Exploring Greece’s Unseen Corners

For several years, a photographer has documented local Greek customs and attire, turning his lens toward his country’s vibrant traditional culture.

#fashion-and-apparel, #greece, #photography, #travel-and-vacations

0

Yieldstreet raises $100M as it mulls going public via SPAC, eyes acquisitions

These days, investing goes way beyond the stock market. And in recent years there’s been a growing number of startups which aim to give more people access to a wider array of investment opportunities. Today, one of those startups has raised a significant round of funding to help it achieve its goals.

Yieldstreet — which provides a platform for making alternative investments in areas like real estate, marine/shipping, legal finance, commercial loans and other opportunities that were previously only open to institutional investors — announced Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a Series C funding round.

Former E*TRADE CEO Mitch Caplan, of Tarsadia Investments, led the round. Other participants include Alex Brown (a division of Raymond James), Kingfisher Capital, Top Tier Capital Partners and Gaingels. Existing backers Edison Partners, Soros Fund Management, Greenspring Associates, Raine Ventures, Greycroft and Expansion Capital also put money in the round, which brings Yieldstreet’s total raised to $278.5 million since its 2015 inception.

Milind Mehere and Michael Weisz co-founded Yieldstreet with the mission of making investing more inclusive for non-institutional investors. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Mehere declined to say at what valuation the Series C was raised other than to say “near unicorn.”

What he did share is that Yieldstreet has funded nearly $1.9 billion on its platform and has about 300,000 consumers signed up on its platform. That’s up from $600 million invested on its platform from more than 100,000 members in February 2019, at the time of its last raise. Also since that time, Yieldstreet has seen its investor base climb by 350%, he said. And this year, the company is expecting “over 50% revenue growth,” compared to 2020.

Image Credits: Yieldstreet

Since its inception, Yieldstreet says it has provided nearly more than $950 million in principal and interest payments to its investors.

And, both the number of investment requests and new investors surged by more than 250% from January to April 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with new investors already exceeding all of last year, according to the company.

Mehere also shared that Yieldstreet is considering going public via a SPAC (special purpose acquisition vehicle) sometime in the next year or two.

“We are growing extremely fast and a few SPACs have approached us,” he told TechCrunch. “We are on a great path to potentially explore some of those options in the next 12 to 24 months. I think the public markets would be great for a company like Yieldstreet, purely because that gives you the visibility to expand your consumer growth but also gives you access to equity to pursue growth strategies such as potential acquisitions and other things.”

So far, Yieldstreet has acquired two companies (both in 2019): WealthFlex and Athena Art Finance. 

Some context

At a very high level, Yieldstreet aims to give consumers access to invest in asset classes outside of the stock market.

“These are investments that generate passive income. For example, we do a bunch of things in real estate such as financing warehouses, multifamily and distribution centers,” Mehere told TechCrunch. “We also do art, auto loans or equipment finance. These are typically investments done by institutions and what we’re trying to do is really fractionalize them and get them to real estate investors. A lot of this stuff is asset-backed and it’s generating cash flow.”

In an effort to help people understand just exactly what they’re putting their money into, Yieldstreet aims to provide “a ton of investor education,” Mehere added, in the form of content such as articles, blog posts and infographics.

The company also aims to have its portfolios working “around the clock” to automatically apply earned income toward everyday expenses — a concept conceived by Mahere as “self-driving money.”

Yieldstreet will use its new capital to expand its user base, develop new investment products, explore international expansion and pursue strategic acquisitions, according to Mehere. Outside of its New York City headquarters, Yieldstreet also has offices in Brazil, Greece and Malta.

“Alternative investing has generally been restricted to very high net worth individuals. This is not just a U.S. problem, but a worldwide one. In Europe, especially, it is exacerbated by a negative interest rate,” he said. “So it’s even more compelling to them to tap into U.S. assets.” As such, Yieldstreet plans to expand into Europe and Asia as part of its growth strategy.

