21st & 22nd of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Friday, September 21, 2018

London thrills the PODIM conference expedition

We made a promise, and we delivered – the three startups chosen at the PODIM Conference 2018 were taken to London, one of the biggest startup community hubs in the world. A visit to the Google campus and a big innovation centre in the former Olympic park Here East, presentation of Wayra’s accelerator programmes, Startupbootcamp FinTech and IoT, Techstars, and a meeting with London-based Slovenian startup entrepreneurs marked the London excursion, during which the startup expedition was also welcomed at the Slovenian embassy in Great Britain. The trip to London was organized by the PODIM team and its London partner Startup Manufactory, and supported by IskratelTelekom SlovenijeCEPSlovene Enterprise Fund and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.
 
It was especially the size of the London startup ecosystem that thrilled the participants. "I learned that London is a very big and strong startup hub, significantly bigger than, for example, Chicago, which was until now the biggest startup ecosystem I had visited," is how Branko Vasiljević, from the Bosnian-Herzegovinian startup MEERKIDDO, summarized his impressions. MEERKIDDO, developing software that allows parents to have complete control over the activity on their child’s mobile phone, was selected for the trip to London at the PODIM Conference by the Centre for European Perspective and the Start:up Balkan programme. 
 
"The main experience for me was the incredible insight into the London startup ecosystem; to see these considerable support structures and gain an understanding of how the ecosystem works in such a big city," said Martin Koterle from Teodoor (company Bitnot), member of Slovene Enterprise Fund’s SK programme, chosen for the trip to London at the PODIM Conference by Telekom Slovenije. At this time, Teodoor is delivering its smart lock to the first customers, which Telekom Slovenije is proud of. "It reflects the pervasiveness and enthusiasm of the Teodoor team and confirms our choice was correct. We believe that the London experience will help the team with further development and business success," says Telekom Slovenije. 

Participants of the London excursion also learned how to make an excellent pitch
 
More difficult, but also more rewarding 
Dejan Lešnik from DS Meritve, also an SK programme member, chosen by Iskratel at the PODIM Conference, was surprised about the scope of the London startup ecosystem. "I especially like how startups are more connected and how they collaborate." He thinks that being a startup in London is more difficult than in Slovenia, but consequently also more rewarding: "Everything that I’ve seen and experienced has motivated me and offered new ideas for how to better develop my own company." On the other hand, an important realization that Branko Vasiljević brought from Britain is that you don’t need to go to the US for money and important customers, you can get it all in Europe as well, only a two-hour flight from home. 
 
He peeked at British locks
Dejan Lešnik expects that, if he follows up on the connections he established, he will find quite a few new customers. Since he got a feeling for how contacts are made in London, he now also has a better idea of how he himself will address customers from now on. Roman Kužnar, leader of Iskratel’s startup programme, says that they wanted to offer a new experience to DS Meritve, and he highlights Lešnik’s firm determination to enter foreign markets with his solutions. "It would be a great pleasure if the company could take advantage of their London experience to make their foreign market strategy come true," added Kužnar.
 
What Martin Koterle brought from London to his homeland were contacts with representatives of similar industries, looking for companies such as his in order to add to their products with new technology. "And even more potential contacts with business partners who would want to sell or distribute our product in the United Kingdom, because this is where we are the weakest." Koterle added that they are always looking for opportunities to expand to new markets and admitted that he took advantage of their presence in resident areas to check out the most frequent types of doors and locks.
 
Finding money more easily with new ideas 
"The accelerators we visited are incredibly good and they offered a lot of useful information. After we finish business with the Serbian Telcom, we will use the next half a year for intense growth, so my wish is to first become part of Wayra – they are directly linked to Telcom – and then go to London for money," adds Branko Vasiljević, who’s expecting an investment in the upcoming year. He thinks that the visit didn’t ensure new customers directly, but it did give him new ideas and allow him to expand his contact network, which will also make the "mission" of finding funding in London significantly easier. 
 
Connections are crucial for growth 
"Among other things, the London programme was part of the networking programme for SK investment recipients, with which we wish to enable companies to quickly reach the next development stage," explained Urban Lapajne, PODIM and Start:up Slovenia team member and organizer of the London programme. Urban additionally emphasized that connecting startups with representatives of established companies on the one hand and investors on the other is the fundamental mission of the PODIM Conference. 
 
Presenters and recipients of additional PODIM Challenge awards – trips to London and Boston
 
The trip to London was enabled by 
Next to Iskratel, Telekom Slovenije and CEP (Centre for European Perspective), the valuable startup trip to London was enabled by PODIM Conference co-organizers, namely Slovene Enterprise Fund and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.