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Geneva group's contest gives 'lift' to startups

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Seedstars held regional competitions around the world ahead of the Geneva event. Photo: Seedstars
10:24 CET+01:00
A Geneva-based group that provides seed money for startups is this week showcasing the winners of a global competition for entrepreneurs from emerging and fast-growing markets.

Seedstars World is offering an opportunity for 36 finalists from around the world to gain access to $500,000 in equity investment for the winning proposal.

The top startup will be selected during the three-day Lift Conference starting on Wednesday and competing entrepreneurs will be able to pitch their ideas to angel investors at a two-day “boot camp” in Lausanne before, when the top ten are selected.

Attracting more than 1,000 delegates, the annual conference bills itself as “one of Europe’s key events about innovation and digital technologies”.

As such it is a perfect springboard for people with business start-up ideas seeking financial backers, Seedstars representative Lorena Edejer told The Local.

Some of the startups in the running include one from Eygpt that has developed a communications system for deaf and mute people that “translates sign language into voice and text in real time,” she said.

Another one from South Africa is offering a “low-cost fire detection device designed for the slum environment,” Edejer said.

A Nigerian startup is recycling plastic waste and turning it into “car-ready petrol”.

Seedstars SA selected the best startup ideas from 1,500 applications and assessed 500 "pitches" over a nine-month period.

"Our mission is to discover the best startups beyond Silicon Valley and Western Europe, and support these businesses and their development, wherever they may be," the company said in a statement.

"From Ramallah to Sydney, passing by Dakar and Santiago, the startup scene knows no frontiers, without limits to innovation and creativity."

The company ran a similar competition in 2014 but this year is the first time it is collaborating with the Lift Conference.

During the Lausanne boot camp, expert advisers will help the business hopefuls to fine-tune presentations to prospective investors.

Seedstars says it “launches ideas, grows startups and builds companies.”

It employs a dozen people directly and indirectly, investing in what it sees as winning startups with a view too making a healthy financial return.

But “it’s a long-term investment,” Edejer said


“We work more closely with startups than just investing, we’re hands-on,” she said.

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“We follow their projects to the point of hiring people.”

One such example is SimplePay, a Nigerian “mobile money solution” that provides people in that country, which does not have conventional banking services, to make payments in multiple currencies, Edejer said.

Seedstars invested $300,000 in the startup after it was selected from a group of competing business projects in Lagos in 2013.

The company focuses on business ideas from emerging markets, where a few years ago startups were non-existent, Edejer said.

But it also invests in “fast-growing startup scenes” in places like Japan and Australia, she said.

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