By: Paul Chen
With the 2013/2014 school year getting underway, so has the startup community. After a long summer recess, the students as well as their professional counterparts are back in town and ready for a long winter campaign to the next summer. Although winter is coming, Krakow is getting warmed up with entrepreneurial ideas and the development of those ideas into startups companies. One of the must attend events of the young season is the Google for Entrepreneurs Week – Speed Mentoring event. With similar events in over 100 cities world-wide, and about two years of organizational experience under its belt, Google for Entrepreneurs in Krakow welcomed its new batch of startup hopefuls last night in their office.
The event was organized along with a partnership with Innovation Nest, a Krakow-based accelerator. What we got were 15 startups and about 30 mentors. With a faculty to student ratio of 2:1, some schools can only dream about such stats. As with some events at Google, it was catered with wonderful sandwiches.
To kick things off, there was a pitching session where like many events like this, startup founders made their two minute pitch to the mentors. My top 5 pitches by startups not in any particular order were:
- Turbotranslations: fast online translation service
- Orbizer: Cloudbased tool for project management and CRM
- Zagrafikuj: Employee scheduling, time tracking, and payroll management system
- Neiberia : Creating a virtual market connecting people with local produce growers
- AlleRad: Auctions for medical services
I believe that these founders expressed their aim and explained their products in a concise and easy to understand way. I had a good feel for their products and services. As I made my rounds later and had a chat with the mentors they expressed some common concerns. They said that some of the pitches were a bit too abstract, especially those dealing with highly technical applications. Some mentors said that it was difficult to extract from the pitch what the product or service was. Some founders spent too much time on their CV and background information, and as a result, didn’t have time to talk about their product.
After the pitch session, comes the speed mentoring. So there were stations set up with mentors assigned to each station, and the founders are given approximately 20 minutes of mentoring at each station. The founders would move from station to station for a total number of three mentoring sessions. What I am really impressed by was the caliber of the mentors that the event was able to get. They included local Google staff members as well as one from London, Innovation Nest investors, incubator consultants, lawyers, external software professionals, management consultants, seasoned startups, and venture capital professionals. It was nice to see local startups who had some success sharing their experience with the young batch.
During the mentoring session, the startups were given a Paul Graham style interrogation and were given encouragement. The founders were coached on various aspects of their business including: technical issues, marketing, monetization, supply, funding, and logistics. The takeaway that many startups was that they needed to think about marketing and “why should an investor give them money?”
After the mentoring, there was a networking session where I did some surveying of the mentors. They were happy and amazed with the variety in the types of enterprises on display. I am also happy that there are more startups than just ones dealing with IT products. There was a startup that made an actual pivot during the event. They decided to stop pursuing their current idea of a ride-sharing service to focus on a test prep app for college students in collaboration with one of the senior startup who is also one of the mentors. Google also showcased their Cloud Platform and a demonstration of their Chrome cast technology.
Here are my picks of the night: