Kei Shimada at the DigitalK 2015; Photo credit: ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

published 25 May 2015 by Lora Petrova 3 minutes 21 seconds to read

DigitalK 2015: the ins and outs of startups

Have we finally discovered the next big thing? That was supposed to be the focus of DigitalK 2015, but instead talks naturally evolved to what it takes to make a startup a success. Read a recap of the event here.

DigitalK EIT ICS Labs

On 21-22 May, Sofia hosted DigitalK - one of the biggest digital technology events in South-Eastern Europe. For two days, more than 1,500 attendees enjoyed an international line-up of speakers, who shed light on how they started, failed, tried again, and finally succeeded. LAUNCHub and NEVEQ spiced up the event with a competition for more than 60 startups.

The dos, don’ts and how-tos for startups

Unsurprisingly, it is all about taking the risk, building a brand, securing customers and funding. MasterCard Balkans general manager Artur Turemka cheered the appetite for risk, but not without careful consideration of the market.

As for that coveted customer base, Bogomil Balkansky from Bebop had some pointers. Down the line, a startup should stop listening to the initial customers, as they tend to be overexcited, but unstable. Instead, entrepreneurs should refocus on developing a strategy for the second customer wave and keep in mind that fewer people take chance on new, unproven technology, especially in smaller countries like Bulgaria.

SAP’s Reinhard Schwarz and Cedric Giorgi from Sigfox both suggested that now was the time to look at B2B opportunities, especially in the Internet of Things. Schwarz added that simplicity was the ultimate sophistication and this was especially true in tech, if one goes the B2B way. Grey’s Lars Samuelsen expanded on the importance of interconnectedness, saying it creates brand narratives in a digital world shifting towards complexity. Agustin Soriano, of JWT Amsterdam, had another tip: the more complex the landscape becomes, the more essential a startup has to be and to incorporate multiple platforms and media.

This digital transformation should also be reflected in the startup team. As Ivan Hernandez from Digital Loop put it, everybody in a company needs to understand digital: "Transformation, not change, creates new possibilities, because if a company needs change, that means something was broken in the first place."

Those dreaded funding rounds

There is a myriad of startups in Bulgaria, but the battle for the limited investment will be fierce, according to Timothy Ash from Standard Bank. Whitespace Ventures’s David Raskino didn’t brighten the mood by adding that only 2% of startups globally get seed funding.

Do the work upfront. Don't ask [PR people] to identify investors for you, or to write the pitch email

During the fireside chat on VC trends across Europe it was made clear that there is a “whole pile of money available in Europe,” but only small amounts are invested each time, because of the segmentation of the market.Pavel Bogdanov of Almaz Capital and Pawel Chudzinski from Point Nine Capital advised startups not to subcontract brokers to raise funds.

During a side-event, organised by EIT ICT Labs, startups got some much-needed advice on how to market a startup and get media exposure. Colette Ballou from Ballou PR gave pointers on networking and influencing the people you need. In her own words: "Do the work upfront. Don't ask [PR people] to identify investors for you, or to write the pitch email."

EIT ICT Labs also presented their newest initiatives, Arise Europe for innovation centers and Idea Challenge for startups.

The second day culminated with a much-expected final pitch on the main stage for the four companies that won the LAUNCHub startup competition (Nucleos, Zeduki, BooxScale and Snapwise), along with Betapitch wildcard Bee Smart Technologies. Snapwise, all the way in from Canada, snapped the victory with a live demo of their uCiC app for image or video answers to location-based questions from anywhere in the world. is a media partner.