In the disrupted world that we all live in following the outbreak of COVID-19, the world of in-person networking events, conferences, trade shows and summits have been forced to pivot and adapt. Events that used to be a chance to see cutting edge technology, shake hands, sign deals and catch up with old friends have been forced online. As with many other conferences, Ecosummit, the premier European cleantech venture capital conference, was forced to innovate and overcome this new obstacle. Caught in this disruption were four EIT InnoEnergy Master’s in Renewable Energy students who had earned an opportunity to work as Ecosummit Ambassadors and attend the forum.
For Arunava Acharyya, Alba Forns, Gabriel Marinho Silva and William Wiseman (myself), this was their big shot to meet some of the largest and most influential players in the cleantech VC industry such as the venture arms of Enel, E.On, Innogy, Eneco, Engie, BP, Total, Vattenfall and EIT InnoEnergy just to name a few. This highly anticipated event seemed to be slipping through their fingers as they watched the world rollout travel restrictions and limit gatherings in the name of public safety. Fortunately, Jan Michael Hess, the conference’s CEO and Founder, has an unshakably positive and optimistic personality and refused to let this new challenge derail the plan. Arunava, Alba, Gabriel and Will collaborated with the rest of the Ecosummit Ambassadors to research how to host the best online conference, an essentially unheard-of concept before COVID-19. Through trials and rapid learning, the supporting crew was able to help successfully orchestrate the Ecosummit so that it could host an entire crowd and continue on schedule without a hitch via Zoom.
While the format is a learning experience for all, the companies in the Ecosummit rose to the challenge. Instead of a 2-day event, the summit has been stretched over multiple sessions between May and December 2020 with 80 noteworthy pitches to date and many more to come. Our MSc in Renewable Energy four were able to learn valuable tips and tricks while watching professionals vie for Seed, Series A, Series B and greater levels of finance. For Alba and Will, these skills can be directly applied to their up-and-coming start-up, Seeds Investing, as they approach a pre-seed financing round of their own. Their start-up was born from the Master’s in Renewable Energy New Venture Creation Project as part of the programme curriculum in collaboration with ESADE Business & Law School.
The venture capital world can be a difficult world to break into without a stack of references, word of mouth referrals and a robust professional network and fortunately these four ambitious students got their foot in the door despite the unprecedented challenges that arose along the way. With their foot in the door, once things get back to normal, they will be able to capitalise upon the relationships they have planted today. You never get to eat the fruit the same day you plant the seeds.
By William Wiseman, Master’s in Renewable Energy student and founder of Seeds Investing