Gone ‘Camping’

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Not “Gone camping” like in real going out in the wild but still that could make an excuse for the limited recent activity on this blog. Anyway, that is actually “gone to ‘Le Camping’ “.

Le Camping is a French startup accelerator, based in Paris, precisely in the posh building of the former stock exchange of Paris, “la Bourse de Paris“.

I have had little contacts with them in the past, just popped there a couple of times and never really got to catch the spirit of the place and people.

So, stumbling upon a tweet where they were asking for volunteers to assist for their “Media day” (an event where startups part of the acceleration/growth program do present), I did apply. That was end of last year.

And here I found myself, a week after speaking to a crowd of a tousand in Vilnius, volunteering to be a helper for Le Camping.

Funny situation. Great situation though. Being a “normal” attendee does not allow to see how things work – or not – in the background.

Here, I could not only see but also experience, first-hand, the back of the classroom.

So … what did stand out during this day ? (call it evening to be right) And I am making use of those points now as they seem to bear a sense of generality more than being specific to this actual event.

1. Startup events in Paris (at least those I have attended in the recent times) are packed.

Full room again on this evening event.

2. The speech is right, the attitude would need improvement.
It is easy to pick some strong sentences nowadays and make use of them while presenting.
Yet, speaking about taking risks with a voice and attitude crying out loud “I don’t wanna die” does not do the job.

3. Startups have learned to pitch.

They have good stories to tell but if those are interesting they are not inspiring.

4. Look cool but be sharp.

I know that startups are about T-shirts, sneakers, a Mac and having some fun (bear with me, the perfect picture at least) but all the founders I know mix this with an amazing sense of knowing when time is about being serious enough and ready to work. The cool factor only does not get people that far on the road to success, at least not when it is about building and sustaining a successful company.

5. The old and rich ones love the young ones.

Perverted title indeed but very good thing in the sense that corporations are truly showing love to startups. More and more invest in assisting startups development (through money, office space, being a beta user, reselling, etc…) and they are really beginning to be great advocates for startups.

On this particular event, I must show appreciation towards SNCF and BNP Paribas, both well-established big companies doing quite a lot to assist startups.

So, in the end, a successful event but, in my eyes, yet another startup event.

As regards the Camping factor, having not seen much of these startups at the beginning of the acceleration program, I slightly miss the big picture but, still, in most of the presentations, the speech remained very (too) standard, template-based and lacked passion.

A concerning example came out in the form of 3 young guys, out of business school (do not ask me which) who did not have a clue about metrics, focus, customer retention, etc … . Their startup was built because they “wanted to have fun” … .

Still ok but the very bad part, in my regards, was that their moving to the USA taught them about the “real life” of a startup.

It raises the question of what they learned during their time in France … .

One usual point : startups are born out of friends and booze + an idea/project. Fair enough.

But successful startups then need drive and mentorship to get on the right track.

In the end, this event did look like a fun party where all friends gathered to have fun. Yet, it did only remain a friendly party until the end, showing just one side of the coin and leaving me wondering about the other.

There had been chats among the community, at the end of last year, about accelerators and the point was that Paris did not need more accelerators but more mentors (well, say good, qualified, mentors). Building an incubator or an accelerator must not become some kind of cool career path, neither must “mentor” be the blue ribbon on the CV of an entrepreneur. The point is in driving startups success, not figures.

I raise my voice again here, the need is for good mentors.

(Picture credit, Marco_bh)

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