Startup World Cup: why should you go there?

This year, Ukraine was officially represented for the first time at the global pitching competition in the USA, where startups-finalists of regional selections from 60+ countries of the world traditionally compete once a year for $1,000,000 of investments. Since the Grand Final of the competition was not held in Silicon Valley last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the winners of the national selections of previous years also presented their projects at the Startup World Cup 2022.

There were also two participants from Ukraine at the competition - finalists of the Startup World Cup Ukraine 2020 and 2022: Dmytro Surdu with his startup Kray Technologies (automatic drones for applying protection and plant nutrition) and Oleh Dryzhak with the startup MANNA (interactive media platform for creating author's 3D - animated content, streaming and social interaction in the VR environment). In addition, the Ukrainian delegation at the competition also included representatives of the organizer of the Ukrainian regional selection - the Ukrainian Future team, a business incubator of the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and two UF resident startups - Harmix by Nazar Ponochevny and AiSport by Anna Stepura. They joined the SWC activities.

How was it?

The three-day event of the Startup World Cup 2022 officially began at 10 a.m. (local time) on September 28 at San Francisco's Broadway Studios. Instead of the traditional 3,5 minutes to present the project, this time the startups had to spend 2 minutes. The pitch was moderated by Bill Reichert, the general partner of the competition organizer – the international venture capital company Pegasus Tech Ventures and the chief expert of the Startup World Cup. The selection lasted almost the whole day - with small breaks for coffee and communication. At this time, spectators and investors who watched the battle of startups from the auditorium had the opportunity to personally talk with CEOs of projects that interested them.

Despite the fact that the representatives of Ukraine - Dmytro and Oleg - managed to present their startups with dignity, they did not make it to the ten finalists of the competition, and pitched also on the Grand Final stage on September 30 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The SWC's top investment prize of $1,000,000 this year went to Canadian startup SRTX, which creates new materials and software for fabric creation.

However, as the organizers of the competition have repeatedly noted, the Startup World Cup is not only about money. There are numerous workshops, meetings, live communication with investors, innovators and founders of tech giants that have offices in Silicon Valley. Often, a trip to SWC is the start of a new stage of development for a startup. After all, in addition to the main investment prize, the competition provides additional financial incentives, provides new business contacts and offers new opportunities for development. Cooperation agreements are often made here simply during a break between pitches, workshops or at a networking party. This year, the SWC organizers even took care of their followers on social networks - they gave away two vacation tickets to Hawaii for the best post-coverage of the event.

Speakers at this year's event include Kevin O'leary (ABC's Shark Tank), Lidia Fonseca (CTO Pfizer), Thuan Pham (Former CTO Uber, Coupang), Sri Shivananda (CTO PayPal), Thomas Dohmke (CEO GitHub) and many others.

What else made Startup World Cup 2022 memorable? About the value for business development, the expediency of participation and general impressions of the competition - in the stories of its participants.

Vitalii Lisovyi, director of Ukrainian Future - business incubator of the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Participation in the Startup World Cup was extremely important for us. The fact that Ukraine was represented on the big stage of the Startup World Cup by two startups at once, despite all the challenges. The world sees that we have quality teams and interesting solutions that can be competitive globally, not only on the local market. SWC opens up wide prospects for such startups - access to global venture capital, an opportunity to convince large companies to invest in their products!

In addition to MANNA and Kray Technologies, which represented Ukraine on the big stage, our delegation included two more resident startups of the business incubator - Harmix and AiSport. And during several days of the competition, all four startups were constantly pitching! After all, even if the teams do not win, there are investors who are interested in their industries and invest in their industries - for example, the metaverse or the development of drones. They approach, communicate, establish contacts. Such communication can often continue.

Actually, what is most impressive in Silicon Valley in general and during networking at the Startup World Cup in particular is the speed of all processes. When you're there, you feel this spirit - it's maximum intensity, focused on results, focused on success. It's one thing when you read about it or hear about it in trainings, it's another thing when you are in this environment. This is really impressive, also because this is exactly what characterizes the startup culture - speed, customer orientation, identifying their needs, product shortcomings, improving it, investing! Indeed, Silicon Valley is imbued with this spirit. No one is swayed here - you take it and do it!

For our startups, the Startup World Cup is a unique opportunity, because currently many Ukrainian venture funds have almost stopped financing startups - all efforts are aimed at winning, helping the army, and humanitarian issues. I think that the next year there will be no pre-war investments from the Ukrainian venture capital. And all the startups that traveled with us to SWS have teams in Ukraine. Therefore, by attracting investments abroad, we attract them to Ukraine, support startups, the ecosystem, business and economy.

In total, about 100 business contacts were established with representatives of venture and technology companies. In particular, IBM Venture Capital Group, Norwest Venture Partners, RaceCapital were present at the event.

