We were delighted not only for the opportunity to travel to San Francisco, but also to be part of something bigger.
Winner of both the HealthTech category and OVERALL winner of the Venture Cup Challenge 2017, the start-up company OSAA Innovation was rewarded a dream trip to the world’s tech mecca, San Francisco. Read about their daily highlights and what the team got out of their participation in the program SCALEit, which bridges Denmark and Silicon Valley.
Wow! A 25,000 DKK paid trip for two founders to one of America’s coolest cities AND endless cheers and appreciative words from sponsors, organizers, mentors, like-minded entrepreneurs, investors and many, many more. We were delighted not only for the opportunity to travel to San Francisco, but also to be a part of something bigger.
Modest as we like to think we are, we did not expect to make a clean sweep at Venture Cup. The field was immeasurably strong as 27 innovative finalists had made their way to the last day of the Venture Cup Challenge at Cortex Lab at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense late January.
Still, we ended up driving our office on wheels, a Peugeot 208, on this wet and cold Thursday night in January from Odense back to Copenhagen with a trophy in our lap, confetti in our hair and a smile as wide as the Great Belt Bridge.
As we were talking about in the car in between loud Middle-Eastern music and euphoric jubilation: Now it is no longer just ourselves, who believe in the idea.
With the double victory, we got our idea, business plan and team endorsed by a broad group of experts from various industries. It obliges us to do something. Now we must work even harder to ensure that our mission, mobilizing IV patients, succeeds.
This massive victory gave us a shot of confidence. Now, we were to travel to the United States and try to create more momentum for our little startup. People in Denmark even spoke about OSAA Innovations’ opportunities to create a gigantic trans-Atlantic success.
After a lot of trouble to get our visas, countless visits to the US Embassy in Copenhagen, increased security checks at the airport and the German airline Lufthansa almost rejecting us in Munich, we landed the night before the first day of the SCALEit program at San Francisco Airport at 21:00. Extremely tired after a 14-hours flight, we quickly rented a car before leaving for Milpitas, a small provincial town north of San José with a small population of 80,000 people.
This would be our home while participating in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ week-long startup program for promising Danish companies. We did however not have our luggage. While we were at the immigration control at the American Security Police, Lufthansa had mistakenly taken our bags off the baggage band.
Day 1; Sunday, February 19: Rental car smashed
Bad coffee combined with jetlag, unwashed clothes and little or no sleep sound very familiar to any entrepreneurial fellow. Therefore, it did not mean that much to us when we had to jump out of bed, take a much-needed shower and put on our (very used) clothes Sunday morning at 6:00.
We had to drive to the Innovation Center Denmark in Silicon Valley district of Palo Alto, a trip of 30 kilometers, corresponding to the distance between Copenhagen and Roskilde.
“Our car is smashed,” exclaims my partner Ahmed Hessam heading back to the motel room after his first breath of fresh morning air. Most definitely, our Ford Mustang which costs us a flat 20 US dollars banknote a day, had been smashed by another car in the parking lot. We had to call the police to get a claim form and then go back to San Francisco Airport to swap the sports car with a new one and pick up our luggage.
After a tumultuous morning, we arrived late at the Innovation Center Denmark where we are welcomed by the prominent people behind the SCALEit program, consisting of Christian Vinther, Alexander Haurslex, Jakob Søderberg and Søren Terkelsen.
Life’s a pitch!
For weeks before our arrival, the large open-plan office in the middle of Palo Alto in Silicon Valley has witnessed a large amount of clouds and rain, we were told. It is no different this morning, where the concept “Sunny California” seems non-existent since the trees were flapping from side to side in the wind.
Bill Joos is standing in one corner waving his arms. He is an older, experienced business man from Silicon Valley, and he is opening the SCALEit program with an admirable self-confidence. Bill Joos is the founder of Go To Market Consulting and an expert in making startups ready to present their product or service to potential investors and customers. He will teach us and seven other Danish startups on how to make a “killer pitch”, as the Americans like to call this type of presentation.
Bill Joos is sharp, clear and significantly better than any other we have met in Denmark. He introduced us to a model he has been successfully using. Considering the experience he has, we are talking about a person who has read more than 90,000 executive summaries.
“Alright, let’s get to it,” says Bill Joos and lifts a pile of papers from the table besides him.
Everyone in the room is given a presentation folder on which the front cover says, “Life’s a pitch”. We need to learn about the many different types of presentations or pitches that you as an entrepreneur are most likely to encounter.
- “Handshake Intro” which is the shortest presentation of 10 seconds and 7-17 words.
- “Elevator Pitch”, which lasts between 30 to 90 seconds.
- “Startup Showcase”, which is a trivial, but broad presentation of 3-5 minutes.
- “Napkin Pitch,” which is an informal, but rich presentation lasting between 15 to 45 minutes.
- “Investor Pitch”, which is a lengthy presentation of 45-60 minutes.
A presentation needs to embody the memorable goal of the entrepreneur in order to leave a distinctive impression, according to Bill Joos, who also goes by the name “Pitch Doctor”.
The first three types of presentations “Handshake Intro”, “Elevator Pitch” and “Startup Showcase” were then thoroughly trained. Each team got twenty minutes to work on their material, hereafter they had to take turns to be on stage and pitch in front of the other participants. It continued for a few rounds until the presentations were all rehearsed.
Spectacular and intense program
After a spectacular opening with an informative crash course in how to present your startup and its scalability to a relevant American audience, it was time for a common lunch. It was followed by a thorough introduction from a former SCALEit participant and Founder of Live Take, Nikolas Borrel, on what he has achieved after the graduation of the program and what you as an entrepreneur should be aware of when trying to be successful in the US.
At around 16:00, our heads were dazed and full of impressions after feverishly writing down tips on the notepad.
But there was more to the program, much more. In fact, I might as well reveal immediately that SCALEit is such an intense and compressed program that it is extremely overwhelming. Especially because you are not allowed to hide and be quiet.