So here we are, the business end of 2017. Most companies are typically winding down for the holidays at this time of year. Or simply making sure they have their end-of-year-report ducks in a row. Not us. We have growth on our mind.
That’s why now seems as good a time as any to start building momentum for 2018. We’ll need some help with that. Enter the Starttech family’s newest member: Lefteris Bibakis, who is taking on the role of Investment Director.
An experienced investment banking and business development professional, Lefteris joins Starttech with one simple mission: to bring his expertise and entrepreneurial drive to our effort in raising a new investment fund. He will also help the continued effort to explore opportunities with early stage tech startups from the East Mediterranean region.
In typical Starttech fashion, we barely let him get through the door before poking him with a stick, and asking him a few questions. So, here’s what he had to say about his exciting new role with us.
Q1: So Lefteris, welcome aboard, how have you settled in so far?
Hmm settled? Not really as there are so many things to do and look into! It’s very nice being a member of the Starttech team, I am positively surprised with the energy, team spirit and how professionally things are done. Definitely meeting world class standards. Hopefully, everyone who is in Starttech realises how privileged she/he is.
Q2: Tell us a bit about your role as Investment Director. What is on the agenda for you and the team in the coming months, both long term and short-term?
What I can tell about my role is that is very challenging and that was one of the main reasons I accepted it. There are a lot of things to learn but also transmit into the team and the mentality of the members mainly coming from the world of finance. The short term target is to prepare the ground and leverage on the experience and success of Starttech so far in order to launch an Angel Fund. Long term target is to amplify our business with a bigger fund and scale up.
Q3: Starttech evolved into a specialized hybrid early stage seed investor and unique long-term accelerator and (now) a Venture Builder for tech startups with some significant successes so far. Why do you think this approach is successful?
Knowledge, I would say, if that had to be a one word answer. Starttech is highly specialized in the arena of B2B startups, with both a commercial and technological background from the founder and partners. This gives us a competitive, or unfair advantage, since due to better understanding of investment, the selection process is more successful. One of the world’s most successful global investors once said “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” His name is Warren Buffet. I think you get my point.
“The Eastern Mediterranean region is a place where young entrepreneurs see problem solving as an opportunity to create a business.”
Q4: And what’s the vision for Starttech in terms of raising an investment fund? In other words, what are the specific characteristics of the fund?
Our target size for the larger fund is $50m. Our objective is to basically extend the scale of what Starttech has been doing since 2012. To invest in software start ups from Greece and greater East Med. region. Why? We like to source founders from this area because it’s a rich “untapped” hotbed of talented and well educated innovators. People with an international mindset and culture, strong entrepreneurial drive, and teamwork mentality. We believe that founders from this region tend to have very strong technical skills as well as entrepreneurial drive (Greece, for example has 2nd largest % of STEM graduate output in Europe, while it ranks 8th in terms of density of developers together with Berlin and London), while the cost structure in that region is extremely competitive (average annual dev. salaries in East Med do not surpass $30K). These facts, combined with our differentiated, hands-on, long-term Venture Building program which fills the crucial commercial, operational and marketing gaps, can generate amazing return on investment – something which has already been demonstrated in the several exits Starttech has handled so far. Finally, capital from our new fund will be invested only in teams that have mature markets as their primary commercial target, such as North America, followed by the UK, Australia and Western Europe.
Q5: Excellent. Sounds like exciting and challenging (in a good way) times are ahead for yourself and Starttech. Just a last cheeky question, if I may, since I like playing the devil’s advocate. If I was an investor, what is it that makes you guys an attractive proposition?
Is the track record not enough for you? Joking, obviously. Well, apart from past successes, and the 17 years of experience in the arena of B2B tech startups, I think Starttech is one of the most focused angel investors and Venture Building organizations out there. We have an extremely high appreciation for capital efficiency and automation, having enthusiastically embraced concepts such as customer development, agile project management and lean startup. Finally, a deal-breaker for me is the differentiated startup building program. A three or six month acceleration term is not enough. When there’s a longer-term commitment with access to first-rate growth marketing, design and operations services, and things like live, real-time access to KPI’s for investors, then everybody wins. And this is the heart of the Starttech offering. I feel it’s very difficult to find such a complementary mix of technological, financial-investment, energy and personality anywhere else.
Thanks for your words of wisdom, Lefteri. Good luck!