Tarsadia Investments (and former E*TRADE CEO) President Caplan believes the company is “uniquely positioned” to “achieve significant growth in revenue while ultimately achieving tremendous scale.”

“Everything begins and ends with the management team,” he told TechCrunch. “Yieldstreet’s management team’s vision for the future of digital investing aligned perfectly with that of our organization at Tarsadia. Yieldstreet is building the future of investing.”

#apps, #asia, #brazil, #business-incubators, #economy, #edison-partners, #entrepreneurship, #etrade, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greece, #greenspring-associates, #greycroft, #growth-capital, #impact-investing, #investment, #investors, #malta, #money, #private-equity, #raine-ventures, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #soros-fund-management, #startup-company, #startups, #tarsadia-investments, #venture-capital, #yieldstreet

0

Summertime … and the Sloganeering Is a Little Awkward

Cities and states are spending millions to promote tourism as they reopen, but the marketing campaigns aren’t always the catchiest.

#advertising-and-marketing, #art, #chicago-ill, #cincinnati-ohio, #connecticut, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #de-blasio-bill, #de-niro-robert, #federer-roger, #greece, #hamilton-ohio, #hancock-michael-b, #hockney-david, #illinois, #khan-sadiq, #new-york-city, #road-trips, #slogans-and-mottoes, #summer-season, #travel-and-vacations, #vaccination-and-immunization

0

Who Is Roman Protasevich, the Opposition Journalist?

Mr. Protasevich, 26, is an exiled dissident whose reach drew an authoritarian ruler into a gambit that outraged Western governments.

#belarus, #blinken-antony-j, #defense-and-military-forces, #greece, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #military-aircraft, #minsk-belarus, #politics-and-government, #roman-protasevich, #ryanair-holdings-plc, #state-security-committee-kgb-belarus, #tikhanovskaya-svetlana, #vilnius-lithuania

0

Traveling to Europe? A Country-by-Country Reopening Guide

Members of the European Union are welcoming vaccinated travelers, including Americans. But there are still rules and restrictions to abide by. Here’s how to navigate them and what to expect.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #croatia, #european-union, #france, #great-britain, #greece, #italy, #travel-and-vacations, #turkey

0

Greek Neo-Nazi, a Member of Europe’s Parliament, Sent to Prison

Ioannis Lagos was a leading member of the extreme-right and now-defunct Golden Dawn, which rose to prominence in Greece’s Parliament in 2012 at the peak of the country’s financial crisis.

#european-parliament, #golden-dawn-greece, #greece, #neo-nazi-groups

0

The Price They Pay for Your Perfect Vacation Photo

Scientists are concerned about unregulated feeding of ocean wildlife by tour operators.

#animal-behavior, #australia, #bahama-islands, #conservation-of-resources, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #greece, #marine-biology, #philippines, #photography, #research, #sharks, #travel-and-vacations, #turtles-and-tortoises, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Traveling to Greece? What to Know About the Reopening

In easing its restrictions, the country, largely dependent on tourist dollars, has jumped ahead of a broader European Union plan to welcome visitors from outside the bloc.

#coronavirus-reopenings, #greece, #summer-season, #travel-and-vacations

0

Ioannis Lagos, Greek Neo-Nazi Lawmaker, Stripped of Immunity by European Parliament

Ioannis Lagos, sentenced to 13 years in prison by a Greek court for his part in running the fascist Golden Dawn party, had been immune from extradition as an elected member of the European Union’s legislature.

#belgium, #decisions-and-verdicts, #europe, #european-parliament, #extradition, #golden-dawn-greece, #greece, #immunity-from-prosecution, #lagos-ioannis-1972, #legislatures-and-parliaments, #neo-nazi-groups, #politics-and-government

0

Vaccinated American Tourists May Soon Travel to Europe

The head of the European Commission said the bloc would switch policy, under certain conditions, after more than a year of mostly banning nonessential travel.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #european-commission, #european-medicines-agency, #greece, #travel-and-vacations, #travel-warnings, #von-der-leyen-ursula

0

‘Monday’ Review: A Year of Love and Its Hangovers

Fiery physical contact keeps an expat couple together in Greece, and the sex scenes are enough for a half-dozen movies.

