After graduating from YCombinator in 2019, VertoFX returns to London and raises a €1.87 million seed round ($2.1 million) to scale into Africa.
Founded in 2017 by Nigerian-born, British ex-bankers Anthony Oduwole and Ola Oyetayo, VertoFX is aiming to solve the significant issues in cross-border payments; with a focus on businesses in emerging markets. The startup was part of the latest YCombinator cohort and has seen 20% month-on-month growth in transaction volumes since launch.
London-based VertoFX provides a one-stop service that lets companies gain easy access to foreign currencies and make international payments to their suppliers abroad seamlessly. The founders originally conceived of the idea over a game of poker in 2017 while comparing notes about friends with businesses in Africa that were struggling to access foreign exchange to make international payments. Since then, the company has gained FCA approval, opened accounts in 19 currencies and is currently processing millions of dollars in monthly transaction volumes for businesses.
Cross-border payments and foreign exchange are complex and largely depend on correspondent banking infrastructure. Current solutions from incumbents such as banks and more recent digital challengers are costly and lack transparency. This problem is more acute for companies in emerging markets that deal with exotic currencies that are sometimes illiquid or infrequently traded. By utilising a peer-to-peer model where businesses with foreign currency needs are matched with each other via algorithms on a regulated and secure platform, VertoFx enables these businesses to access currencies cheaper, faster and more securely.
A typical VertoFX customer, for example, could be a South-African based Solar energy company with suppliers from China which it needs to pay in RMB or USD on a weekly basis. VertoFX provides a solution for this with its advanced tech-stack and marketplace business model. It connects these companies and uses its networks of banks and infrastructure relationships to provide simpler settlement times plus liquidity in local currencies.
The investment will be used to scale technology; launch in additional markets; expand its operations; and increase the number of currencies it can offer on its platform. VertoFX also plans to increase its banking network and partnerships. This will facilitate an increase in geographical reach, enabling access to trade corridors that are currently under-served.
VertoFX CEO Ola Oyetayo commented: “We are in the early stages of helping businesses in emerging markets solve a significant problem they currently face and the funds we have raised will help put some fuel in our bus for the journey. We spoke to a number of investors after YC’s demo day but ADV’s patient capital ethos resonated strongly with Anthony and I. We are glad to have them and everyone else that participated in the round on board and are especially thankful to YCombinator for teaching us to build something people want.”
Tong Gu, Investment Lead at ADV commented: “The VertoFX team has already shown an incredible amount of tenacity in relocating for the YCombinator programme. This will stand them in good stead as they embark on a huge mission and deliver their solution to the worlds emerging markets. With the product, regulatory license and team already in place, the team has made great progress and we’re so excited to be part of this journey with them.”
Gamaya, a prominent and rapidly growing Swiss AgTech startup, active in the field of digital agriculture, announced it has raised about €10.9 million (12 million CHF) in a Series B financing round, including 4.2 Million CHF raised via convertible bonds earlier. The financing round was led by Mahindra and Mahindra, a global Indian enterprise with an established footprint in agriculture. Existing investors ICOS Capital and VI Partners have also joined the round.
Founded in 2015, Gamaya develops high-value crop solutions for its partners and customers based on drone and satellite imagery. Gamaya is an innovator in hyperspectral imaging, embedded cameras, and artificial intelligence. It has developed a unique hyperspectral camera and IP around the translation of spectral imaging data into actionable insights using machine learning. Gamaya works with partners to complement its outstanding technological capabilities with local agronomy knowledge and market access.
“We strongly believe in partnering, and having a strategic investor like Mahindra and Mahindra will help open new doors and develop our ability to combine our technological expertise with the agronomic and market understanding of strategic partners. We’ve been working with Mahindra & Mahindra for a few years now and this successful work materialized in Mahindra’s decision to make an investment” – said Yosef Akhtman, CEO of Gamaya.
Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is the world’s largest tractor manufacturer by volume with a +40% share of the tractor market in India. Several years ago the company began to actively expand beyond its home market and made a number of strategic acquisitions in different countries to source advanced technologies and to build on-ground presence. In India, Mahindra & Mahindra’s footprint stretches beyond farm equipment into chemicals, seeds and agronomy advisory. M&M’s strategy is to use digital and precision farming technologies to add value to its tractors and farm equipment and provide a fully integrated service to farmers. M&M already has several ongoing digital agriculture services including the digital advisory app MyAgriGuru that provides information critical for the daily decision-making of farmers as well as Tringo, a digitally enabled service that allows farmers to rent tractors and other farm equipment.
