Silicon Valley is where the startup tech frenzy began. So, the Valley was a particularly fitting venue for the September G-Startup Worldwide Finals -- an event that is akin to an Olympics for emerging startups.
After inviting promising startup winners from nine previous regional competitions, G-Startup hosted at its final competition some of the most innovative companies from across the globe.
Represented at the vent were Seoul, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta, Sao Paulo and Silicon Valley.
Aside from the monetary prizes, which are hefty (first place took home $250,000), there was a lot one could learn about trends in the tech sector from a competition like this. Here are five important takeaways from this year's G-Startup Worldwide Finals:
1. Competitions are key.
Competitions are the “new and improved normal” for emerging companies looking to get their foot in the door. There was once a time when new tech companies would need to go to the offices of venture capitalists (VCs) to get their attention. Now, VCs are the ones going to the companies at these types of events, seeking the most promising ideas for investment.
Even though winning a competition such as G-Startup would be optimal, even the non-winners -- simply by getting their companies out there in front of VCs -- can benefit greatly. For example, one startup that our team ran into at the event had come in second place at the Toyko regional final, but felt it was still important to show up to the SV finale. Its team came to network with the key venture capitalists who were both attending and judging the competition.
2. Innovation comes from everywhere.
At G-Startup, it was amazing to see firsthand how truly global the startup community is, filling practically every business niche around the world. The startups that were competing hailed from rich cities and poor towns, developed countries and developing nations, alike. Their founders had many backgrounds, cultures, unique experiences and pain points to bring to the table.
A good example of the diversity exhibited among the competitors could be seen from iGrow, a startup finalist from Jakarta, Indonesia. iGrow is a marketplace that helps underemployed farmers use under-utilized land to farm, based on crowdsourcing funding. The pain point the company solves is one that is felt primarily in developing countries, yet here was this startup anyway, getting a chance to present its business proposal as a finalist in a U.S. competition.
In the past, companies like iGrow, which has no immediate plans or the need to bring its value proposition to the U.S., probably would not have had the chance to present at an event like this.
3. The business plan is back.
What was once old is now new again: One of the takeaways from G-Startup was that after years of VCs sometimes immediately jumping on the bandwagon of exciting new companies, they’re now taking a step back, returning to their original strategy of reviewing startups’ business plans in depth from the very first meeting.
For example, Easy Carros, a mobile car wash and cleaning service based in Sao Paulo, presented a comprehensive, unambiguous business plan, which included projections on how the company saw itself progressing in the next couple of years, plus solid evidence of the results it had already achieved. The company won second place.
4. The present and future look brighter than we'd anticiated.
Today, we see a significant amount of negative messaging concerning the state of our world. But in what is a hopeful takeaway, the true outlook of that world, according to what we saw at G-Startup, is actually a positive one.
As expressed by Tim Draper, the renowned venture capitalist, who spoke at G-Startup, the world has vastly improved, down to the most minute of details. This was a message others shared as well at the conference, which itself was an example of how the global business market is becoming more interconnected and is, thus, brimming with new possibilities.
When you consider that new and inspirational ideas are being conceived in locations around the world every minute -- the 2016-2017 competition kicks off this month in Bangalore -- you may walk away with the impression that our best days are yet to come.