Bringing Neil Ward Onboard: Lessons Learned From EduGamiTec’s Successful Fundraising Round

The Luxembourg startup EduGamiTec reached a huge milestone last week by securing its first round of funding and bringing Neil Ward, former COO of Skype, onto its board.
by: Joséphine Anselin
photo: EduGamiTec
featured: EduGamiTec’s part of the team with Gira Szakmár on the left

Gira Szakmár, EduGamiTec’s CEO, will be the first to admit that the fundraising process hasn’t been an easy ride. Since the official launch of the startup in 2018, Gira and her team have attended dozens of fundraising competitions and sent their business deck to over seventy investors. Luxembourg is known for being a tough market to raise funds, particularly in the education sector, but the team persevered, and their resilience has indeed paid off.

We asked Gira Szakmár about her insights on EduGamiTec’s fundraising journey and the lessons she and her team have learned along the way.

“Most ideas (and teams) don’t last beyond the ideation camp, but the team behind EduGamiTec was determined to give it a shot.”

Learn to ask the right questions

EduGamiTec evolved from a concept born during the second edition of the “Ideation Camp” – a 3-day entrepreneurship workshop organised twice a year by the University of Luxembourg Incubator. “Every ideation camp brings forth 20-30 ideas which we cycle through in 72 hours.” highlights Dr. Pranjul Shah, Head of the University of Luxembourg Incubator. “Most ideas (and teams) don’t last beyond the ideation camp, but the team behind EduGamiTec was determined to give it a shot” adds Dr. Shah. A few months after the event, the startup was officially formed and incubated at the University of Luxembourg. According to Gira, the support received from the Incubator has been invaluable. As a mentee on the UL Venture Mentoring Service, she learned that you don’t need to become an expert in every single field to run a successful startup. Instead, you need to talk to the experts, tap into their experience, and listen to their feedback. It’s all about learning “how to ask, who to ask, and what to ask”.

Seek advice, but make your own decisions

Having said that, once you’ve reached out to the experts and listened to their advice, it’s important to realise that in business, there is often no right or wrong answer. In the beginning Gira changed direction many times, because she “just believed without thinking”. Once she realised that every mentor would have a different recommendation based on their field of expertise and experience, she learned to take feedback onboard but also to trust her vision, knowledge, and experience to make her own strategic decisions. “She had a clarity of vision which made her resilient to the challenges founders face early on”, says Dr. Shah.

Tell a clear story

In preparation for their meeting with Neil Ward, Gira and her team spent two months getting clear on their vision and figuring out the precise steps they needed to take to achieve this long-term goal. By the time they were sitting in front of Neil Ward they were able to paint a crystal-clear picture of what the next month, year and three-year period would look like if they received his support. Having this clarity played to their advantage when Neil Ward was asked to comment on his decision to join EduGamiTec as both an investor and board member he explained that “their vision stood out”.

“She had a clarity of vision which made her resilient to the challenges founders face early on.”

The team is everything

This was one of Gira’s most important lesson. As a founder and CEO she was reluctant to ask for help even from her team members. She felt guilty to ask people to invest their own time into her project. But Gira’s perspective shifted when she almost gave up on the project—not because she didn’t believe in the concept anymore, but because she didn’t know whether she was going to be able to bring the vision alive, while also being a mum of two and a game development teacher. That’s when she realised that in order for EduGamiTec to succeed, she needed to be willing to accept help. So she built a team of highly experienced, high-caliber people who truly believe in the company’s vision. According to Gira, it’s the passion shown by the entire team that convinced Neil Ward to invest in EduGamiTec.

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