Speaking on the strategic partnership, Rajesh Jejurikar, President, Farm Equipment Sector Mahindra & Mahindra said, “With agriculture increasingly becoming technology-intensive, we at Mahindra are investing in the future-ready technologies to provide complete solutions to the global farming community. Our strategic association with Gamaya will enable us to develop and deploy next-generation farming capabilities such as precision agriculture and digital farming technologies. With this partnership, we expect to set new benchmarks in farming and its related services”.
After four years of developing leading-edge imaging technologies, Gamaya now is at the doorstep of commercializing them. The investment will enable the company to focus on commercial activities, further strengthen the commercial team and grow a local presence in 2 target markets. Gamaya will continue investing in building an industrial and scalable IT infrastructure and hardware to support business needs. Building partnerships and launching strategic product development activities based on our core technology are among the key priorities for the company.
Nityen Lal, Managing Partner at ICOS Capital, who are investors in Gamaya, stated: “Digital technology will deliver high-quality actionable information to help farmers realize higher yields while also improving the sustainability of agriculture. Gamaya has advanced technology that is already delivering tangible benefits to farmers. The partnership with Mahindra & Mahindra will accelerate the global rollout of Gamaya crop solutions.”
Madrid’s emergence as a city of opportunity and a gateway to Latin America, along with a high quality of life make it a melting pot for talent. Its an extremely livable city, with excellent infrastructure and one of the friendliest atmospheres in the world.
Though Madrid is the largest city in Spain, the capital city, the political center and one of the world’s top tourist destinations, only recently has the city been considered as one of Europe’s biggest startup hubs. And while in other metropolises across Europe, innovative hubs have been created with the help of government initiatives, Madrid has been lacking the entrepreneurial vision necessary to support the development of an ecosystem for the long-term.
Surprisingly, the city’s lack of determination when it comes to ‘entrepreneurship-policy’ has resulted in some sort of a natural selection of the district of Arganzuela, where creativity and a collection of industries are colliding, turning the neighbourhood into a hub for startups, creatives and innovative companies. Arganzuela lies on the southern outskirts of the center of Madrid, it’s one of the Spanish capital’s 21 districts which also happens to be the city’s fastest-growing district, the greenest and most dynamic.
Despite the city’s lack of entrepreneurial leadership, Madrid can still be considered a success story. The tech scene in Madrid has grown considerably in the last few years, becoming an IT business hub in the country. And admittedly, the prior administration led by mayor Manuela Carmena made some efforts to foster entrepreneurial talent and innovation. The most prominent initiative was the promotion of La Nave, a multifunctional space located in the southern district of Villaverde, across the Manzanares river, where companies, investors, universities and citizens can participate in the development of innovative projects. Since 2016, La Nave has also hosted one of Spain’s main startup events, the South Summit, led by the formidable María Benjumea.
And with new city governance from Begoña Villacís as deputy mayor and José Luis Martínez-Almeida as mayor, things are set to change. Villacís will oversee all matters related to economics, innovation and entrepreneurship; her electoral proposals include the creation of Madrid’s very own innovation super-hub, the promotion of creative industries, and the establishment of a public-private innovation agency, among other initiatives.
“One of our flagship proposals is to take advantage of the Mercado de Toledo,” she said. “It will be a technology and knowledge center which will house coworking and networking spaces… it’s time to take advantage of the synergies being created in Arganzuela.” The hub will also promote initiatives around sustainability, the environment, safety, and the general well-being of citizens, according to Villacís.
The national government is also advancing new initiatives and laws to make processes easier for startups in Spain. Recently, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez advanced a set of new initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship to create a country for entrepreneurs.
So, while Madrid still has a long way to go to catch up to London or Berlin, the ecosystem in the Spanish capital has grown rapidly over the last five years. And if you add Madrid’s and Barcelona’s figures together, Spain has the makings of a ‘startup nation’.
The sky is the limit for tech, innovation, and creatives in Madrid. Here is an overview of the startup institutions, and people that comprise Madrid’s startup ecosystem:
The city’s top startup hubs
La Nave – A public facility and current home to Madrid’s Innovation Campus, La Nave is a 13,000 square meter former factory that has been converted into a meeting point for innovation and aimed at developing different activities, the dissemination of new technologies, and collaboration between social agents as a driver for growth in the city. Currently operated by the innovation agency Barrabes, La Nave seeks to promote training and employability, as well as scientific and technical dissemination, which is why its events are open to the general public, as well as entrepreneurs, SMEs, companies, students, universities, and public administrations. Every October since 2016, La Nave hosts South Summit, Spain’s flagship startup event.
