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Category ArchiveVenture Profiles

Venture Profiles – Antonino Saccà, Milan

Next week we will be in Berlin for Tech Invest Europe. To get ready, we had a chance to sit down with Antonino Saccà, CEO of Milan’s Hephaestus Venture.

Hephaestus Ventures is a private equity fund supporting the growth of Corporate Venture Capital through the creation of an accelerator in Milan called HV Labs to support the creation of new products and services and the expansion abroad of Italian Companies towards Brazil, United States,China, South Africa, Russia and India, United Kingdom and Germany. We support Senior Managers in their process of Digital Transformation to create Spin-Off of the projects of Open Innovation of the Corporates from which they come from in these verticals: FinTech, Energy, Smart Mobility, Digital Health.

What did you work on in 2018?

I did scouting of startups and Investors.

What emerging technologies do you find exciting?

The ones which have clients that can generate revenues for a startup.

How did you get involved in Venture Capital?

I worked for many years for AdTech startups Venture-backed since 2010.

Why should an investor attend Tech Invest?

To do Networking and scouting of startups.

What is the best way for a start-up to meet a VC?

Pick up the phone and call the VC to ask for a meeting (on Google search they can find all Investors they want). Otherwise, events are still the best option to do networking.

What advice would you offer start-ups?

None since they must pay me to ask for real advice or support.

If you could change one thing in pitching, what would it be?

The guy who is pitching, we don’t look at slides, we listen to what he wants.

What do you think is the most over-hyped technology?

The ones which DO NOT generate revenues. Not existing clients yet.

How important is an EU wide investment community?

Very important, if we stay united we all win.

What are you focused on in 2019?

Foreign Direct Investments in Startups like my next speech in Milan next 12th March at Tech Invest Europe:

Venture Profiles – Antonino Saccà, Milan

Matthias Treutwein, co-founder of enpact

Recently, we caught up with Matthias Treutwein, co-founder of enpact.  enpact targets sustainable entrepreneurial development via international mentoring programmes.

How did enpact start

We started in 2013, when Sebastian and I met during the implementation of a different mentoring project. There we realized, what a powerful tool entrepreneurship and mentoring can be and decided to start our own social enterprise

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I have to be there at 9 am…. No, jokes aside. I am trying to build a network of inspiring and engaged people, empower them to create sustainable and fair jobs and to improve in general the way development aid is implemented by focussing more on changemakers – and not the agencies.

Why is entrepreneurship important in developing regions?

People lost faith in governmental and/or religious institutions, that – in many countries –  abuse the mandates they have been given. The huge amount of jobs that have to be created due to the intense population growth – especially in the global South – requires innovative solutions that can only come from the private, and not the public sector.

What is enpact’s mission?

enpact wants to empower people to create urgently needed jobs.

How many cycles have you completed?

We have concluded three cycles of our international mentoring programme, currently with 60 and 25 mentors and experts from more than 10 countries. Additionally, we piloted two national mentorings in 2014 in Egypt and Tunisia, and are now relaunching the one in Tunisia, and hopefully this autumn again the one in Egypt.

What has been the most rewarding aspect?

Meeting and working with so many talented people from a region, that normally only gets bad press. Additionally, that for many – myself included, this is a life-changing experience, where barriers are brought down, horizons are broadened and intercultural exchange becomes a playful side effect.

What is your biggest challenge?

Developing a sustainable business model & managing an intercultural and international team across different continents.

What kind of feedback have you gotten?

Lots of positive, but also some negative. Most important one: That we help people to positively impact on their societies and to develop perspectives by living their dreams.

What are you currently working on?

We are trying to become financially more independent and have been restructuring our NGO accordingly. We are about to launch two new projects and starting negotiations to develop more startup spaces in the MENA region.

How can people get involved?

