At the end of 2014, global boutique advisory firm U-Start launched a $30m venture capital fund (read our news here). U-Start Ventures will be led by partners Viktoriya Tigipko, Teodoro D’Ambrosio and Marco Valta. In order to introduce the initiative, Valta answered our questions about their targets and approach. He also shared with us his thoughts about some interesting tech trends.
FinSMEs: Hi Marco, thank you for joining us. Firstly, can you tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
Marco: I’m a entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience in the tech/web industry. Among the projects we incubated there is BravoAvia, a JV with Bravofly, Hotelscan (hotel meta search engine) and Topmall (e-commerce/marketplace platform). As an investor, I partnered with TA Venture, a Luxemburg-based venture capital fund operating globally but with a focus on emerging markets, which more easily accept and adopt innovation. We focused on sound, off-to-online business models in such sectors as ecommerce, fintech, travel, marketplaces, exiting twelve companies to date (including the IPO of Bravofly) with a 4x portfolio value.
FinSMEs: Now U-Start Ventures? Why have you launched this new fund?
Marco: We decided to launch the fund, following a successful partnership with U-Start in the framework of IDCEE, the annual non-for-profit conference on Internet technologies and innovations that was started from our partner Viktoriya.
FinSMEs: What’s the fund approach?
Marco: We follow an opportunistic approach investing in seed (25%) and growth (75%) stage startups operating in large markets in fast growing countries such as Germany, USA, India, Russia, UK, Brazil, and others, even leveraging the global network of U-Start.
In terms of amount, we intend to invest €50k to €100k in each operation in exchange of an up to 5% equity stake. We consider live projects run by tendentially proven (already successful teams) with a validated business model and a clear exit strategy.
FinSMEs: What do you like to see in startup teams?
Marco: In a few words, I like to see passion for what they do, which also means focus on their project. Experience and preparation help succeed, of course.
FinSMEs: When do you plan start investing?
Marco: We are now in the fundraising phase with the first close of the fund (€10m) expected within June 2015. Following it, we will start investing.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about tech trends. What are you fascinated by?
Marco: I’m personally interested in the Internet of Things, which promises to improve our lives by making our homes and cities smarter, for example. In my opinion, it will massively grow in the next years. In addition, I’m fascinated by fintech and the innovations capable of disrupting banks and financial services.
FinSMEs: What do you think about Bitcoin?
Marco: Personally, I’m looking at cryprocurrencies with a certain interest. Anyways, as an investor, not being it well defined and regulated, I’m still quite careful as a person at the beginning of the Internet.