IBM SmartCamp Global Finals Day 1: Master Class

027_IMG_6602Today was Day 1 of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, a three-day event which kicked off today with a Master Class for the eight startup finalists, featuring a powerhouse lineup of guest speakers. The goal of the day was to provide the finalists with insights and advice on tackling various aspects of growing a startup company.

Martin Kelly, Partner at IBM Venture Capital Group, was emcee for the day and after a brief introduction handed things off to Deborah Magid, Director of IBM Venture Capital Group. To set the stage for the day Deborah walked the eight finalist teams through some of IBM’s strategic priorities for 2013 and beyond, emphasizing the importance of being at the forefront of new wave technology, like mobile and cognitive computing.

028_IMG_6813Toward mid-morning, after a briefing from the IBM Public Relations team on some media best practices and tips for dealing with reporters, the finalists heard from Professor Robert Farrokhnia of Columbia Business School. After amusing the crowd with a slide depicting the proper pronunciation of his name (a picture of an oak tree in the distance + “nia”), Prof. Farrokhnia spoke about working with strategic partners. He advised the finalists not to let their boards be dominated by one or two investors, and also busted some myths about different kinds of venture capitalists, like the myth that corporate VCs are not good for startups.

Up next was Gerald Brady, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Bank, who gave an energetic presentation on what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. One potent quote he shared with the audience was, “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” He also shared an excellent and hilarious French video on the importance of story-telling, which surprised everyone with its twist ending:

On the point of story-telling, Brady emphasized to the finalists that in order to get investors on board, they should be able to explain what they do to a 9-year-old, since investors are rarely interested in the complexities of the technology and rather want to understand the value.

014_IMG_6306The bulk of the Master Class Day, however, was presented by the next speaker Ken Morse, serial entrepreneur, sales veteran, and Visiting Professor from ESADE Business School. During Morse’s presentation, the audience got a taste of what it must be like to be a student in one of his classes–with Morse pacing up and down the aisles and keeping everyone on their toes by asking direct questions to various individuals. Among the many gems of advice he gave, here were some of the highlights: You can’t get great sales people unless you can convince them that they’ll make more money working for you. You won’t get anywhere with your business until you can convince potential clients that you thoroughly understand THEIR problem. Everybody and anybody is not a client; you have to know exactly who you’re selling to. And finally–an audience favorite–it takes a pig and a chicken to make a ham omelet. The difference is that the chicken was only involved; the pig was fully committed. As a startup, you have to be the pig, and be fully committed to your clients and solution.

043_IMG_7396The day wrapped up with an informative and lively panel discussion, featuring Bill Reichert, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures; Kazim Yalcinoglu, Metutech-Ban; Patrick de Zeeuw, Co-Founder and CEO, Startupbootcamp; and Phillippe Herbert, Partner, Banexi Ventures. They talked about global investment and cultures of innovation, but perhaps the most fun topic was the craziest thing a startup has ever said to them. Bill Reichert recalled an incident where a startup claimed that their company would be worth $30 trillion. “You mean the GDP of the entire planet?” he asked incredulously.

The day was interesting and informative, generating excellent questions and discussion among the finalists. Tomorrow the eight startups will work closely with expert mentors to refine their business models and pitches even further, before the final presentations this Thursday Feb. 7th. Already, the IBM SmartCamp Finals are off to an exciting start! Make sure to follow @IBMSmartCamp on Twitter for live updates this week.

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals People’s Vote!

The IBM SmartCamp Global Finals are happening this week! Now that you’ve met all of the finalists through our Meet the Global Finalists series, it’s time to cast your vote. Take a last look at each of the eight startups and vote for your favorite in the poll at the bottom of the page. The winner of this online People’s Vote will be announced next week, February 7th, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. To attend the event, register here, otherwise you can still catch all the action on our Livestream!

CaptainDash_squareCaptainDash provides the ultimate dashboard for marketers. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

getway_squareGetWay enables any industry to precisely monitor real-time sales data. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

histoindex_squareHistoIndex has an imaging solution which enables early detection and better treatment of fibrosis. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

mode_squareMo De provides nano-credit for mobile services and other utilities in emerging nations. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.


Poikos has 3D body imaging technology to help online shoppers find clothes that fit. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

QLabs_squareQuintessenceLabs has harnessed the properties of nature to better protect data. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

skyfoundry_squareSkyFoundry helps building owners and operators “find what matters” in the data produced by today’s smart systems. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

streetlightdata_squareStreetLight Data helps retailers know how potential customers move around their city. Learn more in our previous post or watch the video below.

‘Shark’ Barbara Corcoran to speak at IBM SmartCamp Global Finals!