#gough-denise-1980, #greece, #monday-movie, #movies, #papadimitropoulos-argyris, #stan-sebastian

0

Cybersecurity training startup Hack The Box raises $10.6M Series A led by Paladin Capital

Cybersecurity training startup Hack The Box, which emerged originally from Greece, has raised a Series A investment round of $10.6 million, led by Paladin Capital Group and joined by Osage University Partners, Brighteye Ventures, and existing investors Marathon Venture Capital. It will use the funding to expand. Most recently it launched Hack The Box Academy.

Started in 2017, Hack The Box specializes in using ‘ethical hacking’ to train cybersecurity techniques. Users are given challenges to “attack” virtual vulnerable labs in a simulated, gamified, and test environment. This approach has garnered over 500,000 platform members, from beginners to experts, and brought in around 800 organizations (such as governments, Fortune 500 companies, and academic institutions) to improve their cyber-adversarial knowledge.

Haris Pylarinos, Hack The Box Co-Founder and CEO said: “Everything we do is geared around creating a safer Internet by empowering corporate teams and individuals to create unbreakable systems.”

Gibb Witham, Senior Vice President, Paladin Capital Group commented: “We’re excited to be backing Hack The Box at this inflection point in their growth as organizations recognize the increasing importance of an adversarial security practice to combat constantly evolving cyber attacks.”

Hack The Box competes with Offensive Security, Immersive Labs,   
INE, and eLearnSecurity (acquired by INE).

Hack The Box is using a SaaS business model. In the B2C market it provides monthly and annual subscriptions that provide unrestricted access to the training content and in the B2B market, it provides bi-annual and annual licenses which provide access to dedicated adversarial training environments with value-added admin capabilities.

#brighteye-ventures, #computer-security, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #europe, #greece, #hack, #immersive-labs, #marathon-venture-capital, #paladin-capital-group, #tc, #vice-president

0

So Ancient, Yet So New: Gorgeous Red Wines From Greece

While the country is better known for its white wines, it also produces distinctive, superb reds from a number of little-known grapes.

#grapes, #greece, #labeling-and-labels-product, #wines

0

Refugee Who Set Herself on Fire in Greece Is Charged With Arson

A woman set fire to her tent on the island of Lesbos in a suicide attempt after her family’s relocation to Germany was delayed.

#arson, #asylum-right-of, #greece, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

0

Ex-Artistic Director of Greece’s National Theater Held After Rape Arrest Warrant

The case of Dimitris Lignadis is the most high-profile among the numerous directors and actors to have been named in a torrent of accusations that have rocked the Greek arts world.

#metoo-movement, #actors-and-actresses, #athens-greece, #bekatorou-sofia, #greece, #lignadis-dimitris, #mitsotakis-kyriakos, #sexual-harassment

0

Accusations of Sexual Harassment Rock Greek Arts World

Dozens of actors have accused some of the nation’s best-known performers and directors of sexual harassment and abuse, leading to several high-profile dismissals and resignations.

#metoo-movement, #bekatorou-sofia, #greece, #lignadis-dimitris, #sexual-harassment

0

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

0

He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?

Dan-el Padilla Peralta thinks classicists should knock ancient Greece and Rome off their pedestal — even if that means destroying their discipline.

#black-people, #colleges-and-universities, #content-type-personal-profile, #greece, #history-academic-subject, #princeton-university, #slavery-historical, #whites

0

Glimpses of an Ancient Fire-Walking Ritual in Northern Greece

Each May in the small Greek village of Lagadas, a group of celebrants upholds a three-day tradition that incorporates a range of age-old rites.

