its technology and their deep network in Denmark, the Eyeproof team still felt that SBC offered them something they didn’t get from their grad programmes.

“Startup Bootcamp provided us with a great mentor team – the kind of people the universities don’t provide – successful entrepreneurs that know how to start, run and exit a company,” Alstrup said.

“The feedback we got during the last three months from the mentors helped us focus and refine our offerings to a level we never would have reached on our own, and I think we acquired some skills we need to succeed.” 

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