Barbara Corcoran, from ABC's hit reality series Shark Tank.

Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s hit reality series Shark Tank.

IBM is thrilled to welcome Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s hit reality series Shark Tank, as a guest speaker at the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals in New York City, Feb. 7th. An entrepreneur herself with a fascinating rags-to-riches story, her insights and advice will undoubtedly be valuable for the startup finalists and audience alike. To attend the Global Finals and hear her for yourself, register here!

Barbara Corcoran is the Founder of Corcoran Group and the Chairman of Barbara Corcoran, Inc. Her credentials include straight D’s in high school and college and twenty jobs by the time she turned twenty-three. It was her next job, however, that would make her one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country, when she borrowed $1,000 from her boyfriend and quit her job as a waitress to start a tiny real estate company in New York City. Over the next twenty-five years, she’d parlay that $1,000 loan into a five-billion-dollar real estate business and the largest and best-known brand in the business.

Barbara is the real estate contributor for NBC’s TODAY Show where she comments weekly on trends in the real estate market. Barbara is an investor/shark on ABC’s reality hit Shark Tank, Fridays at 9pm. In the first season, Barbara bought eight young businesses which she’s shepherding to success.

As a speaker, Ms. Corcoran brings her frontline experience and infectious energy to each person in the audience. They laugh, cry, and learn how to become more successful. Motivational, inspirational, and sometimes outrageous, her tell-it-like-it-is attitude is a refreshing approach to success.

Barbara Corcoran is the author of If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails, an unlikely business book that has become a national best-seller. She credits her struggles in school and her mother’s kitchen-table wisdom for her innovation and huge success in the business world. The book is a fresh, frank look at how to succeed in life and business and is as heartwarming as it is smart and motivating.

To hear Barbara and experience the rest of the excitement at the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, register to join us at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City February 7th!


SmartCamp Syndey – Smart Potatoes

Yesterday in Sydney the IBM team held an amazing event with the largest number of partners we have ever had for a SmartCamp. There were many highlights not least the companies. In addition we were delighted to hear Peter Kazacos war stories. We’ll post a full review next week in the meantime we wanted to announce that Crop Logic were selected by the judges in a very tight race.  They have a solution to manage yield and water supply for potatoe management for which there will be 2 billion end consumers.  When we started the program 2.5 years about we never thought we’d find Smart Potatoes.  Check out here for more info and photos.

Cloudy with a Chance of Jellyfish

Almost 15 years ago, I interviewed for a management consultant role.  When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to get the job, I asked the interviewer what skills and experience I needed to develop.  ‘The ability to handle ambiguity’ was the answer.  It has stuck with me ever since.  I’m reminded on a daily basis working with entrepreneurs that this is a key trait that is needed to be a great disruptor, innovator or venture capitalist.

Last week was spent in cloudy China.  The average daily temperature was 34 degrees, however we didn’t see the sun once during the week.  Even on internal flights there was no blue sky to be seen only white ‘fog’.  It feels unnatural to travel at 500+ miles and not see where you are going.  Maybe this is a good metaphor for the start-up scene.  However it is hard not to get excited by the energy and scale of activities here.  China is exhilarating and draws you in.

We are hosting SmartCamp Beijing in August and SmartCamp Asia also in Beijing in September.  Jonathan Liu is the IBM Global Entrepreneur leader in the Greater China Group and he and the team have been very active in the build-up.  They have run a series of industry focused events for ecommerce and healthcare.  Each event highlighted 10 companies (twice the number at a regular SmartCamp event).  Earlier in the year they co-hosted the National University Entrepreneur Contest which attracted 190 teams from 180 universities.  Social media is also interesting in terms of scale.  We are working closely with Chuangyetv who launched their site last Tuesday.  The team has a great web site and Weibo account.   According to iResearch’s report from March 2011, the top 100 users had over 485 million followers.   Indeed Kaife Lee who was previously president of Google China has over 14 million followers!

Earlier in the year I wrote about Castrol 2020.  This week I got to attend their 2nd event in Shanghai.  In addition to 5 very interesting teams including (judges winner) and Aventones from Mexico there was a great group of VCs and Corporates including 3M, Dow Chemical, and Northern.  I heard some of the mentors say they believe the companies were as strong if not stronger than the companies in London.  The public event was held in a super cool Mint and involved a virtual game of football in the middle of the pitches.  Another surprise!

The final reason to travel was to visit China Accelerator in Dalian and see how the accelerator model works in this amazing country.  I was told that Dalian was a small city by Chinese standards.  It seems that a population of 5.5M is small in China.

Over the last 3 years we have been working closely with many of the top accelerator programs around the world.  This model, while it continues to evolve, is an important part of creating great companies.  It includes a balance of local and international mentors in a space that more resembles a nightclub than an office. 

