By @SimonCocking, interesting catch up with Charlie Graham-Brown, CFO, Seedstars World

Helping startups to grow globally. Charlie Graham-Brown, Seedstars World

1 min pitch for Seedstars? Has it changed at all in last 12 months?

Seedstars connects, builds and invests in emerging market tech companies. Our mission is to “Impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship”. The pitch hasn’t changed but the initiatives we run to achieve our goals are constantly evolving.

How was the 12 months?

Just as intense as the previous 36! Up until early 2016, we focused our efforts on building what we call the “Platform”. The Platform is the foundation of Seedstars and includes the global startup competition (Seedstars World now in over 60 countries), the co-working / co-living network (Seedspace) and the company building factory (Seedstars Academy). These initiatives are still focus areas and will continue to grow but they reached a certain maturity that allows us to start scaling the “Portfolio”. The Portfolio regroups our investment activities and includes both a company building model (majority stakes) and a venture capital model (minority stakes). On the company building side, we built 5 FinTech companies in Nigeria and some are already starting to expand internationally after just 6 months. On the venture capital side, we launched batch one of our growth program that has invested and is accelerating 9 companies from 9 counties across the globe and continue to raise the funds to finance this activity.

What areas have proved the most exciting in terms of sectors funded?

Financial services has been a focus area for us at a portfolio level in 2016. We’re working with various models such as microlending, invoice factoring and microinsurance where tech can be a huge enabler by lowering costs and reducing risks. The speed with which these companies have scaled and monetised has definitely been exciting.

What are the stand out successes of Seedstars these past 12 months?

Every year that Seedstars World completes a global tour is a stand out success for us. We wrapped up the local and regional events of 2016 with a total of 63 countries and 74 cities covered and also did 5 regional summits. We just have the global summit to go in April now. I won’t make any predictions yet on batch one of the growth program. From the company builder it’s also early days but in aggregate, the first 5 companies have generated over $100k revenue in less than six months which we’re really pleased with.

What tips would you give to those looking to engage with Seedstars?

Hands down the best way to engage with us is at the annual Seedstars Summit taking place in Lausanne on 6th April 2017. Our team and network is spread across 60+ countries and this is the only time of the year everyone comes together physically. We run a 2 day bootcamp for the startup, a 1 day investor forum and then the conference on the 6th. For investors it’s a unique way of meeting the founders of the top companies we sourced in 60+ countries and for everyone else the most impressive window into emerging market tech you’ll find. Headline speakers include the likes of Bob Collymore,CEO of Safaricom, and one of the brains behind Africa’s mobile currency and internet services for non-smartphones. It’s an invite only event but there’s also a sign up form on the website and we do review unsolicited applications.

What are the most common tips you give to startups as a mentor?

To be more focused in their approach to work. Startups are eternally under resourced and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not make progress where it’s really needed. We’ve been encouraging companies to implement the OKR methodology that does just that. Basically team’s set a monthly objective with measurable results and run experiments to hit the targets. That way resources are put to work where they’re needed most.

What are the most common mistakes you see startups making?

Not making enough mistakes! Startups need to test and experiment more in order to learn what works best. Waiting too long to run experiments is a huge waste of resources. This is true for all aspects of the business from hiring, to content marketing, to sales.

How goes the triathlon side of things?

Is that still on my Twitter profile?! I need to change it to “retired triathlete”! I’m more into trail running and ski touring these days.


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