Mercado de Toledo (coming soon) – Inspired by the innovation hubs created in Lisbon and Paris (Hub Criativo Beato and Station F, respectively), the new city-government will promote the creation of an innovation super-hub, currently a mostly unused 20,000 square meter building owned by the city, and situated between the city-center and the Arganzuela district. The city seeks to create a technology and innovation center which will house coworking and networking spaces, the city’s new innovation agency, and act as connector of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Mercado de Toledo will be central as it’s set to become a catalyst for entrepreneurship in Madrid and Spain overall.
Google Campus – located in Arganzuela’s barrio Imperial in a neo-Mudejar building, this has been a meeting point for business people and entrepreneurs since 2015. The Campus is part of the Google for Startup program (formerly known as Google for Entrepreneurs), consisting of working spaces and accelerators in over 100 countries around the world. Its campuses are located in 7 different cities spanning across Europe, Asia, and South America, and Madrid is fortunate to host one of them.
Matadero – The city’s old slaughterhouse, built at the beginning of the 20th century in Arganzuela by the banks of the Manzanares river, is today a huge complex devoted to culture and the creative industries. It’s home to several startups, the incubator Factoria Cultural, the coding school Ironhack, Telefonica’s e-Sports teams, and various design, arts and cultural agencies. It also houses several theatre and gallery facilities, and its programs include an impressive number of events and exhibitions.
Impact Hub Madrid –part of an international social innovation network with various venues all over the world, Impact Hub Madrid landed in Madrid in 2010. Their spaces are designed for working, training sessions and networking, and are aligned with the organization’s vision to inspire and enable those who want to impact society. They are best known for their location in Calle de Gobernador, very close to the Prado Museum. In addition to this establishment, there are other centers in Madrid in Calle Alameda, 22 (Literary Quarter), Calle Piamonte, 23 (Chueca), Calle Serrano Anguita, 13 (Justice Quarter) and in Plaza Pablo Ruiz Picasso, 1 (Financial District).
The Cube – A meeting point for entrepreneurs in the north-east part of town. It’s one of Madrid’s biggest innovation and entrepreneurial hubs, where innovation and technology come together under one roof. The Cube is a 5,000 square meters created by Unlimiteck, one of the leading company builders in Spain. This tech-hub specializes in IoT, meetups, and events. It’s home to numerous startups and to the agency MIDE (Madrid Innovation Driven Ecosystem), which is the first collaborative platform to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Madrid.
Utopicus – when you talk innovation and entrepreneurship in Madrid, you’ve got to mention Utopicus. They’re a leader and benchmark in Madrid when it comes to coworking and projects that combine innovation, creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Utopicus also runs a school with the latest trends, a business agency and Zinc Shower, an annual event which offers a platform for the most innovative ideas and for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to come together.
Spotahome – Arganzuela- based Spotahome is one of Spain’s better known startups, arguably one of the top Spanish startups to look out for in the coming future. Spotahome provides an easy way to find and book residential rentals 100% online, specializing in mid-to-long term stays. Spotahome is the first Spanish startups to receive backing from a leading Silicon Valley VC, after being fueled by a €40 million round led by Kleiner Perkings in 2018. The company is growing fast, present in 11 cities across eight European countries. Spotahome was the winner of the 2016 South Summit Startup Competition.
Wetaca– When Efrén Álvarez y Andrés Casal started their company four years ago, the objective was simple, “for everybody to eat healthy everyday with almost no effort and for not too much money”. The startup delivers meals that last you an entire week. After exceeding €2 million in revenues in 2018, they expect to finish 2019 reaching €4 million in sales, delivering more than 2,300 meals per week. They operate in Madrid and recently announced starting operations in Zaragoza. Even though the well-known business angell Luis Martín Cabiedes invested €300k in the company in 2016, Wetaca has been profitable since the very beginning.
bipi – Provides vehicle rental services, offering car rentals, along with insurance, parking assistance, and other related services on a subscription basis. The startup provides access to a car in an easy, flexible, and convenient way, with one monthly fee that includes everything but petrol. Bipi raised €2.5 million in a funding round in 2017.
