Last week was the second time the Nordic Next was held. Organised by Invest in Skåne, the conference, an invite only, was held on the top floor of the Turning Torso. A fitting setting indeed, with a view over the whole Øresund region.

A startup conference for investors

The conference, which is an evening and one full day, is limited to 70 participants. It’s focus is unlike most on the investors, and not the startups. This is noticeable in the participants – being mainly business angels from all over Scandinavia and venture capital firms from all over Europe and the US. Ten startups from the Nordics were invited to present their businesses to what was a high profile crowd. Many video transcribing services were also hired so as to help the participants who were not fluent in English, understand the discussions that were going on at the conference.

The aim of the event is twofold – to build relationships between investors in the Nordics, as well as being a good place for later stage startups to present themselves for further investments. The smaller size of the event achieves an intimate and open atmosphere.

Quality over Quantitiy

The attendees list included some of the biggest international venture capitalist firm in the startup community, including Accel Parterns, Balderton Capital, DFJ Esprit, Wellington Partners, and Early Bird Ventures, as well as most of the local Nordic firms including Creandum, North Zone, Open Ocean Capital, MOOR Capital. Northcap and Conor.

Besides this there were also a lot of business angels, including both those that are in the spotlight as well as those staying out of it. Hampus Jakobsson, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, Göran Tollstam and Klaus Nyengaard, as well as others from all over the Nordics such as Henrik Torstensson and Erik Byrenius where present. You can view some of the featured guests here: here.

What do venture capitalists think about business angels

One of the highlights was a panel discussion with four venture capital firms present.

Participating where:

  • Chrysanthos Chysanthou from Accel Partners – who invest in B2B SaaS, mainly series A rounds.
  • Katja Bergman from MOOR Capital – Private investment firm from the Rovio founders. Only 6 investments so far, but because they are evergreen the feel no pressure to invest.
  • Wayne Gibbins from Notion Capital – Who invest from € 0,75 M to € 50 M, but who have a sweetspot at Series A levels)
  • Harry Briggs from Balderton Capital – A Europe focused VC firm, also mainly focusing on Series A rounds.

Some of the topics discussed where business angels, and how they looked at business angels roles in a startup after it has raised a series A or B round. There was no consensus, and some said that they like business angels to stay on board and provide further help and guidance, while in other circumstances early business angels cannot contribute efficiently any longer after a larger investment. It is really a focus on what is good for the startup and it’s product, that is the most important.

There we also talks about new ways to raise financing. Wayne said:

“We did B rounds with angels. We brought in startups to pitch a $ 10 million investment round, we took the lead, and filled up with angels.”

Something which he said worked remarkably well even with those sums involved.

Also, angel list and its new syndication focus was mentioned multiple times, as well as crowdfunding and the signals it sends as investment oppertunities

“We look a lot at crowd funding” said Harry

Business angels was a recurring topic in the VC panel session. That business angels can cause problems, especially if they have the wrong focus or attitude, was mentioned.

“High profile angels from big companies can be problematic” said Harry

What is meant was that they to easily have the ‘if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail’ perspective – that they often think their own solutions to problem they have faced before are the right ones. Which can be a misleading thought, because it is hard to judge what effects were really effective afterwords, and too easy to overestimate ones own importance.

Investment in gaming

Nikolaj at Sunstone held an talk and open discussion about investing in the gaming sector. He talked about the evolvement the gaming scene has gone thru, from big blockbusters and triple A titles, to todays apps.

“Gaming is no longer video games. Old games had a half-life of 5 days. Now gaming companies like Supercell and Rovio have stayed on top for over 24 month.”

He things gaming startups should see themselves not as games, but rather as the new Hollywood and compare themselves to the movie industry and entertainment business.

“Gaming has the ability to be the new digital entertainment”

“The nordic game scene is great at making enjoyable games. But they are not that good at building IP and characters. Disney would not buy Supercell. The people coming out of Rovio are the best bets at making the change to create strong IP and characters in the region.”

