6 investors and founders forecast hockey-stick growth for Edinburgh’s startup scene

Scotland is slowly but surely drawing attention in the UK’s startup space. In 2020, Scottish startups collectively raised £345 million, according to Tech Nation, and with nearly 2,500 startups, it has the highest number of budding tech companies outside London. Venture capital fundraises are also consistently on the rise every year.

Scotland’s capital Edinburgh boasts a beautiful, hilly landscape, a robust education system and good access to grant funding, public and private investment. It’s also one of the top financial centers in the U.K., making it a great place to begin a business.

So to find out what the startup scene in Edinburgh looks like, we spoke to six founders, executives and investors. The city’s tech ecosystem appears to have a robust space for machine learning, artificial intelligence, biomedicine, fintech, travel tech, oil, renewables, e-commerce, gaming, health tech, deep tech, space tech and insurtech.


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However, the city’s tech scene is apparently lackluster when it comes to legal tech, blockchain and consumer-facing technology.

Breakout companies that were founded in Edinburgh include Skyscanner and FanDuel. Notable among the current crop are Desana, Continuum Industries, Parsley Box, Current Health, Boundary, Zumo, Appointedd, Criton, Mallzee, TravelNest, TVSquared, Care Sourcer, Stampede, For-Sight, Vistalworks, Reath, InfraCost, Speech Graphics and Cyan Forensics.

The Edinburgh business-angel community appears to be quite strong, but it seems local founders find it difficult to get London-based investors to take an interest. Scottish investors are said to be “pretty conservative and risk-adverse” with some notable exceptions.

We surveyed:


Wendy Lamin, managing director, Holoxica

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
It’s strong in space, biomedicine, fintech/insurtech, AI.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
The Scottish business-angel community is said to be the largest in Europe. It’s difficult to get London-based investors take an interest in Scotland — investors can tend to look at where companies are based. It is hard for “underrepresented founders” to get investments in Scotland and beyond.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh or will they move out? Will others move in?
Stay. Not always easy to get people to come and live in Scotland. Edinburgh, there are lots of prejudices, despite it being one of the best cities to live in in the whole of the U.K.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Good to see more focus on impact investing. Par Equity is one of Edinburgh’s biggest investors, whereas Archangels is one of the biggest angel investors. Poonam Malik is great for diversity and female entrepreneurs, and she is on the board of Scottish Enterprise, and is a social entrepreneur and investor. Garry Bernstein is also an investor — he leads the Scottish chapter of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, and as such is the founder of Tech Scot Advocates.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Thriving. The government is doing its best for the tech sector. Education in tech is currently an issue, though. Hope Brexit won’t be too much of an issue.

Andrew Noble, partner, Par Equity

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Strong in fintech, health tech, data science, deep tech. Excited by quantum computing, advanced materials, AI in Edinburgh. Weak in blockchain and consumer.

Which are the most interesting startups in Edinburgh?
Current Health, InfraCost, Speech Graphics and Cyan Forensics.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
Good at seed stage up to £1 million, okay for pre-series A (£1 million to £3 million) and non-existent for Series A (£3 million-£10 million). Quality of investors is improving. Par Equity is leading the way.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Experiencing influx of new talent due to COVID-19. Edinburgh is a highly desirable city to live in. Recent new residents include Aaron Ross (Predictable Revenue) and Jules Pursuad (early employee at Airbnb and now VP at Omio).

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Par Equity (investor), Paul Atkinson, Alistair Forbes, Mark Logan, Lesley Eccles, Chris McCann, CodeBase.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
One to two new unicorns. Promising number of high-growth tech companies. A much more sophisticated investor scene in the Series A space.

Danae Shell, co-founder and CEO, Valla

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Edinburgh is strong in fintech because of our proximity to so many financial services companies and banks. Also, there are some exciting games tech companies because of our history of games companies. We’re pretty weak in law tech, Valla’s area.

Which are the most interesting startups in Edinburgh?
Vistalworks for consumer tech; Sustainably for fintech; Reath for sustainable tech.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
As a rule, Scottish investors are pretty conservative and risk-averse. The only real exception is Techstart Ventures, in my experience.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh, or will they move out? Will others move in?
I think more people will come to Edinburgh from London because the quality of life and cost of living are both so much better here.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Calum Forsyth and Mark Hogarth at Techstart Ventures; Janine Matheson at CodeBase; Jackie Waring from the Investing Women angel syndicate; Jim Newbury is a very well-respected developer and coach, and my co-founder Kate Ho is also well known. Also Danny Helson who runs the EIE event with the Bayes Centre.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
We’ve had a few exits in the past few years (Skyscanner, FreeAgent), which means that talent is spreading out across the ecosystem here and we’re getting some fantastic new startups kicking off. In five years, that first crop should be coming into the Series A stage so we could see a lot of super exciting businesses!

Allan Nelson, co-founder and CEO, For-Sight

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Strong in fintech, travel tech, health, oil, renewables, e-commerce, gaming (both video game and gambling tech). Excited by all bar oil (great driver of revenue, but not the future).

Which are the most interesting startups in Edinburgh?
Boundary, Parsley Box, Appointedd, Criton, Mallzee, TravelNest, TVSquared, Care Sourcer, Stampede, For-Sight.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
Big fintech scene here. Travel tech is growing too, with Skyscanner’s influence strong.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Most will stay, as it’s a very attractive city to live and work in. It’s a globally recognized and unique city. Very international flavor as evidenced by the makeup of our team.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Ex-Skyscanner people including Gareth Williams, Mark Logan, etc. Ian Ritchie, Alistair Forbes, the FanDuel’s founders and the CodeBase founders.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
A lot bigger, as tech is a key growth target of the Scottish government and is underpinned/influenced/inspired by Skyscanner and FanDuel.

Lysimachos Zografos, founder, Parkure

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Strong in machine learning/AI/digital. Weak in deep tech discovery, especially in biotech/therapeutics. Excited by the rise in adoption of AI in drug discovery — all these ideas that were sci-fi 20 years ago are now adopted in £B deals.

Which are the most interesting startups in Edinburgh?
Pheno Therapeutics.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
Conservative angels and a few tech seed VCs.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh, or will they move out? Will others move in?
Move in.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Investors: Archangels, Techstart Ventures and Epidarex.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Growing.

Bertie Wilson, co-founder, “Stealth mode”

Which sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
I don’t think there are any sectors that stand out — it’s fairly evenly split. A good strength of the city is the talent that comes from the universities. There are some really good engineers that come from Edinburgh, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh Napier. The main weakness is that the ecosystem doesn’t favor the most ambitious founders. Most investors in the region are angels and aren’t interested in finding outliers that could grow 1000x and are more interested in backing companies that are less risky but might 5x their money. If you want to find investors that will back risky (but very ambitious) plans, it’s easier to find that elsewhere.

Which are the most interesting startups in Edinburgh?
Desana, Continuum Industries, Parsley Box, Current Health, Boundary, Zumo.

What are the tech investors like in Edinburgh? What’s their focus?
I would say it’s getting better, but there are still a lot of issues with the ecosystem. It is being helped in Scotland by the likes of Techstart investing at the earliest stages with high conviction and term sheets that are more similar to London VCs. Outside of this, though, it’s easy for founders to end up with a messy cap table due to the number of angels and lack of VCs looking for VC-type returns — the messiness of these cap tables can then make it hard to raise venture funding down the line. This is fine for a lot of companies that aren’t aiming for a venture-scale return (which admittedly is a lot), but it can hurt those that are.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Edinburgh, or will they move out? Will others move in?
I imagine and hope others will move in. It is a great place to live with a very high quality of life, and this should be a natural attraction for people who want a good standard of living but want to remain in a city.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
SEP (investor), Techstart Ventures (investor), Gareth Williams (founder/investor), MBM Commercial (lawyers), Pentech, Bill Dobbie (investor), Jamie Coleman.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Optimistically, I hope that there will be a good number of companies that are at the Series B/Series C stage, which will invite a lot more interest from investors outside of Edinburgh (London, Berlin, Paris, New York, San Francisco, etc.) to start investing more actively in the city at the earliest stages as well as these stages.

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The return of neighborhood retail and other surprising real estate trends

The pandemic made remote work and on-demand delivery normal far faster than anyone expected. Today, as the world beings to emerge from the pandemic, location doesn’t matter like it did a year ago.

As shocking as it sounds, we could be entering a much better era for small, local businesses.

Modern society produced superstar cities filled with skyscraper office and residential buildings. Now, the populations that once thrived in these urban centers are deciding how to repurpose them for a post-pandemic world.

I caught up with ten top investors who focus on real estate property technology to get a sense of how they’re betting on the future.

They are optimistic overall, because the typically glacial real estate industry now sees proptech as essential to its future. However, they are the most unsure about the office sector, at least as we knew the concept before the pandemic.

They expect remote work to be part of the future in a significant way and foresee ongoing high housing demand in the suburbs and smaller cities. They are especially positive about fintech and SaaS products focused on areas like single-family home sales and rentals. Many are continuing to invest in big cities, but around alternative housing (co-living, accessory dwelling units) and climate-related concepts.

Most surprisingly, some investors are actually excited about physical retail. I examined the latest evidence and found myself agreeing. As shocking as it sounds, we could be entering a much better era for small, local businesses. Details farther down.

(And before we dig in below, please note that Extra Crunch subscribers can separately read the following people responding fully in their own words, with lots of great information I wasn’t able to explore below.)

When the office is more of a luxury

The pandemic combined with existing trends has made office renters “more akin to a consumer of a luxury product,” explains Clelia Warburg Peters, a venture partner at Bain Capital Ventures and long-time proptech investor and real estate operator.

Landlords who have “largely been in a position of power since the 1950s” now have to put the customer first, she says. The “best landlords will recognize that they are going to be under pressure to shift from simply providing a physical space, to helping provide tenants with a multichannel work experience.”

This includes tangible additional services like software and hardware for managing employees as they travel between various office locations. But the market today also dictates a new attitude. “These assets will need to be provided in the context of a much more human relationship, focusing on serving the needs of tenants,” she says. “As lease terms inevitably shorten, tenants will need to be courted and supported in a much more active way than they have been in the past.”

The changes in office space may be more favorable to the supply side in suburban areas.

“Companies are going to have to offer employees space in an urban headquarters,” Zach Aarons of Metaprop tells me. But many will also want to offer ”some sort of office alternative in the suburbs so the worker can leave home sometimes but not have to take a one-hour train ride to get to the office when needed.”

“If we were still purchasing hard real estate assets like many of us on the MetaProp team used to do in previous careers,” he added, “we would be looking aggressively to purchase suburban office inventory.”

Most people thought that remote work was here for good and would impact the nature of office space in the future.

Adam Demuyakor, co-founder and managing director of Wilshire Lane Partners, is generally bullish on big cities, but he notes that startups themselves are already untethering from specific places. This is a key leading indicator, in TechCrunch’s opinion.

“Something that has been interesting to watch over the past year is how startups themselves have begun to evolve due to newfound geographic flexibility from the pandemic,” he observes. “Previously, startups (especially real-estate-related startups) felt pressure to be ‘headquartered’ near where their customers, prospective capital sources and pools of talent were located. However, we’ve seen this change over the past few months.”

In fact, a recent report by my former colleague Kim-Mai Cutler, now a partner at Initialized Capital, highlights these trends in a regular survey of its portfolio companies. When the pandemic began, the Bay Area was still the number one place that founders said they’d start a company. Today, remote-first is in first place. Meanwhile, the portfolio companies are either going toward remote-first or a hub-and-spoke model of a smaller headquarters and more far-flung offices. Those who maintain some sort of office say they will require significantly less than five days a week. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would also not adjust salaries based on location!

That’s a small sample but as Demuyakor says, “Startups (a) are frequently the most adept at utilizing the types of technology necessary for effective remote work and (b) simultaneously have to compete ferociously for talent. As such, I think we may be able to infer what the ‘future of work’ may look like as we observe what startups choose to do as the pandemic passes.”

Some landlords (with big loans) and large cities (with big budgets) are making a push to repopulate their offices quickly, and some large companies are loading up on office space or reaffirming their commitments to current locations.

Maybe efforts like these, plus the natural desire to network live, will bring back the industry clusters and pull everyone back to the old geographies? Maybe something close to 100% of what we saw before? What does that look like?

In such a scenario, some pandemic-era changes will persist, says Christopher Yip, a partner and managing director at RET Ventures. “A populace that has become sensitized to public health considerations may well gravitate toward solo forms of transportation (cars and bicycles) instead of mass transit, and parking-related and bike-sharing tech tools may likely thrive. From a real estate management perspective, technology that makes high-density living more comfortable and healthier will also increase, as consumers will become increasingly attracted to touchless technology and tools that facilitate self-leasing.”

Here’s the other scenario that he lays out “if a large number of jobs remain fully remote.”

“In theory, retail and office properties could structurally continue to suffer, and there has been some talk from government officials in certain regions about converting office properties into affordable housing,” he details. “If market-rate vacancies in cities remain high, there will be increasing demand for short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Kasa, which enable landlords to gain revenue from hotel-type stays even in a market where residential demand is not strong.”

Vik Chawla, a partner at Fifth Wall, sketches out a middle-of-the-road scenario. “We believe that major cities will continue to attract knowledge workers and top talent post-pandemic,” he says, “though we expect remote work to become an increasingly critical component to the work economy, meaning that there will be increased flexibility in terms of time spent in the office versus elsewhere.”

This would still mean some sort of long-term price decline. “At a city level, this means that rents should taper relative to pre-pandemic levels due to lesser demand,” he believes. “That said, the real estate ecosystems in cities that have experienced growth throughout the pandemic will enter a period of innovation, and with it, see an increase in housing density, ADUs and modular building techniques.”

