Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In the spotlight: Sentiance

Sentiance is an Antwerp based technology company enabling businesses to tap into context aware personalisation and mobile profiling on the basis of sensor information gathered in smartphones and wearable devices.

I spoke with Vincent Jocquet, their VP Finance & Operations to understand their experience regarding financing their activities to date and what learnings are there for other entrepreneurs.

Sentiance has been operational since 2012 and realised pretty early on that they were going to need investment from external sources in order to get the company up and running. In 2012 they reached out to family and friends to try to drum up the initial funds required. This got the company through 2012 and in 2013 they once again went looking for funding. This time however, they looked beyond the FFFs*, to the business angel community. Sentiance needed funding in order to develop their market. However, they realised that they also required people that could connect them to potential clients. They were able to bring on board several angels with strong knowledge in the advertising market in order to try to help advance their market penetration. However, the angels pushed them to re-examine their model and they pivoted to a B2B2C model, allowing them to raise additional angel funding. A strong endorsement of their investors’ faith in the team was that the initial investors, re-invested following the pivot.

Sentiance decided on angel investment on the basis of a process of elimination and their needs at the time. They determined that angel investment would be the optimum for them. Bank loans for a start-up without significant assets were not an option and the funding needed for 12 months of fundamental research was below the venture capital sweet spot. Here angels made sense and could in addition bring substantial market knowledge.

Due to the advancements in technology and team increase enabled by the latter funding round, Sentiance successfully attracted VC funding to further grow.

Key take-aways and learnings from Vincent’s experience:

  1. Determine what you need money wise, over what period, and then focus on the right type of investment
  2. Money is good, but smart money is better. Investors with knowledge or that fill skills gaps you have are a double whammy
  3. Money is out there so make sure that the investor is bringing more than money, and is the right fit. If they’re not the right fit, keep looking
  4. VCs are not always looking to invest in your company. They may be approaching for a company they already have. Check their portfolio, investment tickets and determine if their interest in your company goes beyond filling deal-flow.
  5. Raising capital does not mean validation of your market potential. It’s a means, not the end
My take:
Sentiance is a really interesting company in a very innovative field. If Vincent is a measure for the rest of the team then these guys are good.

*family friends and fools