Y-Combinator vs Seedcamp - Paul Graham nailed it?

Update September 2011: This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog because it was a rant. I will rant no more. I wrote about it because a few years ago I felt I didn't like what the Seedcamp was up to but it has changed since then. Both Seedcamp and Y-Combinator (along with TechStars and others) are great ways of stimulating entrepreneurship and I support them all. I didn't want to hurt anyone with this post and if I did, I'm sorry. This blog post is no longer relevant. The comment thread below it is still interesting and I recommend you go to comments directly. Thank you.
- Michael Sliwinski
--- Original post back in the day:
Last week while watching the talks from Startup Bootcamp by the founders of some really cool web apps like DropboxRedditJustin.tv - I couldn't help noticing that these are some really good web-businesses founded initially by Paul Graham powered Y-Combinator. If you add Posterous (which I'm using for this blog), RescueTime or Xobni to the mix, it's quite a lineup... whereas Seedcamp in Europe still waits for their startups to mean anything in the web 2.0 world...
Last week's LeWeb conference tried to prove a point that we have cool startups in Europe too, and I think we really do (I'm European and I'm proudly based in Europe) but just as I mentioned earlier in my last blog post, there is still a substantial gap between Europe and the Silicon Valley in terms of entrepreneurship.
This year Codility - a company led by a friend of mine won Seedcamp and they moved to London so I'm hoping they'll be one of those Seedcamp winners who will prove to be really successful. Fingers crossed guys!
The curious thing is that Seedcamp actually failed in one regard - they evolved from an idea of a place where startup founders really start (the founders have roughly an idea and want to move to London to make it big) to "yet another startup competition" where all the startups have already launched, have customers and have even received a round of funding... In this case I'd probably could try to submit Nozbe (founded in 2007) to them and would have a chance to win :-)
I'm not saying it's really bad... but I really dig the fact that Y-Combinator has maintained its profile of being a seed funding for fresh-out-of-college founders who want to make it big in the web world. They have the energy and ideas, so they receive a few bucks from Paul and work together to make it happen... and as you can see from the list of startups I've mentioned earlier... some of them are pretty darn successful.
What do you think? Any opinions or experiences in submitting your startup to Seedcamp or Y-Combinator? Which model's better for you? 
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Monday, December 14, 2009 (leweb,seedcamp,startup,ycombinator)

Like this post? Subscribe to my newsletter, and every 2 weeks you'll receive updates from me. You'll also get you my latest book for FREE as a thank-you: "No Office Apps: How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done.".

Marcin Grodzicki
Dec 16, 2009 07:43
One of the Seedcamp finalists - Fabricly, which is doing SCM for fashion industry - just got into Y-Combinator. The market is shifting. It's no longer enough to have a ppt idea. Seedcamp this year was just first to show it.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 16, 2009 08:30
I agree PPT idea is not enough, yet I've always thought these kind of initiatives should be for really early-stage startups, not mature ones...
But maybe you're right, maybe the failure rate of too-young startups was just too high and the organizers didn't want to waste their time on guys who "appeared to be good" and work on something "tangible" instead?
After all, I don't remember any of the first-round Seedcamp finalists who have made it big, and most of them where PPT-stage startups...
Marcin Grodzicki
Dec 16, 2009 09:54
I don't think it's a matter of failure rate. Most of current Seedcamp investments are doing ok, even if they're not massive success yet. The issue is somewhere else I believe. A lot more mature startups are seeking exposure and advice from competitions such as YC and SC - this is the market change I'm talking about. As it's increasingly cheaper to launch a startup, the competition among more advanced projects increases.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 16, 2009 10:10
OK, but it's a good thing though - the more startups the more entrepreneurship and more innovation, right?
This also means that they'll be increasingly more students or post graduates who will risk and go the startup route instead of going for a J.O.B. and later submit their half-baked startups to Ycombinator or Seedcamp to really prove themselves. Just hope they'll get their chance...
Then again more Ycombinator-like competitions are being created throughout US and Europe... and this is a good thing too (supply and demand :-)
Jakub Połeć
Dec 16, 2009 12:07
In my oppinion majority of these start-ups are not innovative at all. They copy similar concepts from past time, or introduce something which is quite difficult to use by customers.