Andrew Ackerman, managing director of UrbanTech for DreamIt Ventures, also sees a gentle deflation of commercial office prices over time, followed by some complex space-management questions.

“[T]he return to work will likely result in more flexible work arrangements rather than the demise of the office which, as leases renew over the next 5-10 years, will lead to a gradual meaningful-but-not-catastrophic reduction in the demand for office space. The question is, what then happens to the excess office space?”

“Office to residential conversion is tricky,” he elaborates. “Layout is a major constraint. Many modern offices have deep, windowless interior space that is hard to repurpose. But even with narrow layouts, the structural elements are often in the wrong place. Drilling thousands of holes in structural concrete so you can move plumbing and gas to the right places is a heavy lift.”

This might just lead to new types of still-valuable uses? “One of the areas that I’m still investigating is whether co-living or microunits might be a more attractive conversion option. Turning an office break room and interior bullpens into a shared kitchen, dining area, and recreation or work flexspace may be a better way to repurpose deep interior space without a very costly retrofit. And if you don’t have to reroute too much plumbing, it may even be possible to convert (and convert back!) individual floors as market demand for office and residential space fluctuates over time.”

All respondents saw proptech being a core part of the next era of big cities (of course), however bullish or bearish they may be about the office itself.

A new equilibrium for residential

Housing availability has become even more limited in most places during the pandemic, with many more people looking to buy and fewer people wanting to sell. This is even though the previously hottest cities have seen major rental price drops.

Demuyakor of Wilshire Lane is staying focused on the housing problem, and solutions to it like co-living. “Despite the pandemic, it is still difficult for millennials and Gen Z to afford to live in the most expensive cities (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.) at current wage levels,” he says. “As such, we believe that we will continue to see demand for products and solutions that can continue to help alleviate costs and burdens of living in major cities. For example, we think that at its core, co-living is an economic decision. Solutions that continue to help people live where they want to live more easily (ADUs are another example of this) will continue to thrive.”

Casey Berman, managing director and general partner of Camber Creek, thinks that “cities will continue to attract people to live, work and play because they offer density and opportunities for experiences that people crave even more now. To the extent all of this is true, there will be renewed demand for urban spaces and properties to take advantage of that demand.”

He says that the firm has been investing in products to make dense living safer and more convenient and “we expect those solutions will become increasingly popular. Flex allows tenants to pay rent online in easier-to-manage installments and in the process makes it more likely that landlords will receive payment on time. Latch’s access control devices are in one out of 10 new multifamily buildings. A lot of people purchased a pet over the past year. PetScreening makes it easy to manage pet records and confirm when a pet is a service or support animal.”

Robin Godenrath and Julian Roeoes, partners at Picus Capital, generally share this viewpoint and describe how new living arrangements in cities could allow for more radical changes to how people live.

“Flexible living solutions will allow remote workers to spend time across different cities with a fully managed, affordable and safe rental option for short-to-long-term urban living,” he says, “while commercial conversion to residential will play a key role in driving down per square foot prices enabling long-term returning residents to afford less densified space. Although co-living densifies multifamily buildings, we believe it will remain an interesting sector as the continued shift to remote work will make living communities increasingly important considering the reduced social interaction on the job.”

But modern proptech is also making the suburbs and beyond more appealing in the long run, according to many. Great new technologies for living can exist anywhere you are.

Proptech has also helped fuel the new suburban boom. “There is an ongoing trend of reverse urban migration causing an uptick in the demand for suburban-style living,” he says. “Proptech companies have played a significant role in enabling this shift, specifically via digitizing the home buying, selling and renting transaction processes (e.g., iBuyers, alternative financing models and tech-enabled brokerages). Additionally, proptech companies have played a key role in reducing physical interactions through remote appraisals, 3D/VR viewings and digital communications thus enabling homebuyers and sellers to efficiently and safely transact throughout the pandemic.”

Ultimately, the same technologies that could make cities more affordable will also help out in the suburbs. “We strongly believe that the acceleration of the digitalization of the home transaction process coupled with the significant increase in demand for suburban-style housing and evolving buyer profiles (e.g., tech-savvy millennials) opens up a multitude of opportunities for proptech to significantly impact suburban living across construction, access and lifestyle. This includes companies focusing on built-to-rent developments, modular homebuilding, affordable housing, community building and digital amenities.

Many investors who we talked to highlighted the single-family rental market trend. Here’s Christopher Yip again from RET.

“One of the unheralded trends of the past decade has been the rise of the single-family rental (SFR) market,” he says “with a significant number of major investors moving into this asset class. The SFR space is poised to benefit from the migration from cities, and the tech that supports SFR will likely have positive ripple effects across the industry.”

“SFR portfolios are particularly challenging to operate efficiently and at scale; compared with a multifamily property, they have more distinct unit layouts and are more spread out geographically,” he explains. “Technology has the ability to streamline operations and maintenance for SFR operators, with smart home tools like SmartRent facilitating self-touring and management of these distributed portfolios. We’re bullish on this space and are keeping a close eye on proptech tools that serve this market.”

Andrew Ackerman of DreamIt agrees. “Single-family has been neglected, slowly growing more interesting both from an asset and proptech perspective for some time. For example, we invested in startups like NestEgg and Abode who service this ecosystem … prior to the pandemic. COVID has been good to these startups and brought more attention to the opportunities in single-family in general.”

Stonly Baptiste and Shaun Abrahamson, co-founders of Urban.us, already see a world of options unfolding across geographies, with choices like co-living and short-term rentals letting people find new lifestyles. “Portfolio companies like Starcity are really thriving as co-living doesn’t just solve for cost, but also for a key overlooked issue — access to community. We also see room for more nomadic lifestyles. A lot of the discussion about Miami is about people moving there, but it seems like a more interesting question for a lot of places is maybe whether or not people will spend a few months of the year there. So for remote workers this might mean places near specific activities like mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding etc. Starcity makes it easy to move between city locations and Kibbo takes this far beyond the city by building communities around van life.”

Here’s how all these changes are adding up for the suburban market, as mapped out by Clelia Warburg Peters of BCV.

“The residential transaction disruption is now settling in three core categories: iBuyers (who buy homes directly from sellers and ultimately hope to own the sell-side marketplace), neobrokers (who generally employ their agents and use secondary services such as title mortgage and insurance to increase their revenue) and elite agent tools (platforms or tools focused on the top agents).”

This combination of innovations are changing residential real estate as we know it. “[C]onsumers are increasingly open to alternative financing tools, including home-equity-based financing models (where you sell a stake in your home, or you buy into full ownership in a home over time). The growth and proliferation of these new models are consolidating the whole residential market so that brokerage sales commissions and commission from the sale of mortgage, title and home insurance are now functionally one large and intertwined disruptable market.”

The surprising revival of neighborhood retail

Humans seem to love the concept of a traditional Main Street full of bustling, walkable local businesses. But the hits have kept coming to the people trying to successfully operate independent retail storefronts.

E-commerce began cutting into traditionally thin margins with the rise of Amazon and the 90s wave of “e-tailers.” More recently, art galleries, high-end restaurants and boutiques became a harbinger of gentrification in many cities. Many commercial retail landlords in these locations aggressively priced rents as more residents moved in who could afford higher prices, ultimately contributing to gluts of empty storefronts in prime locations.

The pandemic seemed to be the final blow, with even the most loyal shoppers turning to order online while local businesses stayed closed.

And yet, a range of investors are strangely optimistic. Even though the pandemic upended social and economic activity for more than a year, most agreed that IRL retail experiences are an essential aspect of modern life.

“Humans are fundamentally social animals and I think we will all be hungry for in-person experiences once it is safe to return to them. Additionally, I think the shift away from working five days a week in the office is going to create a greater desire for ‘third spaces’ — not home, not a formal office environment,” said Peters.

“I do think we will continue to see more ‘Apple store’-type retail experiences, where the focus is less on selling inventory and more on creating an environment for customers to physically interact with goods and experience the brand ethos beyond a website. Because I anticipate that retail rents are going to be meaningfully lower at the end of the pandemic, I actually think we will see even more experimentation than we did pre-COVID. It will be a very interesting period for retail.”

Many others held views in this direction, whether they are investing specifically in retail-related tech or more generally in third-space ideas.

“It’s true that retail has been in flux for more than a decade; the list of common e-commerce purchases has expanded from books and clothing to prepared meals and groceries. It’s also true that the pandemic has accelerated e-commerce’s growth, to the detriment of brick-and-mortar retail,” says RET’s Yip. “But people are still human and crave in-person experiences. Even if cities never bounce back fully, major metropolises will still have enough foot traffic to support a fair amount of retail, and innovative models like pop-up shops can be brought in to help address vacancies. It should also be noted that the public markets still have some confidence in the retail space. While the major REITs struggled in early to mid-2020, many have recovered substantially, and several have actually surpassed their pre-pandemic figures. It has been a bad decade for retail — and a very bad year — but it is just too soon to close the book on the sector.”

Godenrath and Roeoes of Picus say movie theaters are just one example of a retail sector poised for success when public life resumes at scale post-pandemic.

“Cinemas, many of which are key shopping center anchor tenants, were already reinventing the traditional theater experience by offering a more holistic experiential solution (e.g., reserved seating, 4DX visuals, in-theater restaurants, cafes and bars) and the pandemic has led to an expansion of these offerings (i.e., private theater rentals and events). We have the opinion that this trend will continue to expand across the entire retail real estate industry from restaurants (immersive culinary experiences) to traditional retail (integrated online and offline shopping experiences) and believe that proptech will play a defining role in helping retail real estate owners identify potential tenants and market properties as well as in helping retailers drive in-store customer engagement and gain key insights into the customer journey.”

The internet is also a friend these days, surprisingly! “We also see a lot of potential for hybrid models combining online and offline experiences without friction,” they say. “Taking the fitness sectors as an example we can imagine a new normal where in-studio courses are broadcasted to allow a broader participant group and apps tracking fitness and health progress throughout in-studio visits and at-home workouts.”

I have a few additional reasons to believe in the future of retail that I didn’t hear from any of the investors I interviewed.

You can also see how retail intersects with many other solutions investors are betting on, particularly to improve the appeal of cities and solve for macro problems like climate change.

“Cities have some massively underutilized assets, perhaps the biggest being public spaces that are allocated to cars,” Baptiste and Abrahamson say. “So one change we think will become permanent is reallocating parking spaces away from private vehicles to micromobility (bike/scooter/board lanes, parking, etc.). We’re seeing a lot of demand for portfolio companies like Coord (manages curb space starting with commercial vehicles and smart zones), Qucit (manages bike and scooter share operations in many large cities) and Oonee (secure bike/scooter/board parking).”

That’s just the start of the virtuous cycle they foresee.

“As [car removal] happens, the use cases like logistics can shift to electric micro-EVs. Similarly, parklets or seating areas increase social spaces. The EU is setting the pace for banning cars, but overall reduced access to streets for cars is going to be a big change. And likely will make cities attractive — yes, you give up private living space, but you’re going to get a lot more common/social space. This is also likely to drive more co-living so you can decrease the cost basis for being in a city, but get a lot more from shared spaces, which have no real comparison in lower density communities.”

Demuyakor of Wilshire Lane is betting in the same direction.

“One of the key tenets of our overall strategy has always been a focus on space utilization and identifying the best ways technology can monetize underutilized spaces. This can be seen clearly with many of our newest investments: Stuf and Neighbor (monetization of basements, parking garages and other vacant spaces), MealCo (monetization of vacant kitchens), WorkChew (monetization of restaurant seating areas, hotel lobbies and conference rooms), and Saltbox (monetization of empty warehouses). We believe that landlords can certainly use these types of strategies to help mitigate increased levels of vacancies that we’re seeing across the real estate industry today in the medium term.”

If this thesis pans out, retail may become more about shared spaces. “With WorkChew in particular, which just announced funding this week, we’re seeing a ton of demand for their product both on the demand side and the supply side. Hotels and restaurants are excited to partner with them to monetize their less-utilized spaces and infrastructure,” said Demuyakor. “And of course, employers and companies love [it] as an easy amenity that can be offered to their hybrid workforces that increasingly want to spend more time out of the HQ office.”

I have a few additional reasons to believe in the future of retail that I didn’t hear explicitly from the investors I interviewed.

  • First, millions of new businesses have been created during the pandemic, to the surprise of even economists and policymakers. A large portion appear to have a very local angle, whether food delivery (cupcakes) or services (on-site haircuts) or internet-first products with strong local followings (much of Etsy). These entrepreneurs went internet-first and now, as commercial rents plummet, they have sufficient revenue to support a physical presence.
  • Second, most local business that have sustained themselves during the COVID-19 era figured out how to succeed on the internet. To see which ones in your vicinity are weathering the storm, just open one of your preferred on-demand delivery and services apps and place an order.
  • Third, as noted by respondents and available data, landlords are already starting to drop prices, creating a renter’s market for the first time in decades.
  • Fourth, there are whole new types of financing opening up to more traditional businesses that could enable any company with a successful online side hustle, hobby (or perhaps larger project) to get funding for expansion. (This reason is perhaps the most speculative, but we are trying to figure out the future here at TechCrunch.) For example, Shopify has just invested in Pipe.com, a new “platform for trading recurring revenue.” Although the companies are not saying much now about the relationship, it’s possible to imagine a bunch of successful small(ish) businesses on Shopify suddenly getting a new kind of capital infusion right as the math is suddenly much better for a storefront location.

If you roll all of this up with other broader shifts in how we think about cities, like making them more climate-friendly through allowing density and bike lanes, you can start to see a world emerging that sounds a lot more like the fantasies of a New Urbanist than the world before the pandemic.

At the same time, these concepts are being deployed across smaller cities, suburbs and towns: All will compete to offer the highest quality of living — unless the old network effects of industry clusters return miraculously.

