10 October 2014

#UnConv14 Live Blog

Hello world! Unconvention started today! 3 days to celebrate innovation ahead of us! Stay tuned, read the the live blog and tweet up with #UnConv14!



12:00pm, Science 14 Atrium

We are very lucky to greet Luc de Brabandere, a Senior Consultant from @BCGinFrance here in Brussels today at #UnConv14. In his quest to understand how creativity and thinking interact, he returned to University at the age of 42 to take on Philosophy after a long career in coaching. “Creativity is my passion and I was lucky to make it my job at 42”, says former Mathematician Mr. Brabandere. From this session we can take away that although ideas exist, there is often something missing to launch a revolutionary idea like the iPod, Google… With Luc, we learn that the main thing in creative thinking is thinking! which is a constant movement between what’s in front of us and what is inside us. Once you understand where it comes you can make that creative leap that will lead you to the idea you’ve been looking for. When people say that you need to think outside the box, they should say that you need to find a NEW BOX! A new way to look at the same business which can then offer new ideas! Find a simplification of the world was not there before. TO BE INNOVATIVE!  

10:00am, Science 14 Atrium

  The Pitching competition to become the European Young Innovator of the Year 2014. The candidates 3sourcing, BLITAB, Bonsum, GroupEstate, Invoice House and Netberg did their best and it was fantastic.

  • 3 sourcing: a search engine for people.
  • Blitab: a unique hardware solution to address daily issues in front of blind and visually impaired people.
  • Bonsum: a holistic platform of sustainable products and services.
  • GroupEstate: online platform share property ownership.
  • Invoice House: a payment option to make life easier for online and mobile retailers.
  • Netberg: create, own and manage a network of business websites.

Now it’s time for the jury, Carlos Espinal, Jan Reichelt and Carlos Silva to decide the winner, difficult task!


5:00pm, Science 14 Atrium

Nicholas Zylberglajt introduced Carlos Silva from seeders and Jan Reichelt of Mendeley who explained us how to raise money for a startup.

Carlos Silva first introduced the basics. Every startup starts with bootstrapping. There are many changes now in the industry, angel investors are diversifying, crowdfunding is getting more and more popular. You should use close connections to raise the momentum and to show that you don’t start from the scratch.

Mendeley helps academics organize themselves better and cooperate. First we had a prototype developed by our own money and then we approached angel investor who decided to fund our project by 150 k EUR. How do you convince money to give you money? Don’t be greedy if you really believe that angel investor can help you. Finally, this angel investor helped us find one VC who became our lead investor. Jan specified that fundraising is a strategic process, you need to have a specific selling point for each investor and always plan one step ahead. It never stops.

3:30 pm, Science 14 Atrium

Konrad Lauten – Community Manager at Indiegogo is here to tell us about crowdfunding. Indiegogo is an online patform which helps new projects be known and helps companies of every industry engage with the public. So what is crowdfunding? Why crowd fund and what are the benefits of crowdfunding campaigns? A general description for crowdfunding Konrad gave was: “the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.” Building a campaign via a platform like Indiegogo can help a start ups in many ways, especially if their project is based around a product. It can be useful to reduce the market risk, by testing the product first, validate the need for the product, gauge the demand, build a community, while building brand awareness. As products obviously need to be tested for features, customers, pricing, future offers and future products, such campaign can also serve such purposes.  Even campaigns who are not successful in terms of reaching their target amount of money, are still successful in terms of building a strong database of people interested in their venture.  This is without mentioning the amount of people you can attract towards you: distributors, investors, future customers or business partners… What we can take away from this session as moderator Nico Zylberglajt “You can have the best product but if you do not validate it with the crowd it can be useless!”

2:00 pm, Science 14 Atrium

Bjoern Herrmann made a fantastic startup on why startups fail. His company Compass provides contextual insight in your data identify why startups fail. It is specialized for small and medium enterprises. 7 signs of failure:

  1. Don’t work part time, these companies are less successful. Working full time is more likely to ensure growth.
  2. Don’t start a company alone. Perfrmances are higher and better if there are more people.
  3. Don’t start without a technical co-founder
  4. Do what you are good at. Companies that have more
  5. Pivot! You can change your business model. Almost all the successful companies have gone through pivots.
  6. Scale up but only after product fits market. Premature scale can be counter-productive
  7. Listen to customer and peers.

11.00 am, Science 14 Atrium

Neelie Kroes roundtable with female entrepreneurs Alexandra Roata, Calypso Harland, Eleftheria Zourou, Lucy Stonehill was much more than inspirational, definitely worth listening. One of Neelie’s last speeches as a Vice-President for Digital Agenda (European Comission) is now over. Oh boy, it was a fantastic opportunity for women to share their ideas about women entrepreneurship in Europe. Neelie had many messages for her successors on what needs to be done on the following 5 years in terms of entrepreneurship in Europe, she specially remarked the need to appoint digital champions to push startups. For her it’s all about communicating, involving and knocking on doors. This is a way to let politicians ask the number ones, these digital champions, what to do in the entrepreneurial field. She also pointed out that getting funds should become an easier process, without so much regulation.