We are always looking for inspiration, so if our activities intrigue you, please reach out to us to discuss over a coffee or a beer. Also, we are currently looking for participants in our national mentoring in Tunisia and in autumn we will open the call for applications of our international mentoring programme. Finally, we are always looking for dedicated mentors, experts, and fundraising leads!

Matthias has worked several years as a project manager and consultant in international development (Transparency International, The Owners Forum, InWent) and cultural management (Goethe Institute, Bosch-Foundation). He holds a Master’s degree in Arabic, French and Spanish Literature. He has a high level of cultural awareness that he developed during several study and work sojourns in the MENA region. Matthias is very interested in fostering networks while strongly believing in horizontal and life-long learning.

enpact was founded with the aim of strengthening economic relations between young entrepreneurs from the start-up scenes of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Since then, this goal has been successfully implemented with the “engage participate act” project – an innovative mentorship programme for promising young entrepreneurs – funded by the German Federal Foreign Office. In addition to that, we promote entrepreneurship and support local entrepreneurial ecosystems by creating entrepreneur spaces for start-up related activities.

Matthias Treutwein, co-founder of enpact

Talking Startups with Point Nine Capital

We haven’t chatted with Point Nine Capital, so we decided to catch up with Mathias Ockenfels.

Mathias joined Point Nine as an Investment Associate in the summer of 2013 and is currenty a principal at the firm. He comes from Naspers, where he worked as an M&A Manager for the ricardo Group in Zurich. Previously Mathias was an Investment Manager at Mountain Partners.

Talking Startups with Point Nine Capital

Point Nine Capital recently won Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year (2015) at the Europas, what is unique about its approach?

Our investment thesis is centered around 2 business models: SaaS and (digital) marketplaces. Having such a focus allows us to offer value-add to our portfolio companies independently of their geographic presence. We are based in Berlin but we are investing everywhere in Europe and North America. Some companies appreciate the fact that we are active on 2 continents and can help to cross the pond in both directions.

What is an Angel VC?

We call ourselves “The Angel VC” because we strive to unite the best of both worlds: Business Angels and Venture Capitalists. We try to be as hands-on as an Angel while having the financial “firepower” of VC-fund. In that sense, you may also call us a “Micro VC”.

In terms of stage we are often the first “institutional” investor coming in or, we even invest in the first seed round together with other angels.

How many deals are in your portfolio? What are some exciting prospects from that field?

We now have a portfolio of roughly 55 companies across 3 funds.

We are excited about every company that we are invested in but, by the nature of things, some are obviously a bit older and at a more mature stage which makes it easier to predict promising outcomes. Among the companies that have recently raised larger follow-on fundings are startups such as Delivery Hero, Algolia, docplanner, Shiftplanning/Humanity, brainly, Vend, Kreditech, Helpling or Westwing.

How many cold call presentations do you get? And do you respond to unsolicited pitch decks?

In total we see around 2,500 to 3.000 opportunities per year which includes all kind of different sources of deal flow. We try to send an answer to everyone who submits a serious funding request. In general, we follow the following principle: if you (as a founder or startup) spend time on trying to understand what we do and what we look for and subsequently submit your business plan because you think there is a fit, we will spend time on trying to understand what you are up to and send you our feedback in due time.

What’s the best way to be introduced to Point Nine?

The best way to get in touch is through another founder preferably from the Point Nine Family (i.e. our portfolio). This means an additional layer of “vetting” for us and makes it easier to filter considering that someone else that we know and trust is willing to put in a good word for you.

What advice would you offer an entrepreneur trying to raise capital?

Spend time on understanding the investment focus and approach of prospective investors and make sure whether there is a potential fit with the angel or fund in terms of stage, theme and investment size! Otherwise you might risk to burn a lot of relationships early on and you will waste your own, precious time.

What do you look for in an entrepreneur?

First and foremost an entrepreneur needs to be a good salesperson:

  1. He needs to know how to sell the product to customers.
  2. He needs to know how to “sell” the company as an attractive place to work to potential employees.
  3. He needs to know how to sell the company and its vision to potential investors.

