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  • Startups must have a North Star metric: Here’s how to choose yours

    Having a North Star metric is the basic hygiene of a startup’s operations. No wonder that big-name companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, and Netflix use it. While assisting over 30 of our portfolio startups, I’ve realized that every company should choose their North Star when they at least have an MVP. This metric helps calibrate big company goals and a product strategy. It sets a focus for the whole team and helps align its departments. Investors look at it, too. How to pick a North Star Highlight up to 10 of your company’s key product metrics. For mobile apps, for example, these can be the number of app downloads, CAC, DAU/MAU, LTV, and conversion rate from downloads to active users. Once you have 10, narrow them down to three. Among the three, choose the leading metric or the one that incorporates others. For apps, teams often set LTV as North Star because it represents the total revenue a customer is expected to bring to the business. One North Star or a few? I think one is better. In the book “Scaling lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth,” Ash Maurya wrote that virtual networking platform IMVU once experienced revenue dip while scaling because its team’s attention was scattered over various metrics. After they focused on one company-wide North Star, their revenue rebounded. Our portfolio startup, Competera, monitors the price acceptance rate as a North Star for its AI-based pricing platform. For another product, providing competitive data for retailers, it tracks the number of delivered data points. The startup's North Stars remain constant. AllRight, an online platform for kids to learn English, changes their North Star once every quarter or half a year — but it’s always one metric at a particular period. They’ve had lead-to-payment conversion, trial-to-payment conversion, monthly student retention rate, and others as North Stars. Since 2022, setting this metric has helped them improve teamwork and triple ROI in 2 years. North Star criteria How to understand if your North Star is right? When it grows, your business grows too. There’s no one recipe for identifying a North Star, however, so I’d advise startups to consider these three criteria. Driving revenue. A North Star directly impacts a company’s financials: As this metric improves, revenue grows. But sticking to revenue as your North Star isn’t the best option because it's rather an indicator showing the outcomes of a company’s activities. Also, revenue can dip or rise due to external factors: seasonality of a particular business, situation on the market, fraud (especially in fintech), or changes in interest rates. But does it usually mean that the product has become worse or better? No. Reflecting value for a customer. A North Star should mirror the essence of your product for a customer. If users are happy with it, the metric grows. For instance, Airbnb’s main value for both a host and a traveler is booking. The company’s North Star is the number of bookings made by customers per week. Demonstrating progress. A North Star must be measurable and trackable over time (once a week/month/quarter, or half a year). You should be able to measure it every time you make a report. When a startup selects its North Star using these criteria, it becomes the primary reference point for decision-making and the "source of truth" showing if the business is moving in the right direction. Liliia Lutsenko, the product analytics advisor for F1V’s portfolio, recommends tracking your North Stars only with internal data tools because they provide 100% accuracy. Read about the types of product analytics tools in her article. In this article, I've used some of the insights from Liliia Lutsenko's webinar on product analytics. Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. Each story can be read in under 5 minutes, enabling you to promptly implement insights into your business. Photo by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

