EIT Digital, Mind the Bridge and Startup Europe are co-organising the 2017 edition of Startup Europe comes to Silicon Valley (SEC2SV) - the premier programme for future European startup unicorns to engage with key US industry players. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the successes of scaleups that participated in previous years.
Belgian scaleup Awingu develops software to simplify enterprise mobility and liberate legacy applications. Even though this European headquartered company already had affiliate offices in San Francisco and New York, they were surprised just how much they benefited from attending SEC2SV 2016 last year.
In 2016, Awingu was already a mature scaleup active in around 13 countries. Their offering was well established - a software product that can empower mobile workforces. Their system aggregates all company files and applications to one secure online workspace that can be accessed from any device. They can mobilise all company applications without disrupting a company’s IT system and their product works with all cloud services. And because company IT assets remain centrally secure, no data footprint is ever left behind - which provides a safe environment for companies to implement bring your own device schemes.
So, what made a company like Awingu, that was clearly going places, apply for SEC2SV? As their CEO Walter Van Uytven explains, it seemed like a good fit:
"We saw this as an opportunity which chimed perfectly with our international approach and a chance to network and improve our reach and credibility in one of the best hotspots for innovation globally. That’s why we put our hat in the ring. I think given where we were as a business, we matched the SEC2SV criteria pretty well - I’m glad the organisers agreed!"
During the week-long event, Awingu and the other participants were kept busy, at first Mr Van Uytven wondered about committing so much time to one event:
"Like any entrepreneur your time is a precious and scarce commodity, but this event was worth investing in. You spend a week immersed in the ‘Silicon Valley spirit’ which you can’t get any other way apart from being there. And while it is a week-long commitment, every day is filled with significant learning - they make every day count so there’s a great return on your time investment."
And on the concrete benefits Mr Van Uytven is clear:
"As a direct result of our participation we were contacted by three or four really big US-based Venture Capital firms who wanted to have more in depth discussions. By the end of the year two of them came to us with concrete plans to join our next investment round.
"We also strengthened our relationships with other leading industry players, deepening our partnership with Microsoft in particular. In addition, we had conversations with local advisors including lawyers which could help inform our future growth plans.
"Above all though you get an insight into the way things are done in the US. One of the most helpful sessions for me was on how to pitch to a US audience. I’ve pitched hundreds of times before but I discovered that what works in Europe, doesn’t necessarily work in Silicon Valley. You need to get into the US mind-set - and adapt your European game. There’s no better way to do this than actually pitching over there. That experience and the practical tips and tricks we picked up were truly invaluable."
So, what advice would Awingu give to scaleups interested in applying? Mr Van Uytven is unequivocal:
"I’d say go for it - if you match the criteria and whether you want to grow by getting a foothold in the US or build on your presence there, you should apply. Being invited to join is an honour - the networking opportunities and insight you get from the other participants, both from the US and Europe are second to none. It’s time well spent."
There’s still time to apply for SEC2SV 2017. Get your applications in by May 31 - for more information see here.