7th CFP statistics and insights

We are happy to share the conclusion of the first call for proposals of Jeremie Openfund II, or 7th overall.

Following 5 Call for Proposals (CFPs) executed under the Openfund I, we distinguish between a conceptual one (CFP 6) which counts the proposals seen during the preparation of the Openfund II, and another one explicitly launched when the new fund was announced (CFP 7).

As with every previous call for proposals, we can now share some trends and insights regarding the quantity and quality of submissions, complete with statistics.

Team demographics
The charts below depict the evolution of the proposals volume over time. Notably, the couple of latest CFPs that are now under review process received in aggregate twice the number of submissions of the next best performing CFP. Another interesting trend is the increase in the average team size, from 2.4 to almost 3 members. Teams now encompass more Founders and more diverse skills, a development we consider positive.

The graph above shows the cumulative collection of submissions over time. As with every previous CFP, most Founders took the maximum allowed time to refine their submission.

Founders Demographics
After 3.5 years, we are now able to take a look at the proposals in greater depth.

Initially, the Openfund was designed to address the lack of seed funding in the Greek market. With each passing CFP however, the inflow of proposals from other countries increased. So far and on average, 56% of the proposals originated from Greece.

This changed dramatically with the 7th CFP under Jeremie Openfund II, where we announced that we would start investing only in companies registered in Greece or whose Founders would relocate here. Now, focusing on a smaller pool of talent, we managed to attract more proposals than ever before, more than 80% of which came from Greece.

Despite clearly stating our criteria for funding, the persistence of a significant number of proposals originating outside the borders indicates that seed funding is still a problem for Europe. It also suggests that Founders are more willing to relocate than previously thought, in order to secure resources for their startups from a trusted source.

Founder skills
It is interesting to note the distribution of skills in startups, based on the self-evaluation of each Founder. The graph below provides data on the entrepreneurs having applied in all CFPs so far. Brighter colours indicate higher scores, at a scale of 1 to 5. An interesting fact is that confidence in the Founders’ business and technological skills fuels most startups.

Over time, we also find more complementary teams applying, meaning that there is at least one individual with a high mark in at least one of those skills. Most importantly however, we can now correlate the team composition with the likelihood to succeed in getting funded.

Through the CFPs 1-5, there were 3 evaluation steps:

  • Submitting a proposal,
  • Being called for an interview, and finally
  • Presenting for the Openfund executives and investors.

The radar graph above provides some insights on the average team skills that made it to each step.

It seems that a strong educational background seems to initially earn the Founders more attention; however the successful teams do not score significantly higher than others on paper qualifications.

On the other hand, a (self-reported) strong business background stands for better chances down the evaluation path. Moreover, the successful teams score a comparatively low average in technical skills with usually just one strong technical leader. It also serves as rudimentary verification of a trend that we have often seen: teams that are too reliant on the technical prowess of the Founders are found lacking in other aspects.

Submission size
Another interesting observation regards the impact that a detailed proposal has on our tendency to further engage with a team. As documented, we typically collect submissions which we then forward to our mentors. They in turn, submit their feedback which is compiled and returned anonymously to the Founders.

Naturally, this data refers to previous CFPs, as we have not completed the review of the collected proposals.

As expected, writing more increases the likelihood that we’ll spend more time with a project proposal and increases the chances that mentors will want to engage in providing more feedback as well. What is difficult to depict in past data is the also higher than expected chance that an exuberantly lengthy proposal gets rejected early. In principle, including template text or not to-the-point arguments greatly reduces the reviewer’s interest in providing any feedback.

Funding range & maturity
The table below shows the distribution of maturity in the latest couple of CFPs. More than 56% of the submissions in total have a functional prototype to showcase during the various review stages.

Apparently also, having a prototype proves that the team can work together and increases the chance that it gets further consideration.

Next steps

During the next days the Founders that have submitted their proposals will start receiving feedback. The application page will remain open and Founders can submit, however there is no time guarantee as to how soon we will reply.