Besides, persistence is an important character trait.

We also tend to prefer teams over single founders where the team members have a complimentary skill-set.

Do you co-invest with other angels?

Yes, we often invest together with angels or bring in other angel-investors alongside ourselves as part of the same round.

Berlin Startup Scene – hot or hype?

The hype in Berlin has definitely solidified over the last 2-3 years so that it has become a real movement and is not just a “trend” anymore. The startup scene is an integral part of the Berlin economy as the city never had any economic basis like e.g. Southern Germany with all the car manufacturers and their suppliers.

What are your thoughts on Crowdfunding as a source of equity?

For a startup, it’s a valid alternative to regular VC or Angel funding. It is highly regulated in Germany as well as in the rest of Europe which makes it hard to raise straight forward equity in a crowdfunding campaign. Also, we as Point Nine would probably not invest into a startup as a part of a crowdfunding campaign. Of course, that does not mean that we would not invest afterwards. The industry is still very immature and it has yet to be seen how the performance of crowd-funded startups will pan out.

Investing with AngelLab

I had the pleasure of meeting Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, Managing Partner AngelLab, the last time Angelsbootcamp was in London.  We recently sat down and discuss parenthood, female angels and investment philosophies.

Investing with AngelLab

You’ve worked for Andersen and Ernst & Young, been a CEO of a startup, launched Incite Ventures, a syndicate for women tech entrepreneurs, been a partner at x.Million Capital Ventures, and you are currently a managing partner at AngelLab – which you also founded, an Entrepreneur In Residence at INSEAD and Professor of Finance at HULT Business School which you said you do it “just for the fun of it!”. You are also on the board of Charities such as Reload Greece. What drives you?

The same thing that drives every working person on the planet: doing something useful with one’s time and the abilities that we have been given. I am fortunate to have a job that is also my hobby, something I would do in any case in my spare time. Not many people are as lucky as that.

What challenges did you face as a woman in business?

I never saw myself as a “woman in business”. I consider myself “a working person” with no specific gender classification. As such, I face the same challenges that most people do when they work and try to build their businesses and careers. If, at any point during my professional life, some people saw the gender before the person, then probably I was too busy working to notice it. If there were the occasional flippant gender-specific comment, I probably laughed and returned the … “favour” at the first available opportunity. Having a sharp tongue helped, I guess…

Why aren’t there more female angels?

For the same reason that there are not more working women or more female VCs or more female senior executives: women opt out at some point to cater, full-time, for their families. No matter what anyone says, there is always a risk associated with being a part-time mother, wife, housekeeper. When things go wrong, you always question whether, were you able to devote all your time to your work, you would have prevented “it”, whatever this “it” might be. By continuing to work, most women take a risk: so long as we do it being fully aware of the potential negative consequences (perceived or real ones), that’s fine. A partial “guilt complex” is part and parcel of the choices we make. One learns to deal with it.

You were the founder of Incito Ventures for FinanceSE, an angel syndicate for female-led tech startups. Do we need special funds for women owned startups?

No, we don’t. Capable women entrepreneurs will always find their way to capital. Such as Brynne Herbert of Moveguides, AngelLab’s first ever investment or Fiona Strens, CEO of Crowdvision and so many others. The aim of Incito was to create a “go to” place for investors who wish to invest in this specific talent pool. My belief is that generation X and the millennials are gender agnostic in their ambitions and this particular talent pool (female tech entrepreneurs) will become deeper over the next decade or so.

What advice would you offer a woman interested in becoming an Angel?

Learn from the best out there. Diversify the portfolio like mad. Take it seriously, even if you consider it a hobby. BTW, this is also the advice I would give to anyone – man or woman – who wants to become an angel.

Did you have a mentor?