In my oppinion anything which produce another user-generated stuff is following historical concepts, there are a lot of crapy content over Internet.
That's way codility won seedcamp - they found niche not for another UGC but for analysis od data which produce needed output. If there are customers for that output, the Codility will win.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 17, 2009 00:32
Totally agree - I keep on preaching about not doing flat out copycats from the USA but actually trying to solve a problem.
The problem that founder of a startup is having... and he wants to solve it his way. This is what Jason Fried did with Basecamp, what Alexis Ohanian did with Reddit and what many successful startups owners did to create something great. Hell, this is what I did with Nozbe - my way of a GTD app.
Doing a copycat startup for money and fame should not be a way to go. Doing a social app for the sake of it being social is also a no-no.
I like what 37signals are saying - do something useful. Useful is always good... and is useful for people :-)
Dec 17, 2009 11:20
Michael, it is sad but in Europe we do not know how to do Seedcamps. The one in Vienna: Innovation SeedCamp we have been to two weeks ago was following the same pattern as the London one: only big players can win - the winner had already ... 800k EUR founding (the others weren't much worse). So, is that really a "seed" camp ? of what ?
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 17, 2009 12:55
Exactly my point. Seedcamp should be about seed round, not 2,3rd round founding - should help students start their startups! I agree with Marcin that PPT idea is not enough but you've made a good point noticing that a mature startup should not be taken under consideration in these initiatives.
Maybe we really don't know how to do Seedcamps in Europe? So maybe ultimately my point is right and Y-Combinator is just better? Reddit, Posterous, Dropbox... have been founded by relatively inexperienced guys who were looking for seed round... not "additional" round.
Just as you noticed - how can you participate in a "seed"-kind like competition in Europe with a new startup (even if you already have a demo) if you know that relatively big and already founded startups are your competition and they'll win - you have no fighting chance (or a zero-to-none).
My take - competitions like these are for investors... European investors... and we know very well that European investors don't want to invest in innovation but in proven model (copycat from the US) or proven business (with first rounds of funding - knowing someone has taken the initial risk first)... Maybe they should be called "investor-camp" and not seedcamp? Or "vc-camp"? :-)
Good comment flow guys, nice discussion :-)
Mar 22, 2010 00:32
y-c started off really well and go quite arrogant down the road. Their last set of graduates , a complete web 2.0 joke something shared by all attending the demo its seems PG has lost it in contrast SC has ventures that make sense and should mae money too
Michael Sliwinski
Mar 22, 2010 12:50
Didn't know that YC got quite arrogant. From what I know of SC, they got that, too. Maybe it's time for some fresh startup incubator? Maybe the guys behind these two just lost it down the road? Thanks for your insides "thestartupguy".
Mar 26, 2010 22:54
I would sure like to see some non-web startups into ycomm, sc and techstars. Being a webapp guy myself I really hate to admit it but the reality is webapps / internet is now the thing of the past the next big thing is about something else an if I had figured it out would be working on that rather than posting my comments on blogs
Michael Sliwinski
Mar 27, 2010 01:18
I think there's still more to web apps and innovation there than we see. I'm working on a new and pretty innovative web app myself and I'm totally excited about it. What can I say, I'm all into web apps and changing the world with the web and there's nowhere else I'd rather be right now. Thanks for your comment, man!
Philipp Moehring
Dec 13, 2010 02:07
Good to see such a lively discussion around this point. To give you our own (seedcamp's) view on this, I am happy to weigh in.

One large difference is that most Seedcamp companies are not focused on consumer web topics, so the names of even the most successful ones are not household names like posterous or Reddit. However, companies like Zemanta, Mybuilder (2007, first year of SC), and younger ones like ERPLY and Editd amongst others, are crushing it in their markets.
We are seeing great first time entrepreneurs with awesome businesses, having unique ideas and developing them without external help to the first revenues and good customer bases. Yes, they are more than ppt teams - but they made it on their own, not with large investments up front.
Oh, and about that Vienna thing - we had nothing to do with it, they seemed to have used the name "seedcamp" without our knowledge or agreement. That adds a lot of confusion - no 800k in any of our startups before they came to Seedcamp.