And let’s say the industry clusters don’t cluster like they used to. It’s possible that many landlords, lenders and city budgets will have to retrench soon, creating a drag on the economies of otherwise-attractive cities.

Even in this case, you can imagine a rebirth for places like New York and San Francisco focused around housing, retail and amenities. Maybe one day, we’ll look back at recent decades as the bad old days before we collectively bottomed out during the pandemic and had to decide on the right answers for the long-term.

And with that, I invite readers to go check out the full sets of responses from the investors I interviewed. Each person offered a lot more than I was able to fit into this already-too-long article and is worth reading in detail. Extra Crunch subscription required, so you can support our ongoing coverage of these changes.

I’ll be covering the future of proptech and cities more soon. Have other thoughts about all of this? Email me at eldon@techcrunch.com.

#commercial-real-estate, #covid-19, #ec-investor-surveys, #ec-market-map, #proptech, #real-estate, #retail, #small-business, #smart-cities, #smbs, #tc

8 Czech VCs on green shoots, pandemic impacts and 2021 opportunities

While London, Paris, Berlin and Stockholm feature regularly in tech coverage, the rest of Europe has been busy.

The Czech Republic may be better known for beer, hockey and the sights of Prague, but its entrepreneurial community is as ambitious as any. Pipedrive is an EU-based CRM company with offices in eight countries, but it has a Czech co-founder in VP of Product Martin Henk, one of several founders to emerge from the ecosystem.

Then there was Integromat, which did not raise any external capital but sold for around 2.5 billion crowns ($114 million), making its seven Czech founders into multimillionaires. Prague’s Memsource is valued at approximately 1.3 billion crowns or $59 million. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To unpack this rare gem of Europe’s startup scene, we spoke to eight area investors.

Among the trends they identified are startups in B2B, business automation processes, e-commerce, AI, SaaS and COVID-19-related solutions, as well as “smart” everything: factories, cities, offices, etc. Other themes included cybersecurity, AR/VR, remote work, and cybersecurity.

Saturated areas included cryptocurrency, blockchain, fintech and martech. The people we spoke to said they see travel, dating apps and other businesses traditionally based on physical interaction as weaker segments. Still, new opportunities are popping up in remote work, psychedelics and wellness.


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Respondents said they invest around 50% inside Czechia and 50% across Central and Eastern Europe, while some are more focused across CEE generally, with some percentage of the fund supporting startups that have scaled to the U.S.

Most said their investments hadn’t been significantly impacted by COVID-19, but future uncertainly is a concern. The advice is to “be frugal to accommodate to the new situation and roll on.”

As far as green shoots, COVID-19 has “played a role of an accelerator for innovation in many business areas and even e-government and other rigid/conservative industries,” said one. D2C startups have benefitted and “Zoom selling” now seems “totally plausible.”

We surveyed:


Petra Končelíková, partner, Nation1.vc

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Innovative.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Snuggs.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I miss a more innovative approach.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Steady rapid growth, innovative mind.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Social media, logistics, travel.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We are solely focusing on the European market, with an impact on the Czech Republic.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Healthcare, industry 4.0.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Huge potential.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Remote work is not an issue, but the pandemic has of course huge impact on startups. They are forced to pivot and accommodate to this new world.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and gastro.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Accommodate to the new situation and roll on.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Vaccination.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Financial experts — financial planning, CFOs to hire as an service from agencies.

Oleksander Bondarev, associate, Credo Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Developer tools, communication apps, applied AI.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Around.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Cloud CI/CD.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Great team.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Martech.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Only in founders from: Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania or Hungary.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Productboard, UiPath, Pricefx, Supernova, Spaceflow.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Maturing.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Enabling communication, transparency within the remote workforce.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Be frugal.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
We are trying to be the most founder-friendly fund in the region. As an ex-founder (Olek) I love speaking with and advising all startups that come my way 🙂

Ondrej Bartos, founding partner, Credo Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Automation, AI, enabling remote, authentication.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
TypingDNA.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Outstanding founders tackling big opportunity.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
VR/AR has been an area with lots of investment, therefore very competitive. AI is overhyped but most AI are actually not that intelligent.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Less. We focus on Central Europe as a region (if that would count as local, then more than 50%).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Central Europe is well positioned in automation, security, developer tools and analytics. I’m most excited about UiPath, Productboard, Pricefx, TypingDNA, Spaceflow, Around (in our portfolio). Best CE founders are in my view Daniel Dines, Hubert Palan, Marcin Cichon plus Oliver Dlouhý (Kiwi.com).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
There are a lot of great developers in Prague, good energy and enough success stories and role models to follow. There is a lot of investment capital there (just as everywhere else I guess), not too much smart money yet, so definitely opportunity for good VCs to take a look (and they are looking).

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I have no doubts that the pandemic has been accelerating remote work, which ultimately should lead to more remote-first startups which might benefit new geos.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and hospitality seem most fragile and unpredictable due to COVID-19. Remote and enabling remote seem like the biggest opportunity; automation and enabling digital transformation are attractive as well.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Our investment strategy is unchanged; actually we’ll double down on it. There is a lot of opportunity for good tech startups, technology is what’s helping people and countries to get out of crises faster with less damage. Our advice to startups is still the same: Focus on your cause and try to solve problems in your space better than anybody else.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We definitely see green shoots in some of the enterprise software companies. “Zoom selling” now seems totally plausible, sales cycles shortened in some verticals as companies need to digitize and enable remote work.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
I’ve always had hope. Yes, there have been low moments especially when quarantined, but overall I haven’t lost hope for people to cope with this unprecedented situation, and for technology to play a significant role in the recovery. I still have this hope 🙂

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
I feel like I had been traveling too much, two- or three-day transatlantic trips make little sense and I think I won’t go back there. Also, I don’t think I’ll go back to 5+ days in the office every week, home office works fine with me and it will stay with me and the company in some capacity. That being said, it is what I feel now. I may be wrong and things may go back to “old normal” — which I would consider a big mistake and lost opportunity.

Osman Salih, associate, Bolt Start Up Development a.s.

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are looking for synergies with our parent company O2 Czech republic and other companies under the PPF Group.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
IP Fabric.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
We would like to see more insurtech startups in Europe.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We are looking for synergies with our partner companies rather looking into a specific branch.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Fintech is oversaturated with very low margins.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We mostly invest locally, but our most successful investment was in Taxify (now Bolt).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Definitely security domain is best positioned. We are excited about IP Fabric (founder is ex-Cisco CEO Pavel Bykov), Whalebone (R. Malovič), Wultra (P. Dvořák).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
The interest is bigger, a lot of successful startups raise demand for opportunities.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
We don’t think so, local network is important. Remote work is not for everyone.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
There will be shifts in retail. This is an opportunity for startups like Pygmalios, which provide analytics for retail.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Luckily the impact is not big. Biggest worries are about difficulties with travel abroad for business meetings. Our advice is hold the runway longer 🙂

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, demand for call center tools like omnichannel solution mluvii.com, which works at the home office move up significantly.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
At spring our country was “best in COVID” and now it is “worst in COVID.” Last spring thousands of people from the startup community helped and came up with brilliant ideas, apps and solutions but at the end most outcomes (like eRouška and https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/en/) were screwed by slow or faulty decisions of government. Instead of hope I’m disappointed, but I believe that vaccination will help us to get life back on the track.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Patrik Juránek from Startup Disrupt community.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Prague is great and safe city for living — when you setup a branch in Prague you can attract people from all of the CEE region to move in.

Lukáš Konečný, principal, Y Soft Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Anything that helps businesses run smarter is something we would like to take a look at. More specifically we are interested in areas such as Internet of Things, smart factories, smart cities, smart office, cybersecurity, big data and AR/VR. And especially when there is some kind of hardware involved — that something we really love.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
VRgineers.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
It would be great to see more startups focusing on hardware. Admittedly, creating hardware and scaling-up a hardware-focused business is always a bigger challenge, but the opportunities are so vast and many are yet untapped.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Apart from the “obvious” aspects such as innovativeness, global potential, scalability, strong team and fit with our investment thesis, we look for founders who show great strategic thinking and execution skills, who really understand the market and their customers’ needs and listen to feedback.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Considering our focus on B2B, we have better overview of this part of the economy. Lately, we have seen a huge number of startups using AI/ML for computer vision or natural language processing use cases creating very similar products, meaning it will be rather difficult for them to differentiate and outperform the rest of the competition. But that does not mean that a new revolutionary idea cannot appear.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Our focus is on the Central European region — so far we have invested in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but we are open to founders from other neighboring countries as well. The majority of our portfolio is located in the Brno/South Moravia region, where Y Soft is based. It is not an outcome of an intentional strategy, but just the reality of which startups interested us the most.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Generally, the Czech startup ecosystem is getting more mature, especially thanks to serial entrepreneurs as well as more experienced first-time founders, and the developing business angel/VC ecosystem. It is hard to pick just one industry, as the spectrum of companies is very vast.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
From the investors’ point of view, the Czech startup ecosystem can provide a lot of interesting opportunities, and especially for foreign investors the investments can be a “good value for money,” even though the VC ecosystem has become more competitive in the last years due to influx of new money. The seed and partly Series A segment can be seen as rather saturated, but there is a significant potential in the larger Series A or later-stage investments.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
The main Czech hubs, Prague and Brno, are probably not going to see their status weakened, as they are not only business centers, but also have the main universities where the talented people are and are hearts of the cultural life that is attractive to many. But we will see a shift toward remote woking, allowing founders to tap a wider talent pool.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We believe that after the shock caused by COVID-19 fades away, there will be more opportunities for the companies in segments we invest in, as the induced trends are only forcing businesses to run smarter. The trends most relevant to us will be those associated with accelerated digital transformation, changes in supply chains and evolution of workspaces.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 has not impacted our strategy. The only changes were on the tactical level, as for a certain period of time we shifted more capacities to portfolio support. Most of our founders had to deal with a negative impact on their sales funnel, as some customers postponed or cancelled the planned deals. Some of the founders had to deal with disruptions in the distribution channels, as some of their partners’ businesses were hit rather hard, and a small number of companies had to resolve issues with their supply chain. These challenges are still, to an extent, worries to our portfolio companies, as the economic development is still uncertain. To deal with the situation, cash flow became the main focus, together with more active communication with key business partners throughout the value chains.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We have seen a lot of positive signals in retention and some green shoots regarding revenue, but the situation is still too fragile.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
It is hard to find glimmers of hope lately, as the situation in the Czech Republic is really not developing well. However, I was recently able to participate in several online events that young entrepreneurs, in some cases even high school or university students, attended to present their projects or to improve their business skills. And it was great to see people who are still deeply interested in — and invested in — the entrepreneurial path, regardless of the current situation.

Vaclav Pavlecka, managing partner, Air Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are sector agnostic, so it’s not so much about “trends,” rather than other aspects of startups in our pipeline.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Cross Network Intelligence.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Many sectors are “to-be-disrupted yet” but for example I believe that the predictive medicine (that helps you avoid the problem instead the one that is helping to solve the problem that is already there) will be one of the major trends for the near future.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Distinctive unique selling proposition, market-oriented and sales-hungry team, disruptive potential, upmarket potential.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Social networks in general are the type of services I am concerned about due to a long-term impact on one’s mental health and due to social confirmation bias and decreasing ability for a healthy unheated critical discussion in society. As for oversaturation, it is hard to generalize, since every industry still has its niches. But a top of my mind idea for an oversaturated market is the marketing technologies sector (as well as many other software products). Solutions are easily replicable (think chatbots) and successful only at the limited market.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We tend to focus on companies with the local strings (with exceptions made — e.g., Californian clothing startup Nahmias).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We see a huge potential of local talents in cybersecurity, industry automation (due to the fact that Czechia has one of the densest “per capita” car production in the world), gaming industry (including esports), crypto and health. As for companies I think Apiary, Beat Games, Warhorse gaming studio, Mews.com, Kiwi.com, Snuggs, Prusa Research, Productboard, Rossum, Integromat and Alheon.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
“Local” VCs and investors are definitely willing to make meaningful connections and co-invest. The ecosystem is more mature every year and grows stronger. Prague and the surrounding region also has its charm that attracts many talents as the city has an ideal balance between the life quality and costs in comparison to other metropolitan areas.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I believe that we will see a big “return to the good part of the old system” in the end of this year/early 2022, so I won’t expect the big shift in the sense of geographic “founder density” outside of the major cities. If, however, the COVID-19 restrictions should last more years, then many social changes can be sparked, including geographic mobility and flexibility.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
No surprise there — the whole travel industry, gastronomical industry and culture tech are in the deepest crisis in decades. Many other industries are under big pressure to increase the speed of change, e.g., the education industry, the entertainment industry. Also in general small to medium businesses are having tough times locally, since the government restrictions are not being implemented efficiently and their communication isn’t built around a sound strategy.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Our investment strategy is built around long-lasting principles and therefore we didn’t have to change it completely. Of course the investment appetite in sectors hit by crisis decreased significantly but other opportunities emerged. As for portfolio impact, proptech vertical was hit heavily and some of our companies had to reiterate their product offering. Our general advice to any startup in our portfolio is to boost the dialogue with their customers, learn how their needs are shifting (if so) and try to steer the wheel in the right time. If needed, we are ready to support our founders financially and also teamwise, since we are hands-on investors.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
D2C startups with a sound unit economy and their own strong distribution channels are thriving (not only locally). This includes our portfolio.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Not losing hope really. I think people were in much deeper crises and that we refer to the current situation as we do only due to lack of historical comparability. We are still living in times of prosperity and the pandemic will eventually go away thanks to the scientific progress people have achieved. So I think the beacon of positive change are all the RNA vaccines out there. I am thrilled by the restless work of scientists involved in their development and I believe they should receive much greater social credit than they do nowadays.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Cedric Maloux, Lubo Smid, Dita Formánková, Tomas Cironis, Ondrej Bartos.