Following Unconvention 2014 theme “It all starts with a change of mind in Europe. We don’t have just to accept, but to embrace failure” – Neelie Kroes

Time to move on, tune in for the next session on why startups fail, with Björn Lasse-Herrmann.

9:30 am, Science 14 Atrium

Startup Europe Roadshow Grand Finale


6.30 pm, Concert Noble, Opening Plenary

Read the full blog here.

4.30 pm, Concert Noble

It’s been an intensive session! Now that the Venture Panel with Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, Carlos Silva, Praveen Paranjothi and Kumardev Chatterjee has finished, what are the main ideas we can extract?

Mr. Gardner declared that Europe knows what to do to encourage entrepreneurship, the problem is that not all the knowledge is implemented. SMEs are the backbone to both US and EU economies. Europe has some successful big cases, but significant changes need to happen for companies like  Facebook or Google to be European. We have the opportunity and responsibility to push for the change that will drive innovation in the EU. Mr Gardner also pointed out that there are hundreds of millions of euros waiting to be invested and that this money just needs to be unleashed. Lot of this investors don’t know what to do with their money right now.

Carlos and Praveen said that for venture capitalists, in order to perform well, there needs to be startups with quality. Regulation that stimulates this quality is necessary to finish protecting monopolism. There’s an important number of sectors in Europe that should be disrupted. The key element in Europe is multiculturality what is an advantage in many cases, but also a disadvantage when it comes to regulation; there should be common policies for startups across all the EU countries to start, close and hire easily , basically to decrease the cost of starting and running a startup.

As Kumardev perfectly stated to conclude the session, in the end there is no way you are going to have a startup ecosystem without the money, but even with all the money in the world, passion for the project is extremely important.

2.00 pm, Science 14 Atrium

Back to the Unconvention Day 1 with “How to create innovation ecosystems?”

Our panel was diverse and International with a Brooklyn based digital marketer and entrepreneur Andre Zarick, current CEO and co-founder of Digital Dumbo who run a creative hub in the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Christopher Fogg, a chartered accountant who runs Connect London, a successful business incubator with has greatly contributed to the success of EYIF. Skye Robertson, Head of Startup Britain and Patrik Kovacs EYIF.

The problematic is clear, how to build innovation Eco-systems?

For Patric Gresko, “we need to show young people that innovation is not something that is done in a laboratory, it is about how you find new answers to the old questions.” Creating an atmosphere which promotes entrepreneurship is essential. Skye Robertson added “what I would like to see from the EU is sustainable funding, they are a lot of organisations that would like to help, but there is a gap for a lot of businesses…” In order to help start-ups such as hers grow up and to scale.

In order to create opportunities for as many start-ups as possible and make those businesses stronger from year one of trading, it is important to bring together those young entrepreneurs in an environment where they are able to exchange ideas, get advice from more experienced mentors, free training and have access to facilities their new business needs. A ‘hub’ such as Digital DUMBO is a perfect example of success.

Through a series of partnerships within the private sector, Andrew Zarick managed to get enough sponsorship to promote innovative events. These events produced an ecosystem that became fun but yet informative environment and enabled them to connect people, business, ideas and talents together.

Christopher Fogg mentioned: “Connectivity is the key to this success…and by measuring your incubator, by how many people run through it and successful businesses which grow out of it…you know you are on the right path”.

Stay tuned for our next session Venture Panel!

10.00 am, European Parliament

Wow! Way to start Unconvention, extremely interesting session “Policy makers and failure acceptance” with Björn-Lasse-Herrmann, David Zylberberg, Eleftheria Zourou and Pablo Zalba.

“Failure generates learning and learning generates success” –David. “If you are ready to make a huge disruption in the market, to be restless and believe in your idea, you are ready to be an entrepreneur.” – Eleftheria

Björn pointed out the difference between the Valley and EU when it comes to getting funds. For him it’s a matter of culture; while in the Valley there’s a culture of trust, Europe is very conservative in terms of privacy and policy, what interrupts the flow of making things happen.

Investors are more resilient to give money to companies that have faced failure before, when those are usually more successful than first starters. There is a necessity to change policies, to push for failure acceptance in Europe. More data-driven policy and simpler rules are needed in order to make failing cheaper, quicker and smaller.

Education was also on the table and it was pointed as one of the main reasons holding back entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe. Policy makers have to be aware of this need to adapt education to the 21st century.

Stay tuned, next session “How to build local innovation Eco-systems?” is coming up!