Triporate – Founded in 2017, Triporate is a business travel platform that uses AI to plan trips efficiently, saving companies both money and time. Businesses can simply send Triporate an email specifying what they need, and the startup will respond with personalized trip proposals that follow company policies. Companies then choose the most appropriate option, and can pay for multiple trips all in one bill. The startup has raised a total of €380k across two funding rounds.
The city’s most active VCs
K Fund – An early stage VC firm that, with an entrepreneur-centric philosophy, aims to fuel the evolution of the Spanish startup ecosystem. It was founded in 2016 by Inaki Arolla, Carina Szpilka, and Ian Noel with a €50 million fund, and has so far invested in 29 startups including companies such as Hubtype, Bdeo, Sportvillage, Exoticca, and Keatz.
Samaipata Ventures –Samaipata is a venture capital fund founded in 2016, investing in early stage marketplaces & disruptive e-commerce businesses across Europe. The firm was founded by Jose del Barrio, a former entrepreneur who pioneered food delivery services in Spain with La Nevera Roja, which was acquired by German group Rocket Internet for €80 million, and later acquired by Just Eat. Samaipata has made 23 investments, including investments in Spotahome, OnTruck, and 21Buttons.
Bonsai Venture Partners – A private fund focused on internet investments, Bonsai is the venture arm of the family office of Javier Cebrián Sagarriga, who has been investing in Spanish startups for over a decade. Bonsai has invested in more than 30 companies, including some well-known companies such as Tuenti, Infojobs, Idealista, Glovo, Wallapop and Top Rural.
The Venture City – These are the new kids on the block. The Venture City launched a $100 million fund in 2017, and they are co-headquartered in Miami and Madrid. The Venture City’s mission is to redefine the tech acceleration model through a worldwide network of disruptive growth hubs stretching from Miami, FL to Silicon Valley and Madrid, Spain.
Kibo Ventures – A $60 million early stage fund. Kibo initially invests in the €250-€750k range as the first institutional investor and follow-on as the company grows. They invest in digital companies that are internet or mobile based, with portfolio companies including 21Buttons, bipi, and coverwallet.
Madrid’s most active business angels
Yago Arbeloa – Yago is the founder and president of Hello Media Group, a creative and advertising agency. Yago is President of the Association of Internet Investors and Entrepreneurs (AIEI). Before founding Hello Media, he set up Sync.es, an ISP startup that he sold in 2011 to Arsys (later acquired by 1 & 1). In addition to being an entrepreneur, Yago also acts as an investor in startups, with contributions of between €50 and €100k, among which are We are knitters, iContainers, Clever PPC, Safecreative, Startupxplore, Wazypark, Holded, Hooks, Indexa, Sendy, Offemily, Lord Wildmore, PlayItApp, Vitamin K, Smartycontent, Ludei, Zacatrus, and Novicap.
Martin Varsavsky – An Argentine entrepreneur based in Madrid who founded several companies worldwide, including Urban Capital, Medicorp Sciences, Viatel, Jazztel, EINSTEINet, Ya.com, Eolia and FON. Today, Varsavsky is the Chief Executive Officer of Overture Life, and Chairman at Prelude Fertility, which run fertility facilities and treatment. He is also a partner-investor in startups such as Gspace, Joost, Menéame, Netvibes, Plazes, Hipertexual, Hootsuite, Busuu, Tumblr, Menéame, Technorati, Vpod, Wikio, Xing, Zudeo and Index Ventures.
François Derbaix – François Derbaix is one of the most respected voices in the Spanish startup ecosystem. Born in Belgium, François came to Spain in 2000 to create his first startup, Toprural, with his wife Marta Esteve. Three years later they launched another venture, Rentalia, and in 2012 they were both sold to Homeaway and idealista, respectively. Derbaix is also a mentor at Barcelona-based accelerator SeedRocket, and has invested in 35 companies as a business angel.
Jesús Encinar: Jesús is best known as the founder of Idealista, Spain’s main real estate platform for renting, buying and selling houses and flats. He’s a member of the advisory board of Seaya Ventures, one of Spain’s most important VC firms, and he has invested in various startups.
Utilities everywhere struggle with the “last mile”, where tough landscapes, unreliable infrastructure and poor connectivity make operations difficult and costly. In the hardest to reach places, consumers go unserved, relying on fuel alternatives that cost 10 to 100x more than grid power. As a result, two billion people have little or no access to electricity.
Manchester-basedSteamaCo uses smart metering technology to provide utilities via micro grids in Africa and Asia. Its technology uses less than 100kB of communications data per meter per month, which enables utilities to operate in previously unreachable locations. The potential market for such technologies is vast. Mini grids, for example, could provide electricity for up to 500 million people by 2030, according to a recent World Bank report.