I had many people who influenced my way of thinking. I always chose to work with fiercely intelligent people and independent thinkers with sharp judgments. I am usually the least intelligent and experienced in the room but I catch up quickly. There were two people who were pivotal in my development, both were from the PE and VC sectors, both managing funds in hundreds of millions. One is here in the UK and the other is in the US.

What is your investment philosophy?

I back talented people who show an acutely painful problem and build well-engineered products to solve it. It’s as simple as that. There is no substitute for talent. I like to go for the outliers which means mostly binary scenarios ( massive wins or capital loss) but I make sure I have colleagues who balance this view with more moderate attitudes. I seek to manage my deal flow universe to improve the ‘signal to noise’ ratio and I want to diversify the portfolio at the ideal level. Some people confuse “ high diversification” with “spray and pray”. It is not the same thing at all. I call my strategy “highly curated diversification”.

Your previous firm was investing across Europe and into Russia. What are the challenges of cross border investing?

This is not about cross-order risk. It is about country-specific risk. In addition to all the usual startup venture risks, one has to deal with country-specific risks in terms of legal structure, operations, cultures. The odds are stacked against you. The bet therefore needs to be significantly better than what you would find in your local market to make it worth-while taking the extra risk.

When investing, what do you look for in an entrepreneur?

Talent. Raw, deep, unquestionable technical talent. If I can find this together with humility and ability to converse in ‘human language’ and explain technical matters plainly, then I know I have found someone I want to back.

What do you do for fun?

The usual things that most working mothers do for … “fun”: tidying up our house, helping with homework, taking my son to rugby matches and Saturday Greek school (OK, my husband does most of the latter two but I can still claim responsibility for supervising the activity…). I also fence the foil and can’t wait until my son starts fencing so that we have proper bouts.

Do We Need More Female Angels?

Recently, we had the chance to catch up with a dear friend, Connie Capone. Connie is the president of GreenOhm (GVW Group) – the leading SaaS and data provider of local rebates, incentives, on-going savings and lead generation to the retail, manufacturer, distributor and dealer channels for energy efficient products and measures, such as appliances, insulation, HVAC, doors, windows, low flow water products, building materials and alternative energy.

She joined GVW after being the CEO of ePropertyData, a software data company serving the commercial real estate market. ePD was merged after a turnaround of the business. She also served as the EIR (entrepreneur in residence) at Argonne National Laboratory, representing various venture capital firms’ interests in Lab technology.

Prior to this, she spent 11 years as a Partner with JK&B Capital, a leading Chicago based venture capital firm. Prior to joining JK&B, she was a Senior Manager at Booz Allen & Hamilton and started her career at Price Waterhouse. After earning a CPA, she transitioned into the systems consulting group where she programmed and installed SAP financial software. Connie earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and graduated from Pennsylvania State University with distinction and high honors.

We had a chance to talk about women in business and angel investing.

Do We Need More Female Angels? 

You’ve been a consultant, a venture capitalist, an entrepreneur – what drives you?

Intellectual curiosity, the desire to be challenged and to grow.

What challenges did you face as a woman in business?

I was once asked to step outside and get coffee and drinks in a meeting which I set up! I can’t stress enough the importance of being authentic, speaking your mind and not being afraid to make mistakes.

Why aren’t there more female angels?

Being comfortable with risk is not something women naturally gravitate towards. Also, angels are typically people who have been entrepreneurs or early stage investors in the past, which is also an area devoid of women.

Venture capitalists have poor track records when it comes to funding female CEOs. Do we need special funds for women owned startups?

No. I believe good ideas get funded regardless of a male or female CEO. I think the bigger question is why women’s ideas may not be funded. I think this has to do with how ideas are created – many times by teams of people who stay together until they get it right. Women tend to be more individual contributors (there are lots of reasons for this), rather than team players, but I think this is changing.

What advice would you offer a woman interested in becoming an Angel?

