As normal at this time of the year we look back at the year, we are leaving behind. At the same time, we try to predict the year in front of us, which is tough or most of the time sometimes impossible. I have collected some articles that seek to look into the crystal ball and maybe can give us some notion on the road ahead.
– The amount of money that flowed into start-ups in the United States fell in 2016 for the first time in four years as the number of deals struck tumbled to their lowest levels since 2011, but the technology world has high hopes that 2017 will prove to be brighter.
– On the climate and energy front, 2016 was a year of contradictions. Again and again, our planet smashed global temperature records. The fingerprints of climate change were visible in extreme weather from the North Pole to Louisiana.
– The end of the year is a time for reflection. Many greats were lost in 2016: thinkers, creators, scientists, entertainers, and philosophers–no major field of endeavor was untouched by loss in the last 12 months.
Every Friday we send out a newsletter to more than 8000 Angel Investors around the world, once in a while I post some news here so you maybe can see the value of subscribing. Here you have some of the posts I have been reading the last couple of days and hope you find some relevant stories. Sign up for Angel Investor Startup Digest today.
The most exciting experience this week was getting contracted to a speaker at Wolves Summit next month. This is the fourth edition of the biggest multinational startup event in Central and Eastern Europe. It focuses on networking and has a goal to build a bridge between investors, corporations, and promising startups.
Did you know that 500 Startups is shouting down their activity in Oslo and that Sean Percival is leaving? I am not sure what’s boiling here, but I keep you posted. Anyhow, earlier this week Are Traasdahl founder of Tapad launched his idea setting up an early stage fund of 1,2 billion USD and got standing ovations for his initiative.
As a curator, I want feedback on what you think should be the focus of this newsletter, and I promise your voice will be heard. Please send me the exciting news, deals, tools, etc. and if you are on Twitter feel free to connect at @vikinangels.
– Angels love the thrill of the hunt. We like learning how entrepreneurs are going to change the world or which is the new Unicorn that will go public and bring a 100X return. Perhaps this is why many stories about early-stage investing focus on the first part of angel investing – finding good deals, negotiating good terms, and due diligence.
– EQUITY Gap, a Scottish business angel syndicate, has reported strong investment activity in the first half of 2016. The syndicate has completed investment deals in include Insignia Technologies, Synaptec, Appointedd, Shotscope and Vert Rotors. The syndicate has rapidly grown from 15 original founders to 100 members, completing over 50 rounds of funding, since 2010.
– One of the big concerns about investing in a startup is the lack of liquidity, which means once you put in money, you’re pretty much locked in until a “liquidity event” occurs. Most angels want an outsize return on their investments, because this is a high-risk asset class, and you invest in it because you expect to get a high return in exchange for taking on that additional risk.
– In the previous post of this series, we described what financial modeling is and why it is important for startup founders to build their own models from scratch. Today, we’ll begin by diving into how to practically start building a financial model.
– Signia Venture Partners has closed its second fund at $85 million to lead early-stage deals in emerging tech startups mostly in and around San Francisco. For the unfamiliar, Signia is typically the first money in and the lead investor in the companies it backs, writing $1-2 million in seed stage deals or $2-8 million in later stage rounds.
Today we learned that 500 Startups are shooting down their activities in Norway, Sean Percival leaves, and the rest of the team is moving to Sweden. They are one of the leading venture companies in the world and has invested more than 1.6 billion in approximately 1,400 companies.
Sean Percival, Source: 500 Startups
– Sweden has a much greater appetite for risk, and they are much better at marketing, commercialization, and internationalization, says Sean Percival.
– When I tried to raise money for our 15 million USD fund in Norway, there were very few who understood how venture capital works. They did not understand the mechanisms and they did not understand how they got the money back.
For every conversation I had, I started on the minus side, and had to spend time just to get to the starting line, and then I have to continue to get them to invest, he said.
It is tragic that 500 Startups not got underway in Norway. What Sean says, pinpoint our problems related to culture and lack climate for cooperation across national borders inside Scandinavia.
What worries me most is that Norway can have branding issues in the environment in Silicon Valley. It’s like a little duck pond and rumors going fast. This for sure a downturn and emphasizes once again the importance of tax incentives for investors in Norway. I assume that key politicians realize the seriousness now. As entrepreneurs, we must also put pressure on the government.