SteamaCo, which also has offices in Kenya, has just raised €4.4 million in Series B funding. The funding supports the company’s continued technology development and growth, enabling reliable electricity services for hundreds of thousands of previously underserved people across 10 countries. Praetura Ventures and Shell co-led the investment round, with participation from existing shareholders.
“We are delighted to welcome Praetura and honoured to have continued participation from existing shareholders,” said Harrison Leaf, CEO and co-founder. “Tens of thousands of times each day, our product processes tariffs, monitors grid health and helps technicians, agents and consumers seamlessly go about their daily business. It is hugely motivating to everyone at SteamaCo that our work helps bring electricity to those who have never had it.”
“SteamaCo has expanded over the last two years, including deployments in Nigeria, Kenya, and India,” said Brian Davis, Shell Vice President Energy Solutions. “Through its support of mini grid operations, SteamaCo is just one example of how Shell is moving towards its ambition to deliver a reliable electricity supply to 100 million people in the developing world by 2030.”
Making micro-grids commercially viable in Kenya | SteamaCo, Ashden Award - YouTube
Imagine a man riding a lion. People look at him and think: “This guy’s really got it together! He’s brave!” But the man riding the lion is thinking, “How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?” This is how Toby Thomas, the CEO of EnSite Solutions, describes entrepreneurship.
We constantly idolize and celebrate those who succeed in the entrepreneurial world, but seldom do we ask ourselves: How did they get there? The answer is that most of the time they’ve gone through a lot of hard work, stress, and even depression. But why is building a company such a difficult task? You can find 10 reasons below:
1. Founder mentality – The majority of founders are smart, driven, and skilled people whose experience and knowledge could land them a highly rewarding job – but still, they wake up every morning and decide they want to pursue the entrepreneurial journey, mainly because they are certain that what they want to do can change the world for the better.
According to a study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to have mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and suicidal thoughts.
But some people call it the downside of being up. The same traits that make founders more likely to suffer from mental health conditions are the ones that help them as entrepreneurs – boosting creativity, empathy, adaptiveness, humor, risk-taking, multi-tasking, and crisis-management.
2. The “I am my company syndrome” – As stated before, founders often blur the line between themselves and their ventures, so they tend to take anything that happens in the company personally, even when there’s a big team working together. Many lose themselves in building their ventures – becoming detached from their own needs, disconnected from real life and experiencing the emotional roller coaster of the company as a personal journey.
Experts recommend cultivating an identity apart from your company. This means building other parts of your life like raising a family, working as a volunteer in a charity organization, playing music, or bricolage. It’s important to feel successful in areas unrelated to work.
3. Fear of Failure – The startup world is filled with stories of failure; it’s talked about as if it’s a necessary part of the entrepreneurial journey. Many of the success stories we see today like the ones of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and many others are filled with failures. Nevertheless, founders rarely understand that and naturally develop a fear of failure. Telling your family, friends, investors, or even co-founders that the venture in which you have invested so much time, money, and passion has failed certainly generates unpleasant feelings, mainly because we feel as if our effort was not worth it, the mistakes we made were avoidable and that we are to blame for the outcomes. However worrying about this too much can lead to a pattern of negative thinking, which will with your potential for improvement and the possibility of learning from your mistakes.
No matter what happens, it’s important not to let your fears take over and get in the way of your sleep. While we understand that a million tasks need to be done before sunrise, and sleeping is for some of us a waste of time – our brains need sleep to recover, especially after a long day of work. When you start sleeping enough and resting properly you’ll notice the difference, so do your startup a favor and go to sleep.
4. Financial Risk – In addition to the financial risks that founders and their investors take on, they are the first to go without a paycheck and usually pour a significant portion of their resources into their ventures. This creates enormous financial stress and anxiety, in a scenario where business failure can also lead to financial ruin. While this situation can, if properly managed, be motivating, the threshold for it to become negative is easily surpassed and we as founders put ourselves at emotional and financial risk. Founders who have surpassed that threshold can live under a lot of stress and be unable to focus on what the business needs, bringing their worst fears to reality.
5. Anxiety – Feelings of anxiety tend to feed off of what matters most to us, so naturally they will affect our professional path. Not knowing when a consistent income will arrive or when the business will become profitable can lead to feelings of anxiety. Many founders struggle to function normally because they are constantly worried about their ventures. The desire to succeed can cause them to second guess their decisions and overthink worst-case scenarios. Just like stress, anxiety can develop into a negative behavior pattern that eventually becomes a burden – taking a toll on our emotions and wasting time, energy, and resources that we need to manage our business.