Invest in areas you know and understand, regardless of how popular a particular area happens to be at the time. Early stage investments, by their nature of course, are incredibly risky. Try to find the key question or two that will assess the level of risk in a deal and then due diligence that as much as possible. Get comfortable with that level of risk/reward and your financial appetite before taking the plunge. And remember that sometimes good logic and reason may still not produce a successful outcome.

Did you have a mentor?

My Mother – she challenged me when I was younger and still to this day. She encouraged me even when she knew I could (would?) fail. She’s incredibly hard working, very authentic, speaks her mind and has a “get on with it” sort of mentality.

What is your investment philosophy?

Two key areas of focus: The team/CEO has to have domain expertise and the CEO is someone I would want to work for myself. Market timing is crucial. So many great companies are (usually) to early, which results in excess capital required and less financial upside for investors.

When investing, what do you look for in an entrepreneur?

Besides what I mentioned already about domain expertise and being a great leader, it’s also important that this person has the personality to handle the ups and downs of growing a young company.

What do you do for fun?

When I have enough time, I love to travel. I just took a wonderful trip to Argentina. It was the perfect combination of history, awesome food and wine and Iguazu Falls is mother nature at her finest!

Our interview with Connie Capone  – consultant, a venture capitalist, an entrepreneur – is part of an ongoing series by Angelsbootcamp focusing on Angel investment and the Start Up ecosystem. Angelsbootcamp is a Startupbootcamp initiative to train Angels across Europe and beyond…

Point Nine Capital Berlin Seed Investments

Recently, we sat down with Nicolas Wittenborn of Point Nine Capital in Berlin.

First joining the Team Europe Seed Fund as an intern in early 2011, Nicolas came back to work as a full-time associate for Point Nine Capital after graduating from the University of Mannheim in 2012.

Having lived in New York and Singapore and gathering first work experience in real estate management and marketing, he moved back to Berlin to be closer to the lively start-up scene and pursue his passion for young technology ventures.

Point Nine Capital is a €40m euro fund, with an average investment over the life of a deal around 1.0 million, with an anticipated portfolio of 40 deals.  These are seed round investments between 100k-1m €,  averaging around 500k and around half of the fund reserved for follow-on rounds.

Point Nine Capital Berlin Seed Investments

Where is the fund in the 40 investments?

I think we are at about half of the planned investments, so will be investing out of this fund for a while longer.

Does Point Nine take a board seat(s)?

In general we don’t insist on it, but do it if the entrepreneurs wants us to. In Europe the board is not as powerful as in the US. Therefore it is a lot less structured or relevant over here. In general the board here acts as advisers, not directors.  Our hypothesis is that the founder should be in control and we are there to support him/her and give some direction. Therefore taking control with a board seat is secondary for us.

What sectors does Point Nine invest in?

Out of the current fund around 60-70% of our investment have gone into SaaS companies. While this is our focus, we also invest in marketplaces, networks and some mobile & eCommerce.

How often do you get unsolicited business plans, and is this the real way to capture your attention?

We receive between 150-200 inquiries per month. These come from all over the world but mainly from Europe and North America. It is important to us that we get back to all of them, so we do have a look and try to respond in a reasonable time.

Of course, we are a small team and have to prioritize, so leads coming through our network are generally screened first. We try to get back to everybody that sends us something that is not spam though.

What is the best way to get your startup company noticed by an investor? 

Try to get an in through one of the entrepreneurs we have worked with before is always a good strategy. If you can convince one of them to vouch for you, it is a positive signal.

But we are also spending time on conferences and are approachable per email. What’s important to us is the context – So if you approach us, no matter which way, it is always good to see that you know who you are talking to and that you are not just distributing blind, generic emails.

In practice that means that you can refer to one of our blog posts, or recent investments and show us how what you are doing is relevant to our investment focus.

What makes a start-up are attractive to an investor?

What you will always hear is a strong founding team. Besides that I think momentum is really important. That doesn’t have to mean to insane traction or high revenues early on, but just a sense of urgency. You can tell the teams that are hustling to move their startup forward step-after-step to achieve their goal apart from those that are just trying to be part of the gold rush.

