Monday, September 26, 2016

In the spotlight: Smarthelix – Internet of Things getting investment ready

Smarthelix is a Portuguese early stage start-up based in UPTEC (University of Porto – Science, Technology Park) working mainly on the Internet of Things. The start-up comprises 5 promotors having together more than thirty years of experience and a common passion for entrepreneurship and technology.

Smarthelix’s main expertise is a platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) designed to support monitoring and real-time warnings. The monitoring module allows an easy plugin of different sensors used in several scenarios such as indoor/outdoor, submerged in water or on soil, or even in areas with bad network coverage (choice between Wi-Fi, RF, GPRS/3G/4G).

All data collected is stored in a cloud service with a warning system easily configurable. Each new added value, outside the expected range of data, triggers the alarm.

Since the platform has been developed for any type of business, it can be used in very different sectors such as, agriculture, insurance, manufacturing, food, transportation or human resources. Currently, Smarthelix’s main focus is the SmartAgro project, which demonstrates how this platform is used in the agricultural context.

Besides its IoT platform, SmartAgro, with the support of a third party software, offers to farmers an all-in one solution for the entire agriculture business.  The monitoring and the warnings system allow the development of instruments specific to agriculture, such as field reports, costs control, plague or disease detection. 

Key lessons learned from Smarthelix’s journey to funding:

1. Product development: if your product is in an early stage, do not undertake too much marketing or stunning pitches because an excellent product sells itself. First, choose a customer development strategy and focus mainly on product development. Then only, improve your marketing strategy and go to funding programs.  Never forget that you want to sell a real product and not to create illusions.

2. Good team: It is crucial that team members understand their responsibilities and stay focused on the same main final objective. Teams with the same mindset are more solid. It is also important to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to keep improving the team.

3. Idea vs. business: having a great idea is important, but it is much more important to have a fantastic business plan. To attract good investment, it is mandatory to have your product tested on the market, so be patient and put all your efforts to get a product ready.

4. Vision: it is very important to have a well-defined roadmap and not to mix the current state of play with long-term vision of your company. Remain clear, focused and goal-oriented showcasing the growth potential of your company. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Have you taken the most of InvestHorizon? These startups surely have!

At InvestHorizon, we always like to get news and feedback from the startups who attended our events and before we start off again after a well-deserved summer break for all of us, EBAN would like to share with you some of this feedback!
Attending these events gave all entrepreneurs great networking opportunities, meaning new customers, new potential investors and business partners. Here are some of the comments we got from the startups:
“In one day, we met new customers, we improved validation of our solutions, potential partnerships and distributors for our products!” Andrea Cruciani, TEAMDEV
“We made a lot of new contacts who have interest in our products and services. This week we are going to speak with them again!” Christoph Dresner, Deal Matrix
 “It was a great event and although my initial expectations for these kinds of events are moderate, it turned out to be extremely useful:
-      My pitch to investors was heard by some fellow startup CEOs who were quite keen to know about how our solution could help their business. They approached me and it resulted in 2 new customers and connections to another bunch of interested customers. That already made my trip worth it!
-      The networking with peers and other stakeholders was also very positive and there are a number of potential partnership doors that were opened thanks to this event!
-      Even if I was not actively looking for investment, I did quite a bit of networking that I believe will render fruits in the future…” Jorge Araluce, Relevante
“Annual EBAN Congress in Porto had proven to be not only a great opportunity to present the company to the Pan-European community of angel investors, but it has also been an excellent place for successful networking. I strongly recommend and encourage other early-stage startups to consider EBAN-organized events as the priority in their business development activities. We are also very grateful for all the support from EBAN project team that stayed in touch and help us before and during the Congress. Thanks!” Piotr Piekos, Totem Interactive
Going further than only the networking possibilities, EBAN also offers to its selected entrepreneurs the chance to perform an investment pitch in front of seasoned Business Angels and to have a meaningful feedback:
[Thanks to the pitching opportunity], we understood we needed to change slightly the strategy and lower the amount we were raising in this round.” André Godinho Luz, VL Engineering
“Excellent opportunity to pitch in front of seasoned Business Angels and to have direct, honest and constructive feedback! The coaching helped to realise that we were not ready yet for BA investment. This said, we initiated discussions with some BAs, both in Spain and abroad, in case we need them later!” Xavier Arrufat, Awaait
“We got extremely useful feedback from the coach during the morning workshop and from other investors during the day. I spent my whole day talking with investors, trying to learn from each conversation! We were not yet looking for money, but we were definitely taking the opportunity to learn how to do it.” Luis Pinto, Pet Universal
Want to enjoy similar opportunities? Here is where we will be going to next:
Nantes, 15 September – Coaching Academy
Serbia, 22 September – Investment Forum
Brussels, 10-11 October – Investment Forum
Don’t miss our updates and upcoming events by following our InvestHorizon news!

