Denmark Week 3 & 4

Week 3 didn't quite happen, so it is being rolled into this update.

Things finally slowed down as I ran out of administrative tasks to chase down. I powered up the robot again and got it talking on the wifi. The video issues I was experiencing seem to have disappeared. Previously I had a suspected issue with dropped USB video packets, which resulted in image shearing. An electrical engineer I talked to was suspicious of the power input adjacent to the USB connectors causing interference, and my best guess now is that my new bedroom power socket has less noise than the previous power supply.

I also developed some maths for a robust calibration model for the robot's cameras. Most models assume uniform radial optical distortion, which is a reasonable for camera lenses. My optical setup includes an air-water interface separated by acrylic, and measurements from an underwater sequence I previously collected suggest that a simple radial model is inadequate. Week 3 was otherwise quite, except for pulling my quad playing football.

On Wednesday of week 4 a pitch training session was held for the September investor summit. I'm extremely grateful to Attila Hadnagy who has been doing my graphic design work. The Fishi pitch received very positive feedback, but I also received some suggestions which I think reflect the local mentality. In Silicon Valley if you don't talk big numbers no one is interested. Here they want you to get to the point, skip the big numbers and jump straight to ship inspections.

The smaller thinking also introduces what I'm calling the Danish discount. Since the area started focusing on robotics, there has been one $250 million exit ([Universal Robotics](, and another ([MiR]( in the works. There simply haven't been enough outlier exits to support Silicon Valley style valuations for seed stage companies.

I still don't have the complete picture, but it seems at least some companies are giving up 30% to raise their first $100k. That hit encourages bootstrapping, which in turn encourages a bit of fake it before you make it. I talked to one company of three, with only a single technical person. They have one or two customers for whom they are basically piloting drones manually. The selling point of the company is of course that one day the drones will be autonomous, but I simply don't see how they can raise the funds to hire the people needed to make that a reality. They are operating in a crowded space where several SV companies have raised well over $10 million a piece, and the European market will only protect them for so long.

I was full aware that raising money in Europe would be no where near as easy as SV. To be critical of myself, I should have put a number on the Danish discount before I came. All things being equal, my guess is that an early stage Danish company can expect a valuation around 20% of what one would expect in SV.

I'm not exactly comfortable accepting that, but the good news for a technical founder is that bootstrapping really is an option. To help make up the difference, there are government grants available. Other funding sources, e.g. from the Danish Maritime Fund, provide high risk business loans to scale new technologies aligned with industry. Explosive early stage growth, though, seems tricky.

The other silver lining to being here is the proximity to [Svendborg Maritime Academy]( which effectively operates a teaching and research port, similar in function to a university hospital. I've been told that all major Danish shipping companies have a relationship with the academy, and the port could serve as a testing ground for the MVP. Verifying this claim is high on my priority list.

The investor summit is September 10th. The ideal would be to meet one or two strategic Danish angel investors. If the people and terms are right, I'll consider investment. My current mindset is to build the MVP myself, and in the mean time find the right angel investors for a later seed round.

While the summit will be the best chance I've had so far to meet the local players, it is also proving a distraction. For these last two weeks, I've been coding on and off on my camera calibration method. Last Friday I finally sat down in a cafe, killed my notifications and pretended like I had no other commitments. It was somewhat reassuring to have such a productive day.

In other news, I applied for the YC startup school and was accepted into the Advisor Track. Unofficial numbers seem to say 25% of the applicants were accepted, which is a nice little confidence booster.

Next week I have my screening interview for the local, city funded incubator. I'm also beginning the process of incorporating Fishi Robotics.