Start-ups get caught up in the game, what are the buzz words you are tired of hearing?

Good question. Going through a dozen business plans again today, some buzzwords I am tired off: Rockstar-This, Ninja-That & Inherent Virality (that’s not there).

Any deal killers?

A clear red flag is if you get the feeling that the founders aren’t trustworthy. That can take the form of severe overselling or working on other deals behind your back. If we get the feeling that the founders won’t be transparent in good and bad times, we chose not to work with them. After all we will be in a “relationship” for 5, maybe 10 years. We want to make sure that there is a foundation here that we can build on.

Silicon Allee is hot, there a lot of attention, money, incubators – how does this impact the start up scene and investments?

It’s really good for Berlin. The hype has been going on for a while and we yet have to see some significant exits. But really good US investors (Sequoia, Benchmark, USV) are starting to notice Berlin and that has a positive effect.

For start-ups that means more access to capital, but also more access to talent. Berlin is still relatively cheap to live in and because of its diversity it attracts a lot of international people. Start-ups can find very good coding talent for a fraction of what it costs in the US, but the platform they build on is still the same: The internet. So they can in theory achieve the same growth.

I’m a bit more skeptical about the incubators & accelerators popping up. Of course I’m happy about everything that boosts the ecosystem, but I am not sure there is enough substance yet to justify the amount of new players.

The exits are always the criticism when it comes to Berlin, how important are they to solidifying Berlin as a true start up hub?

I think they are very important. Hype can only carry it so far. One of the things missing in my opinion are the 2nd generation of entrepreneurs that come out of the first real success stories. Once we have a few of these, there will be tons of early employees that are (hopefully) rich. And these are people who know how to get it done.

I’m speaking about the ones that joined the companies early on and grew with it. They have the tools to get something going. And after an exit also the resources. I think this will spawn a new generation of start-ups with big potential.  They might not have been the founders of the first tech company they worked for, but want to do it themselves after they have seen it happen once.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you are passionate for.  It’s a bit predictable, but true. If you really burn for your work, people around you will catch fire as well.  And in most cases you need to convince somebody, be it an investor, partner, entrepreneur or an early adopter of your product.

Point Nine Capital Berlin Seed Investments

How Techstars Evaluates Startups

Is your startup investible?

At the recent How to Web conference, I sat down with Jens Lapinski (Managing Director, Techstars Berlin) to talk startups and early investment strategies.  captured some of the highlights of our chat.

How Techstars Evaluates Startups

If you’re the founder of an early stage tech startup and you’re looking for funding, it’s important to understand the investors’ mindset first, as well as the criteria they take into consideration when evaluating early stage ideas. To help you set your expectations straight, we’ve discussed this at length with Jens Lapinski (Managing Director, Techstars Berlin) in a talk moderated by Mike Doherty (Program Director,Angelsbootcamp).

As Managing Director of TechStars, Jens is responsible for selecting startups for investment, while providing support for the Techstars Berlin program operations. On a yearly basis, he looks at around 3000 potential investments and ends up selecting 10 to 12 startups. Before joining Techstars, Jens was a partner at Forward Labs, a London-based startup studio focused on building profitable startups at high speed using lean startup principles. Jens talked about the key criteria he uses to identify promising investment opportunities and he presented the Techstars approach last November at How to Web Conference 2014 – Angel investment track.

So what should you do to make your startup an attractive investment?

Put the foundations right

“The vast majority of startups don’t get the foundations right: there’s no committed team, the founders have not worked together before, they are geographically distributed across different cities, they outsource technologies to somebody else, they don’t have the required skill set or experience, they haven’t really done their homework […] 80 to 90% of the deals I look at don’t make it exactly for these kind of reasons”, explained Jens.

