What happened in 2022

What happened in 2022

Techchill happened again – life changing as ever

Over the years I’ve fallen in love with the structure of Techchill. Small venue, over these few days people start recognizing faces and they remember talks in coffee cue or at Karma Ventures sponsored matchmaking area table. These random deep talks usually lead to some new thoughts – ending genrating new various ideas and discussions. And so did it happen this year.

How did I end up in VC land

I had the honor to advise a young entrepreneur, how he could establish a VC. We had more frequent meetings over 6 months or so, more often since StartupDay. Meeting at Techchill he proposed that I should join him on this journey as a General Partner. We had several meetings and discussions, why, what, who, how, when. For me it was unclear why would world need another VC. We spent number of hours designing operations and value propositions. Finally I said my hesitant – yes to the project.

What went well, what went wrong, what still holds strong

Now, looking back at it – typical startup journey. Lots of heat, enthusiasm, power, ambition, uhhh – I loved it. Yet I was questioning myself all the time – why? As a reflection afterwords, we aleays say – should have I known how much pain it causes and is, I would have not started it at all. It is true.

What went well:

  • We managed to assemble a unique concept that addressed primarily founders, then investors, then was more-less balanced.
  • We managed to do the math and it seemed really promising (not as good as startup, but still).
  • We managed to attract attention with our different concept among early angels.
  • We managed to collect soft commitments over 350k in under 1 months time. All together we had soft commitments over €1,5M.
  • We got Hedman Partners as our lawyers to do the paperwork, and we chose the syndicate model to start with.
  • We managed to define the profile we were looking for as small pocket investor AND mentor in 1 person – to give the maximum value for startup founders.
  • We managed to get startups interested in such mentoring and investing entity.
  • We assembled validation process that worked for investor-mentors and startups.
  • We got our website and infrastructure done in 1 months time thanks to our very capable and flexible partners.
  • I got an invitation to take a stage and share my experiences.

What went wrong:

  • Ukrainian – Russian war started and investors got scared.
  • Legal paperwork took few months longer than anticipated, and it wasn’t lawyers fault.
  • Aligning startups meeting the same criteria was impossible.
  • We learnt that startups don’t speak legal English, even as industry related books and Google translator is freely available.
  • We seriously underestimated the amount of time (cost) every process took, even though we used hired assitant and optimised everything we had learnt by the time from our previous businesses.
  • I had to apart my ways from the person who tricked me into VC world, as I found details that were not aligned with my values, principles, beliefs. My ex-co-founder withheld information, didn’t understand the meaning of role distribution, stalled our speed by not responding, could not choose whether to be active or silent co-founder. So I had to ask if to petray my investors and roll-back, or keep on going and to replace my co-founder -which I did. And am thankful for it.
  • We could not raise €1M, what was our target at first. VC as a business converted into a very expensive hobby for founders.
  • We could not onboard those startups that we wanted to validate, as financial and startup literacy is pretty poor at very early stage – we were targeting pre-seed stage, MVP, little revenue, core team onboarded.
  • I had a personal issues – my father died suddenly.
  • We got time-pressure to execute so we could have our final syndicate investor’s meeting before Christmas.
  • And, due to the call to share my VC journey at stage we had to get this experience at first. We wanted to convert this opportunity into our success. Which we couldn’t in the end. Yet it was absolutely brilliant and rapid learning process.

What still holds strong:

  • It became obvious – we don’t know anything. Who says anything else – lies. Frankly, nobody knows. Startups don’t know their business, their market… they are extremely green at this stage. They need way more support and guidance. Investors-mentors are a different breed. Who invests, does not mentor. Who mentors, does not invest. Who does both, is no good at both. So our concept failed us.
  • 2 months rule still holds. Once I realised I was walking around my eyebrows up for 2 months – it means something was wrong, and I had to make the decsion. Trust your gut-feeling, even if you can’t articulate it out. And you need time to feel your gut-feeling. Investing is not a fast business. If someone rushes you – stay off. Everything has to seem right and feel right. If not after 2 months – let it go, it does not work. But the thing is, you just can’t see everything without being engaged long enogh, that is 2 months.
  • Angel Syndicate is a nightmare model to run. Most of investors are interested in someting they don’t know of. Once they learn – they disappear. Getting answers and decisions or opinions takes a lot of effort. Getting investors to contribute – really hard challenge. Yet we had a full house at our final investing meeting. Humbly thankful for all our investors who showed up and helped to analyze and discuss about challenges and opportunities.
  • Hardships teach you about you and your partners. Our core team of investors interact frequently, event hough investments are made, process is ongoing. All startups from the first cohort are extremely nice people with whom we’d like to do follow-up rounds. Some businesses didn’t take off at all. Some pivoted later and are on the growth mode. Some are “floating”. I made ton of new connections because of my experience and new role. My admiration towards those VCs who keep on doing this absolutely brutal work grew overnight. It looks fancy, cash and stuff, but it’s way harder than running a startup where you have such a freedom to do what’s legally possible.

Taking the stage in Prague as a VC

Once I was proposed the opportunity, I obviosly took it. Did I know my father would die? No. Did I in my dreams imagine how much work I had to put in to go to Engaged Investments event, being prepared enough to be me and not to pretend to be someone I am not. I am strict believer that “fake it till you make it” is not the right approach. So I did everything to meet the criteria, for me, internally. And obviously I failed. I caused a drama. And I decided to learn from it, to convert it into something I could use in the future. And I believe I have managed to convert it. It was a crash course into VC world, and I crashed, without seatbelts. I gathered my remains and became stronger, more competent, less hesitant, calmer, cleared vision of what we do, why we do, how we do, with whom we do. Having this highly experienced people in your inner circle opens your eyes to next levels. And one has to take all the stairs to get up from below the water level.

What waits me up-front in 2023

Looking forward to join startups as a business advisor. 2022 has been extra intense and obligations, as a founding partner at Fstage VC, oblige me to guide the VC business to strive. Utterly thankful for all these meetings with all well educated and experienced business owners and experts in VC and financial world. May 2023 bring us as much new smart connections and friends. May it be prosperous year for you either!

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