Last weekend of September marked the first-ever Startup Wise Guys CEO Getaway – a three-day event hosted by Campus Madrid and organized by B2B accelerator Startup Wise Guys, in collaboration with EIT Digital and Microsoft. The event gathered founders from Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Armenia, Russia, and Ukraine, who met with business angels, small VC funds and corporates from Spain and other European countries.
The goal of the event was to foster collaboration between the graduates of Startup Wise Guys accelerator, whilst bridging the gap between CEE and Western Europe, and between startup and corporate worlds that sometimes seem miles apart, but which can benefit from each other greatly.
One of EIT Digital’s roles is to bring together different worlds - particularly the research, education, corporate and startup worlds. By enhancing dialogue and the sharing of knowledge and experiences, innovation ecosystems can grow faster and interconnect at the European level.
Along with networking and experience exchange sessions, startups and guests were exposed to five world class keynote speakers talking about scaling, artificial intelligence, collaboration between startups and corporations, preparing for exit and learning from failures.
“When scaling up, startups face various challenges: for example, recruiting people with the right skills, selling to large companies and attracting appropriate growth capital. While corporations are mostly seen as oppositional to startups, they actually can help startups dealing with these challenges. And likewise, more and more corporations recognize that they need scale-ups to have corporate innovation going,” comments Carlos Rubal from EIT Digital.
“Being first in a lot of things is not good. Make somebody else go first and make all the mistakes. And then learn from that. Entrepreneurs of today are so blessed with ecosystems that support them, wasn’t like that in my days,” Alpesh Patel, author of book « TESTED », which shares his bumpy ride building Africa’s first tech startup and challenging status quo.
“In AI (artificial intelligence) we are moving from narrow intelligence to general intelligence – from machines doing only one thing to abstract thinking. You have to realize that there are plenty of startups saying they do AI. So in what way are you different from the crowd,” Inma Martinez, AI expert, challenging the founders.
“A lot of startups nowadays are not created because founders are particularly interested in disrupting a defined industry, but rather because they have had bad experiences and see how things can be done in an entirely different way. So for corporations apart from direct competitors and disruptors, there is also a whole area of experiential competitors that create products or services across industries like Apple, airbnb, Uber,” says Luis Villa del Campo from FJORD.
During peer-to-peer exchange sessions, many deep and challenging questions unfolded. Most founders said that sharing their “pain” and helping others during this event was the greatest takeaway, because the founder and CEO journey is often quite a lonely road.