Roman Horacek , partner, Reflex Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
B2B, business automation processes, e-commerce, AI, SaaS, COVID-19-related solutions — across verticals (remote work, conferencing, etc.).

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Webnode, SignageOS and some others that unfortunately cannot be disclosed yet 🙂

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I would like to see more AI startups (actually using AI).

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Rockstar founders, existing and real market need, scalable solution with solid IP.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Cryptocurrencies, blockchain, talent marketplaces.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
As of now our portfolio is approximately 75%/25% (75% CEE and 25% USA/other).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Our companies — APIFY, Productboard, Smartlook, Alice Technologies, SingageOS. Other companies — DoDo, Around, UiPath, Pex,

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Great technical talent with superb ideas falling behind with go-to-market and sales skills.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I don’t think so, I believe the talent will still be attracted by existing major hubs. Smaller the team, more interaction is needed. Despite all the innovations in remote work one-to-one interactions and social time cannot be fully replaced (yet).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Exposed — travel, dating apps … all businesses traditionally based on physical interaction. Not a surprise I guess 🙂 Opportunities — remote work applications, psychedelic applications, well-being startups, life science solutions, logistics and related industries, e-commerce for SMEs.

Has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really. Our No. 1 investment criteria is strong founders. Most of them were able to adjust their business models to the new market conditions. Spring 2020 advice was cash is king, stay frugal and adjust your business to the new market conditions ASAP or others will.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes. I believe COVID-19 played a role of an accelerator for innovations in many business areas and even e-government and other rigid/conservative industries.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Given all the events of 2020 we had a solid year as a fund. What was inspiring — seeing founders coming across whatever obstacles thrown under their legs … overcoming them with new ideas/inventions and unbreakable entrepreneurial spirit.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Hard to name one or a few … every single player plays a different role and one individual is unimportant without others. Same as in nature, even the strongest/biggest predators cannot thrive without a thriving ecosystem as a whole.

#czech-republic, #ec-investor-surveys, #europe, #investor-survey, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

6 Copenhagen investors share their outlook on investing in 2021

While Denmark and Copenhagen don’t often come up as a destination for European startups, it has a thriving local tech scene that’s home to some of the better startup conferences. After all, who doesn’t want to visit Copenhagen?

A highly educated population, great universities, excellent healthcare and great transport links to Europe make the city as good a place as any to start up a company.

Amongst our investors, we found the trends they were most interested in included sustainable supply chain logistics, esports and gaming, enterprise SaaS, climate tech, deep tech hardware, agritech and edtech. And many said they are interested in the future of work and the transition to different ways of working.

Companies they are excited by included: Afresh Technologies, Seaborg Technologies (nuclear reactors), Labster (virtual science labs), Normative.io (social and environmental impact measurement) and DEMI (connecting with chefs).

In general, investors said they are focused on their home ground but are also spreading their wings to the “New Nordics” (Nordic and Baltic) region. Some are also investing in large European and North American hub cities.

The “green shoots” of recovery they see are appearing in anything digital that comes with a community, as well as among startups that are able to leverage the pandemic to generate new business models that are faster than incumbents.


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We surveyed:


Sara Rywe, associate, byFounders

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Software and tech (I’m personally extra excited about the “future of work,” fintech, and “future of food”).

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Digitail (a veterinary software provider solving the gap between the ever-growing expectations of millennial pet parents and the experience offered by veterinarians with their current tools).

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I would like to see more founders with global ambitions in the “uniquely transformative” software category (the same way Airbnb transformed the hotel industry and Uber transformed the taxi industry). Many startups we see today are building a feature instead of a full solution and their vision is about making industries incrementally better. So, here’s a callout to all of you Nordic or Baltic visionary founders out there: Write me!

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We always look for competent, visionary and passionate founders building products that people love. As an industry-agnostic VC, we keep our eyes open for a range of different opportunities.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Some of the current trends that I see include:
Fintech: salary advances, factoring, sustainability reporting and measurements.
Food tech: alternative protein, pet food, food waste.
Future of work: virtual offices, collaboration, productivity tools.
If you decide to enter any of the above-mentioned industries, I therefore encourage you to really be thoughtful in how you differentiate yourself and/or how your team is better suited to execute on the mission.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
<50%. We invest across the Nordics and Baltics and I’m covering Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Denmark is very well positioned to succeed in sustainability and energy (many good talents coming from e.g., Vestas and DTU), consumer goods (there’s a large history in the country around building brands such as Lego, Carlsberg, etc.), and biotech (Novo Nordisk among others playing a big part). Moreover, software scaleups such as Peakon, Pleo, and Templafy are really leading the way for a new generation of tech startups to thrive in Denmark. When looking at Danish founder particularly, I’m very excited to see companies such as Qvin revolutionizing healthcare for women by using period blood as an opportunity for a noninvasive blood test.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
They should be very excited! Just look at what we’ve seen in 2021 so far:
Exits: Peakon $700 million exit and Humio $400 million exit.
Large rounds: Public.com raising $220 million, Vivino raising $115 million and Labster raising $60 million led by Andreessen Horowitz

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Somewhat. We already see a lot of innovation outside of Copenhagen in cities such as Aarhus and Odense.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
One industry that has been hit hard by COVID-19 is of course travel and hospitality. The flipside of this is that we see a lot of innovation due to that. Examples from our own portfolio include:
AeroGuest — a platform that allows for a “touch-free” travel experience (skipping lines and reception desks, direct online room booking, etc.).
BobW — a new type of sustainable travel accommodation bringing the best of both worlds: “home meets hotel.”

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 has not impacted our investment strategy massively and we have the same focus as before (investing in software and tech). With that said, we are happy to see some industries getting an uplift in these difficult times, such as sustainability and impact.
The biggest worries of our portfolio company founders have been around volatility and uncertainty. Since the first lockdown our advice has been simple: You can’t control the outcome. We’ve therefore worked together to ensure that they have some proper scenario planning in place and that we think creatively of how to mitigate eventual negative effects on their business.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Tame — one of our portfolio companies — expanded their event platform to also include virtual events, which made it really take off in COVID times.
Corti — another portfolio company of ours — could in less than four weeks build a product for helping fight COVID-19 with artificial intelligence.
Both of these companies are good examples of how “adapting their products” due to the pandemic led to great results.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The sudden rise of awareness around impact and ESG among VCs! Several great conversations have been held on how to improve our ways of working.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Some of the extraordinary founders that I look up to from Denmark include:
Jakob Jønck (Simple Feast), Andreas Cleve and Lars Maaløe (Corti), Sara Naseri and Søren Therkelsen (Qvin), Niels Martin Brochner, Jarek Owczarek and Viktor Heide (Contractbook), Jacob Hansen, Esben Friis-Jensen, Jakob Storm and Christian Hansen (Cobalt) among others.
There’s also a range of great investors in Denmark including Helle Uth, Christel Piron, Alexander Viterbo-Horten and Anders Kjær amongst others at PreSeed Ventures and Daniel Nyvang Mariussen with his team at Bumble Ventures. Also, the Danish tech ecosystem would not be what it is without all the work that Vækstfonden does.

Mads Hørlyck, associate, Maersk Growth

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Supply chain/logistics including sustainable supply chains.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Afresh Technologies.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
In general there are still plenty of opportunities across various parts of the supply chain. We have no particular specific preferences as such at the moment.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Digital solution to drive efficiencies across one or more subparts of the supply chain, both upstream and downstream focus.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Freight forwarding has been maturing in Europe and North America with several large startups in both regions. However, the market is still large but it requires a strong new model as it’s also low margins.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Less/little focus on Denmark. Main priority in large European/North American hubs.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Startups with the medical and supporting functions tech are doing well. We are excited about Onomondo in the Danish scene — also a portfolio company of ours.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
As an upcoming opportunity. Several tech hubs have been created and there is a general good environment including state-backed loans/pre-seed investments and fairly many angels to get going.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
We don’t expect any significant changes to the founder-environment in Denmark (too little country).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We see an increased focus on our investment area: Supply chain/logistics as people throughout the pandemic have been much more exposed to and dependent on flexible and reliable supply chains. All the way from supply resilience, supply chain visibility, fulfillment and to last-mile delivery. Consumers have the power to drive changes in supply chains.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Sales conversion rates decreasing/pipelines drying out. Advice is, like everyone else, to minimize cost and extend runway by getting as close to profitability as model allows. Based on this funding needs can be discussed.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, we have seen some startups being able to leverage the pandemic over incumbents due to their more flexible and digital structure.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
We have yet to see a default wave both globally within our investment area but also in general in Denmark.

Henrik Møller Kristensen, associate, Bumble Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Some of the trends we’re excited about are (1) the growing market of digital media and entertainment, in particular esports and gaming, (2) enterprise SaaS, e.g., related to the future of work, (3) climate change solutions, e.g., deep tech hardware and software, and (4) e-commerce businesses, in particular digital native vertical brands and direct-to-consumer cases.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Products and services to satisfy the needs of the aging population. The number of elderly people will be growing significantly over the next decades, establishing a growing market for products and services to satisfy the needs from this demographic change and reduce the pressure on societies.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We highly value team and traction. We are looking for exceptional founders with strong competencies in engineering, product and commercial, preferably with years of experience from the industry they are entering with a new solution. We prefer some indication of product-market fit. We like methodical revenue growth driven by paying customers, rich cohort grids and controllable funnels that proves a robust core business. We don’t like products that are still 2-3 years away from monetization. This means that we will miss the next Facebook, but we are okay with that.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Traditional social media and apps that require millions of users before being able to turn on the business model. SaaS marketing tools also seem crowded.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Next week we will announce our first investment outside Denmark. This is our first step toward being present not only in Denmark, but in the Nordics.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Well-positioned industries in Denmark are medtech, fintech, gaming and clean tech. We’re excited about GamerzClass, Pie Systems, LeadFamly, Omnigame, Organic Basics, Cap desk, Roccamore, Too Good To Go, Pleo, Tradeshift, SYBO, Unity and more. Exceptional founders are Victor Folmann from GamerzClass, Sunny Long from Pie Systems, Frederikke Antonie Schmidt from Roccamore and Christian Gabriel from Capdesk.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Historically, there has been a need for more capital and talent to keep successful growth-stage startups in Denmark and not have to move to foreign countries to attract talent and capital. However, the investment climate is getting better. Greater access to capital and talent go hand in hand, and what is really changing the investment climate for the better is founders of successful Danish startups turning back to Denmark and reinvesting in the startup community.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I think we’ll see more attraction to remote work in the future. However, I believe it is important for startups to be close to other great like-minded startups, founders, advisors and investors, not only virtually but in real life. Establishing a great network and personal relationships are very important factors to succeed and remote is not suited very well for that in my opinion.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
The travel and hospitality industry look weaker and we’ll see a shift toward lower demand due to remote work and sustainability issues. On the other side, gaming, e-commerce and digital products and services are growing as you will have more people online behind the screens.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
We are still happy to invest despite COVID-19. Gaming has, for example, been positively affected by COVID-19, however, many startups are also struggling due to COVID-19. The best a startup can do is to manage the runway, have close dialogue with their investors, cut costs and try to pivot to the changes. Look for opportunities, not boundaries.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Not yet. Only a few of our portfolio companies are negatively affected by COVID-19.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Investors are willing to make new investments and help out struggling portfolio companies. Founders are keeping their heads high and making the best out of the new circumstances. In some cases it actually stimulates new innovations.

Benjamin Ratz, partner, Nordic Makers

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Energy and the transition to a fossil fuel society, data as governance and the changing role of education.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Seaborg — building modular, small and safe nuclear reactors.
Labster — virtual science labs that help students all over the world immerse in science and STEM.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Improving the public sector.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Views on how and if the world has permanently changed in behavior due to the pandemic.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Micromobility, teledocs.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
100%.

What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Willa. Corti.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
A lot of founders leaving success stories of the region.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come?
No but we expect the cities to produce more.

Mark Emil Hermansen, associate, Astanor

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Food and agrotech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
DEMI.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I’d love to see more food tech companies that “get food” — the human element of it that is. Too many startups focus only on the technology, less on the fact that it should be deeply human centered. This is so prevalent that I instinctively stay away from startups dubbing themselves as “food tech” — food is not tech and tech is not food and therein lies the challenge and the prize. Here’s a read that kind of sums it up.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Anything that reminds me of these first lines from “On The Road”: “They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn …”.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
DNVB.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
25% local (DK is still immature from a startup standout — yet the opportunity is that the VC footprint is small and relatively unsophisticated).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Companies: Online communities such as DEMI.
Founder: Erez Galonska of Infarm.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Tons of opportunity if you have access to the right deal flow/pedigree.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Communities that transcend digital (like Tonsser and DEMI).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Worries: Uncertainty and recruitment strategy.
Advice: Survive and prepare.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Anything physical that has retail footprint. Anything digital that has a community footprint.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
That everyone’s pumped for what’s about to come (post-COVID) and the realization (or hope?) that nothing will be as before.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?
Kasper Ottesen, Highbridge (legal).
Kasper Hulthin (entrepreneur and investor).
Christian Tang-Jespersen (investor).

Eric Lagier, managing partner, byFounders

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Future of work, productivity improvement platforms.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Normative.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Future of recruiting.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Passionate founders, solving big problems to build a better tomorrow.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We are focused on the New Nordics (Nordic and Baltic) region having shown the biggest growth potential in Europe.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Climate tech, health tech, fintech. Normative, Corti, Lucinity.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Copenhagen is booming and there is now a strong foundation of experienced founders building really transformative companies.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
No — but I expect to see much more diverse teams with a priority on remote first.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
An acceleration of online, remote, e-commerce and general faster pace of transactions.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COvid-19 is a giant accelerator of future trends. Those founders that have adapted best will be the winners of tomorrow.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Absolutely.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
How founders persevere in these times of massive change.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?
Jakob Jønck, founder, SimpleFeast; Kristian Rönn, founder, Normative; Andreas Cleve and Lars Maaløe, founders, Corti.