Not everyone present agreed, saying that movie and music studies also have a lot of revenue from old titles and IPs, something the gaming sector has not. Not at the moment at least.

Lessons from investments

Apart from the startups presenting, there were keynotes, panels and a fireside chat with Tim Jackson from Lean Investments. A lot of wisdom and insights were shared. Thoughts of interest for anyone who is in a startup has had an early seed or angel investment, or a Series A.

Tim shared his thoughts on investments in general, and also about learning, both from his background as a journalist, entrepreneurs and now VC. Amongst other he emphasised that as a successful entrepreneur you easily give the wrong advice, because you think what you did was the right thing, even tho it might be mostly luck and hard work that made you succeesfull.

“it’s tempting to teach others what you did was the right thing. But you actually do not know. I believe in life long learning.” was one of his wisdoms.

He also talks about being an entrepreneurs, and how he sees that now compared to before, when he was just writing about entrepreneurship for The Economist and The Financial Times:

“it’s a lot harder then most people realise”

Also shared were some advice from his current position as venture capitalist to what they are looking for. His four must haves in a startup:

“A good team, traction related to the amount of money, a big enough market and barriers to entry for others. Those are the most important. It must be a long term sustainable business, so entry barriers for competitors are important”

When asked what he thinks about pitching and if he has any tips, he emphasised that it all depends on if it is an early startup looking for a first € 100 000 angel investment or if it is a € 1 – 10 000 000 VC investment they are looking for. Depending on that the pitches require very different things.

Interviewed by Joakim Jardenberg, who now is amongst other ‘Chief of Internet’ at the city of Helsingborg, the discussion also was about public services and entrepreneurship, as Tim is on the board of UKs GDS.

“We should definitely keep an eye, and help, the public sector going into the digital age”

What is the difference between VC firms

Another topic that was discussed during the day was that it is hard to tell different VC firms apart – how do they really differentiate.

“All of us VCs say we are entrepreneurial driven, and have a product focus. So in order to see who fits your needs, you should talk to us, and ask us how we do that.“

Nikolaj also mentioned that becoming more focused, such as he himself – investing only in Open Source or gaming startups – is another way to know who is the most relevant. And it also to makes their own live simpler – one of the VCs mentioned they have last year looked at over 900 cases, but only invested in 6 – making the ratio 150:1. Something other VCs agreed with, the ratio startup to investment is very high, and takes a lot of time and focus.

Startups showcase

The startups presenting where from all over the Nordics. They were not asked to pitch, but rather showcase their businesses and present themselves. Being in fundraising mode was not a requirement to be selected – however multiple of them were. Sometimes the best time to build a relationship with an investor is when you aren’t fundraising. Therefor the aim was to seek out interesting founders with businesses operating at different stages and in different industries.

Present where:

  • – Hampus Jakobsson told about their ambition to make people love their CRM system.
  • Barnebys – making arts, antiques and collections accessible for anyone
  • Mapillary – Enabling street view anywhere with mobile technology.
  • Clue – Ida, about how they aim to become a mobile technological alternative to the pill for fertile women worldwide
  • Safello – Ludvig Öberg about their safe approach to Bitcoin and their new wallet, including their bitcoin ATM machine
  • Conferize – Jon Schäffer about how they aim to be every conference online plattform and community.
  • Kahoot! – about making a tool for educations, and how they have reached a massive 4 million unique players already!
  • Tinitell – About making a wristphone that kids can use, including a GPS tracker. Got a lot of attention lately for their recent kickstarter.
  • Sprinkle – making a widget for suggested reading for newspapers and magazine, achieving better returns then traditional ads.
  • Airhelp – how they are helping people claim delayed airplane compensation, at a remarkable level!

All in all, a very good event, with a lot of interesting people and a good crowd. Benjamin Page, Michael Hoy, and Daniel Kipowski who organised it did a great job, and we are looking forward to next year already.