Having only recently announced the call for proposals for Round IV and having completed more than a year of operations for the Openfund, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the progress so far. It’s a chance to share with the community some of the insights we learned in the process of accepting and screening proposals, as well as the even more exciting part that follows – that of supporting and collaborating with the startups. That’s all in an effort to guide and help those who are interested in applying and improve the overall level of submissions – as well as of the startup activity in the region. In other words, it’s our way of giving back some of the value we have been accumulating – and also in the process perhaps make the selection process somewhat more transparent.
The first post in the series is dedicated to the features we value (see also here) – by means of demonstrating them on the startups we have actually selected so far. You can see brief descriptions of those in the newly created Portofolio section of theopenfund.com. And to prevent this post from being considered shameless self-flattery, the focus will be on those aspects we saw and liked early on – as opposed to the achievements of the teams so far. So, without further ado and in alphabetical order, here we go.
Fashinating This team approached us with some very attractive – or, fashinating – attributes to begin with. First of all, it was applicable to a particular vertical: fashion. (Note though that the concept was flexible enough to be applied to certain other verticals as well). Secondly, it involved a significant casual gaming factor (which makes it even more attractive) – a bet that in retrospect was a safe one given the addictiveness of the Fashinating experience. Thirdly, they approached us with a business model suggesting no less than five revenue streams – even if one or two of them proved to be wrong, the rest would still leave the project standing. Fourthly, the idea had a strong international aspect and, although it was necessary to base its first steps in a local market (i.e. Greece), its expandability to other markets is within easy reach. Lastly, they included a healthy portion of innovation in their submission both in the actual game mechanics, as well as the way they approach users and fashion items. Overall, although no prototype was ready at submission it was a very well-rounded effort who showed commitment in the first place and was backed by an able team – which also did not hesitate to expand to complete their make up.
Listiki This was one of those ideas that made us go ‘Now, why didn’t I think of that?’. Impressive, well-contained, lean and with obvious potential. The idea had been tried before, but in a much more overloaded with features version as what the Listiki team had in mind. Their simple and modern approach was important in convincing us – something that the many members of the Board of Advisors rushed to confirm after the team’s Demo Day presentation. The same simplicity was adopted from a technical view negating the need for elaborate technologies just for the sake of them. Finally, Listiki also outlined quite a few possible revenue streams – something made possible by their simple and flexible yet ubiquitously applicable idea which could work on a number of levels and made it an overall foolproof decision.
Sportmeets Another submission with a vertical scope which aimed to tackle a couple of real physical world problems. Finding partners to sport with, organise the entire meet and create a platform to keep score and performances sounded like something with a well-defined international target market. At the same time, depending on the sport in question, there were a number of approaches the team could take to develop the business and that allowed for a wide range of alternatives to pursue. The team also showed they had a solid technical background, a high degree of familiarity with the subject on a personal basis and a thorough understanding of the competition. This overall enabled them to identify a niche in terms of some of the unique features they suggested but also in their modern interface. Although they started effectively from scratch when they were accepted in the Openfund, a complete rebranding was undertaken and a full version was launched on time – something that stresses the team’s commitment and confirmed the flexibility and persistence that they demonstrated during the various rounds of the selection process.
Stockpodium This application was submitted at the prototype stage and having achieved some impressive milestones at that. In particular, the team seemed to have achieved very good results in creating a visual similarity search engine which along with some other innovative features made ignoring it difficult. At the same time, they had thoroughly thought through and structured their business model in a set of successive phases during which well-defined revenue streams would be implemented. All this combined with a target market of considerable depth and width, next to their profound passion for what they were pursuing, made selecting them additionally appealing. It is also worth mentioning that the intellectual property is of important added value to the project – something significant in times where quite often services and value is generated by combining existing infrastructure (i.e. not actually creating them from scratch).
YouScan This project is perhaps one of the most mature submissions received so far and featured innovation at a language level. It won points in terms of the intellectual property included, the monitoring of a virgin and large market, the rare sentiment analysis and the natural language processing aspects. The team showed from early on remarkable commitment and their combined experience was also exceptional – a factor which confirmed early on its importance especially in the front of generating sales and business leads. It’s also worth mentioning that the language barrier (esp. in such a language-centric app) was something we were admittedly worried about in the beginning but an issue which after all little affected our combined effort.
So, this all should give you some indication of where to place your resources in order to improve your submission. Next up, some posts based on our actual application process to provide some do’s and dont’s when submitting. In any case, feel free to apply even if your proposal is half-baked – early submissions benefit from early feedback which you can incorporate into your idea and improve it, thus increasing your chance of success.