#churches-buildings, #greece, #greek-orthodox-church, #organizations-societies-and-clubs, #thrace, #travel-and-vacations, #walking

0

20 Wines Under $20: Postcards From Around the World

In a pandemic era, when traveling is largely out of the question, these wines, good values all, can take you on a trip around the globe.

#argentina, #australia, #austria, #california, #chile, #france, #grapes, #greece, #italy, #portugal, #wines

0

Olympic Athlete Speaks of Assault and Breaks a Bigger Silence in Greece

Sofia Bekatorou, a sailing champion, said she was sexually assaulted by a top sports official, prompting an outpouring of support in a country where the issue has long been ignored.

#metoo-movement, #adamopoulos-aristeidis, #bekatorou-sofia, #greece, #olympic-games, #sailboats-and-sailing, #sex-crimes, #women-and-girls

0

LAUNCHub Ventures heading towards a $85M fund for South Eastern European startups

LAUNCHub Ventures, an early-stage European VC which concentrates mainly on Central Eastern (CEE) and South-Eastern Europe (SEE), has completed the first closing of its new fund at €44 million ($53.5M), with an aspiration to reach a target size of €70 million. A final close is expected by Q2 2021.

Its principal backer is the European Investment Fund, corporates and a number of Bulgarian tech founders and investors.

With this new fund, LAUNCHub aims to invest in 25 startups in the next 4 years. The initial investment range will be between €500K and €2M in verticals such as B2B SaaS, Fintech, Proptech, Big Data, AI, Marketplaces, Digital Health. The fund will also actively invest in the Web 3.0 / Blockchain space, as it has done so since 2014.

LAUNCHub has also achieved a 50:50 gender split in its team, with Irina Dimitrova being promoted to operating partner while Raya Yunakova who joins as an Investor, previously working for PiLabs in London and Mirela Yordanova joins as an Associate, previously leading the startup community at Google for Startups Campus in London.

The investor is mining a rich view of highly skilled developers in the CEE countries where there are approximately 1.3 developers for every 100 people in the workforce. “Central and Eastern Europe’s rapid economic growth has caught the attention of Western investors searching for the next unicorn. The region has huge and still untapped potential with more and more local success stories, paving the way for the next generation of CEE tech founders.” said Todor Breshkov, Founding Partner at LAUNCHub Ventures .

LAUNCHub Ventures competes with other investors like Earlybird in the region, but they tend to invest at a later stage and is more typically a co-investor with LAUNCHub. Nearby Greece also features Greek funds such as Venture Friends and Marathon, but these tend to focus on their core country and diaspora entrepreneurs. Others include Speedinvest (usually focused on DACH) and Credo Ventures, more focused on the Czech Republic and CEE.

LAUNCHub partner and cofounder Stefan Grantchev told me: “Our strategy is to be regional, not to focus specifically on Bulgaria – but to look at all the opportunities in the region of South-Eastern Europe.”

LAUNCHub Ventures has backed companies including:

  • Giraffe360 (Robotic camera for real estate listing automation, co-investment with Hoxton Ventures and HCVC)

  • Fite (Premium direct to consumer digital live streaming for sports, followed-on by Earlybird)

  • GTMHub (The world’s leading and most intuitive OKR software, followed-on by CRV)

  • FintechOS (Banking and Insurance middleware for automation and digital innovation acceleration, followed-on by Earlybird and OTB)

  • Cleanshelf (Enterprise SaaS management and optimization platform, followed-on by Dawn Capital)

  • Office RnD (Co-working and flexible office space management, followed-on by Flashpoint Ventures)

  • Ferryhopper (Ferry ticketing platform for Southern Europe, co-investment with Metavallon)

#almaz-capital, #bulgaria, #business-incubators, #central-europe, #cofounder, #corporate-finance, #credo-ventures, #czech-republic, #eastern-europe, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #google, #greece, #hoxton-ventures, #launchub-ventures, #london, #partner, #private-equity, #seedcamp, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Greece Wants Him in Prison. Instead, He’s in the E.U. Parliament.

