55 companies from the UK and Germany gathered at the British Embassy in Berlin last week for the Connecting Digital Start Ups event. A partnership between CIKTN, UKTI Germany, the UK Science Innovation Network and Berlin industry network Medianet, the intention was to create positive connections for collaboration and commerce between the two countries.
Opened by the British Ambassador to Germany, Simon McDonald, the event highlighted the scale and opportunity of the European digital media marketplace and explored the experiences of some highly successful entrepreneurs.
Charles Nasser, CEO of Claranet, charted his journey from “games distribution” as a schoolboy to corporate CEO – and described himself as an “adventure capitalist”, an entrepreneur who supports other entrepreneurs financially and through involvement in their businesses. He was followed by Burckhardt Bonello, a serial entrepreneur whose pursuit of the “revolutionary and disruptive” has led him from organizing student events to control of businesses with a turnover in excess of €500M (and he’s still under 40).
Joined by Mark Mason of Mubaloo and Alex Piutti of Games Genetics, I then chaired a panel discussion to elicit advice and experiences which could be shared with the start ups in the audience. The entrepreneurs answered questions by highlighting their own journeys from initial idea to big business, providing a range of pointers: internationalise immediately, and look at Europe not US; customers are the best cashflow, VC’s are not always the route foward; hire the right people, don’t compromise. When asked to identify their biggest mistake the consensus seemed to be “missed opportunities”….
After lunch Olaf Jacobi of Target and Mark Adams of Pembridge gave highly distinctive and different presentations on the VC finance landscape – from Target’s result driven, high finance focus to Pembridge’s more approachable “Progress” early stage investment vehicle, now being launched across Europe. DailyDeals, a high growth Berlin based digital business then walked through their three rounds of financing in the past two years to provide a personal view.
The core of the event however was to connect businesses and throughout the day, and within a focused one-to-one session in the afternoon, purposeful and productive conversations were happening across the venue. The participants will be providing us with their comments and insight over the next few days – and I’ll share those with you.
Quick feedback from Julian McCrea of UK start up Portal Entertainment highlighted the value, “[I learned that] as a start up you can think globally, IF you have the networks in place in the market you are reaching. Events like this can make those introductions possible.”
I would in particular like to thank Miriam Ducke from UKTI Germany, Kenan Poleo from Science Innovation Network and Andrea Peters from Berlin Brandenburg Medianet.