Norway must have conditions that are competitive and that can secure that startup projects have an opportunity to get financing. I think it’s unreasonable that we give a lot of grants from Innovation Norway, only for the next turn see the company flag out to get investors.
Also, we must all demand that our politicians have a vision for this country? The last thing we need is more commissions and committees. We need action!
Last week over 1000 foreign guests and I arrived in Tallinn for the Estonian ICT Week (27 May -3 June) including the “Industry 4.0 in Practice” conference and the “Green IT” seminar. I will write several blog post from my experience, but as a first taste, I will share a video with some of my pictures from the “Green IT” seminar and beautiful Tallinn.
ICT sector has been one of the most important industries in Estonia, starting with governmental e-services and ending with Estonian startups that are proved to have a global mindset.
Estonia is a tech advanced and agile society that gets things done fast. Therefore, a big effect is expected by encouraging the industrial and ICT sector to work together locally and internationally.
Recently, Malwarebytes, an internet security company founded in the US enlarged their office in Tallinn, because of the excellent location and awesome IT vibe. People from different corners of the world are traveling to work in Tallinn, and they expect to have 60 people in the office very soon.
If you want more information about moving your company to the heart of Europe or investing, you should contact Estonian Investment Agency (EIA), a part of Enterprise Estonia, is a government agency promoting foreign investments in Estonia and assisting international companies in finding business opportunities in Estonia.
Two years ago I was in Moscow for a week attending GEC 2014 at the same time as Putin, and a group of senior followers was celebration the takeover of Crimea at the square outside Kremlin. After many trips to Russia over many years, I could feel that there was a dramatic change in the air, and the rest is history. When I the stumbled over Starta Accelerator on LinkedIn it created an interest and an urge to learn more. Many of my investor’s friends and entrepreneurs in Russia have been escaping the country the last years.
Starta Accelerator (www.StartaAccelerator.com) was initiated by Starta Capital VC fund and its founder Alexey Girin. Starta Capital is one of the leading VC funds in Russia. It has received prestigious awards granted by Russian Venture Capital Association, National Venture Industry Award, and National Association of Business Angels award, so they have a quite a reputation to bring to the table.
The Accelerator’s main mission is to introduce startups with East European R&D roots to best practices, trusted advisers and mentors, and overcome cultural differences through a customized educational program that help startups to gain traction in U.S. and become part of the local startup and investing ecosystem.
I have been a coach for several companies from Russia through Seed Forum International and have observed that there can be serious cultural challenges involved. Just to be clear, it is the same challenge for us heading eastbound and maybe even harder.
My chat with Ekaterina (Katya) Dorozhkina;
Katya is the Managing Partner at Starta Capital & Accelerator. The author of Zero Budget Marketing and Making ArtWork, A ROI-Based Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs and Startups. Co-founder of @DenArtStudio.With over ten years of experience in the field, she has been on both sides of the brief, helping large corporations and small start-ups with marketing, business and product management. Past clients include Samsung, Casio, American Express, American Airlines, and others.
Katya received her Master’s in International Economics and currently finishing up her Ph.D. She lives in NYC, where she spoils her adopted dog, Bucks and her goldfish, Cash. Katya donates all of the income from her books to a charity fund called Change One Life, which helps connect orphans with families.
I have a strong hypothesis that the entrepreneurial environment in Russia is a little bit difficult right now. Are there many Russian entrepreneurs fleeing the country?
-Indeed, the economic situation has recently declined dramatically. The market liquidity along with the prospect for the future is questionable for many startups and entrepreneurs in general. This pushes entrepreneurs to get out of their comfort zone. They are forced to consider new strategies for their businesses, or they try to move towards more attractive markets that can provide a better future for their businesses and products.
I imagine cultural barriers are an important consideration for these entrepreneurs. What are the main challenges?
-As with any cross-cultural exchange, it takes a time to get used to the new cultural rules. For businesses, cultural differences can present an obstacle to developing and growing business. The challenge that we face at Starta Accelerator is to help Eastern-European founders adapt to a U.S.-oriented mindset within a short time. In general, it takes years to adjust culturally to a new place, but adapting to U.S.-business culture is our focus for the first month of the program.
-One of the main cultural differences between U.S. and Eastern European founders is how the path to success is imagined. European founders are more careful and cautious. They still live in the “waterfall product development” process—they’ve been taught to create the product first, then sell it. However, in the U.S., startups are all about being lean and agile. U.S. founders market and test ideas first, and then create products and raise money. In both scenarios, making mistakes is unavoidable, but it should not prevent you from trying.