At this point, we’d like to thank all the Founders for entrusting us with their ideas and putting a tremendous amount of hard work in preparing for this call. We will do our best to come up with quality feedback and reaffirm our excitement about the investments that will come out of this process.

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Jeremie Openfund II Term Sheet Template

We are happy to share a template of the term sheet for pre-seed and seed financing that Jeremie Openfund II will be offering to entrepreneurs.

This template shall not be treated as cast in stone, but rather as indicative of what founders shall generally expect from an Jeremie Openfund II offer, while each deal remains different.

The template is built in the spirit of what works better for the company, rather than for the fund or for entrepreneurs alone. We believe this approach works in the long term and we hope that this spirit is clear across the document.

We are confident that transparency is of value to entrepreneurs and investors alike, as well as to the community at large. We hope that in sharing this document we are contributing to the evolution of our ecosystem towards maturity.

Global reach for start-ups

Will 2013 be the year of the startup here in Greece? There are reasons to hope so. After years of events, discussions, brainstorming and prototyping, many teams seem to be on the cusp of starting real businesses. The funding bottleneck for IT-based ventures has now been removed, as four new early-stage funds are at last ready to start investing.
All of these funds, naturally, are looking for one thing: global potential. We will not be funding copycat businesses targeted to the Greek market, however good the execution; not even copycats aimed to the broader Balkan market. Market size is too small, and exit possibilities are very limited.

The name of the game is global reach, out of a Greek base. So how can we plan for that, how can we educate ourselves, what type on networking do we need, what kind of partnerships abroad? By “we” I mean the founders and employees in the ventures, but also investors and advisors.

Here is a way to think about these issues. There seem to be three generic strategies to expand out of Greece.

1. The immediately global business. If the service can be developed and delivered from anywhere to anywhere, as in some software-as-a-service (saas) models, it does not matter if you are in Greece and your user is in Ohio. The hard part is in devising something which appeals to users in distant regions with no need for localization. If you have that, regional offices are not needed, and strategic partnerships, if needed, can be built from afar. Among the Greek startups that I know, Workable HR fits into that model. It has a niche saas product, which meets a recurring need of companies around the world and can be equally useful to any mid-size employer of tech-savvy English-speaking people, whether in New York or in Helsinki. In such cases, international associates are useful mainly in getting early feedback for the product, and in getting the (web-based) marketing campaigns right in each market. Beyond that, it is up to management to decipher signals from the web and react accordingly; but they can do that mostly from Greece.

2. The plug-in route. If the venture is developing new technology in the narrow sense of ‘technology’ (e.g. a new recognition algorithm, such as that which drives BlindType and Fleksy) or an app that could be an enhancement of a dominant application (such as a Pinnatta to be added on a major communication platform like MSN or Skype), then growth may require that they become part of a global hub so that they can plug into the networks of coopetition there; and at some stage, to be acquired by a major US based player. To assist in such cases, our community may need good links to Silicon Valley players (investors or advisors). Sometimes the right hub may be Silicon Alley, or Silicon Roundabout, or Silicon Glen.

3. The roll-out. Most marketplace models bring together groups of suppliers that are based in one location (country, city, or neighborhood) with local or international consumers. Taxibeat, Incrediblue, Dopios, Cookisto all fit here. Many content providers, such as review sites, are also location-specific. So good ‘hybrid startups’ such as these will start in one or two locations, formulate a good version of the product by trial and error, and then roll out to more locations, one by one. In each location there will be need for marketing, sales and localization that can only be done in situ. If you are a large company by the time you begin your international roll-out, then you can hire successful local executives to do this for you. But if you are small when you attempt it, then you can only offer risky equity or bonuses; which means that you need to work with entrepreneurial types, not corporate officers.

