One of the growing pains of a startup is finding talent which can add rocket fuel to your business.
Enter Project A Ventures. The European early-stage venture firm, headquartered in Germany and recently launched in the UK, operates a unique model which gives portfolio companies access to talent across a variety of disciplines.
In all, there are 100 experts across key areas such as software engineering, product development, business intelligence, sales, marketing and recruitment.
“We primarily fund European early-stage tech companies that challenge the status quo of their industries,” general partner Uwe Horstmann tells TechBlast. “When we invest, we bring both capital and authentic operational support to the table.
“Our in-house team exclusively helps our portfolio companies scale, and to overcome the challenges a startup faces during its growth.”
The firm, which has offices in London, invests between $1-8 million in its startups and currently has $600m in assets under management. Since its inception in 2012, it has supported more than 70 start-ups in 12 countries: its portfolio includes leading UK tech firms WorldRemit and Unmind.
With a growing number of unicorns and record sums of investment, the European technology market is maturing rapidly. However Horstmann says the continent will continue to focus on early-stage companies for now.
“The US VCs are currently leading at later stage investments, and they are becoming increasingly more active in the European market. As a European VC, we welcome US VC money, because it is testament to the market potential in the continent, and it speaks for the quality and innovation potential of European startups,” he says.
“With foreign VCs bringing the big money for later stage investments, we believe that we European VCs will focus more on investing at early stages. That’s where Europe is the strongest right now.”
Deep tech trend
He believes other VCs will increasingly have to provide extra support to cold hard cash to help scaling companies thrive. “We will see more investments in complex business models: deep tech, B2B and AI technology, a trend that has already begun.
“Furthermore, VCs will have to bring more than just money to the table. It will be talent and operational expertise that startups will need and select from to go even quicker into hyper growth.”
COVID-19 did not pull the rug out from under many startups and scaleups as VCs maintained trust that they could bounce back amid a technological shift post-pandemic – while many others gained business directly during the pandemic.
“The VC space has done remarkably well in the last one and a half years. More venture capital was invested in European start-ups in the first half of 2021 than ever before, also creating more and more unicorns. COVID-19 has also accelerated the investment process,” says Horstmann.
“We haven’t actually met many of our latest seed investments in person. So, a process that used to take months, with several onsite meetings, is now done entirely over Zoom and is completed in weeks. With the amount of venture capital available and the reduced time span of investing, competition has definitely risen in the market.”
The UK remains one of the world’s major technology hubs and commands a significant portion of both capital and talent, says Horstmann, in part thanks to its status as a leading light in FinTech.
One of Project A’s marquee investments this year came into a Berlin-based FinTech, however, after it joined a $900m Series C round into Trade Republic.
The scaleup enables people to buy and sell shares, exchange-traded funds, derivatives and now cryptocurrency through a mobile app – all commission-free.
“Real innovation is where the use of dedicated technology makes a tangible difference and disrupts an established and important industry,” he explains. “FinTech is a great example: players such as neobroker Trade Republic are democratising the way people invest money.
“Other interesting sectors include digital health, B2B, data tools, AI and the manufacturing sectors. These are often unseen by the public, but real technological innovation is happening, and it is making meaningful change.”