#byfounders, #copenhagen, #denmark, #ec-investor-surveys, #europe, #nordics, #tc

8 investors discuss Stockholm’s maturing startup ecosystem

In the realm of European startup ecosystems, Sweden — largely Stockholm — ranks very close to the behemoths of London, Paris and Berlin. And with 10 million people, the nation certainly punches above its weight, having produced unicorns such as Spotify and Klarna, to name only two.

As a result, the eight investors we surveyed are characteristically bullish about the future, despite a pandemic strategy that became more restrictive in the second half of last year.

Sweden’s initially laissez-faire approach to controlling COVID-19 might have helped its tech ecosystem ride out the uncertainty. “Sweden is more open and is ahead of the pandemic curve, so more people are coming here than the other way around,” said Jacob Key, founding partner with Luminar Ventures.

Several people we spoke to said they saw green shoots regarding revenue growth and retention in their portfolio companies as founders adapted to the pandemic. Areas that are benefitting include digital health and remote work for obvious reasons, but given Sweden’s strength in fintech and gaming, those sectors are both well positioned to thrive.

As consumers become more desirous of sustainability, responsible shopping, green travel and plant-based food alternatives “will likely contribute to a surge in companies in this space,” said Sofia Dolfe of Index Ventures.

Oversaturated areas are media/adtech and wellness/fitness apps.

Some of the trends these investors are excited about include deep tech, AI, machine learning, healthcare/medtech, industrial IoT, energy storage and energy-efficient power generation, robotics, intelligent production and additive manufacturing.

“I think there is a lot of interesting stuff coming out of Stockholm and accelerating with all recent success stories,” said VNV Global’s Bjorn von Sivers.

Here’s who we spoke to:


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Jacob Key, founding partner, Luminar Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
AI automation, democratization, SMB SaaS.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Hiberworld.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Real-time sustainability health trackers for both consumers and businesses.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Super dedicated and talented team going after major problems.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Adtech companies, consumer lending companies, e-commerce retail, niche problems.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
100% in the broader Swedish ecosystem.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Gaming, fintech, applied AI, security, e-health. Mindler, Insurello, Hiberworld, Greenely, Normative, Marcus Janback, Tanmoy Bari.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Strong momentum, more and more serial founders and experienced founders, strong broader ecosystem, product and tech-led founders with a global view.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Sweden is more open and is ahead of the pandemic curve so more people coming here than the other way around.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel, mobility, nice-to-have SaaS, recruiting. They should focus on work, event, travel 2.0 security, sustainability, e-health and entertainment.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really. Focus on resourceful execution, digital-first sales, extend runway. Biggest worry is a much cooler investment climate.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
E-health, gaming, remote work, fintech.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Founders seem even more dedicated, digital transformation happens much faster.

Bjorn von Sivers, partner, VNV Global

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Business models with strong network effects. Mobility and micromobility services, Digital health, online marketplaces.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
SWVL, Babylon Health, Voi Technology.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Startups addressing climate change, either indirect or direct. I think it will grow immensely over the coming years.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Business models with strong network effects.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
VNV Global has a global mandate. Approximately 10% of the portfolio is Sweden/Stockholm based.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Any consumer service coming out of Stockholm eco system. In the portfolio I would highlight Voi Technology and Fredrik Hjelm (micromobility) and Grace Health founded by Estelle Westling and Thérèse Mannheimer that is building a digital health clinic for women in emerging markets.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
I think there is a lot of interesting stuff coming out of Stockholm and accelerating with all recent success stories. Spotify, iZettle, etc.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
It will probably increase a bit, but not significantly.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
International travel still has a lot of uncertainty and low visibility. Digital health and micromobility is defiantly seeing unprecedented demand.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really impacted our strategy. I would say founders think a lot about the funding climate and how to best plan in this lower visibility environment.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, all across the portfolio.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The fast recovery in our mobility businesses, which essentially saw activity drop significantly in late March/early April and has rebounded strongly since May

Ashley Lundström, partner, EQT Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
I’m personally excited about investing in teams solving important problems — the ones that affect disadvantaged populations, society at large, the environment, etc. And the exciting part is that we’re seeing more and more of this — especially from serial entrepreneurs who have built companies, maybe even had good exits and now want to dedicate their skills to meaningful journeys.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
It actually hasn’t been announced yet as we literally closed a few days ago and it’s one that our AI platform Motherbrain pointed us to. It’s one of those companies that when you hear about what they’re building you just say, “Oh of course, that’s a no-brainer.” It’s a great example of a product-led company seeing strong organic growth from a global user base and we’re chomping at the bit to start working together. Prior to this, my latest most exciting investment is Anyfin. Anyfin is a prime example of the potential of Stockholm’s second generation teams, coming out of the Swedish unicorns iZettle, Klarna and Spotify. They’re a fintech building financial wellness products for users who need it the most. They’ve started with targeting interest rates head-on via a refinancing product and are launching more products and markets with the Series B funding raising they secured this spring.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
I’m keen to see teams who combine market experience with startup experience. All too often teams are either one or the other and I’d love to see a team come together where one co-founder says, “I know this problem inside-out because I’ve lived it” and another co-founder who says, “I know how to build and bring ideas to life.” This combo would be really powerful. Over and above that, I’m generally focused on investing in teams solving problems that are shared by huge bases — either consumers or the long tail of B2B. One must in my book is that the product has to be consumer grade. This is obvious for consumer (although not always a given), but it’s something that we’ve become religious about in B2B too.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
We’re in the business of exceptions so I find it hard to rule out a category altogether due to competition. That being said, there are always sectors where it’s tricky to envision a winner-takes-all or winner-takes-most, for structural reasons, such as some types of recruiting or staffing, D2Cs or digital health services.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Our strategy is to be local with locals and we invest broadly across Europe and, in specific cases, in the U.S. So, while personally my time’s spent somewhat weighted toward the Nordics, more than 50% of the companies I work with are outside the Nordic countries. Motherbrain has helped us flatten geographies further, discovering great startups regardless of where they’re located, and we regularly invest in great teams outside our local ecosystems.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
There’s a lot of talent for consumer products coming out of the Nordics — particularly fintech in Stockholm (Tink, Anyfin, Brite), gaming in Finland (Small Giant Games, Reworks, Traplight), and a range of products out of Copenhagen including edtech and health tech (Eduflow, Corti). The great engineering talent we have in this region is also producing incredibly strong tech teams — particularly in Finland, such as Varjo, Speechly and Robocorp. We’re even starting to see some interesting activity in quantum computing (e.g., IQM) in the region. There are also some moonshot companies coming out of the Nordics that we’re excited about long term, such as Solein, Einride, Heart Aerospace and Northvolt.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
The Nordic countries continue to punch above their weight and I am confident that this trend will continue — meaning the investment opportunities will be many. As the ecosystems mature, the quality will continue to improve, which also speaks to this trend over time. Historically, downturns have produced strong tech companies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if investors are keeping a close eye on the region to make sure they get the chance to back some of the most seasoned entrepreneurs who will most certainly be looking for ways to make the most of the current climate.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I believe we’ll see more remote teams, absolutely. However, I still think the hubs will be strong and important pieces of the ecosystem and I don’t think we’ll see these cities shrinking by material numbers. Though if people leave the most expensive cities, who could blame them? I do, however, think we’ll see a more sharp trend of teams that were fairly local in the past, expanding to new geographies. And what may happen is that in itself will reveal new talent pools, which over the long term could create more hubs.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Tech is in a great position overall because businesses are generally either working on digitization, which is seeing acceleration out of COVID-19 … so tech falls clearly on the right side of that line, or green field modern or even futuristic ideas. Of the latter, of course, some of these ideas are nice-to-haves, which struggle when consumers are facing tough financial situations, but plenty are services that we believe we’ll see working out long term. Of course anything physical, where the team isn’t able to adapt the product quickly, like events or exercise services, will face temporary dips, but if these companies were originally betting on long-term trends, we believe that they’ll still be in good positions going forward.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 hasn’t affected our strategy, but it has helped us keep our eye on the ball in terms of making sure we stick to our strategy and stay mindful of our own runway — funds have that too! The advice to our founders has been the following: (1) Extend the runway so you keep your options open, and then (2) be as aggressive as you possibly can. We’re encouraging teams to act quickly — both in terms of making internal decisions and in getting products to market to test them out. Our founders’ biggest worries are uncertainties around how long “this” will all last — and our advice here is that they should operate as they always do and not wait for things to change, rather be ultrarelevant in the market you’re in.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes! We’ve got a couple companies who are really well positioned — particularly Wolt (food delivery) and the mobile games companies we’ve backed (Popcore, Reworks, Traplight, etc.). The current climate is especially favorable for these types of companies, and we’ve got great founders at the wheels who have been able to take advantage of the opportunities presented and who have seen tremendous growth as a result.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The efforts by the public sector, including healthcare providers, to accelerate digitization has been refreshing. Sectors who have all too often had plenty of excuses for being slow and conservative have suddenly made big leaps — and they’re proud of themselves for having done so! This gives me hope that there will be new or renewed appetites even as things go back to normal.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
The Nordic countries have many great examples of digital tools used by the general public to conduct their everyday lives digitally. I would encourage founders and business leaders to look to these examples and see if there are opportunities to build for other geographies. Scandinavian trendsetting isn’t just for fashion and interior design!

Ted Persson, partner, EQT Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
My main passion lies in backing ambitious teams solving real problems with real technology. So, pretty deep tech sometimes — the anti-thesis of “yet another B2B SaaS company solving almost the same problem in almost the same way.” I’m also interested in product and design-centric teams using superior UX to democratize something that previously was limited to a privileged few. Currently, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and doing research into the future of the creative industries, marketing, product design, etc.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
This spring, I’ve led or been involved in four investments across quantum computing, group collaboration and two in the design and development tooling space. None of these have been announced yet though. The last announced investments were Sonantic and Frontify — both very cool companies.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Edtech is certainly one.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
As we’re looking for outliers, it’s hard to generalize. But I get more excited about companies tying to solve hard problems rather than just piecing together a few APIs (which anyone can do).

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
I personally don’t have a geographical focus and enjoy working with our teams across Europe and the world, but since I live in Sweden, my network is slightly stronger here. Our proprietary AI platform Motherbrain also ensures we find rapidly growing or under-the-radar startups outside of our local ecosystems and networks.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We’re pretty good at gaming, entertainment, music and fintech in the Nordics. It’s also easier to find really great designers here than in other parts of Europe.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes, for sure. It’s too early to tell, but a couple of portfolio companies have given up on their physical offices and a lot of startup people I know are working from across the country. I for sure think this will lead to a more international climate.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
A lot has been written about this already and, just like every other investor, we’ve spent a fair share of the spring mapping this out. All in all, tech is in a good position.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
There’s been no change in our strategy. There was some initial confusion for obvious reasons and we took a short break to make sure our portfolio was in a good position to endure. Now, we’re back to normal and have made our first investments where we haven’t met the teams physically.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, certainly in a couple of areas, such as food delivery, gaming, remote working and collaboration.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
When people around myself, parents, older relatives, all of a sudden embrace digital tools and ways of working fully.

Sofia Dolfe, principal, Index Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
I love products that give people a strong feeling of community, of belonging to a group of like-minded people, and a sense of being invested in its success. Users are so passionate about the product that they can’t stop themselves from recommending it to their friends, and their affinity with the brand grows over time. Search for these types of businesses often leads me to consumer businesses and marketplaces that are customer-centric and bring communities together.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I am interested to hear about new takes on education in a post-COVID world in which people may be more open to challenge the traditional ways of learning.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
I am looking for founders who are inspiring storytellers. So much of building a business is about getting everyone to come along for the ride, from the senior execs joining you, to the customers taking a chance on a young yet unproven business, to investors taking a leap of faith and sharing in your ambition. Founders who are great storytellers, are hungry and dream big from the get-go, and have the humility to know what they don’t know, will be in my view those who have the best chance at making it big.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Stockholm has historically been at the forefront of both fintech and gaming, and I do think these sectors are well positioned to thrive. Financial services will continue to be transformed, and the modern banking infrastructure in the Nordics makes this an attractive place to start a fintech business. As for gaming, the region has a strong track record and a high concentration of both studios and developer talent, making it a particularly fertile ground for breakout successes. A newer, fast-growing theme in the region is conscious consumption. Stockholm has a long history of eco-friendliness, and the maturity of CSR, responsible shopping, green travel and plant-based food alternatives will likely contribute to a surge in companies in this space. I’m excited to meet with founders who care deeply about this endeavor.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Stockholm has proven itself to be a strong tech hub, and it has many of the necessary ingredients for continued successes. For one, founders think big and global from the start. Sweden has a population of 10 million, and founders creating category-defining companies know that they must enter other markets to dominate. The scale of companies such as King, Spotify and iZettle has also shown that success is within reach and cultivated a sense of courage among aspiring entrepreneurs. Sometimes the world risks underestimating the Swedes because they tend to be understated but as the track record of Sweden shows, they overdeliver.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
A few weeks ago I saw a handwritten note in the entrance of an apartment building in Stockholm. One of the residents was offering to purchase groceries, medication and other essential items to those unwell or at risk in the building. I’m hopeful that in times of difficulty, we are reminded of the importance of our local communities, of taking responsibility for others, and of how valuable a simple act of kindness can be to building relationships.

