Florence Keelson-Anfu shares highlights from the Future Incubators and Accelerators (FIA) Conference 2020 where keynote speakers and panellists discussed how technology can help us solve the challenges the world faces due to COVID-19, and how this may shape the role of incubators and accelerators in 2021 and beyond. The virtual conference took place on Wednesday, 16th December, 2020.
Future Incubators and Accelerators (FIA) Conference is a virtual tech-conference hosted by WayLink Invest and Fuel Ventures for the global investment, incubator, and accelerator community. Last year’s theme was Shaping the Future of Incubators & Accelerators 塑造孵化器和加速器的未来. It addressed the key innovations, updates, and trends related to the technology sector that have arisen in times of pandemic. Insights on how emerging technologies and innovations could tackle key challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, and unlock incredible business opportunities triggered during the pandemic, were shared.
The conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Mark Pearson, Founding Partner of Fuel Ventures, our event partners. Mark’s inspiring speech highlighted his own entrepreneurial journey and notable exits and investments from their current portfolio. His observation is that the incubator and accelerator ecosystem is more vibrant than ever and it’s his view that this is a great time for Entrepreneurs to start building companies. Watch Mark’s video here.
The first Panel discussion focused on the Challenges and Opportunities for Start-ups, Investors and Innovative Incubators post the Covid-19 Pandemic. Moderated by Yi Luo, Global Head of Strategy and Expansion, Earnd, the panel discussed some of the challenges they are noticing in their respective geographies as a result of the pandemic. Jingjing Xu, Partner, Fuel Ventures and FIA Conference Producer, mentioned that Fuel Ventures had a successful year because they have been quick to learn and challenge ways of doing business. She highlighted a case of a live events company that pivoted to virtual events as a result of the pandemic and were able to raise $3.5M. Eunielle Yi, Partner, Impact Collective, discussed the trends she is seeing in South Korea and the differences she’s noticed in the past few months. Daniil Kozlov, also spoke about the mood in Silicon Valley, sharing the view that the pandemic has brought difficulties and opportunities to the tech space. Bruno Moraes, Country Manager, Wayra UK, said that Wayra had invested more than ever in 2020 and this was down to the fact that companies that were thriving during the pandemic were easier to identify as the ones that should be invested in. Watch the video of the panel discussion here.
The second panel moderated by Dr. George Lee, Advisory Board Member, WayLink Invest, debated The Role of the UK in the International Ecosystem for Innovation and Cross-border Investments. In light of Brexit, the panel discussed if London’s role as a tech start up hub would be diminished. Lu Li, Founder/CEO, Blooming Founders, felt that London would still be attractive to Founders due to the wealth of tech talent that exists in London alone, compared to Germany where different talent is concentrated in specific cities. Dr. Babangida Kure, Lead Director, Go Global Africa, mentioned that he expected to see a rise in regional hubs as more people move out of London as a result of the continued lockdowns due to the lower costs of living. These regional hubs are also likely to be concentrated around prestigious institutions of learning such as Oxford and Cambridge. John Butt, CEO and Partner, Conduit Ventures Ltd, also critically examined the role that Brexit would play in affecting London’s position as a tech hub. Watch the video of the panel discussion here.
Panel three moderated by Maiko Schaffrath, Founder & Host of Impact Hustlers, looked at Investment and Technology Trends in the age of Covid-19. Zachariah George, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer, Startupbootcamp AfriTech, kicked off the session by explaining how in Africa, being able to sign licensing agreements with corporates is a bigger sign of success than raising funding alone as it is much harder to get commercial traction. He also noticed that Covid-19 has affected funding as corporates don’t have money to spend on accelerators at present. Kim Van Haalen, Senior Labs Manager, WeWork Labs UK & Ireland, commented that the biggest impact on her work is that the majority of activities she oversees have now gone digital. As the session progressed, there was discussion on how accelerators needed to change in the current landscape. Dylan Itzikowitz, Investor, Founders Factory, insisted that even though there is still value in accelerator programs as they democratise access to capital and help build good businesses, the terms offered by accelerators are not as competitive compared to where the market is going. Accelerators are struggling to match the other forms of early stage investments out there. Finally, Nathan McNally, Co-Founder/Programme Director, P4 Precision Accelerator, highlighted the fact that the ecosystem has evolved. Founders are more savvy and as such term sheets and value propositions also need to evolve with the changing landscape. Watch the video of the panel discussion here.
Start-up pitches dominated the second part of the conference with representation from the areas of EdTech (AskUltra, Athena Education Group, Tutorhouse), VR (MoonHub), Smart Cities (minicabit), Health Tech (GlycanAge, Wemby) Fintech (StepEx, Muse) and Marketplaces (Wemby, Gamebake). The judging panels did a great job of questioning the start ups on their plans to scale, current operations and financials. You can watch the start-up pitches in this video here.
Running concurrently were networking sessions where attendees got an opportunity to exchange ideas and meet with fellow tech enthusiasts!
Lindsay Liu closed out the conference by giving an inspiring closing keynote address, read out on behalf of Linda He, CEO, Wailian Group. Ms. He summed up her thoughts on 2020 as follows; “This year we are physically distancing, however the internet still connects us globally. This encourages more demand for new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, IoT and 5G. We aim to organise more Waylink Tech Future Incubator & Accelerator conferences on a regular basis in the future, to bring investors and entrepreneurs together to build an international venture capital platform. Let’s work together to develop a global venture capital ecosystem!”
The vote of thanks was given by the Master of Ceremonies and FIA Conference Director, Nzube Ufodike, who kept the whole show on track.
This was a great way to end the year and we look forward to seeing you all again at our conference in 2021.
Written by Florence Keelson-Anfu. Follow WayLink Invest on Twitter @InvestWaylink
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