Leaders of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party were convicted of running a criminal group. But one is living free in Brussels, immune from extradition as a European Parliament member.

#brussels-belgium, #european-parliament, #extradition, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #golden-dawn-greece, #greece, #immunity-from-prosecution, #organized-crime

0

Greek Orthodox Church Faces Criticism as Virus Hits Its Ranks

Church leaders have backed government restrictions, but defiance by hard-liners and a commitment to the sacrament of communion, taken with a shared spoon, may undercut good intentions.

#athens-greece, #clergy, #deaths-fatalities, #greece, #greek-orthodox-church, #politics-and-government

0

E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

#asylum-right-of, #europe, #european-union, #frontex, #greece, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

0

Greece’s Marathon Venture Capital completes first close for Fund II, reaching $47M

Marathon Venture Capital in Athens, Greece has completed the first closing of its second fund, reaching the €40m / $47M mark. Backing the new fund is the European Investment Fund, HDBI, as well as corporates, family offices and HNWIs around the world (plus many Greek founders). It plans to invest in Seed-stage startups from €1m to 1.5m initial tickets for 15-20% of equity.

Team changes include Thaleia Misailidou being promoted to Principal, and Chris Gasteratos is promoted to Associate.

Marathon’s most prominent portfolio company is Netdata, which last year raised a $17 million Series A led by Bain Capital, and later raised another $14m from Bessemer. On the success side, Uber’s pending $1.4B+ acquisition of BMW/Daimler’s mobility group was in part driven by a Marathon-backed startup, Taxibeat, which was earlier acquired by Daimler.

Partners George Tziralis and Panos Papadopoulos tell me the fund is focused generally on enterprise/B2B, plus “Greek founders, anywhere”.

Highlights of Fund One’s investments include:

  • Netdata (leading infra monitoring OSS, backed by Bessemer & Bain)
  • Lenses (leader in DataOps, backed by 83North)
  • Hack The Box (cybersecurity adversarial training labs)
  • Learnworlds (business-in-a-box for course creators)
  • Causaly (cause-and-effect discovery in pharma)
  • Augmenta (autonomous precision agriculture)

Tziralis tells me the majority of its next ten companies have already raised a Series A round.

Tziralis and Papadopoulos have been key players in the Greek startups scene, backing many of the first startups to emerge from the country over 13 years ago. And they were enthusiastic backers of our TechCrunch Athens meetup many years ago.

Three years ago, they launched Marathon Venture Capital to take their efforts to the next level. Fund I invested in 10 companies with the first fund, and most have raised a Series A. The portfolio as a whole has raised 4x their total invested amount and maintains an estimated total enterprise value of $350 million.

They’ve also been running the “Greeks in Tech” meetups all over the world – Berlin to London to New York to San Francisco, and many more locations in between, connecting with Greek founders.

#bain-capital, #berlin, #bmw, #daimler, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #george-tziralis, #greece, #investment, #leader, #london, #mitt-romney, #mobility, #money, #new-york, #panos-papadopoulos, #san-francisco, #taxibeat, #tc, #uber, #venture-capital

0

Ride Vision raises $7M for its AI-based motorcycle safety system

Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.

In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .

“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”

The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.

As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.

The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.

It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.

Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.

#artificial-intelligence, #australia, #austria, #brazil, #canada, #china, #continental, #europe, #france, #germany, #greece, #honda, #india, #israel, #italy, #japan, #motorcycle, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #ride-vision, #spain, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #yl-ventures

0

It Took a Century to Open a Mosque in Athens. Then Came the Pandemic.

The first purpose-built Muslim place of worship in the Greek capital since the Ottoman occupation arrived after decades of delay — just in time for a second coronavirus surge.

#athens-greece, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #greece, #mosques, #muslims-and-islam

0

Dramatic Rescues After Major Earthquake Kills at Least 28 in Turkey

The magnitude-7.0 quake that struck in the Aegean Sea also killed at least two people in Greece. Hundreds were injured in Turkey and many thousands displaced.