Staffan Helgesson, partner, Creandum

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Transformation of old and large industries such as transportation, construction, real estate, etc. Digital health — we will need to transform current health industry.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Mavenoid. Automating tech support globally. Ex-Palantir founders.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Insurance markets have not yet seen the wave of startups that the general fintech industry has seen.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Crazy ambitious entrepreneurs with their eyes set on disrupting a global market.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Many consumer verticals are tough to penetrate given big tech and related oligopoly. But every time I say that new phenomenal companies emerge. Such as Creandum’s portfolio company Kahoot that just listed in Oslo for $1.5 billion.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Creandum invests all across EU. No set targets — we just want to find the best entrepreneurs.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
If picking one industry we’re very excited about digital health with Stockholm-based Firstvet and Kry/Livi. (telemedicine for humans and pet owners).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Stockholm/Nordics is a very sophisticated ecosystem that consistently keep producing global winners on a regular basis.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Great companies will increasingly be built anywhere and we as an industry need to adapt. Those venture firms adapting best and fastest will be the winners going forward. I foresee a second green wave, like in the 70s, where people will move out from cities and/or have a dual-home setup.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and entertainment obviously. But even in these industries there will be winners going forward if they can ride the wave of digitizing (for example, tickets and events).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
It’s all about access to long-term capital and track record. Creandum’s strategy has not changed at all.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, especially in digital health.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Closing a fully remote investment. Company called Meditopia — in Turkey of all places :-).

Tanya Horowitz, partner, Butterfly Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Deep tech, AI, machine learning, healthcare/medtech, industrial IoT and related cloud services and communication solutions, Energy storage and energy-efficient power generation, robotics, intelligent production, and additive manufacturing.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Uute Scientific has created a natural product containing a specific mixture of microbes, which can be applied to various consumer products. These products decrease the probability of getting immune-mediated diseases, like asthma or Type 1 diabetes and consequently improve quality of life.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
In the region (Nordics), would like to see more in energy storage, power generation and energy/carbon reduction technologies. Food tech and agtech are an area to look toward given the world’s increasing population. Edtech due to the COVID crisis.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We are looking for a strong team with unique tech aimed toward a global market.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Media/adtech unless truly unique seem to be oversaturated; also wellness/fitness apps, etc.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Finland 40%-50%, Sweden 30%+, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Baltics remaining 20%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Industries: Health/medical.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
I think in Finland and the entire Nordics there is ample opportunities to invest in stellar teams and technologies that have a global market. The talent pool and support of the startup ecosystems are top notch.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I do not see startup hubs losing people in the Nordics. I do however see founders coming from geographies outside major cities.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Obvious is retail, restaurants, service industry. Also education (edtech) should be an area to really look into. Online entertainment (OTT), logistics (food, goods delivery), etc.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
It has only affected it slightly, we were lucky that we were almost at the end of our investment period and our portfolio of companies are set for this current fund vintage. We are the leading seed-stage deep tech investor in the Nordics and therefore most of our companies have fared OK.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, some of our portfolio has benefited from the pandemic, while others suffered with customers initially but seem to be recovered now.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
We are raising Butterfly Ventures Fund IV and started before the pandemic hit. While this has slowed us down slightly, our anchor and other LPs are rock solid and we as a team are committed to getting the first close done ASAP to capitalize with that dry powder in early 2021. While my heart goes out to those who have not been so lucky, personally we have been blessed to not have had direct tragedies related to the pandemic … and my son is happy and healthy and that alone gives me hope everyday.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Global LPs should really explore Europe more, especially the Nordics!

Sanna Westman, principal, Creandum

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Well, we typically say that if you invest in trends you’re late to the party … but of course there are some macro movements that are exciting and we monitor closely. For me personally digital health is one of those areas, it’s not new but constantly developing and has of course been further accelerated the past year. Another area that is really interesting are products that help you be a better leader/manager/company. I’m not sure how to productize this but there’s a huge opportunity in amplifying leadership. We’ve seen success with companies giving the individual user superpowers (no-code tools, productivity tools, etc.) but how about helping people scaling themselves and their teams? Remote work has a lot of benefits, but puts new challenges on managers. I also believe we’ll see more quality companies battling climate change in different ways.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
SafetyWing — on the intersection of social security and remote work.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
There’s plenty more to do within B2B commerce: marketplaces, e-commerce enablers, new ways of financing, etc. Sure there are companies, but no way near as many (good) ones as it should be.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
A short time to “Wow.” Solutions that can give the user an instant value and then continue to add to that value they more they use the product

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Mobility and delivery in general is quite crowded. Also open-banking payment solutions has seen a huge surge.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
The Nordics is along with DACH one of the key focus markets for Creandum, though there’s no set allocation for any certain geography. We strive to back the best companies regardless of where they’re located.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Compared to other hubs there is a very high product focus in general, and given that Sweden is a small market the mindset is also international from day one. I think that makes more of a difference than a certain vertical. In terms of exciting companies Kive and Depict are worth keeping eyes on for the very early stages. For the more mature startups Kry and Firstvet are doing great as early enablers of digital health.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Increasingly competitive but also a lot of strong talent.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Even before the pandemic very few startups in Stockholm had 100% of their workforce in one location anyway, a hybrid setup was and continue to be very common.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
As the fund invests with a very long time horizon, +10 years, the short-term impact is not a key concern but of course we think about the long-term effects on e.g., business travel. We tend to look for the opportunities more than the drawbacks though, and there will be opportunities for new companies in industries that have been heavily impacted. It might actually prove to be good timing to disrupt.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Initially we were cautious around runway and worked closely with the portfolio to make sure they could survive for a longer time should revenues decline and funding not be available. Summing up 2020 though, we were fortunate to look back on a year where many companies had overperformed and were able to raise significant up rounds. Great companies are created in all times and were committed to find the best seed and Series A companies.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Definitely. We’ve seen several examples of V-shaped recovery, with revenues bumping back above pre-COVID levels and continuing on that trajectory.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The hustle and optimism among entrepreneurs we meet. The “impossible is nothing” attitude is really inspiring.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?
I’d say some of the active “stay in the background” angels/mentors that are supporting a new generation such as Joachim Hedenius (Kry, CTO) or Johan Crona. And Susanna Campbell/Cristina Stenbeck who have been very active in their joint investments, often finding opportunities the VCs miss.

#covid-19, #creandum, #ec-europe, #ec-investor-surveys, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #index-ventures, #sweden, #tc

Investors say Belgium’s startups are poised for international expansion

We surveyed five investors from the Brussels, Belgium ecosystem, and overall the mood was upbeat.

Investors are backing companies in smart living, life sciences (“a really promising sector for Belgium”), B2B, “industry 4.0,” fintech, mobility, health and music tech. Food tech appears “an overcrowded space.” Another says: “COVID confirmed our strategy to invest in local companies and with a sector focus on smart living life science and tech.”

Belgium has a “dynamic ecosystem of health actors, from biotech firms, universities and startups and scaleups. We follow the #BeHealth initiative, which unites the various parts of the Belgian health sector.”

Belgium is “not a market for B2C startups” as it has a “small but complex market with different regions/cultures/languages.” They are focusing on Belgium and neighboring countries for investing.

However, finding funding for startups is still a “difficult task today” said one, as it suffers from a lack of “scale capital” for later rounds.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in the city? “As a well-educated environment, multicultural, multilingual,” says one. “The ecosystem is very dynamic, with great opportunities. While valuations are usually lower compared to other hubs in Europe, there is quite some money available on the market,” says another.

Brussels’ geography makes it “very well-connected to Europe and international by nature.” It is multicultural and multilingual, so as a result startups position themselves for international expansion, “whether first to France or the Netherlands or beyond. For investors that are scoping opportunities in Belgium, they should recognize that Belgian startups are well-suited for international growth.”

As a small and very dense country, Belgium “already has a distributed founder geography.”

Investors have also been advising companies “to make sure that they have enough cash to last until the end of next 2021 at least.”

We spoke to the following:


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Pauline Brunel, partner, BlackFin

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Fintech, insurtech

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Outstanding team, big opportunity.

Xavier de Villepin, partner, TheClubDeal

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Smart living, life sciences and tech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Univercells — Series C.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
More startups needed in the smart living sector. In general, companies with international ambitions maintaining local sticky jobs.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Daring entrepreneurs within growing markets.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
We are wary of blockchain and crypto currencies.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
More than 50%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Life sciences, including biotech, is a really promising sector for Belgium. On the contrary, Belgium is not a market for B2C startups (small but complex market with different regions/cultures/languages).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
They feel Brussels is one of the main tech hubs in Belgium. Though the private equity and risk-on mentality is still not here. Finding funding for startups is still a difficult task today.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I don’t think it will have a substantial impact, as many startups were already favoring remote work and flexible working hours.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19?
Definitely travel and hospitality (part of smart living). It suffered a lot. But it’s a good time to invest. It’s an opportunity for startups to rethink their model and challenge the way they were seeing things before.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 confirmed our strategy was right … to focus on local competitiveness in the backbones of our economy: smart living, life sciences and tech. But within each sector, each company may be impacted differently. So a case-by-case analysis and in-depth due diligence is a necessity more than ever. Our advice to startups is to consider this environment will stay for another year and to plan the cash flows very carefully.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The last lockdown giving much more freedom to companies to continue to operate and witness that many of them adapted their way of working to stay operational.

Frederic Convent, partner, TheClubDeal

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Smart living, life sciences, tech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Univercells Series C.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
More companies active in smart living, life sciences and tech.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Blockchain and crypto.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
50%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Fintech is doing well in Brussels. We like an Antwerp mortgage B2B fintech: Oper.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
As a well-educated multicultural, multilingual environment.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Most startups are already used to working remotely so the impact for the hubs is less, as they and their clients proved able to work elsewhere.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19?
Travel and hospitality will suffer a lot in this COVID crisis. Life sciences are well-positioned to address the crisis.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID confirmed our strategy to invest in local companies and with a sector focus on smart living, life sciences and tech.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
In medtech, essential medical intervention some green shoots benefit from the crisis.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
The last lockdown pushed companies to adapt their business model and to focus on the new situation.

Alexandre Dutoit, partner, ScaleFund

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We aim at bridging the equity gap between seed rounds and Series A.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Kaspard, a silver economy company having developed a fall-detection technology.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
We like B2B. Industry 4.0 type of deals lack a bit in our opinion.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Above all, we need a great team. Then we want to see some commercial traction, being POCs, first contracts.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Food tech appears to us as an overcrowded space. A lot of B2C entrepreneurs are doing “more of the same.”

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We focus on Belgium and neighboring countries.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Biotech is definitely a hit in Belgium. Fintech and music tech are also growing.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
The ecosystem is very dynamic, with great opportunities. While valuations are usually lower compared to other hubs in Europe, there is quite some money available on the market.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I don’t see that coming, especially as entrepreneurs like to network, share experiences and be in an emulative environment.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Very few, as great teams are able to adapt. We have in our portfolio a company closely tied to events that has been able to rethink its business model and is now even more profitable compared to before the crises. Besides, companies that foster remote work or can install service at a distance will be short-term winners.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID has not impacted our strategy. Entrepreneurs are afraid of the uncertainty and lack of perspective. We encourage them to prepare themselves for the next opened window and to work on tech and processes, while reassuring them on the financing side.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Utopix, a startup linked to the event industry, has been able to rethink its business model as their sales were falling down. They have down their best month ever since then.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
I have seen hope after the summer period when companies were angry to do business again. Unfortunately, that hasn’t lasted very long. We try to remain positive and focus on important things.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Brussels is a growing scene for startups, very well-connected to Europe and international by nature.

Olivier de Duve, partner, Inventures Investment Partners

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
At Inventures, we invest in a range of startups that have strong financial returns and a measurable social and environmental impact. Looking to 2021, we’re most excited about the mobility sector, HR tech, the blue economy (investing in technologies around water and ocean health) and the circular economy. These sectors started to grow rapidly in Europe, and we’re excited to source some great deals in the coming year.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
We just led a round in MySkillCamp, a Belgian HR tech company that equips SMEs and corporates with an adaptable platform for employee learning. MySkillCamp has been stunning us with their rapid growth, even during the pandemic, and it’s a testament to the fact that companies need solutions for upskilling and reskilling their workforce.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I’ll flip this question to be investor-centric. We’d really like to see more impact venture capital firms that are active in the Series B and beyond stage in Europe. For now, the largest impact VCs are concentrated in the US — having that source of capital here in Brussels or in neighboring ecosystems will help earlier-stage European VCs continue to scale and support their portfolio companies in later rounds. Having that access to capital is key for making a sustainable ecosystem.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Our investment thesis is to find startups that are financially strong and tackle one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Broadly that has meant companies in health, mobility, renewable energy, climate and more. As we’re rounding out our second fund, our next investment has to hit our sweet spot of clear commercial traction, a stellar team and solid plans for scaling internationally.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Several markets are oversaturated like shared light vehicle scooters or telemedicine solutions. D2C medical devices is also a tough market to break into. Given the pandemic situation, startups active in the recreational sector like tourism and sport are struggling more than ever. All products or services that are not digital are less resilient and will need to shift as soon as possible.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
About half of our startups are coming from Belgium. We’ve historically invested in the U.K., France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, however we’re open to investing across the EU.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Two sectors that come to mind are mobility and health. Belgium is a hyperconnected country, and mobility startups that address user needs for a more sustainable and efficient transportation will do well here. As for health, Belgium has a dynamic ecosystem of health actors, from biotech firms, universities, and startups and scaleups. We follow the #BeHealth initiative, which unites the various parts of the Belgian health sector. One company that we wanted to highlight is Citizen Lab — they are a digital democracy platform that helps local governments organize voting, participatory budgeting and more. They’re setting the conversation around civic tech and we’re so excited to see what the founders Wietse Van Ransbeeck and Aline Muylaert have in store for 2021.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Belgium is a multicultural, multilingual country — so startups that are grown here naturally are positioning themselves for international expansion, whether first to France or the Netherlands or beyond. For investors that are scoping opportunities in Belgium, they should recognize that Belgian startups are well-suited for international growth and a role that they could play as investors is helping to introduce Belgian startups to other markets.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
As a small and very dense country, Belgium already has a distributed founder geography. In Brussels we have Co.Station, which is home to dozens of startups. However, we also see strong growth in innovation coming from Leuven, Ghent, Antwerp, Liege — and these cities are maximum two hours away by train. Our latest investment, MySkillCamp, for example, is based in Tournai, with an office in Brussels.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We found out in our portfolio that companies are quite resilient to the crisis because they are addressing societal issues like health, climate and energy. SaaS companies or other digital services are also less exposed, which points out that digitalization is key to survive. Companies that are highly dependent on large governmental contracts could be more exposed to shifts in spending patterns due to COVID.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 has not impacted our investment strategy so much as our post-investment strategy. Since the pandemic started, we’ve been “all hands on deck” with helping our portfolio companies weather the storm — from organizing new fundraising to scoping out new markets and helping on strategic growth projects. We’ve been advising our companies to make sure that they have enough cash to last until the end of next 2021 at least. What we’re seeing is that contracts are taking longer to be signed, especially for our companies looking to partner with governments that are more cash strapped and limited because of the pandemic.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Definitely! On the ecosystem level, we’ve seen a lot of fundraising activity in the last six months, particularly in the health and biotech sector — one example of that is Belgium-based Univercells. For our portfolio, we’ve seen that tools that serve governments and the transition to a more digital economy has created enormous opportunities for our B2B and B2G companies to thrive during this time.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
A few moments have given us hope during 2020. Seeing the racial reckoning in the U.S. spark conversations in Europe about justice and D&I has given me a lot of hope around the role of the venture capital and startup sector in creating a more equal society. Initiatives like Diversity VC are helping us to do that. Also, the sheer number of startups with climate benefits, from cultured meat to sustainable packaging and more, has showcased the financial viability and the demand for expanding the world’s options for sustainability — another large societal challenge.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Belgium is home to a vibrant, active and fast-growing startup scene!

