All photos: Leonel More
Last week, Montevideo, Uruguay had its second startup screening event held by the startup accelerator and investor NXTP Labs. The former one, held in November 2013, got the attention of the entire Uruguayan technology sector, and this event built upon the original success.
NXTP Labs is one of the key players of the LATAM startup ecosystem. They helped financially incubate iBillionaire, KidBox and Wideo, among other 150 companies. The company recently announced that their goal is to have 300 startups funded by end of 2015, and Uruguay is playing a big part.
The startup screening event happened at the multiplex movie theater Life Cinemas AlfaBeta. A move screen projected the pitching team’s presentation slides, as presenters pitched their companies.
While one company was presenting its product, the others were waiting seated in the higher rows; the front rows were reserved for the panelists and NXTP Labs directors. In total, eleven startups in their seed funding stages were screened during the event.
Arturo Torres, NXTP Labs Program Director, and Pablo Garfinkel, NXTP Labs Venture Partner were the lead panelists, and along with the other panelists, spent the evening socializing and networking with all the participants and the media over coffee.
“This is great,” said Esteban Siniscalco from Wupiti. “If you get to be selected, you have the possibility to be part of NXTP and have their contacts, to know people who otherwise would be impossible to reach. With NXTP Labs you have the chance of getting exposure that otherwise would be complicated, and that´s important.”
That is what most of the fledgling companies were looking for: exposure. Former local startups incubated by NXTP Labs after participating in this kind of event demonstrate that the exposure provided is the big prize. KidBox, Populy Games, Kool and MiTurno are examples.
Gonzalo Barco from SQ AdMobile agrees with Siniscalco: “It’s not the money you could get in this stage—I understand that none of the startups which asked for $300,000 (USD), $500,000 or $750,000 would consider the $25,000 they could get in this stage significant for making a leap forward, but the promise of outreach,” is the objective of the participants.
However, not every startup was in the same stage. Seed funding is very important for early stage startups, as Federico Toledo from Monkop remarks: “At this moment we are in a development phase and it is very important for us to count on funding which would allow us to grow the team and the product.” Federico explains that the US “is our principal market, and for reaching that market we need an investment fund who can give us that support. Here we saw a very interesting opportunity to get the needed capital.”
Everyone had their chance to pitch their product or service to the panelists during the three and a half hour event. Panelists had the opportunity to ask questions and in some cases, offer suggestions. “They asked us some questions. I think the comments they make are worthy, comments which are more like advice,” said Martin Gorlero from Wupiti.
Every entrepreneur interviewed was optimistic after the pitches were delivered.
Some of them indicated declarations of further interest from the panelists, to further investigate their ventures. “We talked about conducting a demo of how our service works to some of the panelists,” said Gonzalo Barco.
According to Antonella Montes de Oca, “we [NXTP Labs] hold a screening event but the entrepreneurs maintain continuous contact with us and we move forward from that point. For logistic and organizational reasons we open two selection processes each year, so the entrepreneurs that make contact with us now are later admitted into the next upcoming selection phase.”
Uruguay’s startup ecosystem is getting traction. The interest of incubators like NXTP Labs in sponsoring these kinds of events locally is evidence “[NXTP Labs] is looking for new opportunities inside the fast growing Uruguayan startup ecosystem, where a lot of entrepreneurs are emerging with a global vision. That is what is we want to see,” affirms Torres.
Is the next KidBox (one of the most successful Uruguayan startups so far) among the event participants? Well, Torres is optimistic: “I think so. I think there are a couple interesting companies for us to continue analyzing and that may warrant a deepening relationship.”