After the main events, we also took the opportunity to host our first Shanghai Alumni dinner and review with the finalists and mentors what has worked and what needs to improve.  It is great to see Palmap continuing to grow with investment from Gobi ventures.  They have mapped 10,000 shopping malls!  The reference to Jellyfish in the title was one of a lot of surprises during dinner (and a reminder that China is exciting and different).   

Here’s a big thank you to Jonathan and the team for arranging a great trip and congratulations to Castrol and Startup bootcamp on another high quality event. 

Corporate Venturing with Andrew Gaule

The following is from a recent interview with Andrew Gaule on behalf of Global Corporate Venturing

Gaule: Give a brief description of the purpose of SmartCamp and when it was formed.

Kelly: SmartCamp is about bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and experienced mentors who want to build innovation ecosystems around the world. SmartCamp takes technology that has transformed the internet, providing new insight, analytics and intelligence, and applying it to new areas like transportation, physical systems (water and electricity) and healthcare. SmartCamp began as an internal IBM start-up in Dublin two and half years ago and now operates in 20 cities around the world with further expansion planned to South Africa shortly.

Gaule: What is the structure of the team and partners you work with?

Kelly: We are a subset of the 430,000-strong IBM global workforce. We have nine partners and our other colleagues work with client teams, business partners and universities in a matrix organisation format. In each location we have a person who owns SmartCamp and we support them centrally.  We do not think of ourselves as a traditional venture capital (VC) firm but rather a platform technology business.  In each city where the programme runs we have roughly 100 applications from which we pick the best five and pair these with the most appropriate mentors. The mentors come from VC firms, but are also serial entrepreneurs and sometimes from universities.

Gaule: Do you see the business models applied by applicants as similar or different among the various regions in which you operate?

Kelly: There is a spectrum of models as they are incredibly hyper-local. We find that from city to city, often even neighbourhood to neighbourhood, there are differences and certainly no trends at a regional level. There are, however, certain geographies,Silicon Valley being the classic one, where people really understand disruptive innovation, and then there are others just starting down this track.

Gaule: How have the locations for SmartCamp grown in the past few years?

Kelly: We started out quite small and it took us a while to convince people of the value before we piloted it in Ireland and people quickly saw the possibilities. We are now at a stage where people within IBM are putting up their hand from different locations around the world and asking to bring SmartCamp to Sydney,Miami orMoscow, for example, and then we do our best to assess that the specific opportunity merits the level of investment and activity. The key question we look at is whether there are real partners in the region, that they really want to do this and it is not just a case of IBM creating the demand, but rather there is an existing ecosystem that we can help develop.

Gaule: Give some examples of recent start-ups you think benefits IBM or other corporates.

Kelly: We think of success in terms of a couple of different measures. Firstly, most of the companies who apply to SmartCamp are looking for funding, and although it may not come from IBM directly, we have good relationships with VCs so we try to help those companies obtain funding. Secondly and probably more importantly, we try to build meaningful relationships with these companies, so that we can develop a joint market approach. Specific examples include Street Line – parking solutions with an iphone app – and Sproxil, a finalist working in emerging markets like Africa and India, taking technology from theUSto try to solve major problems around the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals in these areas.

You can hear the full interview as an audio download from

Global Corporate Venturing or from Previous interviews are also available on iTunes – search for Corven Networks.

To contact Andrew Gaule and for future interview ideas

email and

5 tips for working with a venture capitalist – Interview with Philip Connolly – Sunday Bus Post

Interview with Philip Connolly from this weeks Sunday Business Post.

Raising finance can be one of the most difficult parts of taking a business to the next level. One of the most important moments in the life of a business can be a meeting with a venture capital firm.

It is important to know what a venture capitalist is looking for in a business, to maximise the chances of getting an investment. The Daily Business Post spoke to Martin Kelly, who is a partner with IBM Venture Capital in Europe, to find out what is important for a company to remember when looking to work with a venture capitalist.

1. It is about the team

While you may think the most important aspect of a pitch is the offering, many venture capitalists will be more interested in the team involved than the product.

“Our view is that you can have great technology but if you don’t have a great team not much is going to happen with it,” said Kelly. “If I meet somebody who says they are going to do something, I meet them again a month later and figure out if they have done it. We look for the right mixture. Is there really somebody who has commercial experience?”

Aside from anything else, a venture capitalist knows they will be working with a team in close quarters. It is important for them to trust and see potential in the individuals they will be working with.

“You can advise, but at the end of the day the team is the ones driving the car,” said Kelly. “In the best case you are in the back seat hoping they don’t crash. There are going to be potholes and problems along the way, can a team respond to that? Are they resilient enough and open enough to say that something isn’t working and move on to something different.”

