Been in London for 4 days already - as you may know, urbee has made it to the top 20 for Seedcamp.
Before Monday's kick off and even afterwards I saw some reactions that were not really favorable to the Seedcamp crowd - either from people commenting on a list released by FT and published by techcrunch (which list was just a superficial copy/paste from the official one and had little, if any, insights or research of the actual products) or from people from outside just judging the techcrunch list. But those have little importance, and while I don't intend to open up arguments with any, even though I know theirs are not substantiated :), I will tell you why events like seedcamp are good, especially in Europe.
Usually internet entrepreneurs start something by noticing a need, and then trying to fulfill that need by creating a piece of technology. It either has some traction (i.e early adopters using it) or not - point is that, grand visions aside, usually the entrepreneur goes in small iterations developing his product so that it will incorporate early feedback from users, friends or/and, if the case, investors.
Oh well, what is unique about Seedcamp is that you or your product get to have a huge exposure from a bunch of very experienced people with very diverse background. You have as such an unique focus group that will analyze your product and ask you questions from all angles that are possible out there. All in a very honest way.
And as such, regardless of the 50k award and the three consequent months, you as an entrepreneur have a tremendous amount of good guidance, infirmations, confirmations or fresh new ideas that you could and should definitely take into acoount in the future. I personally have met and got feedback about urbee probably from at least 150-200 people. Strong individuals with solid background and experience under their belt. I think this is very hard to impossible to get in a very short time anywhere in Europe for this type of business. And if we consider that your product is early stage or seed stage...
Apart from the fact that you are also individually making contact in person with any investor whom you may have the chance to convince to invest in your product, apart from Seedcamp that is.
As such, that is the context that any entrepreneur I believe would be better off whenever he or she start something. Now, as far as I understand it, Seedcamp is a first step in a longer strategy of creating a good context for emergent good ideas - and that is a good thing, anyway you look at it.
Now, a lot of comments have been made about the quality of the ideas from the top 20. Everybody is comparing them with what's happening in the States, but what most people forget is that in Europe the consumer and the target (or where the idea started thereof) have a different set of needs. And as such comparing it with what's happening in US is for the moment is like comparing apples with bananas - besides, even having similar ideas with what's already out there might be irelevant because executing is what matter most. I personally think that there are some very-very good ideas and some very strong individuals at Seedcamp 2007 and I am sure we will hear about those guys again soon enough.
Finally - why in Europe? Well, there's nothing like it and we have to start from somewhere, don't we? Europe is still kind of new in this game - coincidentally, Anil, Google's M&A guy for Europe said that his position was created just last year. And if we have to compare, Sillicon Valley has the advantage of an ecosystem already created in at least last 3-4 decades, in Europe that is not the case.
There are few internet entrepreneurs scattered around Europe but there's not truly a hub that would seed an environment for getting the right match and context for them. And in short, this is what Seedcamp is.