These feelings are nothing new; humanity has faced them for a long time, and we’ve also spent a lot of time studying how to deal with them. One of the most powerful practices manage them is to regularly practice relaxing activities like yoga and meditation. If you’re interested in meditation, check out this list of 10 apps for meditation and relaxation.
6. Uncertainty – The uncertainty of life can leave a deep pit in our stomachs and weigh down on our shoulders. All the fears we project into the future – the what-ifs, the whens, and the hows – morph into doubts and insecurities. Many times our brains invent unrealistic outcomes for these situations, because of the need to create an illusion of certainty to manage anxiety around our lives.
For founders, the ability to envision the future and anticipate job security is sometimes more difficult to obtain, this is because instability usually happens in the first months of a new business. You’ll have sudden surges of consumer interest followed by droughts, you’ll have unexpected necessary expenses appear, major team members leave the company, and even if you think you are prepared for everything, you’re not.
7. Isolation – When founders start a business they tend to have a million tasks they need to complete in order to achieve their vision. This often causes them to spend less time with family, friends and significant others, and many are also required to relocate. As company stress builds up, we are inclined to double the amount of work we take on as a natural response to an emergency. This behavior tends to further affect us by muting our supportive relationships and reducing our ability to cope with pressure. Isolation can also appear in other forms as we might feel unsupported or isolated in taking a nontraditional professional path.
Remember that you’re not alone in this journey; there are founders just like you all around the world facing problems everyday. Online you can find a lot of communities and forums where you can ask questions, read other experiences, and understand how other founders managed to resolve their problems, and find inspiration and support.
8. Imposter Syndrome – Founders often suffer a form of fear that they will be exposed as frauds, as if they don’t belong there or that they’re not fully capable of achieving their goals. Despite evidence of their competence, when we suffer from Imposter Syndrome we remain convinced that we are frauds and do not deserve what we have achieved. This leads to us mistakenly thinking that our success is attributed to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking we are more intelligent than we perceive ourselves to be. In a similar way that misattribute our success to luck, we can take too much blame for any failures. This generates feelings of shame and disconnection, and discourages us from seeking help, which can lead to depression.
9. Burnout or Overloading – Founders can easily fall into a in a never-not working mentality – forgoing opportunities for rest, fun, and connection, and causing us to become sleep deprived, over-caffeinated and emotionally disengaged. The pressure can be overwhelming, as can be managing the emotions that come with it, is a skill we must develop throughout the journey, because the same way a rubber band breaks when its extended, we can break ourselves when those behaviours and feelings are not properly managed. Burnout feels as if you had just completed three triathlons and can’t get up from the exhaustion mentally and physically.
If you’re experiencing distress, situations that are out of your control, or you just feel that your life is being negatively affected by your business, it’s extremely important to ask for help; don’t hesitate to seek out a mental health professional.
10. Health Concerns – All these feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and depression can easily make founders avoid thoughts of sticking to a healthy diet or exercising daily and make priorities for the wellness of the company to be on top of their self-care and personal wellness. New entrepreneurs often neglect their health by eating too much or too little, failing to exercise and less than what they need.
Taking care of your body is your first line of defense against emotional distress; the connection between the mind and the body is strong and reciprocal. When you have a nasty cold you feel unmotivated, distracted, and irritable – your body drags your mood down. In a similar manner when you suffer from one or more of the described feelings, your body can begin to break down, and it can take a severe toll on our health.
Building a company brings with it a lot of hardships to endure, problems to solve, feelings to manage, behaviours to avoid, risks to mitigate, and other things that are not listed here. But don’t worry – overcoming them is not an impossible task. It’s highly recommended that you identify and understand them before they take a negative impact on your life.
Founded in 2016, Berlin-based startup ecoligo offers ‘Solar-as-a-Service’ contracts, in which it provides commercial and industrial businesses in emerging markets with the necessary financing for solar projects through crowdfunding. The startup also takes care of the construction, installation, scheduled maintenance, operation, and management of solar systems throughout the duration of the contract.
The startup has now raised €2.5 million in funding from Saxovent, an experienced renewable energy project developer that has built more than 385 wind turbines since 1997.
