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Dutch startups pitch at Northside Festival in New York

In a basement of the Wythe Hotel in trendy Williamsburg (NYC) fourteen European startups curried for favour of an expert jury in the Heart of Europe Startup Pitchfest. Among them were five promising Dutch startups: WeMakeVR, Konnektid, LEVIY and NewsAnglr. The pitch of iLost founder Hanneke Stegweg for her ‘search engine’ for lost and found items proved to be the most successful.

What made these Dutch startups stand out among Belgian and Swiss startups? According to jury member Thomas Wisniewski, an early investor at RosePaul Ventures in New York, all the candidates in this pitch contest were judged by four criteria: originality, potential revenue, investability and presentation.

iLost, where users can track down lost items, proved to be the best synthesis of these components. The Dutch startup also resonated with Maker’s Row co-founder Tanya Menendez. “When I started living in New York I lost my Blackberry in a cab. It was one of the worst experiences I had”. To her the potential for market disruption was decisive in her judgement.

Stand out in consumer space

iLost found itself facing off two Swiss startups in the final of the pitch competition, FlatEv (a Nespresso type of tortilla maker) and 1DropDiagnostics (medical diagnostics). The reason the other Dutch startups didn’t make the cut was probably originality. WeMakeVR, skill sharing service Konnektid, news curator NewsAnglr and cleaning service LEVIY all felt familiar to the judges in one way or the other. Although innovative, successful and potentially market disruptive these companies already find themselves in a somewhat crowded field in the US. And this pitch competition aims at the American market.

“It’s hard to stand out in the consumer space”, says Techcrunch’s Anthony Ha. “Konnektid and iLost were definitely more consumer oriented. You understand them right away. Like: ‘I get that. That is like a problem I’ve had’. Most of the startups were enterprise tools.” Overall the jury seemed quite taken with the fourteen startups. Ha: “I was surprised by how polished the presentations were!” It was of course something they had been preparing for all week. The Dutch startups present at the Northside Festival are working hard to leave a lasting impression in New York with help from the Dutch consulate.

Show your demo

Although Ha and his fellow judges didn’t specifically look at nationality, Ha did have some pointers for the European startups in general. “I would like to see more project demos. Even if it is just bringing hardware on stage”.

All the Dutch startups presented their products with a slideshow. And with only slides to go by, it’s really hard to judge the product Ha stresses. “One of the companies that almost made the cut was the drone one, Fotokyte, just because they actually had their product on stage”. This Swiss startup produces drones on a leash to make, for example, aerial photography easier and less prone to legal restrictions.

“When people see slides their eyes just start to glaze over at some point”. The fact that Heart of Europe Startup Pitchfest started with problems with getting the beamer properly connected to the laptops of the contenders drives home Ha’s point.

Frontpage image: Wikimedia Commons

Hans Klis
Hans Klis is a freelance US correspondent based in New York. He covers the startup scene and focuses on business innovation. Twitter: @rechterhans

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