IBM SmartCamp – Dancing with David
The 2014 IBM SmartCamp European Final took place on the 27th November, on the picturesque 39th Floor of One Canada Water. The quality of start-ups presenting to the judging panel matched the impressive surroundings, and the enthusiasm showcased at the event displayed a true passion for innovation and entrepreneurship by IBM and the event's partners. A diverse group of Digital Davids pitched to representatives of IBM – the corporate Goliath.
As Miguel Sanchez (Co-founder of Momit) summed up, David's dance with IBM is important for the "capabilities and credibility" that it provides, whilst Alon Melchner of WakingApp described their partnerships with Samsung, Intel and IBM as providing "mutual benefits" – David and Goliath must dance.
The event started with speeches by IBM Europe's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Caroline Taylor and Allessandro La Volpe – Director of Ecosystem Development at IBM Europe. These underlined the commitment of IBM to innovation and the promotion of entrepreneurship - IBM have opened 43 'innovation centres' across the globe, involving over 600 mentors to facilitate the David and Goliath relationship. The launch of SmartCamp in 2010 has since produced multiple successful partnerships – including with 2012 UK winner Clear Returns. CEO Vicky Brock gave the powerful keynote speech, explaining how IBM's mentoring during and following SmartCamp helped to prepare her for investment decisions and processes. The importance of having a Goliath to facilitate Clear Returns' growth was highly evident. Having been selected as one of the nine top female tech CEOs in Forbes' and Bloomberg's rankings, Vicky also spoke about Women in the industry – exclaiming, "you enter this weird world of meeting mostly male strangers to ask for money, in circumstances that in other contexts could align to dating". This soundbite not only emphasised the diversity of candidates present at the event – as noted by Caroline Taylor, but the importance of continuing to encourage equality and diversity in the tech industry.
The presentation round followed, with the nine start-up victors of national finals each presenting their business within a timeslot of five minutes . The start-ups on show all utilised technology in new and innovative ways, from 3D printing to cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) - this really demonstrated the vast range of start-ups across the European continent. Pitches included live demos, products "as fast as pizza", and hammered home the importance of organising the Ecosystem Economics™ of the operating sectors. As Naveed Parvaz, CEO of Andiamo stated – "its not just a business, its about the entire digital ecosystem you can start to create".
Following a short break, the winners of the event were announced, with Kinetise from Poland and WakingApp of Israel taking the prize. Both are app-creation based platforms, with Kinetise focusing on providing a simple interface for anybody to make an app quickly – indeed they produced, downloaded, and opened a new app within their five minute slot. WakingApp in comparison focuses on augmented reality – providing a base for the production of content on new devices such as Google Glass. Founder Alon Melchner showed the enthusiasm exhibited by many attendees by saying he was "constantly excited by the endless possibilities" of technology and the digital development space. They will now compete at the IBM Global Finals. Have a read of our case studies for Kinetise and WakingApp.
This year's IBM SmartCamp truly showcased the entrepreneurial talent within Europe and the commitment of corporate Goliaths such as IBM to support the growth and success of Digital David start-ups. IBM's role in reaching out to dance with David is important in encouraging the development of young business and innovation, providing the platform for growth. The high quality of start-ups that presented is encouraging for the future of European entrepreneurship, as well as the facilitation of the David and Goliath relationship.
Thank you to IBM for an exciting afternoon showcasing Europe's most innovative and inspiring start-ups, and congratulations to all nine start-ups that participated!