My guess is that very few concepts that we’ll see in the next couple of years can be ‘immediately global’. Several will require the plug-in route, and most will require roll-outs. This, then, could be the biggest challenge to our community: to develop and perfect roll-out techniques for small companies with innovative models, across a wide range of national contexts. This is not an easy challenge: historically, becoming multinational has been the province of large companies with established products. But our ventures are constrained by our small home market, and so they will have to try to expand early.

To succeed in roll-outs, the community will need to exchange experiences, to share contacts in interesting markets, and to develop horizontal expertise that will be useful to several different ventures. This is the area where cooperation within the Greek startup community will be most critical. If we can pull it off, this could be a characteristically Greek model of global reach. (Greeks are well placed to understand both developed and developing country contexts – but that is a subject for a separate post).

The alternative is to devise products that require minimal local business development, more along the ‘immediately global’ model. There is a tradeoff here between depth and breadth, but whoever can do both multi-locality and scaleability can be hugely profitable.

Entrepreneurs should think how their model fits into these three categories, and then plan for expansion accordingly. Investors and mentors should develop capabilities to be able to help them in each of these strategies. At Jeremie Openfund II, we hope to contribute significantly to this effort.

Jeremie Openfund II Launches, Paving New Ways for Entrepreneurship in Greece

With a new team of partners and €10 million under management, Jeremie Openfund II officially commenced its operations on Friday, November 30, in front of a 400 people audience in Open Coffee Athens.

Along with the European Investment Fund, which serves as the Openfund’s major investor under the Jeremie program, Jeremie Openfund II enjoys the participation of 11 private investors.

Moreover, 50 world class mentors join the fund to assist entrepreneurs on all issues related to the formation and growing of successful technology companies.

Leveraging on its track record, Jeremie Openfund II aims to become the partner of choice for entrepreneurs creating software-enabled products targeting international markets.

The fund will work with entrepreneurs in two stages: a) pre-seed, starting from an indicative investment size of €50 thousand to turn an idea into a product and b) seed, with an investment of up to €500 thousand, to focus on turning an existing product into a well working business.

Jeremie Openfund II intends to partner with up to 25 pre-seed and 10 seed stage companies within the next 3 years. Seed stage entrepreneurs may apply around the year, while the call for proposals for the pre-seed stage is now open and will remain such until January 31, 2013.

The application form and further information are available at http://theopenfund.com

Taxibeat Closes a New Funding Round of €0.5 Million

The Openfund is eager to announce a new funding round for Taxibeat. The round, in the form of a €0.5 million convertible note, is contributed by a syndicate of 7 both existing and new investors to the company.

15 months after the initial Openfund seed round and 8 months after the previous angel round of €0.25 million, the company now features a fleet of 1500 in Athens, Greece and a 20% monthly increase in rides, along with a fleet of 400 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil one month after launch. September will find Taxibeat launching in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Paris, France, Oslo, Norway and Bucharest, Romania.

Together with investments in local subsidiaries, the company has now raised more than €1 million on its quest to redefine private transports. The new round will help the company extend its edge both in its world class technology and on the road to new geographies.

In contrast to the current economic context, the Openfund considers this round a further testament to the team’s capacity to execute, as well as to the growing maturity of the technology ecosystem in the region.

Taxibeat raises a new angel round

The Openfund is excited to announce a new funding round for Taxibeat. Seven months after the initial seed investment, the company has raised a syndicated funding round of €250.000, coming from 5 angel investors.

Being a prime example of innovation and development even under the current tough economic conditions, the company will now accelerate its international expansion and further fulfill its vision to redefine private transports.

Taxibeat joins the number of Openfund portfolio companies to have already raised an external round of funding. More updates to be announced soon.

The 5th call ends, all rounds in hindsight

To get this out of the way, we expect to deliver the first round of feedback to all applicants by Monday the 16th along with the first go no-go.

Following that, two weeks’ time will be given to the teams that don’t have a business plan to write one. As always, if you feel comfortable about your idea you may skip ahead and start doing that based on our guide.