After closing a seed round with business angels and InnoEnergy two years ago, ecoligo has successfully rolled out its crowd-financed Solar-as-a-Service concept in key markets in Central America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The funding will be used to scale up operations and enter new markets.
“So far we have brokered a total of more than €2.4 million on the crowd investing platform ecoligo,” said ecoligo CEO Martin Baart. “To date, we have successfully implemented more than 20 solar projects in East and West Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia and thus already have a relevant global influence.”
“With the funds raised, we are investing in the expansion of the existing hubs in Ghana, Kenya and Costa Rica and opening new locations in Southeast Asia,” added Baart. “At the same time, we will expand our offering in the area of energy efficiency. There is huge potential here in our target markets.”
“Everyone involved benefits financially from the solution: the local companies who reduce their electricity costs, the local service providers through the installation and maintenance of the solar systems and the crowd investors in Germany, who receive an attractive interest rate,” said Saxovent COO Matthias Kittler. “Last but not least, the climate benefits from the replacement of fossil fuels by solar energy.”
Barcelona-based TravelPerk was founded in 2015 to streamline business travel – cutting the time it takes companies to plan a business trip from a few hours to just ten minutes. The startup has been steadily scaling, and counts major unicorns such as Farfetch, Adyen, Transferwise, and GetYourGuide among its customers. For more background on the company, check out our recent interview with its co-founder and CEO, Avi Meir.
TravelPerk has now raised €53 million after raising €38 million last October, bringing its total Series C round to €92.5 million. The follow on funding came from the same investors -Kinnevik, Partners of DST Global, Target Global, Felix Capital, Sunstone, and LocalGlobe.
Currently, TravelPerk’s platform hosts the world’s largest bookable travel inventory, allowing travellers to seamlessly compare, book and invoice trains, cars, flights, hotels and apartments from a range of providers including Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb.
TravelPerk says it plans to use the investment on product development, releasing additional products in the coming weeks and months to give business travellers greater freedom and flexibility, while ensuring that companies maintain control over their travel spend.
“At TravelPerk, we believe that travel is the biggest unsolved problem in business today. As a $1.3 trillion global market, it’s staggering that businesses have been stuck for so long with a status quo defined by limited inventory, inflexible booking experiences, and lousy customer support,” said Meir. “We have big ambitions for the next phase of our product development, which will see us quickly bring new offerings to market that don’t just see business travel catch up with consumer travel, but actually surpass it.”
Europe is a huge market for business travel, worth more than €222 billion annually. However it’s also one of the most complex due to its fragmented nature – with challenges including country-specific suppliers, different languages, currencies, local tax, accounting laws, and GDPR compliance. Nevertheless, TravelPerk has decided to conquer its home territory first, concentrating on continuing its European expansion.
“As a fast growing fintech business, our teams travel a lot. Before Travelperk, we were booking flights and hotels through different channels,” said Meliza Jimenez, an office manager for TravelPerk’s customer Adyen. “This was very time consuming and made accurately reporting on our travel expenses really difficult. Since switching to TravelPerk, our travelers can book their whole trip through one channel and we can easily keep track of our reporting.”
2019 has been an exceptional year for the business with a 300% increase in revenue on the platform, a 250% increase in headcount since the start of the year, and new office openings in London and Berlin. Recent strategic partnerships with Lufthansa, Trainline, Spendesk, and Expensify have further enhanced its inventory and experience.
“We are excited to see Avi and his team hitting and surpassing their objectives, as a result we are doubling up our investment as part of this large Series C,” said Antoine Nussenbaum, partner at Felix Capital. “We’re delighted to be strengthening our relationship with TravelPerk and look forward to seeing the business continue to grow. We are particularly thrilled about the new features soon to be released which will materially transform the traveller experience – building on TravelPerk’s leadership position as the new standard for business travel.”
N26 today announced a $170 million extension of their Series D funding round to $470 million. The extension drives N26’s valuation to $3.5 billion, making it the highest valued German startup. The Mobile Bank now also ranks among the most valuable European startups and the top ten of the most valuable FinTechs worldwide. N26’s goal is to give everyone the opportunity to bank and live their own way.
All previous investors from the Series D funding round in January 2019 extended their investment in the company, thus underpinning their confidence in N26’s future growth and overall success. Among the participants are many of the world’s most established investors, including Insight Venture Partners, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund), Tencent, Allianz X, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Earlybird Venture Capital, and Greyhound Capital. To date, N26 has raised more than $670 million.
