The New York startup ecosystem is thriving, but it’s not the only game on Earth. Further, it does not function in isolation, as a number of NY-based companies use off-shore businesses for engineering talent, programmers, manufacturing, etc. Now there is a growing trend of foreign startups coming to the US to raise capital and build their businesses.
This creates a pair of challenges:
1) For the entrepreneur – How do I find the right people and partners to make me successful in the US?
2) For NY-based investors and businesses – How can I reliably identify robust investment opportunities/new business from overseas?
Enter the Worldwide Investor Network’s (WIN) Global Innovator program, a de facto filter/screener. Global Innovator is bi-monthly. Each event presents five foreign companies and has a particular focus; the recent April event focused on the Cloud, Big Data and Cyber Security. More on that later.
There are a number of things which distinguish Global Innovator from other showcases:
1) Company Selection – This is truly a collaborative effort. Per Sharon Mirsky, WIN’s VP of Strategy and Operations, “We have a wide network of early stage VC’s, incubators and accelerators around the world that send their best startups to apply to Global Innovator….We choose the most promising startups based on the event theme, the team, product, available market, competition, and interest to investors (we look for post-seed startups)“
2) Company Preparation – WIN assigns a team of mentors to work with the selected companies with the focus on readying them the event. The mentor team consists of Steve Schuster, CEO of Rainier Communication, who does the initial meetings with all of the teams. A second mentor is assigned based on the experience and interest/expertise. This second mentor can be an investor or a successful entrepreneur in a given space. Then each team has a final mentorship session with Eyal Bino, WIN’s founder.
3) The Event Itself – The Global Innovator veered from the usual format of networking and eating, followed by the presentations before a panel of professional investors and then an after party by adding a) a keynote talk from Michael Rubinstein, President of AppNexus, who has successfully built multiple businesses in his Silicon Alley career and shared his insights for building businesses; and b) two separate panels who grilled the presenting companies more rigorously than I have seen at other events. There was also online voting for best company and best panelist (although, to quote an attendee, the latter seemed “like a high school popularity contest”).
The most recent Global Innovator was last week (#4, for those of you keeping score at home). There were over 200 attendees and the space at Dentons was packed. Five panelists were split into two panels and included David Teten from ff Venture Capital (who did double duty sitting on both panels), Matt Turck from First Mark Capital, David Nevas from Edison Ventures, Todd Pietri from Milestone Ventures and William Reinisch from Paladin Capital Group.
The five presenting companies represented Canada (2), Italy, Portugal and Israel and are all currently looking for their respective A rounds.
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LightCyber offers breach detection. Their sophisticated technology identifies threats within a corporate network early in the attack lifecycle, allowing prompt breach remediation and preventing extensive damage from malware or hackers.
KeyNexus is a cloud-based encryption-key storage and provisioning service, purpose-built for developers of Cloud-based, Enterprise, SaaS or Mobile applications. The company platform allow businesses to employ encryption in their cloud or enterprise environments while maintaining secure, offsite storage of their encryption keys, effectively separating the lock from the key.