#earthquakes, #greece, #rescues, #turkey

0

Court Sentences Leaders of Greece’s Golden Dawn to Prison

The neo-fascist party’s leaders were convicted of running a criminal organization, and some of its members were found guilty of acts of violence.

#golden-dawn-greece, #greece, #neo-nazi-groups, #organized-crime, #politics-and-government, #sentences-criminal

0

Golden Dawn Found Guilty of Running Criminal Organization in Greece

The court tied the far-right party to a string of attacks, including the fatal stabbing of a left-wing rapper.

#decisions-and-verdicts, #golden-dawn-greece, #greece, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #organized-crime, #politics-and-government, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right

0

E.U. Failure to Impose Sanctions on Belarus Lays Bare Its Weakness

E.U. foreign policy moves require unanimous support from the member nations — a rule that continually undercuts the bloc’s bold ambitions for global influence.

#belarus, #borrell-fontelles-josep, #cyprus, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #european-union, #greece, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #tikhanovskaya-svetlana, #turkey, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

0

Looking to Past Pandemics to Determine the Future of Theater

Throughout most of Western history, plays typically went on hiatus when plagues hit. But could contemporary designers, or perhaps outdoor settings or spaced-out seats, provide novel solutions?

#berliner-ensemble, #broadway-league, #culture-arts, #globe-theater, #greece, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #royal-national-theater, #theater

0

Why a Refugee Camp Burned in Greece

Conditions at the Moria center on the island of Lesbos were already dire. This year, the coronavirus compounded the misery, and then fires razed the squalid camp, leaving thousands homeless.

#european-union, #greece, #immigration-and-emigration, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #moria-greece, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

0

Afghan Migrants Charged With Arson in Fires that Destroyed Lesbos Camp

Four men are accused of involvement in the blazes at the Moria camp that left 12,000 migrants without shelter.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fires-and-firefighters, #greece, #immigration-and-emigration, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis

0

Pandemic Collides With Europe’s Migrant Crisis to Set Off a Calamity in Greece

Frustrated asylum seekers lit fires this week in protest over lockdowns that worsened cramped and squalid conditions on Lesbos. Now 12,000 migrants are homeless.

#arson, #asylum-right-of, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fires-and-firefighters, #greece, #immigration-and-emigration, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #moria-greece, #politics-and-government, #quarantines, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

0

The Fire Compounding Misery at the Lesbos Camp, in Photos

Thousands were displaced by fires at Europe’s largest refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos this week.

#fires-and-firefighters, #greece, #moria-greece

0

George Bizos, Anti-Apartheid Lawyer Who Defended Mandela, Dies at 92

A champion of human rights, he represented his client and friend in the so-called Rivonia trial of leaders of the African National Congress in the 1960s.

#african-national-congress, #apartheid-policy, #bizos-george, #deaths-obituaries, #greece, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #madikizela-mandela-winnie, #mandela-nelson, #south-africa, #tsvangirai-morgan

0

Fire Destroys Most of Europe’s Largest Refugee Camp on Greek Island of Lesbos

Campaigners have long warned that the overcrowded conditions at the impoverished camp might lead to catastrophe.

#europe, #greece, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #moria-greece

0

Turkey and Greece Have Let Their Latest Feud Get Too Hot

It’s time to listen to Germany and take a step back.

#cyprus, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #european-union, #greece, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #politics-and-government, #turkey, #united-states-international-relations

0

3-Year-Old Clinging to Unicorn Float Is Rescued From Sea in Greece

The dramatic rescue of a child who drifted out to sea on a toy flotation device, captured on video, earned the praise of the Greek prime minister.

#greece, #rescues

0

Rising Tensions Between Turkey and Greece Divide E.U. Leaders

Conflict over drilling rights to massive natural-gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean is becoming increasingly militarized, risking a conflict between two NATO members.