We thank all the entrepreneurs that shared their ideas and aspirations with us and vouch to make the best we can out of them whether we end up working together or not. We pride in offering feedback to every founder, on both what we liked and what we didn’t like. Even if you don’t end up being selected you will know what (in our humble opinion) you should work on improving.

With the 5th call having just closed, we wanted to take a look backwards and look at what we have achieved in the Openfund.

The following graph shows the accumulation of applications over time. Even though we advise that you send these in early, similarly to every previous round, the founders took the maximum allowed time to refine their submission.

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It also corroborates to the myth of Greeks doing things “last minute” — even though all countries seem to be trigger happy in the last two days.

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Two also interesting stats is the percentage of foreign submissions. After these 5 rounds and accounting for regression it’s safe to say that 41% of applicants come from the rest of Europe and 8% from beyond. We’re flattered by that, especially given that we don’t actively promote outside Greece.

We’re also proud to have proven that we’re more than interested in investing in any country where a team of talented founders lives.

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Another tidbit worth mentioning is the (lack of) evolution with respect to the skillset of the people that are interested in seed funding. The above bars reveal the self-evaluation of people with respect to certain skills.

Clearly this dispels the mythical geek in a garage startup. The teams that apply are mature, well rounded and become even more so over time.

Future updates regarding all those that participated in this round will arrive at their inboxes.

Round IV Winners are Announced, Round V Applications Open Up

Today is a big day for the Openfund. We are thrilled to announce 3 more companies entering the Openfund and the next call for proposals for you to become the next one.

The teams selected to participate in the fourth round of our operations are:

TaxiBeat, a team of three from Athens, uses the mobile technology to connect taxi drivers and passengers by enabling taxi drivers to advertise their location and availability to nearby passengers who are searching for a taxi using their smartphone.

GourmetOrigins.com, a team of two from London and Barcelona, is an online platform that aims to address the increasing consumer demand for unique foods and food related experiences. GourmetOrigins.com aspires to become the point of reference for premium food items and their delivery across Europe.

Kamibu, a team of seven from Athens, is the company behind Virtual Life (working name), a revolutionary browser-based 3D MMORPG for gamers with a PC or smartphone. Gamers may engage simultaneously online and in real-life through short quests like going to the movies or planting trees in the park, provoking real-life and online interactions.

All teams will receive, next to seed funding, extensive support from the Openfund executives and advisors on all things start-up, enabling them to launch great products within the next few months. We are thrilled to have already started working together with these teams, and we look forward to leverage on their vision, commitment and talent to make three successful companies happen.

 

In the context of this announcement, we are equally excited to open today the call for proposals for the Openfund’s fifth round of operations. Entrepreneur teams are welcome to apply by filling the form here. As usual, early applications enjoy the advantage of timely feedback, enabling a resubmission before the deadline.

Founders are also encouraged to take a close look at what we are looking for, our process, the FAQ and best practices that may be found across this blog before proceeding with their application. The selection process is set to begin on May 1st, with the final decisions being made in the beginning of June. Similar to our latest round, winning teams will receive 30.000-50.000€ for 15% of equity.

We are looking forward to make the most of our resources to help entrepreneurs start-up and make great prospects materialize. Applications close Saturday, April 30.

As the 4th Call for Proposals Ends, the Real Action Begins

The call for proposals for our fourth round of operations was closed this midnight. First of all we would like to extend a warm “thank you” to all the entrepreneurs who entrusted us with their applications and the responsibility to review them. We cannot help being excited by the volume and quality of the proposals that came in and we are now hard at work to make great start-ups happen.

Here are a few more details and demographics on the applications received, next to the steps and dates to the selection process to follow.

The submissions span 24 countries, mostly Europe, but also India, Brazil and the States. Applicants from Greece stood for a diminishing 50% of the total, while the European map below pictures the geographical distribution of the applicants in more detail.