Oleg Dryzhak from MANNA and Dmytro Surdu from Kray Technologies performed well in the semi-finals. Yes, they didn't win, but we saw interest in their projects. I am glad that we managed to represent Ukraine in one of the largest startup competitions in the world. The meeting at the Startup World Cup with the Consul General of Ukraine in San Francisco Dmytro Kushneruk and Vice Consul Denys Martynenko was useful, during which it was discussed about further support of Ukrainian startups and attraction of investments. I am grateful for the support of the partners of Ukrainian Future — GIST Net, who provided a travel grant and support in general for the activities of Ukrainian Future. 

"It is an honor to represent Ukraine here!" Dmytro Surdu, CEO of Kray Technologies is a participant in the semifinals of the Startup World Cup.

Participation in the Startup World Cup is recognition and important experience for the project, idea and team. From a practical point of view, in addition to the chances of meeting "your" investor, the Startup World Cup adds recognition and weight to the startup. SWC is organized by the legendary fund Pegasus Tech Ventures (formerly Garage Ventures), which stands at the origins of the iconic stories of today's most successful startups. And the opportunity to present your project to such a fund at several levels at once is valuable in itself.

It is an honor to represent Ukraine here, and the same honor fell to other projects that represented their countries and states. Although we did not win the main prize, I believe that Ukraine was well represented this year and both projects were ahead of many other participants. I would like one day Ukraine to celebrate a well-deserved victory at the Startup World Cup, we have good chances for that!

If we talk about whether startups should participate in regional selections in order to get to the Startup World Cup in Silicon Valley, I would say that it is definitely worth it. In this way, entrepreneurs will not only compete for a chance to become a finalist or win the main prize - at the beginning of the competition, it is more important that the projects will be considered according to the system of criteria that the best Silicon Valley funds have. And this will make it possible to adjust the project's vision and system of prospects at an early stage, and increase its chances of a real victory.

"They listened to $300,000 worth of courses in one day!" Oleh Dryzhak, CEO of MANNA is a participant in the semifinals of the Startup World Cup.

Participating in the Startup World Cup was very rewarding for us for a number of reasons. First, it is an opportunity to be in the heart of Silicon Valley, to meet investors and other founders there. It is very inspiring, refreshing, it is a breath of fresh air and a charge of drive. It was worth the drive for sure!

We had very cool workshops from the stars of the industry - Bill Reichart, his partners, other serial entrepreneurs. We have gone through many startup programs, accelerators, but this is something incredible! After the workshop there was only one minute to pitch and there was a very useful framework on how to do it, I pitched with this pattern - it was different from the concepts I used before, it was really cool and effective! We even calculated with our friends: knowing how much an hour of coaching from mentors who attended workshops cost, we listened to courses worth $300,000 in one day! This is a very cool investment in your own education. And this is education from the best!

The very performance in the semifinals is an opportunity to declare yourself, your idea, your team, and Ukraine, which is very important, to do it for the whole world! Do it from the stage, overcome some of your fears and prepare. What I remember most is, of course, the conference itself, the people I met. And my own fuck-up was very memorable when I flew in the semi-finals and the clicker malfunctioned. I was not ready for this. That is, I am speaking a rather short presentation for 2 minutes, and during this time the clicker simply does not switch the slides! And I need visual confirmation of what I say - visual and verbal information are slightly different and complement each other. I was very upset when the pitch ended. I understood that the picture of the speech came out blurry and this eliminated my chances to participate in the finals, to fight for $1,000,000. But next time, I will know how to act in such a case - I will just continue the story, instead of wasting time by clicking on clicker.

What else I remember is the time we spent together with the Ukrainian pavilion: we watched Stanford, held a meeting with a serial entrepreneur outside the SWC site. All these things, when they first appear, are very inspiring and inspiring. Therefore, would I advise startups to participate in regional selections in order to get here - of course, I would! Regardless of the result, winning or not winning this competition is a good charge, a good experience, it is priceless!

"People were the most impressed at the competition". Nazar Ponochevnyi, CEO of Harmix, is a guest of the Startup World Cup.

Participation in the Startup World Cup - even if your startup is not on the big stage - is already useful! Silicon Valley unites an unprecedented number of high-quality startups, companies and investors. Talking to them at SWC and planning further cooperation is one way to promote the startup.

If we talk about what I remember the most, what impressed me the most about the competition, I would say that it is the people. Very motivated and ready to do anything for the sake of the result. It's nice to be in such an environment. Of course, I would advise all startups to participate in regional selections to get to the Startup World Cup in Silicon Valley. Even if you are not selected, you will receive quality feedback from investors and be able to improve your company and presentation.

For a startup, it makes sense to go to SWC not even as a participant, but as a guest. But you have to do your homework. Arrange meetings with the right people in advance and you will be able to get almost everything from the event as the participating startup!



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