#belgium, #ec-europe, #ec-investor-surveys, #europe, #tc

As location becomes irrelevant, Greek VCs eye local talent and spread their wings

According to a recent report on Greece’s startup ecosystem by management consultants Found.ation, venture capital and venture debt have continued to grow in the country, although its angel scene remains low-key.

Oddly enough, 2020 was a banner year, with the sale of InstaShop to Delivery Hero valuing the company at $360 million, making it the largest exit for a Greek-founded startup with operations in Greece.

The pandemic has meant Greek investors and startups realize that if they can work from anywhere and hire from anywhere, then Greece is not such a bad place to be. And the Greek VC market benefits as the diaspora returns from the mega cities of the West. The nation’s startup ecosystem is also attracting more outside investors, who see low capital costs, an educated workforce and the move to remote working/hiring.

Bessemer Venture Partners, Insight Venture Partners and FJ labs are all backing Greek startups, and Microsoft completed its first acquisition in the country.

Greek startups and investors are also extending collaboration with near neighbors in Cyprus, Romania, Albania and Bulgaria.

Investors in our survey said they were excited by sectors such as infrastructure, agtech, cybersecurity, proptech, efficient software, renewable tech and platforms aimed at helping the recovery of blue-collar jobs.

Were they seeing green shoots after the worst of the pandemic? Yes, but still small.

Investors are spreading their wings outside of Greece “as location becomes irrelevant and work-from-anywhere the new standard” although “the local ecosystem is always a priority.”

Here’s who we spoke with:


Subscribe to Extra Crunch for access to all of our investor surveys, company profiles and other insider coverage for startups everywhere. Save 25% off the cost of a one-year Extra Crunch membership by entering discount code GREEKSURVEY. Offer valid until March 31, 2021.


Panos Papadopoulos, partner, Marathon Venture Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

Infrastructure, agtech, cybersecurity, efficient software.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Hack The Box (the largest cybersecurity playground in the world).

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

Infrastructure software is far from being optimized and resulting in huge bills. There is a lot to be done to leverage modern hardware architecture to make things cheaper and easier to operate.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Industry people fixing their industry.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

Data management/analytics is oversaturated.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

More than 80%, we operate in underserved market and enjoy preferential pricing.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?

Shipping is an obvious one but we don’t think venture returns can be accomplished in this space.
Our portfolio company Netdata is changing IT monitoring. Huge OSS community and $30 million raised so far from Marathon, Bain and Bessemer.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

Get to know the people first and where they are coming from (culturally).

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Yes absolutely, big expensive cities will drain talent to their peripheries (not going very far TBH).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel is the obvious answer.

We see a lot of opportunity in software rebuilding, consolidation. There is truly too much software duct taped together. It’s expensive, difficult to run and creates silos.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

It hasn’t changed anything really, we just want founders to be able to use exclusively online channels. Companies with a hardware component are more challenged but even they have to innovate on support, which becomes a net positive if/when achieved.
Advise to startups: If you can find money sweep it.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Remote work could become a great equalizer or at least give more opportunities to people living far from the big hubs.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?

I think investing in local/geographical ecosystems is not so much about the law/economies of the ecosystem but rather the culture. Actually I was working on an article about that I wanted to share with TC 🙂

Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, founding partner, Velocity Partners

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Future of work, enterprise software, edtech, AI.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Intelligencia.ai — supporting drug discovery with ML and Big Data.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

Edtech is a hugely untapped market, especially in vertical education and non-English-speaking content.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Given the stage we invest in (pre-seed and seed), we are always looking to find founders with a unique perspective, market insights and understanding.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

Although we are an Athens-based fund, we are location-agnostic. Half of our portfolio companies are based overseas, with the majority being in the U.K., where there is a strong community of Greek expats and diaspora.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

Given the size of the local market, which is relatively small, I believe by reality our country is better positioned for B2B and enterprise software ventures. The most recent exit of RPA startup Softomotive to Microsoft (May 2020) validates just that. Two companies I’m excited about are Intelligencia.ai, which helps big pharma companies predict and accelerate clinical development of new drugs, and Netdata. Netdata is an open-source system for monitoring applications, servers, containers and devices in real-time.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

Greece has recently started to get more traction and headlines in international publications, Softomotive’s exit as mentioned were good news for the local ecosystem, together with a few up rounds for Athens-based startups such as TileDB, Plum and others.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Absolutely, as location becomes irrelevant and work-from-anywhere the new standard we expect more founders to emerge from less profound places. Brain-regain will also be a significant driver, as more and more people will go back to their home countries.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel tech is profoundly negatively affected by the pandemic and while it’s really early to tell when and how travel will reemerge, I see little opportunities there for the next 12 to 18 months.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

For our post-revenue investments, cash flow and its impact on runaway is the biggest challenge. Our pre-market, pre-revenue startups are less affected. Fundraising for the next round is a major concern and challenge for all. We strongly recommend continued monitoring and cost-cutting where and if needed. For their fundraising strategies, we recommend raising more money, effectively extending their runway to 18-24 months. In cases where their ideal fundraising scenario is no longer a viable option, we suggest smaller rounds — emergency financing driver primarily by existing investors — that will support the companies until the market is less volatile.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

We are seeing interesting areas for growth as some of our companies decided to partially pivot their core product offering or market segment focus. A great example is MyJobNow a local blue-collar marketplace startup. Their initial product was targeting blue-collar workers using classifieds. Just before the COVID pandemic, the company introduced a second product, staffing on-demand service for delivery and last-mile transportation. The product faced significant and accelerated adoption by retail clients and e-commerce ventures as the need for last-mile delivery was significantly and positively affected by the lockdown.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Most founders showed a mix of good reflexes, empathy and business clarity during the first months of the pandemic.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?

A key parameter that will greatly affect the next phase of the local scene is for new first-time founders to be able to attract initial angel and pre-seed investment, as access to €50,000-200,000 tickets is still problematic and limited. We need to enhance the investment numbers on this stage in order to enlarge the footprint of the ecosystem and create a strong bottom-up startup funnel.

Aristos Doxiadis, partner, Big Pi Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

I most like to invest in radically better solutions to very basic problems, such as preventing disease, or food provision, or increasing productivity in small firms. This is the social context of the fourth industrial revolution, and where some of the great success stories of the next 10 years will be.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

It’s a tough choice, but I pick 2bull MeDiTherapy. They have developed a unique blood test for prognosis and diagnosis of aortic aneurysm. These is a very common “silent killer,” that could only be diagnosed up to now by cumbersome and expensive imaging techniques. Once the test gets the required CE mark, we hope it will be widely adopted as a screening method across Europe and the U.S.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

In agritech, I haven’t seen much that would help small farms in rough terrain to increase productivity, secure quality or exploit unique niche varieties. This is potentially a big opportunity in many emerging economies as well as in the Mediterranean.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Ideally, a tool that can solve a fundamental production bottleneck across several industries, and that is based on years of research and has strong IP. An example from our portfolio is Navenio, which has location solution for people and equipment in large indoor spaces, that is infrastructure-free and requires no physical mapping. This has applications in hospitals, shopping malls, logistics centers, railroad stations, etc.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

We see too many applications for e-commerce and service marketplaces. Most are copycats, but even if there is a new concept somewhere, network effects and economies of scale are prohibitive for almost all new teams.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

By our mandate, we invest only in companies that have a substantial presence in Greece. This usually means an R&D center and/or product development team. Within Greece we have no specific preference for Athens, our home base, but most of the good deals we see are there.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

Greece has strong research teams in biomedical science, and a large number of doctors with international experience and networks. I expect that health tech and medtech will be a big growth sector. Another area is HR tech: Workable (a leading applicant tracking system), Epignosis (learning technology for corporate users) and Bryq (a new bias-free candidate assessment platform) have all started in Athens. The first two already have nine-digit valuations, while Bryq is just taking off.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

The greatest advantage of Athens and some other Greek cities is the number of highly skilled Greeks in their thirties, who are working in technology or research in the rest of Europe and are looking to return home. Tech employers can easily attract such talent if they offer an exciting and/or well-paid job. These experienced people can train many of the excellent engineering and science grads that come out of local universities. Almost every company in our portfolio has done this. Investment climate is also rapidly improving under the current government, especially for knowledge industries, via various tax incentives, but also by encouraging the research community to open up to business.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Yes, I expect that, and we are already seeing this in Greece, as one of the places of origin of such founders, but also as a destination for talent that is leaving expensive and crowded cities.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel and hospitality will be hurt. Big Pi has not invested in the sector (by chance, not by design) but some very good Greek teams were in there, and inevitably some will have to move to other things. Great opportunities arise in remote provision of sophisticated services (health, entertainment, education and also equipment maintenance and repair).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

There have been delays in enterprise sales, and in the supply chain for hardware products. We have set aside capital to support longer runways, but beyond that we don’t anticipate much damage. Our advice to founders is to focus all resources on achieving targets that will enable them to raise the next equity round.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

The Greek government designed and implemented in record time a logistics system for COVID vaccines, and, most impressively, a very user-friendly appointment platform for the vaccinations that is working seamlessly. For a state that until recently was very slow and inefficient, this was a great leap ahead and bodes well for future digital public services.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?

All six VC teams that were funded by Equifund in 2018 have done a very good job (Marathon, Venture Friends, Uni.Fund, Metavallon, Velocity and Big Pi) and have given a big boost to the ecosystem. Founders from Greek diaspora have been instrumental (e.g., Stavros Papadopoulos of TileDB, Vergetis and Skaltsas of Intelligencia, Masouras of Saphetor).

Pavlos Pavlakis, principal, VentureFriends

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

Proptech, fintech and marketplace models, interested in both B2C and B2B startups.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Influ2 (Person Based Marketing startup — B2B SaaS).

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

Some investors shy away from capital intensive models e.g., that need a lot of debt fundraising and many prefer B2B SaaS startups. We like B2C a lot, we like operational plays i.e., not pure tech necessarily, plus we are comfortable with models that require a lot of debt raising in parallel to equity.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Founders with global aspirations that execute well a scalable model. The team and the market size are the two most important factors, and then a number of other factors: competition, timing/market trend, short- and long-term defensibility/USP, etc.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

Many markets/areas are oversaturated or would be too hard to compete — this however can vary on geography as well e.g., we have seen some great opportunities in LatAm for example that are “copy cats” of other models.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

The local ecosystem is always a priority. Also apart from local startups we are looking for Greek founders across the globe e.g., recently invested in a U.S.-based Greek founder. However given the size of our fund and opportunities out there we do not restrict our investments only in the local ecosystem. So far more than 50% has been in the local ecosystem (company or founder) however because we are an international (European mostly) VC more and more of our investments are from outside of the local ecosystem.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

Blueground is a great example that we are excited about. It is a proptech portfolio company of VentureFriends. It is a Greek company that we were first institutional investors in. Blueground has expanded globally (13 cities in U.S., Europe and Middle East) and raised more than $100 million so far.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

Athens and Greece in general is definitely an up-and-coming market. Each year there are more and large success stories that inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Capital availability is no longer a large issue (given the presence of multiple funds) and Greek has great and relatively cheap human capital — and great weather 🙂

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

I do not necessarily expect this kind of change i.e., more founders coming from geographies outside major cities. However Greek talent — as mentioned, relatively cheap while of high quality plus the surge of remote work — indeed has created more demand and an increase in certain wages (e.g., developers).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel tech is by far the most exposed vertical. In terms of opportunities given that startups are incumbents and digital solutions typically most verticals can present opportunities. Some obvious ones are edtech, delivery/logistic solutions, e-commerce, etc.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

No major change in our investment strategy whatsoever. Only slight change would be not to pursue travel tech opportunities (even though it depends on a case by case basis — we were very close in investing in a new startup in this sector amid the pandemic — they were doing amazingly well 🙂 The advice to startups that are impacted is to weather the storm by trying to be cautious on burn on the one hand, but preserve as much as possible and build/work on things they have now more time to do so (housekeeping, product, etc.)

