by Martin Kelly, IBM Venture Capital Group
When we talk about a Smarter Planet our discussions usually move very quickly from the general to the specific. Take water management as an example. What is a Smart Bay? How does the technology capture weather data in real-time? How will it improve the quality of my drinking water? Can I use the information to plan my fishing trip this weekend? The most interesting conversations are about the detail of how the solution operates.
Most Smarter Planet solutions however involve many different groups. Typically these companies and organizations range in size from large multinationals to smaller niche players and start-ups. Each one however brings a different part of the solution and unique domain knowledge and experience. In this post however I want to talk about these ecosystems and what we are doing to support them.
It’s about communities and entrepreneurs
Over the last couple of years we have been watching as organizations like Seedcamp, TechStars and Y-Combinator have started to build a network of highly active ecosystems. They have successfully helped entrepreneurs build businesses with lots of mentoring and very small amounts of cash. They have successfully engaged the broad community of seasoned veterans to support young entrepreneurs and share experience and networks. They have started to build new role models for entrepreneurs to show how building your own business is an exciting and rewarding career path. Their way of working and geographies are slightly different however they all have great mentor networks and a model which puts the entrepreneur at the centre.
It is interesting for me is to watch how the energy of the entrepreneur is matched with the experience of the mentors who have ‘done it’ before. To see how they learn and evolve very quickly to adsorb new insights and outlooks. Also to see that the gap is not capital (most of the time) but skills, experience and networks. This energy and experience is important if we want to build a Smarter Planet.
Smartcamp grew from our involvement in these programs.
What is SmartCamp
SmartCamp is designed for start-ups who are developing solutions which fit this vision of a Smarter Planet and connecting them with a global network of mentors, entrepreneurs and investors.
The program will be rolled out to 7 cities in 2010. In each location, five companies will be selected to spend one day networking with 25 world-class entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. Selected companies will be invited to the global finals week to be held in Nov.
SmartCamp aims to accelerate the expansion and internationalization of promising companies. We do this a number of ways. Firstly, selected companies receive 12 week mentoring. During this time we identify appropriate resources IBM has in terms of technology, marketing and go-to-market globally. Secondly, in addition to our own resources we look to leverage our network. For example via our Venture Capital team we work with leading investors to filter and showcase appropriate companies. Last year 4 of the 5 selected SmartCamp companies received funding or investment offers from our partners.
As you might expect these events will be covered by leading local and international press.
What types of start-ups?
SmartCamp is interested in early stage technology companies who are helping to build a Smarter Planet including:
•Networking and Mobility
•Enterprise Software Applications
•Internet & SAAS
•Cloud and IT infrastructure
•Healthcare & IT related
•Analytics and Modelling
•Energy efficiency and Smart buildings
•Carbon and Water management
•Smart Cities including – transportation, education, and public safety
Presenting companies will at the seed or start-up stage. In all cases the process is open to companies with revenues
less than $1m in the last 12 months.
Next Steps – Apply today
Smartcamp is now open – the first event is Stockholm on the 20th May. The other locations and dates are:
Additional locations include:
Stockholm 20th May
Boston 3rd June
Tel Aviv 24th June
London: 21st July
Silicon Valley: 8th Sept
Paris: 16th Sept
Dublin: 15th Nov
Note: deadline is typically 14 days before the event
In future posts we’ll ask our partners like Seedcamp and Techstars to talk about their experiences of building these networks. We’ll also ask the selected companies from 2009 to post on what they are doing and what SmartCamp means for them.