The next graph provides a closer look at the time distribution of the applications received. No surprises here, almost half of the applicants submitted in the last couple of days before the deadline.

Another interesting perspective regards the skills spectrum, as it was reported by the applicants themselves. The graph reports a wide blend of capacities across the founders, both in technical and business issues.

What now follows is the selection process, which takes place in three stages. First, selected executive board members and advisors will review each one of the applications received. The full reviews and feedback collected will be returned back to the applicants by Friday December 10, next to the decision to proceed to the next stage or not.

Successful applicants will then be required to submit a full business plan, before getting interviewed from our full executive board. Interviews will take place on Monday, December 20. Finally, the best teams will get to present in front of our executive board, investors and advisors on Saturday January 8, 2011, with the selected teams being announced right after.

We are enthusiastic for this round and confident that, with such a great pool of entrepreneurs and partners, fantastic start-ups are in the making; stay tuned for the updates.

Tips to get seed funding and support 6/6 – Technology and Goals

To complete our application but also in order to generally have an as well-rounded a submission as possible for any purpose (in other words the beginnings of a business plan) you need to address a few other issues too.

Technology

It’s important to demonstrate how you plan to implement what you’re suggesting and of course that you have the capability to deliver. Although the latter is partly covered in the members’ profile section, it’s a great opportunity to show off your experience when talking about what technology you plan to use.

Overall, we are interested to get a better idea about your grasp of the technology and how you plan to use it. It’s not necessary to go into full detail about the implementation – just make sure to mention your backend and database choices, any frameworks you plan to use, collaboration software you’re familiar with and so on. If there are any particular reasons to make certain choices (other than your experience in it) make sure to mention them too – we like to know we’re dealing with knowledgeable and opinionated founders.

Needless to say, as long as the technology makes sense we have no bias towards particular platforms or solutions nor will we require you to use something you’re against. At the same time, there is no need to select the most state-of-the-art architecture and the latest version out there. As long as you can get the task done, that’s what matters – you can even choose from ready-made solutions if that’s more efficient (nobody expects you to write your own blog engine). You can expect however to be exposed to new services and ways of doing things as part of our mentoring process.

As mentioned, it’s important to let us know how proficient you’re with the tools you plan to use. Man-months spent is a first measure but nothing speaks better than your previous works – and how exactly you participated in them. It’s also key to let us know who will be the chief technician who will bear the main responsibility of getting the job done and who will be there to support him or her (if any).

Goals

It’s crucial to have definite and ambitious yet achievable goals in mind for a predefined period of time when starting a project. That gives you something tangible to work towards and going through the process of outlining your targets forces you to make a reality check on your project.

Definite goals means something you can measure or quantify. Examples include number of users, non-paying customers, user conversion or retention, even revenue if you think you can make it that far within the incubation period. It can be (actually, it should at least be) having implemented an alpha or a beta version of your product, with specific features tested and launched. It can include having researched the market to understand associated costs and competition parameters, then digest this information to iterate on your priorities and strategy. It can include having secured a number of enterprise deals. Basically, as long as you have some structure and actual numbers to avoid vagueness you should be fine.

Of course, the suggested goals should be within reach given the time you allocate to them. It’s probably not believable if you claim global expansion within a few months time and you can’t probably get thousands of active users in a similar duration. Be realistic and try to connect your estimates with the actual tasks you plan to undertake, previous similar work you’ve done or at least similar projects carried through by others. It’s also wrong to set your goals too low – playing it safe will probably cause inadequate results – better to err on the side of excess. And as usual if the task of setting goals seems daunting it’s useful to categorise them into short, mid and long term goals.

To sum up

This post completes our short guide at submitting a successful proposal in a seed funding vehicle – based on the Openfund application form. Although there are a number of similar articles online on the issues covered we believe that by going through our suggestions you can significantly improve the quality of your submissions. We are looking forward to them!