The team of Tibopo, winner of startu:up Slovenia at PODIM 2015; Photo credit: PODIM

published 18 May 2015 by Eva Thalhammer in Slovenia 4 minutes 42 seconds to read

Joining forces with the big players at PODIM conference

From 13-14 May and for the 35th time the classy Hotel Habakuk opened its gates for enthusiasts, startup teams as well as established enterprises and provided an outstanding programme of basically everything an entrepreneur to be could wish for.

Sometimes, it’s all about meeting the right people at the right time. While some call it a lucky coincidence others neatly plan their contacts to keep an eye on their progress. But where can you meet important people from your industry? And how should you approach them? To answer these questions and in order to help connecting the big players on the market with innovative newcomers, this year’s edition of PODIM focused on collaboration and strategies of joining forces.

Between the panel discussions, keynotes and workshops, the speed dating sessions provided an opportunity for startup teams and entrepreneurs to meet numerous investors and milk their expertise as much as they could in the limited amount of time.

Pitches and Ceremonies

While the mornings were full of new faces and fresh insights, in the afternoon it was time for the annual PODIM Challenge. The Slovene Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek welcomed the five teams on stage and highlighted the importance of entrepreneurial spirit for future development of a region. “Innovative companies have great potential but it’s also a great risk. This is why favourable financing and support at the very beginning is crucial.”

The teams pitched to more than ten investors on stage, such as Jure Mikuž (RSG Capital), Isla Munro (Fiedler Capital), Jon Bradford (Techstars), or Rumen Iliev (LAUNCHub) and received valuable feedback for their products and services.

While all five teams had their strengths, Slovenian Viar emerged as the best and went home as winner of the PODIM challenge 2015. With their virtual reality solution they aim to simplify the process of 3D sketching for architects; one main reason for the jury to choose them as winners is the fact that also many other applications of the VR tool are possible.

After the great series of pitches, the second highlight of Day 1 was already about to start. The Start:Up Slovenia Competition presented the best teams of the region in short video pitches and prepared an exciting ceremony to announce this year’s winner. Tibopo, a solution for safer driving scored the first prize. “We want no more deaths on the street through texting, mobile phones or other distractions,” the Tibopo team told the audience. The system aims to monitor the position of your hands on the steering wheel in order to keep you focused on the street. “It’s important that founders care about their product and Tibopo is a perfect example for that,” said Gina Waldhorn, cofounder of New York-based Evol8tion in favour of the team.

A new day with new opportunities

After partying until late with a DJ-supported night programme, participants had the chance to either join the morning stretching session, or stay in bed until the first Keynote by Mike Bott (Blue Chip Venture Company) on “Big company marketing versus startup marketing”.

You can waste a lot of time looking if your business could fit a certain model while you could use that time to focus on your project

Jan Kennedy, Academy for Corporate Entrepreneuship

During the morning, not only differences between startups and enterprises were shown but also best practice examples of the Alpe-Adria region were a common topic on stage. The talk by Ivan Ivanković (Squee, Croatian Telecom), as well a panel of Mike Bott, Jan Kennedy (Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship), Tudor Birlea (Startcelerate), Thibaut Rouquette (Venturescout), Stefano Virgilli (Voxlab) discussed the pros and cons of working with the big players. “You can waste a lot of time looking if your business could fit a certain model while you could use that time to focus on your project,” Jan Kennedy said and also Rouquette added: “you need to be super careful who to engage with.“ Despite concerns, collaborations between startups and established companies, visitors and panellists agreed that it could help teams to reach their markets faster, explore different opportunities and test their business model.

The afternoon consisted of insightful talks and building new networks. While Tristan Harris from Google (read our exclusive interview with him here) gave an inspiring speech on design ethics and noted that “the tiniest design choices can impact millions of people’s lives,” also Simon Cast’s (Mind the Product) keynote highlighted the importance of finding solutions instead of just coming up with innovations.

The one-on-one meetings with investors on the other hand, gave the teams the chance to meet with supporters from Asia (Zikry Kholil, Incitement, Daniel De Gruijter, Incitement), India (Sartaj Anand, Egomonk), US (Tristan Pollock, Storefront, Dominic Coryell, 500 startups, serial entr., Mike Edelhart, Social Starts) or the middle east (Jonathan Cooper, Vision Investment Services, Stefano Virgilli, Voxlab).

Wrap up

“Who started the lie that business is not personal? I put my passion into my work – that’s an important thing – it’s super personal,” Steve Keil, MammothDB, said in the panel with the engaging title “Telling it like it is" and when Mark Plesko (Cosylab) added „business and private life is like riding a bicycle: you have to keep balance all the time,“ he summarised what many entrepreneurs are dealing with on a daily basis.

PODIM was a great chance to exchange knowledge with people facing the same problems and provided an opportunity for startups and enterprises to meet on neutral ground. Hopefully, the new connections will be fruitful for both sides soon and maybe we’ll be able to find some homemade success stories at PODIM 2016.

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