I hope we haven't "lost it" - I'd be happy to discuss the whole topic in more detail as well :)
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 20, 2010 10:54
The thing is always about who your customers are? VCs or startups or both? Serving VCs with copycats from USA or established companies.... or serving startups who just started their journey and need help... are two different things.
I think it's the job of SC or YC to find out what "seed" really means. I think SC and YC should really define what do they want to support and what not. PPT presentation is not enough and I totally get that, but supporting companies who are longer on the market with substantial funding is not something that inspires entrepreneurs either. Anyway, same shady thing happened at LeWeb that the startups that "launched" were real companies that launched many months (if not years) ago...
The only thing I care about is that initiatives like SC or YC should really work hard to define and focus on young entrepreneurs with really good early-stage startups who have something which is good, but needs support to make it big. The "early stage" thing needs definition here I guess.
As long as you keep working on stimulating young entrepreneurs who have good ideas and are trying to execute these, but need a push, then you haven't "lost it" :-) Just remember your mission :-)
Thanks for your comment Philipp and for your perspective. I'm flattered you cared to chime in and let me wich you a Merry Christmas and great successes for Seedcamp companies in 2011.
Feb 6, 2011 12:08
I'm shooting in the dark here. But here's something I've seen. I'm from Sri Lanka and I love reading the stories of tech startups which finally inspired me to get started with my own "startup". (we still don't have the necessary investment models in place here to become a true startup business).
Thing is, from an outsiders perspective, seedcamp has almost NO exposure to the outside world. I've had Ycombinator stuff being pushed to me from about a month into my discovery of the startup world whereas I am yet to come across seedcamp. Who are the seedcamp alumni anyway? Shouldn't there be a strong presence from them to get the startups rolling? What was the biggest news you heard from Ycombinator last time? It was the whole "each startup will receive 150k in no strings attached funding".
What did I last hear from/about seedcamp before this blog post. I honestly don't remember. Ask me to list down some seedcamp startup names and I'll give you a blank look. It's not that I don't want to know it's just that with me following so many tech resources I'll take only what comes my way. This probably means that seedcamp has a lot more internal exposure than out. Which isn't good. Ycombinator startups can become known worldwide really fast (even if not everyone knows where they came from). What startup from seedcamp is out there becoming known like that? I don't know. Exposure. Lacking. Big time!
Second point is. I got a chance to talk to one of the co founders of just spotted (he is Sri Lankan) and he told me that they packed up and left London to go to Silicon Valley simply because the attitude for funding rounds just didn't cut it. There didn't seem to be a huge amount of positivity towards high risk industry disruption.
In contrast (this has nothing to do with YC or SC actually) Path which is essentially a copy of picplz and instagram with a "feature" of only 50 followers recently secured 8.5 M dollars. Seriously? I'm fairly sure there are a LOT of London based startups that could split that money and make a name for their selves with it. Maybe that's what is missing. Take the startups that go big. When did you last read in the news that a company managed to grab big bucks on their last funding round? Do you think Twitter, which had NO business model or even an inkling of an idea of a business model when it started would have gotten far in London?
I'm not bashing anyone or any community. This is just how I see it from a real third party seat. cheers :)
Scott Wheeler
Feb 6, 2011 15:48
This seems to be largely a grass-greener-on-the-other-side romanticization of YC. Most YC startups aren't fresh out of college and aren't just at the idea phase. Many, probably most, teams have working products on day one now. There is a very different vibe to Seedcamp, but it can't simply be reduced to, "Seedcamp companies are further along." (For reference, my company is a Europe-based YC company, and I've been around for Seedcamp week a couple times and know several of the teams.)
Michael Sliwinski
Feb 6, 2011 22:06
YC is based in SV which means a "better" startup community than Europe anyway. There is still a big gap between the old continent and the USA in terms of entrepreneurship so YC has this advantage definitely. What I simply want from Seedcamp and YC is to really foster "entrepreneurship" by accepting "very early" stage companies and let's define what "early stage" means - so that we're all on the same page. I just got that impression that Seedcamp went from "too early stage" to "too late stage" in between... and YC seems to do it better. Adnan - you're right, thanks to being in SV, YC has much better press (and a lot of Techcrunch coverage). Scott, good luck with your project and thanks for chiming in!