There are many accelerators in NYC. What make your initiative unique?
-For startups, our business model is narrowed down to the particular challenge of Eastern-European companies entering the U.S. market. There simply is no other accelerator with this focus. The accelerators in NYC do a fabulous job, but they are only accessible to local startups or companies with sufficient local experience. These startups already participate in the U.S. startup ecosystem, and they are familiar with the local rules. Other accelerators just cannot predict or assist with the challenges facing Eastern-European companies that are trying to join the U.S. startup ecosystem.
-Our one-on-one coaching program also sets us apart from other accelerators. In addition to mentoring by industry leaders, our founders receive individual coaching on Business Communications, Marketing, Business Development & Sales, Product & UX, and Investment Relationship.
-We also provide more value to investors as we select more mature startups with MVP, traction and powerful R&D teams that operate from Eastern Europe usually at a much lower cost than in U.S.
You have a demo day coming up. What kind of startups will we meet?
-At our demo day, you will meet startups from various industries in multiple stages of growth. As I mentioned, we have companies with proven traction in Europe. Some have already raised sufficient money, and some are in the early stages of looking for seed and pre-seed funding. These companies span various tech products and services—from deep techs like VR or navigation technologies to fintech apps and much more. You will have to check it out to see them all!
Working closely with startups on a daily basis can be a challenge. Where do you get theenergy?
-Good question. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll?
-Joking aside, I just love what I do—and in a way, my passion for startups is a kind of drug. Working with startups comes with a whole slew of emotions—from frustration to excitement—but ultimately it is rewarding. Seeing the determination and hard work of these startup founders is inspiring. It keeps me going and makes me do my best to help these guys succeed.
-Plus, I get some kind of peer-to-peer auto-recharge. Our accelerator is like a solar panel, when our group of energetic, smart and determined founders work side-by-side on a daily basis, they give each other—and me—a special natural energy and support. They are not competing against each other. Rather, they are all united by the same goal, and that lifts everybody up.
Where do you see yourself in three years? What are your personal goals for Starta?
-My personal goal is to create a new form of accelerators that will create a new player in the market or change the VC/Startup world completely.
-Right now, it looks like a zoo: unicorns, cash cows, “foxes” and “hedgehogs.” (A study from Columbia University placed VCs and angel investors into two categories, “foxes” and “hedgehogs.”)
-Instead of breeding a new animal, I would like to create a feeder for all. Or, better yet, convert the zoo into an amusement park with positive experiences for each of the players, not just a rollercoaster for startups.
-My professional goal is to finish fundraising for Starta Accelerator Fund for the upcoming four classes over the next two years, which will help to support about eight startups per class and increase the chance of creating an Eastern-European unicorn success story.
Norvestor VI, L.P., a fund managed by Norvestor Equity AS, have bought 56 percent of the shares in Phonero AS. The company has grown to be Norway’s next biggest telecom operator in the business market, with telecom solutions SMEs and large enterprises. The company is projected to have revenues of more than 1 billion NOK in 2015.
This talk I gave at a local TEDx event, in Bergen produced independently of the TED Conferences. I am talking about the present and future of entrepreneurship in Norway and try to examine the challenges of Norwegian startup companies on the entrepreneurial scene. Why is it so hard for startups to survive and grow is such a rich and prosperous Scandinavian country?
I am working on refining this lecture and on a book focusing on challenges Norway have ahead, so all feedback and comments are of high value for me.
Startup Weekend, whose mission is to kickstart and foster startup communities worldwide through events and networking sessions, had a very lively 2011.
According to internal statistics shared exclusively with TechCrunch, the organization held a total of 260 events in 202 cities, in 67 countries (you can find the obligatory accompanying infographic below).
All in all, the ‘startup weekends’ attracted some 21,316 people, who collectively formed 2,817 teams.
Startups that were incubated at its events raised at least $30 million in outside funding in the course of last year, although Startup Weekend CMO Joey Pomerenke tells me there were probably more fundraising rounds completed that they simply don’t know about yet. Read more…
Seed Forum International Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation working out of London, and it is the international collaboration entity for the national Seed Forum not-for-profit foundations in various countries.
VikingAngels.com uses these events as physical meeting spots for our network.
Events in January: Singapore 17th, Shanghai 19th and Malmø 24th. Contact manager if you want to be invited to one of these events.