“Once again, our investors have placed their trust in us. This will allow us to accelerate our global expansion. The further increase in valuation is a great testament to the company’s development over the last months,” says N26 co-founder Maximilian Tayenthal.
N26 will use the additional funds to drive expansion in Europe, the US, and Brazil. The company will also invest in innovative new features. For example, N26 recently started relaunching its premium membership offering N26 You, and will soon launch Shared Spaces. Whether it’s splitting bills for a flatshare or planning the next group holiday, Shared Spaces will enable customers to create sub accounts within N26 and share them with up to 10 people. N26 also plans to continue its heavy investment in organizational and structural growth. Within the last 12 months, N26 has tripled its workforce to more than 1,300 employees and will continue hiring for its locations in Berlin, New York, Barcelona, Vienna and São Paulo.
“The notion that the best consumer startups are all born in Silicon Valley is increasingly outdated. N26 is a prime example of digital innovation moving in the opposite direction, from Europe to the US and beyond. We see customers all around the world waiting for banking to change and are thankful to support N26 on their journey to transform retail banking globally,” says James Fitzgerald, General Partner at Valar Ventures based in NYC.
Since its launch in January 2015, N26 has experienced an extraordinary success story. Today, the Mobile Bank serves more than 3.5 million customers in 24 European markets, with 16 million transactions per month. Last week, the Mobile Bank launched its mobile banking app in the US, its first market outside of Europe. The company plans to launch next in Brazil and aims to reach over 50 million customers worldwide in the coming years.
Global Startup Awards, the largest independent startup-ecosystem competition, has announced 3 new regions joined its network this year, now covering 64 countries in 7 regions of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Startups on different verticals and maturity levels, investors, acceleration programs, founders, coworking offices, digital nomads and software development agencies are welcomed to apply or to be nominated.
National Finalists in each participating country will be competing first on a national, then on a regional level, and regional winners will be announced at the regional Grand Finales in each region, which are not only about the Awards Ceremony, but also invite-only Ecosystem Summits that are only available for the winners and stakeholders of the competition, just like juries, ambassadors and country partners.
“Ecosystem Summits are the most important perks for our winners and partners, where we bring together the high level representatives of startups, investors, corporate accelerators, coworking offices and individuals, selected by the competition, having not more than 150-200 people spending quality time together to meet and make business connections with each other.” – says Péter Kovács, Co-Founder and Head of Friendships.
The selection process is fully transparent and participation in the competition is completely free. Organizers also confirm they under no circumstances sell any data and that no fees are charged for anything related to the competition or the events.
“Joining the competition brings lots of opportunities for startups and other ecosystem players on a longer run, not only by being recognized and connected with each other, but also through unique programs we develop with governments and corporates, just like match-startup-program.com” – says Kim Balle, Co-Founder and CEO.
Tallin-based startup Vumonic Datalabs uses AI to obtain and analyze online user behaviour data from various sources, providing clients with advanced real-time reports on customer usage patterns, competitor analysis and market shares.
Founded in 2018, the startup has announced a €200k pre-seed funding round led by United Angels VC, along with Trind VC and Startup Wise Guys. Vumonic startup plans to use the funds to hire top talent, and expand to over 40 countries.
Vumonic targets highly competitive business segments such as e-commerce, ride-hailing, food delivery, and online travel and ticketing, providing them market insights. The company launched in 2018, and is operational in Africa, Europe, and India.
“Startup Wise Guys is known for being the first believers in early stage teams. In such cases, 99% of the decision comes down to founder teams with great ambition and strong values,” said Cristobal ‘El Patron’ Alonso, Global CEO at Startup Wise Guys. “Vumonic represents this. Their rapid growth is a testament to our acceleration process, as well as the strong will of Gabriel, Aravind, and the Vumonic team. Keep an eye on Vumonic as they drive growth towards their next round.”
“Our mission is to serve market intelligence data to the world’s leading online businesses by applying non-traditional, cutting-edge technologies to classical market research problems,” said Gabriel Appleton, co-founder of Vumonic. “Today’s ride-hailing, food delivery, travel/ticketing, and e-commerce markets are highly competitive and expanding internationally at a rapid rate. We provide our clients with a massive leg-up against the competition. Using our data and insights, companies can strategize much more effectively.”
Vumonic has faced a number of challenges along its journey, from adhering to strict GDPR data processing standards to designing elaborate, scalable, and secure systems for storing huge quantities of data. The startup has already attracted notable talent by bringing on one of India’s leading data scientists, with over twenty years’ experience at Nielsen.