Seedstars World (SSW) the global startup competition for emerging markets and fast-growing startup scenes brought its 2014 round to a successful close at the Seedstars World Final Event hosted by Lift, one of the biggest innovation and tech conferences in Europe. After travelling to 36 different cities to find the best global startups, the SSW team invited its regional winners to the final round to compete for an equity investment of up to $500k. Following the semi-finals which were held at EPFL, 10 startups were selected to compete and pitch, on the mainstage, in front of a crowd of 800+ participants and a jury panel at the Final event. The grand winner of the second edition of Seedstars World was Salarium from the Philippines, which offers payroll solutions for emerging markets.
Participants were also asked to pick their favorite startup for a Public Vote award presented by Republique et Canton de Geneve, which went to OkHi, from Nairobi, that created addresses via smart phone geolocalization. The School of Management Fribourg looked for startups that continuously pushed the envelope, and its prize for the “Most Innovative” startup was awarded by Director Rico Bal to Choji Bare from Nigeria’s Green Energy, which turned plastic waste into petrol.
Ten finalists were selected at the Seedstars World semifinals at the EPFL on February 3rd. In total, five of the ten startups came from Asia, consisting of Singapore’s 6Degrees, a self updating phone book, crowd sourcing concert organizer Krowdpop from Seoul, India’s Scandid app for geolocalized savings and discounts, Salarium, the Philippine payroll service, and Bangkok’s Washbox24, an automatized laundry service thanks to specialized lockers. The other finalists were Peruvian travel platform Busportal, Nairobi’s OkHi, the Brazilian hardware device Ploog, Yerevan learning management system Sololearn, and casual gaming studio The Other Guys from Argentina. The Seedstars World Semi-finalists will be up for funding via the Seedstars World Crowd Fund, which allows European investors to invest with a minimum of 100£. The fund is running via Seedrs, the first crowdfunding platform for funds in Europe (equity crowdfunding).
Before the semi-finals, the startups took part in an intensive bootcamp at the leading engineering school EPFL, which included pitch training and mentoring session that reexamined each startups business model and financial sustainability. Mentors included top entrepreneurs such as Chinaccelerator’s Todd Embley and Eventbrite’s Co-founder Renaud Visage, as well as representatives from leading tech companies like Cristina Riesen of Evernote, and Nicolas Bry, the SVP of Innovation at Orange Vallée. The bootcamp offered exclusive insights into the Lausanne area, which the State Department of the Vaud Canton has been transforming into one of the best European spots for startups over the last years. “The top ten were truly excellent finalists, but it wasn’t easy choosing from such a wealth of startups!” said Raphael Dana, jury member and CEO of business strategy consultancy Galixo.
The ten finalists pitched their startups in front of an international and prestigious jury including Serendipity Investments’ founder Jose Marin, Marco Corradino, founder of Bravofly Rumbo Group, Kinnevik’s Jessica Thorell, Techstars MD Jens Lapinski, Mountain Partners founder Dr. Cornelius Boersch, Johnny El Hachem, CEO of Edmond de Rothschild Private Equity, and Seedstars and Seedstars World co-founder Pierre-Alain Masson.
Grand Winner Judah Hirsch, was awarded the first Seedstars World trophy and was crowned the “Seedstars World Best Startup 2014” for their payroll SaaS solution, Judah Hirsch, CEO of Salarium, talked to us about winning the SSW trophy and what it means to him and his company. “Winning this is a huge boost of credibility for us, and the connections we established during the SSW Final Event alone will be very helpful for our further success and expansion plans. The win is especially meaningful to us because all of the entrepreneurs here showcased great ideas and impressive business models.”
The startup impressed the jury as it already gained considerable traction, with DHL as a signed customer. “Not only did their product prove to be highly scalable and innovative, it already has a huge traction on the global market” said Pierre-Alain Masson, Seedstars World jury member.
The Seedstars World Final Event also featured several sessions and workshops, which discussed trends in emerging markets and how to disrupt traditional industries. Temenos featured the session Is banking in the perfect storm of disruption? with financial service experts, such as Ingenico’s Mouna Fouillade. The evening offered an exclusive dinner in partnership with Edmond de Rothschild to further connections between the Seedstars World startups and business angels, VCs, HNWIs, and investors.
With its first two editions, Seedstars World has already built an impressive track record: Its first round of 20 startups raised USD 14 Mio and hired 150 new employees, after which 2014 expanded to 36 countries. For the 2015 tour, 50 cities will be visited throughout the year. More news on which cities are joining the Seedstars World roster will be available on the Seedstars World website in March. Also, running in parallel with the original startup competition, Seedstars World announces three tracks that focus on strategic industries that are transforming our day-to-day habits.
First, Seedstars World will partner with Bravofly Rumbo Group to launch a “Travel Track”, during which Seedstars World will organise local pitching events in a selection of 30 countries to find the best travel startups. Bravofly Rumbo Group will invest up to USD 500k in the winner of the competition and bring its knowledge and powerhouse to support this investment. This will bring the total amount of investment available for startups to USD 1 million. Seedstars World co-founder Pierre-Alain Masson stated that the added focus on the travel industry was a strategic move, as he believes that “the travel industry has always been innovative, first breaking online barriers and now moving into mobile commerce. With more than 1.1 billion people travelling out of their home country in 2014 alone (source: UN’s World Tourism Organization), there is a huge market potential and I believe that it is important for Bravofly Rumbo Group to stay close to the innovation and startup space, as it will be, of course, a driver for growth.”
Furthermore, Seedstars World is also adding specialized tracks for Social Entrepreneurship and Fintech. “Both financial services and technology as well as social entrepreneurship startups are innovating industries and ways we live and do business. In the social space, the creativity in bringing profitability and community impact is very impressive, especially in Africa.” said Alisee de Tonnac, CEO of Seedstars World. “And 2014’s USD 467 Billion in remittance flows to emerging countries (source: World Bank Forecast) alone make fintech a very attractive market to be involved in.”