Over a thousand entrepreneurs, members of founding teams,VCs, reps of incubation and acceleration programmes or experienced professionals from the international technology community attended the How to Web conference to discuss tech trends and network freely, without worrying about V.I.P. zones or private parties. The 2014 edition took place at Chrystal Palace Ballroom and focused on four tracks: Future Trends & Entrepreneurship (main track), Product, Angel Investment and Game Development.
“How to Web is more than a conference. It’s a manifestation and a meeting point for the regional tech community and it takes place on an annual basis for the community, but first and foremost with the support of this community,” said Daniel Dragomir, CEO How to Web Conference 2014.
The future is mobile
Mingling in the breaks between the talks and panels; Photo credit: alindobrin.ro
Twitter’s former Head of International Developer Relations, Chris Chabot, opened the series of conferences by referencing the soaring growth of Internet and mobile phone penetration, as well as pointing to mobile phones as containers of users’ essential information. “Mobile is already absorbing other industries,” he added. Just think about e-commerce, mobile payments and Uber’s pre-ordered cabs and you’ll easily get what he means.
He continued with “technological innovation doesn’t have an impact until people find it boring,” because that’s when everyone has already got it. Innovation scout Paul Papadimitriou stressed that time to mainstream adoption of innovation is shrinking and this benefits agile startups. Ideas are the most sought after type of capital. That’s how WhatsApp disrupted the SMS industry, continued Papadimitriou.
The product needs to fit the market
One of the lessons learnt was that founders should not get stuck on optimising a product’s features, but invest time in exploring market fit. Seedcamp Partner Carlos Espinal supported this argument on stage by describing a process that looks into the company’s vision, minimum viable segment, positioning, product, go-to-market strategy, analytics and KPIs. His product-market fit cycle requires the founder to define his company’s core values and hire accordingly, and then to iterate on minimum viable segment or other variables. Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of the accelerator and investment platform for independent game developers, Executions Labs, advised entrepreneurs to build systems that make them fail rapidly, reiterate and become successful.
Giving things a new twist, Avangate’s Michael Ni stressed that products’ margins are getting commoditised and it’s the new service economy that adds value to almost every industry. That’s why Nike complemented its sports equipment offering with apps that track performance and personalised coaching.
Equity crowdfunding comes before VC investment
As the topic on stage switched from products to investments, Daniel Lynch, managing partner 3TS Capital, explained that VCs prefer cohesive and skilled teams that can prove the viability of their product and have a clear idea of what they’re asking financing for. To him, the greatest challenge for startups looking for investment is finding a way to solve the chicken and the egg dilemma: how to get traction without money and how to get money without traction. A possible solution to this question is equity crowdfunding, a type of crowdfunding where people receive shares in return for their contributions.
Axosuis wins the 2014 Startup Spotlight competition
Axosuits scores at Startup Spotlight; Photo credit: How to web
Towards the end of the conference it was time for the big competition. The winner of the Startup Spotlight mentor intensive programme and competition targeting startups in the CEE is Axosuits, developer of affordable and easy-to-use exoskeleton suits that help paraplegics walk again. Avandor, big data consumer profiling platform for the connected digital ecosystem, was the runner up, and the IXIA Innovation Award was granted to ProjectWipe (that helps visually impaired people with orientation and obstacle avoidance). Lat.io, creator of a customisable software development kit, won the Best Pitch Award. The prizes were sponsored by IXIA and their cumulated value was worth 20,000 dollars.
“This year we discovered what the future of technology holds and we continue to grow together with out regional community, which today emerges stronger and more united then ever,” How to Web CEO Daniel Dragomir summarised the successful event.