Last week we all lived in the city of angels: Or at least 20 of Norway’s top startups did because Systemapic and 19 others had been selected to participate in Angel Challenge 2015! Angel Challenge was an event put on by Startup Norway to help facilitate the process of linking Norway’s top startups with 1.25 million NOK and 25 of Norway’s most generous Angel Investors. We applied and were fortunate to have been chosen as one of those startups, but the team has built a great cloud-based GIS platform so maybe we made a bit of our own luck? Time will tell.
Angel Challenge was at minimum a two day event for the 20 candidates. The 5 best after the two day event went on to due diligence and finalization rounds with the Angel Investors. Truly exciting stuff. Sort of like a Hunger Games for Norwegian entrepreneurs. We call the role of Katniss (or at least Peeta). Let the games begin!
Day One, Wednesday Oct 21, 2015 (aka #backtothefutureday) kicked off at 10 AM with information about the event and selection criteria outlined by a representing Angel Investor, Thomas Berglund (a group we’d acronymize as AI but they’re all 100% human we think). Following the briefing and the first look at our competition we moved into the really productive stuff. From noon through to the first evening select teams of the investors worked with each startup and helped us hone our pitches to be delivered night 1 to the entire 25-person Angel Investor group.
Our specific advice was to be a bit more commercial as we are such a product focused group and to let investors know about the good work we’ve done acquiring beta pilot customers. We have a concrete plan for moving forward with our pilot customers and its important to let potential investors know this. Everyone on the team found the feedback helpful.
But helpful advice is worthless if you don’t put it into practice. Our CEO and rockstar frontman Jørgen Ekvoll and our CTO Knut Ole Sjøli tweaked the pitch deck and for the first evening of Angel Challenge we headed to Kunstnernes Hus down by the Castle for a nice dinner courtesy of Startup Norway and the main event – the 20 pitches!
They did not disappoint. There were some truly fascinating entrepreneurs in the group, far too many to mention. Some of the highlights for us were Startup Lab’s own Vio Media, an NTNU-born Oslo-based company who is working to change the digital journalism scene in Norway, an ingenious hammock and outdoors equipment company called Amok, a new streaming service to get artists to interact more with fans called feat.fm and of course our own pitch where Jørgen enlightened a couple dozen interested investors on the future of the GIS industry and slipped some colorful language and imagery in in his own consistently colorful style. It was a hit.
After we had a fascinating discussion post-pitches with an investor, Olav Sylthe (@olavsylthe), who has a wealth of knowledge about the geo-services and GIS industry. Truly a lucky find for us. Then it was time for some results, and lo-and-behold, the reviews were positive. We were on to the final 10! We were even interviewed by Teknisk Ukeblad!
We were thrilled to have made it to round two.
It’s been a fast journey for us, with a steep learning curve (And this sets the standards for our growth ambitions). Less than a year ago we were operating from our home office. Just getting accepted into the StatupLab incubator was such an honor for us, and put us in context. Getting accepted to Angel Challenge was unbelievable, and being selected as the top ten companies out of the 80 applicants was unreal.
Day one was pretty intense. With Four minutes pitching and two minutes q&a, you just have to get everything right. CEO Jørgen, with some experience in the spotlight from his fame in Lebanon, took the job and only f#$%ed it up a little bit. But his colorful language on stage only seemed to charm the panel of investors.
Day two was more relaxed, with 12 min q&a. It gave us an opportunity to explain more what we are doing as none of the investors really understood the industry and our innovation to it. Its hard to explain a whole industry, and their problems, to someone with no connections to GIS at all but we gave it 100%. The questions were sharp but we had the answers. Most importantly we won the investors trust. Because that’s what it all comes down to in the end. The investors have to believe in YOU. They have to see someone they can trust with their hard earned money. No one knows what company is going to make it, no one knows what the next big thing is and even if they don’t really understand what your product is they might just trust that you know what you’re doing – if they like you.
Now we’re one of the last five companies standing, and we have six weeks of seminars with real investors where we’re going to learn the money game. Getting there is beyond absurd. As a startup having spent 12 hours a day, seven days a week for a year and a half, you sometimes gets lost in your work. Feelings of doubt have to be overcome, and the conformation of being selected as top 5 of 80 companies; companies with Harvard, NTNU and MIT graduates, is perhaps the greatest confirmation we’ve received so far. It will fuel us to keep pushing even harder.
That’s why it’s such a huge compliment to have made it to the finals of Angel Challenge.
Onwards and upwards and happy mapping!