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

Of course, many if not most of them! Apart from our travel tech startups all others have grown in 2020 and recovered from the first major wave of the pandemic. Some specific ones from our portfolio even tippled in size (benefited from the pandemic) — this is the example of InstaShop that was sold to Delivery Hero for $360 million in 2020.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Even though 2020 was an extremely bad year on a health and economic basis, life goes on and many friends and family are getting married, having babies. I became an uncle for the third time, so there are some very happy and hopeful parts of life always.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?

Founders are by far the most important ones, and then investors are important to support and finance them. But without founders there is nothing 🙂 Blueground, Beat, eFood, Workable, Softomotive, Skroutz, Epignosis and of course InstaShop are some great examples with successful founders who have played an important role in inspiring the ecosystem.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?

There seems to be a general move from U.S. to Europe and from Europe to Eastern Europe, and from there to emerging markets e.g., LatAm and Asia. Undiscovered and less competitive ecosystems that are on the rise, like Greece, are expected to play a more significant role in the years to come 🙂 We are excited about this.

Yorgos Mousmoulas, partner, Metavallon

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

Data/AI/analytics; renewable tech; mostly B2B.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Valk, a secure platform for trading unlisted assets on the Corda blockchain.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Great team; proprietary, defensible technology; first signs of traction.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

Marketplaces, B2C, food delivery, etc.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

About 50%. We also invest heavily in startups elsewhere in Europe (and beyond) having some connection to Greece, e.g., founders/investors/advisors, or having it among its target markets.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

Maritime; anything related to data and analytics.

Perceptual Robotoics (Kostas Karachalios)
Ferry Hopper (Christos Spatharakis)
Valk (Antoine Loth)

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

This is a rapidly growing ecosystem with quite a few exits in the past year (including our portfolio company Think Silicon, acquired by Applied Materials. We’re starting to see the familiar pattern of second-generation founders from the first-generation success stories. Connections to a worldwide diaspora are a strong plus. Operating/personnel costs are low for same quality.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

A lot of people from the Greek diaspora are basing themselves in Greece again, as they realize they can work from anywhere; also starting to attract international tech workers due to favorable climate, low costs, etc.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Tourism; anything requiring on-premises presence.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

We have continued to invest at the same pace, are just more cautious/selective vis-a-vis impacted sectors e.g., tourism, transportation. We have supported portfolio companies as needed with bridge rounds, etc.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

Yes. CreatorUp is doing tech-enabled remote video training and are seeing tremendous revenue growth under the circumstances.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Some of our companies continuing to close follow-on rounds, despite the COVID climate. Even in adversely affected sectors like tourism — that’s validation of the fundamental soundness of their business model.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally?

The NBG Seeds initiative by National Bank of Greece is a major organizer of events, get-togethers, etc. helping startups in the very early stages achieve some visibility — and not just in the major couple of cities.

Myrto Papathanou, founding partner, Metavallon

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

We mainly invest in early-stage B2B companies and are sector agnostic. Over 80% of our portfolio is from companies developing proprietary [technology] mainly using ML, AI, cloud, SaaS and analytics. So far we have invested in health, energy, security, logistics, media and enterprise software and tools companies.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

We just closed a follow on round led by Berlin-based Fly Ventures for one of our portcos, Better Origin. The bio startup is Cambridge- and Athens-based and developing the world’s first insect minifarm that converts local food waste into high-quality animal feed in the form of insect larvae. It’s solution combines automation and AI to replicate nature’s recycling system. Following impressive client demand, the recent funding will accelerate its operations and deploy their scalable solution to hundreds of farms across the U.K. and the world. We are very excited about what the company is developing and how fast they are progressing.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

Europe and Greece in particular are amazing places to develop deep companies. The highly qualified and loyal workforce, value for money engineering, availability of nondilutive finance and newly introduced product skills, business acumen and entrepreneurial ambition are making it an exciting place for B2B startups. I would like to see more startups tackling energy and sustainability problems through technology, I think there is opportunity and the right momentum.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

We are looking for articulate, highly qualified engineers with a business acumen that can execute. Founders that have deep expertise in an industry and have identified the broken elements that their technology can disrupt.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

On the B2C space, where we are not active, it seems that there are many teams working on very narrow, niche problems. Even if successful, a lot of those in my humble opinion are very hard to create significant VC-type returns.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

We are very focused on Greece and also believe there is an amazing opportunity in the diaspora. People who left the country last decade, gained experience and know-how from other markets and are now seeing the opportunity to start their technology companies back home.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

We are excited about Athens-based Useberry, Prosperty and Loctio.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

The landscape for technology startups and investment in Greece has completely changed the last three years. The value of exits and unrealized value quadrupled in 2020 alone and there is great momentum at the moment. The presence of early-stage VCs on the ground also helps in terms of access to initial finance, validation of the business model and its scalability and a global outlook of the businesses. At Metavallon we are happy to have already co-invested with 20+ VCs, local, regional and international and over 40 angels, usually with vertical expertise and strategic interest in our portcos. There is still a lot of space. Finally some companies created last decade are scaling up and adding to the virtuous cycle of introducing previously missing skills, like product and biz dev and sales ops, in the market. The entire southeast of Europe is an overlooked market, which international investors are now waking up to.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Yes, for two reasons. First, the world is now flatter and access to capital and talent is location independent, as long as the technology built has global relevance. The pandemic has in fact created a mini-brain gain in Greece, with technology professionals coming back here and getting involved in startups as founders, executives and investors. Second, access to global talent and efficient remote work are making it hard to justify the costs mainly in human capital, but also peripheral like professional services and even real estate, that the traditional hubs demand. So I expect to see a surge in companies coming up from previously looked over locations.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Hospitality and travel are in for the long game in terms of weathering the effects of the pandemic. These sectors will need patient capital and a prolongment of their business plans. We were impressed to see one of our portcos, Ferry Hopper, that runs a ferry booking engine switch its operations overnight during the pandemic to focus on local customers and commuters as opposed to tourists. These companies will need quick reflexes and adaptability.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

We have had little impact in our investment strategy as we did not focus on B2C. In a way, investment in very early stages is affected the least as time to a large extend is spent on product and getting to product-market fit. Founders were initially worried about their runway and access to capital, a fear that didn’t really materialize. There is an opportunity on the business development side for B2B companies as clients have more urgency to digitalize, innovate and improve efficiencies. We are asking our companies to stay focused, keep an ear to the ground and their customers and be ready to adapt.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

With the exception of the first two months of the pandemic, retention and growth have not seemed so problematic. What we are seeing in cases are longer cycles in B2B sales, especially when clients are larger corporations in industry, health or the financial sector.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Schools reopened in Athens.

George Dimopoulos, founding partner, VentureFriends

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

Proptech, fintech, B2C and travel tech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Spotawheel, an online used car sales business! First team of this category to have expanded successfully to a second market (Greece and Poland).

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

I wish I was able to see more fintech and especially insurtech startups coming from Greece. Insurance is a space that is long overdue for disruption.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Amazing team, huge market and a product that solves an actual problem i.e., the company to be able to offer a “must-have” type of solutions not “nice to have.”

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

It would be really hard to compete for a hardware startup since we don’t have the necessary background knowledge/expertise and our goal is not to bring just our checkbook at the table. We want to utilize our network, know-how and past experience for every investment we are being involved.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

As VentureFriends we are quite an outward-looking team having team members in other ecosystems also (U.K. and Poland). We will continue supporting Greek startups since we can’t afford to miss out on an amazing company from our own backyard but we will be investing actively across Europe and opportunistically even outside of Europe.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

We are big fans of B2C companies. Greek founders have demonstrated that they can use the Greek market as a sandbox and then expand internationally to bigger markets. Blueground (Greece, Turkey, UAE, USA) and Spotawheel (Greece, Poland) are just two recent examples.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

I wrote the first check as an angel back in 2011 to a Greek startup. Back then a round of $200,000 or an exit at $10 million was a big deal. Today these round sizes or exits below $50 million are not even raising an eyebrow. The aspirations and the confidence of Greek founders have changed dramatically, fueled by big rounds and quite notable exits that have taken place over the last couple of years. We believe that we are only a couple of years away from the first Greek unicorn!

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Not really. When it comes to the Greek ecosystem I think that the main 2-3 hubs will continue to churn out the majority of exciting and interesting Greek companies. The pandemic will be just a bad memory in 1-2 years from now. The need to surround yourself with other driven and capable people and the obvious benefits that come with this, will pretty much pull founders and talent at the cities where already there is a vibrant/active startup community. In the case of Greece these cities are Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel tech has been and continues to be of interest to us. As you can imagine it has been hit very hard over the last year. We do believe though, that as soon as a meaningful percentage of the population gets vaccinated and life returns back to normal, travel will resume. First for leisure and eventually even for business reasons. The people who will have managed to weather these difficult 2019-2020 years will benefit a lot!

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

COVID-19 hasn’t really impacted our investment strategy. Investing in startups at seed stage is a quite long-term type of investment and commitment. Even if a company as we speak is facing some difficulties, the way we approach it in order to evaluate it is by looking at how the company will perform in a more stable environment and/or in a steady state.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

Somehow our portfolio seemed to have achieved a natural hedge. Indeed we had some companies that faced some difficult times while we had some others that were growing by high double-digit percentages month over month. The most obvious example was InstaShop (groceries on demand), our UAE investment into Greek founders where we saw the company triple in size in a matter of months and eventually bringing forward by 2-3 years our exit to Delivery Hero for $360 million.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

The exit of InstaShop to Delivery Hero for $360 million for sure has been the highlight of this year for us. It pretty much launched us to another level both as a fund and to an extent as a Greek ecosystem since it has set the precedent for current and future founders and has cemented the belief that a Greek team can indeed register a big international success.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.

The local office of Endeavor is definitely a group of people who someone must be connected to. They are very well-connected across the ecosystem of startup and with players of the traditional economy. They can really add value to a young company that is seeking ways to get in touch with more traditional business people.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?

If someone had told me in January 2019 that end of 2019 and the whole 2020-2021 we would be dealing with a pandemic, I would probably have tried to find a way to get access to antidepressants. However here we are today sort of getting a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. On a global level, I think that overall governments and central banks have managed the situation better than expected and given the situation we are doing OK. On a more regional level, Greece beat expectations in terms of managing the pandemic while supporting the economy. We have had an excellent performance during the first wave and now during the second wave we are among the countries with the lower cases/population. The government has launched 4-5 rounds of supporting initiatives while also making Greece an attractive investment destination for direct investments. All these are very promising of what to expect from this country when things somehow normalize.

George Karantonis, partner, Metavallon

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

We are a horizontal fund understanding better the B2B biz model and focus in teams with a relation to Greece.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Biopix-T.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

We would like to have invested in startups active in the wide blue economy sector.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

We are looking for more experienced teams with complete plans for aggressive market expansion.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

Tourism/hospitality has turned into a problematic sector these days — also most of the marketplace find it difficult to maintain customer traction.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

Well above 50% due to the nature of the funds under management (80% comes from GR structural funds and the EIF). Exception is companies founded abroad from members of the Greek diaspora, or they have/want to build some kind of activity in Greece.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?

Everything that has to do with logistics, remote collaboration and training, health tech, as well as fintech.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

An ecosystem in an early accelerating growth stage with good quality of technical skills.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

This sounds like a reasonable scenario.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Tourism/hospitality, marketplaces. I believe founders should focus now more than ever on real/needs and problems.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

The concern is how difficult it would be to close rounds in this business environment. so far, we have made it, but as the crisis is prolonged it becomes more of a challenge. The advice is to start fundraising as soon as possible with more than usual reserves/runway.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

Yes — SaaS/cloud companies, health tech and digital productions companies are doing great.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

That we managed to have an exit and close one seed and two Series A rounds within the pandemic.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.

The difference here is that for the first time we have 4-6 funds focusing in early-stage tech startups.

Katerina Pramatari, founding partner, Uni.Fund

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?

Tech-transfer and broader tech space, retail tech, AI, analytics, IoT, SaaS.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

Kinvent.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?

Climate, environmental sustainability.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?

Passionate team with strong IP that has generated (limited) revenues to test the market.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?

B2C, especially in travel, tourism, culture.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?

More than 80%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term?

Retail, tourism, shipping industry, agrofood. Companies I’m excited about: Kinvent, BibeCoffee, Flexcar, ExitBee, Tekmon, BeSpot, Cyrus, Nanoplasmas.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?

Great momentum, ecosystem really growing, a lot of untapped potential especially around the universities and research space.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?

Yes, already happening.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

Travel and tourism for sure. E-commerce and new service models from the positive direction.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?

We were following a “cash-flow positive growth” strategy already before COVID and COVID had little impact on our portfolio. Some companies were seriously affected but turned this into an opportunity by unlocking new revenue streams. The overall sentiment among all our founders has been positive. Total portfolio revenues have increased by 4x since the start and 2x during COVID.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?

We foresee a 5x revenue increase in the total portfolio in 2021, mainly driven by six companies.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.

Significant contracts (of above $1 million value) signed by two companies, term sheet of above $1 million rejected, buy-out offer rejected, partial exit to a multinational consulting company of a small portion for great value, significant traction entering the U.S. market.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.

Apostolos Apostolakis, Marco Veremis, Sotiris Papantonopoulos, Aristos Doxiadis, George Karantonis, myself for my role around universities and the research space, Angeliki Karagiannaki, Spyros Arsenis, Roula Bachtalia, George Nounesis, Dimitris Tsingos.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?

Greece is now developing its startup ecosystem and there is great momentum in the country. Apart from great people with high skills, big smiles and resilience, the country offers ideal conditions for the new model of working from home (sea, sun, great food and, hopefully soon after the pandemic, culture).

#ec-greece, #ec-investor-surveys, #europe, #greece, #panos-papadopoulos, #tc, #venturefriends