2. Have some traction

One of the most important things when dealing with a venture capitalist is to show that you have more than an idea. A venture capitalist will look for some validation of what you want to do, whether that be through an award, some earlier sales or bringing a partner or some employees on board.

“It is relatively easy to come up with an idea and put it on a piece of paper,” said Kelly. “Venture capitalists will look for some type of market validation. They want to see that you are the individuals who are passionate and have the operational skills to get people on board.”

3. Be careful when asking for money

While the main focus of meeting with a venture capitalist is getting capital for your business, it is important to remember that you are entering into a partnership rather than looking for a loan.

“When someone comes to me straight away asking for money I get worried,” said Kelly. “It is a fairly opportunistic business. You need to find a person who you want to work with, if you can’t get that right there is no point in putting the money in because it is going to be a disaster.”

4. Find the right venture capitalist and tailor your pitch

Different venture capitalists specialise in different areas and industries. It is important to identify what type of venture capitalist will best suit your business, as you will be in it with them for the long term.

“It’s not just about the money, it is about someone who is going to be your partner,” said Kelly. “They are not going to be running the business but they will be there beside you. You want to find someone who you think you can work with, who has got experience and networks. It is a personal relationship.”

It also important to understand the role that a venture capitalist plays in their industry, and tailor what you are saying accordingly.

“An entrepreneur should put themselves in the investors’ shoes,” said Kelly. “A lot of people don’t understand what the job of a venture capitalist is, that they are managing other people’s money and need to provide a return. It is about risk, most venture capitalists will say of the ten investments they make there are probably five that they will write off and they are hoping to get one or two that will return by ten.”

5. Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger

Venture capital is a high risk endeavour and thus venture capitalists will look for potentially high returns.

“We look to see if a team has global aspirations, does a team really want to be the best,” said Kelly. “I get excited when entrepreneurs are working on really big problems.”

Crowdsourcing innovation

How do you find innovation ?  That is a question we ask ourselves on a regular basis.  Once you find it how do you harness it?  In the following talk from TEDx Montreal Mike Grandinetti explores crowdsourcing innovation.  Mike has been a mentor at a number of our SmartCamp events and is passionate about start-ups and their role in disruptive innovation.  I think his quote ‘that light always emerges from the darkness’ is very adapt given the current media coverage of the global economy.  Enjoy

Big Data comes to Munich!

Yesterday in Munich we held our first SmartCamp event in Germany.   It was also the first SmartCamp with a specific focus on Big Data and Business Analytics.

Keynote Speaker Philippe Souidi, Founder of, summarized this topic perfectly when he called Big Data the “Oil of the next Century”… fitting, isn’t it?

The Gate Garching, the host of the event and a Munich Technology and Entrepreneur Center, was the perfect location for mindshare around the next generation of cutting edge startups, fitting because it is the home to several in-house innovative, young companies and close to the campus of the Technical University of Munich.

Let’s learn a little more about the startups who participated. 3 Big Data and Analytics startups received intensive mentoring from 15 Mentors representing different backgrounds, different industries, and different perspectives. Mentors included VCs, angels, serial entrepreneurs and industry experts, all of which had a common interest in Smarter Analytics.

SmartCamp Participants:

Celonis Softwate Solutions is the leading vendor for the analysis of operative process data created by IT systems. Their unique analysis technology, Process Business Intelligence, enables customers to intuitively dive into their process data and use it to improve their operational performance.

HoneyTracks provides the deepest analytics solution for monetization of online games and help Game Companies to understand the success factors of their game and how it generates revenues based on big data.

JouleX Energy Manager Solutions reduces energy costs up to 60% by monitoring, analyzing and managing energy usage of all network-connected devices and systems, without the use of costly and unwieldy agents.

And the winner is… JouleX!

As expected we had some very strong teams however the judges selected Joulex as the winner. Joulex leverages big data in order to create business intelligence by aggregating and correlating the energy information from all IP-enabled devices to provide unprecedented visibility into the energy consumption and utilization of those devices throughout the distributed office, data center and facilities environments. JouleX takes this a step further by applying advanced analytics to identify energy, cost, and carbon savings opportunities and a management platform to implement policies to realize this savings.

They have offices in Germany, US and Japan and are headed by Tom Noonan – Tom was previously CEO of Internet Security Systems (ISS), which was acquired by IBM for $1.5 billion.  We look forward to working with them in the coming months.

Congratulations again to Joulex, Celonis and Honeytracks, an impressive set of Analytics and Big Data startups to kick off the very first SmartCamp in Germany!

Also a very big thanks to all our partners who were key to a very successful event.