It all comes down to the team

And in order to put this foundation right, it all comes down to the team. It’s true that the team is not enough, but it’s a deal breaker: investors would definitely talk to a very interesting team, as Jens points out, and will not take into consideration a team that cannot prove its execution capability and competitive edge.

“When you’re hiring people, you always look for two things: motivation & past accomplishments. People that have great accomplishments in the past prove their motivation and are more likely to keep going on the same line in the future. The same goes for startup founders”, explains Jens.

Know your customers

Once you’ve got the team and you’ve set the foundation right, it’s important to understand your customers.

“The first question I ask the teams is “Who are your customers”. If they have a precise answer to this question, than the probability to build a product that actually serves their need is higher”, says Jens.

Understand the market you’re operating on

Not only should you know the market your operating on (trends, competitors), but you should also convince the investor that there is a market for the specific product you’re building and that this market isn’t already overrun by dozen of competitors. And the situation may get tricky here: even if you may think that addressing a huge market is great news for you, this may scare investors off.

“If the market is very large, you will require boatloads of capital to address it and it’s highly questionable if you are going to make it.”, as Jens points out

As a result, he is looking for companies that can grow quickly enough without requiring lots of capital early on, and the really interesting ones are those that address a meaningful market (and not a huge one) that is expected to grow over time.

Choose your business model and the investor that’s right for it

There are three fundamental approaches you can use when choosing your business model: you can charge consumers directly, charge businesses directly, or develop an advertising monetization plan. There’s no wrong or right here, but you have to understand that investors generally have their business model of choice, and understanding their preferences will increase your chances of raising money. Jens, for example, is very comfortable investing in B2B companies, while he only looks at the B2C products that don’t require physical inventories, such as booking apps. And this varies from one investor to another.

Avoid using buzzwords

Let’s take a simple example: you’re a sharing economy business. That’s great, but what does this mean and what do you actually do? Contrary to your expectations, the buzzwords you use are not helping you, but shutting you down. Investors don’t like big words: they invest in you and your product, so you’d better make sure they understand from the start what are you working on.

Aim low / talk low

“If you want to raise 1 million, say you’d like 500k. That’s because if you only manage to raise 800k you can end up being a failure, or you can announce you’ve been oversubscribed and get anyone to believe that your company is hot”, he advises.

Go the angel route first

Last but not least, Jens recommends founders looking for money to try raising an angel round first, before approaching VCs.

“If you raise angel money and get really large, you will also become interesting for VCs and you will close the round faster than if you go the VC route first, now that you have the social proof from all the angels”, he concludes.

Curious to find out some more insights on the Techstars approach to selecting startups for investments? Than take a look at the “Evaluating early stage ideas”panel from How to Web Conference 2014 – Angel Investment Track

Watch the interview –

How Techstars Evaluates Startups



Fintech is HOT!

In our continuing Women in Business series, we chatted with Susanne Chishti CEO & Founder of FINTECH Circle.

Fintech is HOT!

Women in Fintech with Susanne Chishti

Susanne is a Senior Capital Markets Manager, Entrepreneur and Investor with strong financial services expertise aware of new trends across the Financial Services Technology (FinTech) sector, B2C and B2B growth opportunities and regulatory requirements. More than 14 years experience across Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Banking Group, Morgan Stanley and Accenture in London and Hong Kong.

Experienced leader and Non-Executive Director for FinTech Start-ups with positive “can do” attitude and enthusiasm to solve complex capital markets challenges. Focus on corporate strategy, finance and the successful launch of innovative products and services while providing access to senior leaders in the City/Canary Wharf for investment (angel investors) and business advise (Non-Executive Directors).

“In front of our eyes a new industry is being built which will revolutionize how we bank, pay, invest and trade with other consumers and businesses worldwide. You have the choice of sitting on the sidelines and watch how FINTECH will change your personal and professional life. But you can also get ahead of the game by becoming involved, building up your expertise and potentially invest into the next Apples, Paypals and Googles which are being founded in the UK today.” Susanne Chishti

What is Fintech Circle?

