Startups vs. Big Four

At the beginning of February, the startups that won the EY Accelerating Entrepreneurs Program visited Rome to be a part of 10th Annual EY Strategic Growth Forum Mediterranean.

Our company, Competera, pricing and assortment SaaS for e-tailers, was one of 48 startups who got there. What follows are, some of my impressions following the event.

Organizational level

Since the very beginning, I was impressed by the EY’ organization level. As an example let me highlight the participants’ 90-second pitches. Every single person of those 48 who was there had a fixed time to introduce himself, his company, what inspires him and one not-so-obvious thing about himself. This is how we knew that Randall Tavierne, EY Global Deputy for Growth Markets was once a professional basketball player.

The best part came after the three minutes expired. The speech was over, regardless of who was at the microphone. That was pretty amazing compared to 99% of the events I was taking part in before, where anyone strong enough to hold the mic tightly was able to speak more, and more…

I’m going to steal this practice for the monthly Competera’s “megademo” rituals. My next office related purchase will be a gong :)

Content quality


Rafaelle Mauro mentioned five factors for startup success his company discovered after studying all 678 Endeavor portfolio companies. Also, he shared the meta entrepreneur portrait they’ve built based on the same research foundation. According to Endeavor, there are four major types.

  • Diamonds are tech-savvy dreamers, who start innovative and disruptive tech companies, which create a brand new way of solving problems. Businesses have unpredictable growth but can also fall fast. Think of a certain Facebook founder.
  • Rocketship are for strategic thinkers. Their businesses are tech-centric and have a clear revenue model. Think of the Amazon founder.
  • Transformers are forward-thinking leaders are aimed at reinventing a traditional business or industry. Think of the Starbucks founder.
  • Stars are big, charismatic personalities who start their own branded companies, often consumer oriented. Think of that Virgin founder.

Dominic Rowsell co-author of “Why Killer Products Don’t Sell” spoke about how to merge Geoffrey Moore’s chart and the buying cultures of target markets to create a sales culture, hire the right people at the right time, and finally sell the product.

Richard Goold shared his 15 years of tech law experience and highlighted the ways startups can avoid law traps.

P101 firm founder Andrea di Camillo has shared the backstage of a venture capital company and how entrepreneurs can use it to gain early-stage investments.

“eCommerce is not in investment focus anymore. Ten years ago it was an innovative tech biz, but now it is just regular business that uses tech.”
- Andrea di Camillo

Uschi Schreiber report, instead of the usual keynote, started with questions to the audience. Several questions began a discussion about the alignment between politics, business, and psychology; whether real progress is a straight or curved line; what are the prospects and dangers of AI evolving.

The two most important AI dangers are human jobs replacement and its military use. Meanwhile, in the end, AI development will help humanity to live more efficiently.

Workshops & Trainings

Besides the theory and forum discussion, there was also a practical portion during the event. Before the Business Model Canvas workshop started, moderators gave an audience an example of how to innovate within old-fashioned industries, i.e. hotels.

A New Zealand company created a luxury hotel for the mid-pricing range. This new hotel type is produced at the factory and then brought to a particular place. If there are no additional demands, the hotel owner can just take the containers somewhere else. Also, there is no staff in the hotel, only ambassadors whose payment depends heavily on customers’ reviews.

Business Canvas is already in use at Competera, but the second workshop task was more complex, to improve the existing business model and make it ten times better.

During the Business Minds training session, a few teams were created. Each team got two tasks: to create an innovative idea sources list and to range the focus points for startup. Our team was quick enough to finish both tasks. Here are the results:


A strategic meeting with mentors lasts for 30 minutes in an autonomic room. I was lucky to meet Richard Goold and Andrea Di Camillo. They were fully prepared to do an event. Before we met, they checked all the info about Competera to make sure we got the maximum value during this very limited time. That was the reason why for the entire 30 minutes we spent effectively without any small talk, “tell us about your company” etc…

The main consequence after a strategic session was its usefulness. During the very first Monday after the Forum I did a few phone calls and sent out a few emails that could dramatically change Competera’s growth speed.


I’ve gained an entirely positive impression after the event. High organizational level and useful content, are king for such an arrangement.

If you’re a startup and are lucky enough to take part in some of EY events’, here is a must do checklist:

  • Explore the experience of other companies.
  • Ask many many (many) questions.
  • Network until you drop from exhaustion

Then experience exchange will lead to new ideas for your business.

From all of Competera and me, #SGFMed was very worthwhile. The following week after this ended we’ve focused on the main action points: business canvas renovation, targeted sales building, marketing strategy update, building relations through the partner channels, and more…

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