#defense-and-military-forces, #european-union, #greece, #mediterranean-sea, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #turkey

0

Taking Hard Line, Greece Turns Back Migrants by Abandoning Them at Sea

Many Greeks have grown frustrated as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished on Greek islands. Now, evidence shows, a new conservative government has a new method of keeping them out.

#asylum-right-of, #greece, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #immigration-and-emigration, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #mitsotakis-kyriakos, #politics-and-government, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #turkey

0

For Greece’s Theaters, the Coronavirus Is a Tragedy

Playhouses were already suffering from deep funding cuts after a decade of austerity. Now, with the pandemic, many speak of ruin.

#athens-and-epidaurus-festival, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #greece, #koniordou-lydia, #lignadis-dimitris, #national-theater-of-greece, #shutdowns-institutional, #the-persians-play, #theater

0

The Science of School Reopenings

Several countries have found ways to reopen schools safely. But can the United States?

#coronavirus-reopenings, #education-department-nyc, #greece, #new-york-city, #norway, #teachers-and-school-employees, #united-states

0

Plum raises $10M for its ‘smart’ money management app

Plum, the London and Athens-based fintech that offers a ‘smart’ money management app to help you improve your “financial resilience,” has raised a further $10 million in funding, as it gears up for European expansion.

The new round is led by Japan’s Global Brain, and the European Bank for Research and Development, which has participated in previous Plum funding rounds.

In addition, the company has received further funding from early backer VentureFriends, matched by the U.K. taxpayer via the U.K. government’s Future Fund scheme. Plum has raised $19.3 million in total since being founded by Victor Trokoudes (an early TransferWise employee) and Alex Michaelin in 2016.

Launched in the U.K. the following year, Plum is one of a number of fintech startups that is vying to become a user’s financial hub or control centre, in a way that goes far beyond the first generation of personal finance manager apps and bank account aggregators.

You link the app to you bank account and gain access to a range of functionality including savings, investments and analysis of your utility bills to help you make better purchasing decisions. Like similar apps, Plum’s “artificial intelligence” also deems what you can afford to save by analysing your bank transactions. It then puts money away each month in the form of round-ups and/or regular savings.

You can open an ISA investment account and invest based on themes, such as only in “ethical companies” or technology. Another related feature is “Splitter,” which, as the name suggests, lets you split your automatic savings between Plum savings and investments, selecting the percentage amounts to go into each pot from 0-100%.

In a call with Trokoudes, he talked me through a spew of recent Plum updates that he says bring it much closer to fulfilling its financial control centre mission and being a candidate to replace your individual banking apps.

Crucially, you can now link all of your accounts to Plum, whereas previously Plum only let you access a single linked bank account. This gives you “full visibility” of your saving, spending and investments all in a single app.

One the roadmap is also the ability to make payments via Open Banking — and Trokoudes doesn’t rule out a Plum card in the future as a complimentary feature with additional benefits, not a core offering, unlike numerous competitors.

More immediately, Plum is launching interest for savers who use Plum to set money aside but don’t want to invest any or all of it. Paid users are being offered an interest rate of 0.6% for instant access savings and 0.75% for 95 days notice. Plum users on its free tier can earn 0.35% interest.

Trokoudes explained that there’s also the option to split a percentage of the money put aside automatically, allocating deposits between the new interest-bearing account and Plum-powered investments.

Meanwhile, armed with fresh capital, Plum plans to launch in Spain and France by the end of 2020. The company claims 1 million registered users in U.K., and now employs more than 60 people split across London, U.K. and Athens, Greece. Trokoudes tells me it will scale up further to 80 employees by the end of 2020 and is aiming for 5 million users across Europe by the end of 2021.

Adds Naoki Kamimaeda, partner and Europe office representative at Global Brain Corporation: “More users have started using fintech apps and personal financial management apps across the globe, to be more efficient and be better off. Among these fintech apps, Plum has a very unique position and very bold ambition to be a partner of individuals to save more money and manage their financial life in an easier and more effective manner”.