All the feedback below comes from companies that attended InvestHorizon training and matchmaking events organised by EBAN (namely, Early Stage Camps and Investment Fora that took place in Istanbul on 7 September 2015, in Lisbon on 22 October 2015, in Brussels on 23 October 2015, in Copenhagen 16 November 2015 and in Porto 25 May 2016).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In the Spotlight: Textil Energy – key lessons from an SME never running out of power

Textil Energy is a Valencia, Spain based company which works mainly on solar energy and energy storage systems.

Juan Toribio, the CEO, was fascinated by renewables energies and wished to create a company in that sector. After years of studies, the company Textil Energy became real with the objective of making people self-sufficient in energy wherever they are.

By developing the Brand “ETex”, innovative mobile solar panels for outdoor activities, the company Textil Energy is totally in line with its main mission. These mobile solar panels take many different forms such as solar umbrellas or electric table place cards enabling users of restaurants /bars to charge their electronics devices while sitting in terraces.

This achievement was attained thanks to co-workers and to the support of Universities of Valencia. Universities mentoring was central in providing a main room for Textil Energy in the incubator of the University Polytechnic of Valencia for many years, and in supporting part of the R&D department in the University of Valencia.

In order to successfully integrate the product in the pre-existing market, Textil Energy, had to complete the financial part and build a strong team with various partners. The research for fund is a long-planned process where you need to open many processes at the same time and negotiate them in parallel with various investment funds. The first step is to prepare a good business plan with milestones accomplished and highlight the ability of your company to incorporate your products in the market.

Altogether, the negotiations last for approximately three months during which, you should meet intermediate milestones and provide facilities for potential investors to investigate all they need to know about your company.

The main advice I would give, based on my experience, to other start-ups searching for funding are:

  • Be patient
  • Open many financing processes in parallel 
  • Perfectly know how to sell the strengths of your company
  • Generate feelings with those responsible for investment fund
  • Put the interests of the company before your individual interests
  • Do not neglect the commercial part of your company during the negotiations in the investment process 
  • Once you close a round of financing, you must be thinking about starting to open the following one that will allow you to go further

With this range of products, Textil Energy has quickly grown but the Research & Develop department continue to be a major part of the company in order to constantly propose innovative products to its customers.

The expansion of the enterprise at an international level is nowadays one of the principal project. The CEO and partners are ready to welcome any person who would believe in the project of Textil Energy and would want to invest in.

Friday, August 12, 2016

In the Spotlight: Knok – Key lessons from a start-up in the healthcare sector

Knok is an early stage ‘Uber-style’ private health care platform currently based in Portugal, which enables patients to access on-demand and in-person medical support at their convenience. This start-up took part in the InvestHorizon Early Stage Camp & Investment Forum EBAN Annual Congress in Porto on 25th May 2016 and won the “most investable” start-up prize according to the Forum.

Knok’s vision is to change the world by providing top quality, personalised and affordable health care, to not only improve the satisfaction of patients but also to enhance health outcomes. Knok generates an extensive range of positive social outcomes, most notably the ability to enhance patient care for the most vulnerable members of society (i.e. from the very young to the aged population) by improving the speed and convenience of access to medical care, whilst increasing the attractiveness of a medical career through facilitating improved compensation for junior doctors.

Despite its success in Portugal, Knok’s co-founders were aware from the beginning that international expansion is key to the business’ long-term growth.

How to secure funding for internationalisation?

The key question was how to secure funding in order to internationalize. My co-founders and I wrongly assumed that we needed, first, to raise money locally, given the fact that we are a Portugal based company and do not have a track record of exiting successful start ups. We, then, understood that we should, first, prove the fit of our product in the market before raising funds. Furthermore, healthcare is a very specific area in which most Portuguese seeds and very early stage investors are inexperienced.

When we started to raise our seed-round of fund after our launch in December 2015, we spoke to quite a few potential investors and realised that having a product in the market helped a lot. However, we also needed strong traction indicators (e.g. over 20% weekly growth rate of app downloads and appointments) to be seen as attractive. It became clear to us that we needed to wait and bootstrap more our company.

We continued to talk to potential investors, and discovered the difference between “smart money” and “just money”. Despite entering in due diligence with 3 investors, one of them stood out by adding real value to our business. Working together enabled our product to evolve meaningfully from the initial offering of premium, to a more inclusive service at a highly competitive price point (when compared to both competitors and existing healthcare solutions). This transition has resulted in increasing growth rates by 350% growth in appointments, 310% growth in revenues and 190% growth in registered patients in four months.

We decided to move forward with this investor and other business angels who bring knowledge and valuable networking capabilities to Knok as we accelerated our growth in Portugal and abroad.

Knok is the first Portuguese start-up to receive foreign equity investment in the “impact investment” area, as announced on the 7th of July at the G8 Plenary on Impact Investment, and we now focus on growing and expanding internationally.