FINTECH Circle is Europe’s 1st angel network focused on fintech investments, thus all our investors have strong finance/tech backgrounds and we only invest in fintech companies. Our focus is seed/early stage investments for funding rounds of between £100K to £500K.

FINTECH firms can apply online for funding and FINTECH angels can contact us on info@fintechcircle.com  We also run the leading fintech network on Linked In with more than 4,000 global members consisting of investors, entrepreneurs, fintech thought leaders and innovators. You can join our FINTECH Circle group online and follow us onTwitter.

What is Fintech Circle’s investment philosophy?

We define FINTECH widely and are interested in fintech solutions across retail banking, corporate and investment banking, asset management, transaction banking, private wealth management, insurance, finance regulation, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. We are interested in “disruptive” fintech firms who have come up with new business & revenue models with the intention to take away market share from existing players and also “traditional” fintech firms whose goal it is to sell their services and solutions into established players.

What investments has it made?

FINTECH Circle angel investors have made several investments including AlgoDynamix (Algorithmic big data risk analytics company empowers asset managers to preserve capital nominated by the UK Business Angels Association as “Best Disruptive Investment of the Year” http://www.algodynamix.com/), Fourex (Money Exchange Specialists & Winner of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Competition: Pitch to Rich), Divido (Online instalment payments Firmhttp://divido.co/) and HubExchange (Private Online Exchange for the New Economy; www.thehub.exchange)

What are your investment deal-breakers?

FINTECH Circle uses a multi-stage selection process. Stage 1 is the submission of the fintech firm’s executive summary, investor presentation and 3 min founders video to provide an elevator pitch and the completion of our application form online. We review all submitted documentation against our criteria including the strength of the team, product/services, market size, traction achieved, route to market strategy, valuation etc. The top 10 companies who passed stage 1 are then invited to Stage 2, our FINTECH Circle Selection Day. During this day they present in person to our Selection Panel made up of experts across fintech. The top 6 companies who pass the Selection Day and are then invited to a FINTECH Circle Coaching Day where we help them with practice pitch training to get ready for the actual Angel Network Evening where they will present to FINTECH Circle Angel Investors.

One piece of advice to an angel-in-training?

First, for your angel investments focus on those areas where you personally have strong expertise in so that you can judge better which firms/opportunities have strong potential and also you will be able to provide your knowledge/guidance and contacts to your invested companies providing “smart money” to them. Secondly, don’t invest on your own but join an angel network which matches your interest so that you can discuss opportunities with like-minded investors and co-invest alongside others. Thirdly, the saying to “never put all your eggs in one basket” is so important, diversification is crucial. Thus start out slowly by observing other deals/investors and then when you start investing, try to allocate your available funds across at least 10–20 investments over 5 years. Finally angel investments should be fun and a great opportunity for you to really help the best entrepreneurs building up successful businesses globally!

One piece of advice to an entrepreneur looking for capital?

Be prepared and show your passion/expertise how you will solve a big problem in the market. Be clear on your strategy, show traction and have all your paperwork ready before approaching investors.

What challenges did you face as a woman in business?

Unfortunately both the finance and tech sectors totally lack diversity. As women we face numerous challenges such as not having enough female role models in senior positions, always being the minority in meetings, events and conferences being overlooked for promotions or bonuses when we have children, lack of female politicians and lack female investors and entrepreneurs.

Why aren’t there more female angels?

I have met many outstanding female investors running large investment portfolios at leading asset managers. Women tend to be very good investors. In the UK we have seen the number or angel investors slowly increase but it’s still a very small number which we can hopefully increase going forward.

Do we need special funds for women owned startups?

Yes, the more funds female entrepreneurs have access to, the better.

What do you do for fun?

Spending quality time with my family and friends, yoga, skiing in Austria and reading.

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