#artificial-intelligence, #bank, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #france, #greece, #japan, #london, #plants, #plum, #spain, #tc, #transferwise, #united-kingdom, #up

0

Southern Europe Opens Its Doors to Tourists. Not Many Are Coming.

Most tourist beds are empty in Spain’s Canary Islands. Bookings are down in Italy despite government incentives. And ferries to the Greek islands are carrying less than half the load they once did.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #algarve-portugal, #canary-islands, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #greece, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #italy, #quarantines, #spain, #travel-and-vacations

0

Extra Crunch is now available in Greece, Ireland and Portugal

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added Extra Crunch support in Ireland, Portugal and Greece. That adds to our existing support in Europe as we are already in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the U.K.

Portugal’s 10 million citizens are no strangers to startup investment, with the country totting up 813 to date, according to Crunchbase. Notably, of that total, 113 have been announced in 2020 thus far.

That means that in 2020, despite COVID-19 and its ensuing economic impacts, Portugal is on track to best its 2019 startup round total of 206. And it’s not just small companies that Portugal is building. OutSystems, now based in Boston and worth north of $1 billion, was founded in the country, for example. As Europe recovers from COVID-19, perhaps Portugal can take a larger share of the continent’s startup activity. It appears to have the momentum it would need to do so.

There’s been data from the last few years to indicate that the Greek startup scene is also growing nicely. With larger seed deals and more deal volume, Greece has seen its startups raise more money, more quickly in recent years. It appears that 2020 is no exception to the trend. With 43 known startup rounds in the country so far in 2020, Greece is set to storm its 2019 total of 59. Indeed, the country could nearly double the number of startup deals it saw in 2019 during a pandemic-disrupted year.

In the past 18 months, the country has seen around 38% of its all-time total known startup deals. Surely that means the country is at a local maxima when it comes to startup activity.

Ireland is a startup powerhouse. Crunchbase has 2,327 known rounds for companies based in the country, including 539 in 2019 and 335 so far this year. So like our other two countries, we can spot acceleration in deal volume. Irish startups raised over $5 billion in 2020 so far, according to Crunchbase. There are going to be more names bubbling up from the island that are worth getting to know.

As a nation, Ireland has a history of startup successes. Software company FINEOS was founded in Ireland back in 1993, and today it’s a public company worth more than a billion dollars. Havok, another software company from the country sold to Microsoft in 2015. And Ireland has other neat tech startups that are still coming up, like Farmflo, to pick one from the list we made this morning.

We’re excited to welcome readers from Greece, Portugal and Ireland to our growing community of startups, investors and entrepreneurs.

You can sign up for Extra Crunch here.

What is Extra Crunch?

Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch featuring market analysis, weekly investor surveys and interviews on growth, fundraising, monetization and other work topics. Members can save time with access to an exclusive newsletter, no banner ads or video pre-rolls on TechCrunch.com, Rapid Read mode and our List Builder tool.

Committing to an annual and two-year plan will save you a few bucks on the membership price and unlock access to TechCrunch event discounts and Partner Perks. The Partner Perks program features discounts and savings on services from AWS, DocSend, Crunchbase and more.

Thanks to everyone who voted on where to expand next. If you haven’t voted and you want to see Extra Crunch in your local country, let us know here.

You can sign up or learn more about Extra Crunch here.

#europe, #extra-crunch, #greece, #ireland, #media, #payments, #portugal, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Could the Coronavirus Bring Europe Back Together?

After three months of chaos and deaths caused by the pandemic, the continent, led by Germany and France, is giving convergence another try.

#berlin-germany, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #european-central-bank, #european-commission, #european-union, #finances, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #greece, #italy, #lagarde-christine, #le-monde, #merkel-angela, #paris-france, #politics-and-government, #propaganda, #quarantines, #unemployment, #united-states, #wages-and-salaries

0

The Unaccompanied Migrants Who Only Remember War

The agony and anxiety of living in a migrant camp.

#greece, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #refugees-and-displaced-persons

0