To sum-up, key lessons for a start-up:

  • Start by showing the fit of your product in the market
  • Highlight strong traction indicators to be more attractive for investors
  • Be patient: bootstrap your company
  • Leave your comfort zone: with strong traction indicators, you don’t have to raise locally
  • Distinguish between “simple money” and smart “money” and work with investors or business angels who brings knowledge and valuable networking capabilities to your company 

In conclusion, raising a seed-round is hard, but it’s a part of any start-up’s life. The same belief and resilience that are required to launch and grow a business are the keys to a successful funding round. You should not undersell yourself, so go for investment outside your comfort zone and look for the smart money.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the Spotlight: DealMatrix – Digital Matchmaking Platform for SMEs and Investors

DealMatrix is an Austrian-based company providing software and services to ease the interaction between investors, corporates and start-ups.

DealMatrix started off based on an idea by a venture capitalist himself, who was looking for a tool that would optimize his investment process. In 2015, Christoph Drescher began turning his idea into a product, integrating his expertise stemming from more than 20 years of executing projects and building companies. The first funding was provided by the founding team as well as through an incubation programme by venture capitalists. The starting capital was extended thanks to various business angels, among them Markus Ertler, named Austria’s “Super Angel 2015”.

There is a clear distinction between the investors who support DealMatrix monetarily and those who also provide guidance and expertise. Even though the funding scene in Austria is still difficult, recent progress have been made both by governmental and private players, who have pushed startups into the spotlight and enforced a more transparent funding environment. As DealMatrix cooperates with international startup conferences, it is in the ideal position to meet new potential investors. Moreover, due to constant interaction between investors and corporate scouts, satisfied customers have turned into potential investors.

DealMatrix is now expanding offering its services to include a startup portal, via which startups find the funding and exposure they need.

Key lessons for other start-ups

  • Find the right match: What do you really need? Simply money or “smart money” investors who actively support your startup and aid you through their connections and experience.
  • Consider the current market situation and trends in investing – if the market is in a downturn it pays to be prudent with your valuations and funding sizes as to avoid a down round.
  • The younger the start-up, the more important the factor “team” is. A great team track record can be supported by external factors such as speakers at events, interviews with team members in the media, and joint connections.
  • Make sure to keep potential investors updated on your progress, as many like to confirm that the potential they see in your startup can actually be executed.
  • Patience – there’s a thin line between waiting too long for investors to actually commit and writing them off too early. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Coaching Academy in Badajoz – a connected province of SMEs worth investing in

As part of the InvestHorizon Project and in the framework of supporting activities for innovative companies, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Badajoz, Spain organized on 8th June 2016, a Coaching Academy on Sustainable Growth in Innovative SMEs. 

Advantages of the Region

Badajoz is located in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The province is positioned, between the two major capital cities of the Peninsula:  Madrid and Lisbon, making Badajoz the center of many routes. In addition, Badajoz is a great hub to access Spanish and Portuguese markets through its connections with most important Atlantic seaports of the Iberian Peninsula (Lisbon, Aveiro, Sines, Algeciras, Huelva, Seville). The region has also the largest number of kilometers of inland coast in Spain and one of the longest in Europe, with four river basins and forty dams. It has low levels of pollution or other environmental problems.
Moreover, Badajoz has the lowest square meter price of housing in Spain and is also located in the only Spanish region (Extremadura) that provides financial aid to investments projects promoted by large corporations. This aid is offered within the framework of the National Regional Aid for the 2014-2020 period.

Sectors worth Investing in

The main sectors represented in the regions are agriculture and food processing, clean energy, tourism, healthcare, and ICT. These SMEs would particularly need more information on how to access to finance, how to disseminate innovations in all sectors and how to apply scientific and technological domains of a cross-cutting nature. The main aim of the coaching academy was to tackle the challenges linked to access to finance for SMEs. But, it is also important to spread innovations and apply more scientific and technological knowledge to sectors that support the economy: agro-food sector, cultural tourism, catering trade, green energy, IT and the health and life sciences sector.

Coaching Academy Training

During the coaching academy day held at the Co-Creation Convent Space, more than 25 companies from varied sectors such as consulting, engineering, health, marketing, ICT, and energy exchanged best practices. Most SMEs were seeking to accelerate and consolidate their growth by redefining their business model and finding new financing alternatives. The day was structured in such a way that each lecture was followed by a workshop to apply the theory previously learned. It has primarily focused on topics relevant in stages of growth: Redefinition of Business Model, new financing alternatives and internationalization.

The training started with a lecture on Growth Marketing Business Model Redefinition taught by Ramón Oliver from ESIC Business & Marketing School. This lecture was followed by a workshop on Increasing your customer base and finding new segments.    

The second lecture by Mrs. Belén Tubio - Manager Executive Education from the AFI School Finance, was on the different Financing options for growth stage. It was followed by a workshop on Business Angels, Equity Capital and other instruments to redefine your financing strategy.

The afternoon was on Internationalization: New program CRECE lectured by Mrs. Isabel Balbontin - Head of strategy and business development Department from the Badajoz Chamber of Commerce. The seminar was concluded by a workshop on human resource strategies and team completion.