03 July 2015

From Policy to Investment and More: Unconvention Day 2&3

Days 2 & 3 of Unconvention represented an extremely diverse and informative schedule combining policy discussion with mentoring sessions and real-time VC investment, as EYIF travelled to both the Committee of the Regions, Co.Station and the BNP Auditorium for our grand finale.

On the second day our audience of young innovators got some great tips from experienced entrepreneurs, Jan Reichelt and Lionel de Somer, whilst just next door a select group were offered the opportunity to pitch for a panel of leading investors as they seek crucial funding to develop their business models. Not to mention an inspiring policy session including a keynote from John Biggs, Editor at Tech Crunch.

John Biggs opened the day at the Committee of the Regions by delivering his speech on ‘Escaping the Black Hole’. The key message was that there are plenty of good ideas which are executed badly. The top tip from the Tech Crunch expert: Always have to hand your deck, your executive summary, your 90 second pitch, your longer tale and your business plan (if you’re approaching investors at Westinghouse circa 1975).

Then moving to our policy session, there were encouraging signs that digital innovation in particular will not just be localised to the major European cities. President of the Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula provided us with a great deal of insight into how adapted and tailored regional innovation is being promoted by the European institutions. Central to this is a drive to promote ‘Chief Knowledge Officers’ for each region to encourage circulation and dissemination of knowledge. Watch this space!

A quick switch of location to Co.Station for the afternoon sessions, saw an interesting Euromentors session with patent expert, Johann Stan as well as Jan Reichelt and Lionel de Somer who joined us to share their experiences of growing and scaling their startups. What did we learn from these sessions? Dr. Stan provided some excellent practical advice in terms of intellectual property, explaining that, especially in the field of biotech and software, a patent significantly enhances your chances of VC investment by up to 20%.

After sharing their extensive experience with starting up Assisto and Mendeley Lionel de Somer and Jan Reichelt left us with some great advice. Lionel, whilst discussing the obstacles he faced when approaching traditional corporates, remarked “you don’t disrupt anything by asking for permission”. Jan, on the other hand, focused on the emotional dynamics at the heart of startups, advising that dealing with the ups and downs has been the most difficult thing for him and his partners. Based on this experience he advised that if you are considering entrepreneurship as a lifestyle choice, make sure you are doing something you really, really like and with co-founders whom you are confident that your bond will not be shaken in uncertain times.

Day 3 started with the conclusion of our InnoPitch competition, finalising our search for the European Young Innovator of the Year 2015. After a series of fascinating pitching, the judges concluded that CareerFoundry, led by Raffaela Rein, was the winner with their excellent model which enables an online e-skills education with leading mentorship. This represents the first year that the European Young Innovator of the Year is female. Edfox and EnergyElephant were also recognised with a place at Seedcamp and the Public Award respectively. Credit goes to all InnoPitchers who participated in a fantastic competition.

Following the InnoPitch, Professor Barbieri of the University of Padua, designer of the cameras for the Rosetta Mission delivered his speech. Although not directly related to entrepreneurship in the traditional sense, the innovative spirit of his keynote can serve as inspiration for all European innovators. Professor Barbieri demonstrated how Europe can push the boundaries of what is technologically possible as well as providing concrete examples of how innovation in fields such as solar energy can alter the way we perceive our place in the universe.

Unconvention closed with an excellent discussion involving, our founder and president Kumardev Chatterjee as well as Fadi Bishara, Founder and CEO of Blackbox, and Corrado Tommasini, Director of Accelerators, VCs and Startups, from PayPal Braintree. The main message of the session was clear: we need to think, do, change. Think in terms of coming up with innovative solutions to global problems. Do in terms of the implementation of innovative solutions. And, most importantly change by altering the perception of entrepreneurship and innovation across Europe. It is safe to say that our guests embodied this spirit throughout the 3 days of Unconvention and the previous 5 days of the Youth Innovation Week.

In keeping with the theme of #Unconv2015 we will be scaling-up our efforts in 2016, running the Youth Innovation Week and concluding with the 5th anniversary of the Unconvention from 5th – 17th June. We can’t wait to begin focusing on our next topic “Connecting Bridges and Removing Barriers” and continuing to change the face of European entrepreneurship!