Meetings, meetings, meetings. For many of us, these three words translate to a bad day. Wasted time, nothing getting done! But that absolutely wasn’t the case for SzeleSTIM in Silicon Valley. For our Pioneers’18 winners, it was about connecting with some of the brightest minds in the US innovation scene – as many of them as possible, actually!
The chronic pain treatment startup from Vienna enjoyed appointments with the kind of people you don’t just phone up and book a diary date with. These were introductions from Pioneers: the real value here was far more than that of a plane ticket – though the latter was part of the prize too! It was about learning, feedback, validation and contacts. Actionable insights, to use a bit of life sciences jargon!
“We made a number of valuable contacts and got inspired by the startup culture in the San Francisco Bay Area,” said SzeleSTIM Co-Founder Stefan Kampusch. “Everybody saw the need and tremendous market for our solution, but thanks to the feedback we received, we got more focused on the essentials of our business. This will definitely help us to evolve further.”
Just as was the case for last year’s winning startup Stromkind, the session with communications specialists Duarte was one of the highlights for SzeleSTIM too.
“Storytelling is very important, and the workshop with Nancy Duarte was very impressive with respect to this,” said Kampusch. “In the workshop we had to build a personal story, for instance around how we came so far with our business. Such stories can be included in the company’s pitch to generate trust and send the message of why what they’re doing is important.”
Meeting Michael Seibel from Y Combinator also left a strong impression on Kampusch and his Co-Founder Dorian Szeles, the company’s sales specialist, who also travelled as part of the Pioneers’18 prize.
“The session with Michael was very impressive,” says Kampusch. “With his ability to dive deep into the matter within minutes, he gave incredibly valuable feedback on our product and the business model. He encouraged us on a number of points, but also gave us valuable new thoughts with respect to the US market.”
The duo also took part in a growth hacking workshop with digital growth agency Growth Masters and growth hacker Eva Reder, learning how best to exploit communication channels and walking away with some valuable growth hacking resources.
Investors were also on the agenda, of course. SzeleSTIM met with NEA, Accel Partners, Startup500, and Greylock Partners. “All of them provided valuable, high-quality feedback on our product and our pitch. They could be interesting for us in future fundraising rounds and we’ll be keeping them updated.”
The trip dovetailed nicely some of the plentiful good news that has come the way of SzeleSTIM since winning Pioneers’18. Specifically the signing of a Joint Venture and Licence Agreement with a yet-to-be-announced ‘strategic US partner.’
“We also used our time in San Francisco to meet with our new American partner and discuss details around entering the US market. The agreement paves the way to this and enables us to industrialize our prototypes fast. It also gives us access to telehealth solutions, which we can use to build our closed-loop therapy management solutions for chronic pain patients.”
With a greater presence in the United States already on the agenda going forward, the trip proved extremely useful from the point of view of giving SzeleSTIM a perspective on how big the challenge is – and how to rise to it.
“It’s very competitive there. At our growth hacking workshop the situation for a founder in the Valley was described as ‘having a gun to your head’. The incredibly high costs of living and the pressure from investors for a fast return means you can’t make mistakes.
“You’ve got half a year to be successful, otherwise you run out of money and can’t survive. That means burning money fast to earn money fast. That’s why everything coming out of this area is very good and very competitive.
“One of our biggest learnings from the trip was that to do business in Silicon Valley and the US in general, you have to have an office there. You need to fully commit and actually be there.”
So then, SzeleSTIM will clearly be going into this bright but challenging future well-informed, well-connected and well-equipped. And that’s thanks in no small part…to all of those meetings!