By @SimonCocking

We interview Charlie Graham-Brown, CFO, Seedstars World, featured in November.

Your background?

I started out as a mechanical engineer and thought that working on projects like the A380 at Airbus would keep me entertained but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I jumped tracks by going through an MBA for engineers in Paris that led me to Geneva and into investment management. What excited me was the emerging and developing market focus, which got me traveling and closing deals in 20+ countries across Africa, Asia and MENA. Still being an engineer at heart, with a love to build things, I started my own social enterprise before connecting with Seedstars World, which had just done its first year and  knew that was my calling!

Seedstars Summit

How did you find Web Summit?

It was my first time and I could only be there for 24 hours unfortunately. I didn’t actually see inside any of the conference halls or listen to a session! I just had back-to-back meetings set up with people I wanted to see. There were Seedstars “family” members present from at least 10 countries so I had a good time with them in the evening!

What useful encounters came out of it?

Hopefully a few but it’s a bit early to say. We’re engaging a lot of corporates in our initiatives so it was a good place to meet with potential partners.


What does Seedstars World aim to do?

We aim to accelerate the development of emerging startup ecosystems and be the bridge between them all. The main tool we use for this is a global startup competition that has over $1mn funding committed. Our teams are visiting 56 countries this year to find the best startup from each. We’ll bring the 56 winners to Lausanne for our annual Seedstars Summit where they spend a week for training and networking with corporates, investors and media. At the end of 2015 we will have screened over 3000 startups, heard about 700 live pitches and mentored over 700 startups during one or two day bootcamps. I think we’ve hit our aim of becoming THE emerging and developing market entrepreneur network and now we’ll be going “deeper” in each region by opening up regional hubs, new training programs, regional summits etc. Watch this space!

How was the last 12 months?

Fast! 12 months ago we covered 36 countries with a team of 4. Now we cover 56 countries with a team of 15. It’s been a bit of blur with a few key moments that stand out. A really successful second edition of the Seedstars Summit in February. Some exciting new partnerships for example with group supporting travel tech and Inmarsat and AP-Swiss supporting space tech.

Anything you’d do differently?

Of course! We can always do better and are pretty hard on ourselves.

Tips for new startups?

One dollar of sales in worth at least 10 dollars in equity investment. Focus on sales, not on fundraising to start with.

What sort of companies do you search for and why?

In the markets we cover there are some major problems worth solving. So we like to find companies that are tackling big issues and not just providing “vitamins”. We focused on a few sectors this year such as travel tech given that it’s such an important part of many economies. And space tech because there is an opportunity to provide an “internet of everywhere” and new models to off-grid regions. Fin Tech is also a focus area and have a lot of activity following the success of mobile money.

The biggest success from Seedstars World?

Depends how you define success! From the last two editions of Seedstars World, in terms of funding raised, WAYRAY from Russia is in the lead having raised significant series B for their augmented reality car navigation system. For revenue generation it’s from Argentina immersive, storytelling games. And in terms of downloads it would be from India with their barcode scanning price comparison app.

What have been some of the common reasons for the failure of some of the companies from Seedstars World?

From the 56 winners in the last 2 editions about 12% have failed so far which isn’t bad. It’s generally a case of the sales cycle and route to revenue generation being too long. That’s where we’re trying to help with the corporate partnerships we’re building.

Future trends you excited about?

I’m excited about the next technology leapfrogs that will come out of emerging and developing markets in digital health, education and energy. We’re seeing more and more startups in these fields but no major successes yet. In developed markets insurance tech is exciting and the pace of investment is already picking up there.

Whats next for you?

We have some exciting ideas for Seedstars World in 2016 so that’s going to keep me busy!

How you manage life / work / online  / offline?

Sport in general is my outlet and way to rebalance both mentally and physically. I used to do a lot more but even if there is only time for a 20 minute run I’ll take it! I think the only solution to have any balance in work and life when you’re building a company is to get used to the fact you can’t always finish the work!

Anything else?

Well, anyone interested in the emerging market tech and startup scene better make a trip to Lausanne on 3rd March next year for the 3rd annual Seedstars Sumit. If you’re not satisfied, we’ll give you a free fondue!

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or @SimonCocking

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