  • Venture capital in 2024: Six predictions from an investor

    Many startups struggled to raise funds in 2023, and they will likely struggle this year. However, 2024 could still bring some interesting market changes: Startup valuations may go up, while the secondary share market may gain more activity. What will remain constant is the diminishing favor of generalist funds in the eyes of LPs, along with high investor interest in AI. Here’s my opinion on how venture capital will change this year. No major shifts in startup valuations Following the startup valuation resets of 2022, early-stage valuations rebounded to a healthier level in 2023. However, they didn't plummet drastically as many had predicted. In 2024, I don't expect significant changes in valuations across all stages. However, if the optimistic interest rate forecasts for 2024 hold true, startup valuations may see a slight increase by the year's end. However, because of the tough environment, VCs may remain cautious about investing at later stages. To get decent exit multiples, late-stage funds might seek to invest at even lower valuations. Once the IPO and M&A market “wakes up,” we might see the trend change. Exits will be on hold The IPO and M&A market didn't see the improvement I anticipated last year, and I think it will remain challenging. Buyers will be very sober when making an offer in 2024, and many deals may be postponed as founders wait for better terms. However, some startups still have the chance to go public. One of the most probable candidates is Klarna. It has been preparing for an IPO for a while, undergoing legal and administrative preparations. Additionally, it became profitable in Q3 2023, which may indicate its readiness to go public. Shein could also go public in 2024. Shein's sales surged over 40%, reaching $24 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, potentially making it the world's largest e-commerce fashion brand by revenue. Stripe is another promising candidate. The company has been contemplating an IPO for a year now. Possible revival in secondary share market Limited partners are now a bit more concerned than before about the liquidity. They understand the situation but ask more questions about market outlook and portfolio performance. If exits remain on hold, there may be a revival in the secondary share market. Early-stage funds may start selling shares in startups more frequently to demonstrate liquidity to their LPs and generate returns. Another trend I'm overseeing: Generalist funds are losing favor in the eyes of LPs as more and more of them are pushing VC firms to become more focused on a particular geography, industry or other factors. At F1V, although we're open to investing in various industries, each member of the investment team has their focus. Mine includes enterprise automation, healthtech, and construction tech. Living inside AI bubble Everything happening in AI right now started just about a year ago. It's a short time to say that the current excitement about AI has ended. The hype is still going strong, and the value of AI startups is still higher than companies in other industries. People won't stop talking about AI, and in the coming year, we'll see more AI tools working with videos. These tools won't just make avatars (like what’s happening right now) but will also generate videos based on text prompts, which can be used in the movie industry or advertising. Also, no-code services will merge closely with what AI can do, people will be able to create their own software without any coding knowledge. Every industry will change as literally everyone will be able to make an AI-powered app/software. In other words, we will have to live with the AI bubble for a while. AI “wrappers” will get in trouble Many AI startups, even those backed by investors in 2023, will close. In particular, this concerns companies that develop "wrappers" for established algorithms or those that use AI to enhance features, rather than building products for everyday use. In 2024, there will be many write-offs; during due diligence, there will be much closer attention to the startups’ defensibility. F1V plans to invest in 10 startups Despite the unhealthy economic climate, our strategy remains steady, much like it was in 2023, when we closed about 10 deals, mainly at seed and pre-seed stages. In 2024, we will continue investing in a similar number of companies as we did last year. We welcome promising founders of early-stage startups to read more about Flyer One Ventures and pitch us at Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. Each story can be read in under 5 minutes, enabling you to promptly implement insights into your business. Photo by Lars Schneider on Unsplash

  • How startups should use product analytics (even without an analyst)

    Understanding and analyzing product metrics can be a game-changer on the path toward healthy unit economics. This article gives a rough picture of what tools early-stage startups can use to collect data, what exactly they should analyze, and how to do it without an in-house analyst. External analytics tools Popular external tools for product analytics External tools are about 70% accurate. They link to your platform and show basic insights on how customers interact with a product. You can track, for example, the number of users who clicked a button to start training in a fitness app and those who completed it. Then, you can identify the drop-offs and their timing. The data can be visualized with the same tools. In the beginning, early-stage startups often use external tools like Mixpanel or Amplitude to track metrics related to product use: activation, adoption, and retention. They are easier to set up than internal tools and typically come with APIs for integration. But in the long run, I recommend switching to internal tools — storing data in internal databases gives more accuracy and control. When it comes to categorizing users or identifying those generating the highest profit, it's also more effective to use internal data tools. Internal analytics tools Popular internal tools for product analytics Internal tools ensure 100% accuracy. They are useful for warehousing and analyzing critical business data, such as registrations and transactions, and evaluating the success rate of core user actions. They keep information in the cloud or other storage systems based on customers’ IDs, including the number and amount of their payments; it allows for a more accurate analysis of each person’s customer journey. I recommend tracking purchase-related metrics with internal tools. The data can be visualized in Tableau or Looker Studio. Using internal data tools requires knowledge of SQL or hiring an analyst. Combining external and internal tools You can use both types of tools for cross-analytics, such as studying both users’ behavior and their spending habits. This gives a full picture: for instance, you can see how many users, after clicking a particular button, made a purchase within a week/month. Using a combination of internal and external tools also helps to segment customers based on feature adoption, and see their impact on revenue. If it’s a meditation app, for example, analysis might show that users who listen to meditation sounds generate twice as much revenue compared to those preferring fairy tales. No in-house analyst? Get insights on your own Early-stage companies often don’t have product analysts on their teams. Here are three ways to find insights on your own. Implement NPS surveys After the first purchase through the Amazon app, you'll see a window with a question: "How likely are you to recommend our product or service to a friend or colleague, on a scale from 0 to 10?" In the space below, you can explain your choice. This is Amazon’s NPS survey. NPS surveys are a great way to assess — at no cost — how satisfied customers are with your product. Based on answers, you can categorize users into detractors (score 0-6), passives (score 7-8), and promoters (score 9-10). Use this data to calculate Net Promoter Score by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Analyze customer churn A startup Х discovers that 60% of its customers leave its platform after the first month of use. This percentage represents the customer churn rate (CCR), indicating the number of users who stop using a product or service. Here's how to study customer churn: Identify customers who stopped using your product (like those who used your platform for six months but at some point stopped). Exclude deactivated accounts and one-time users. Send your ex-users a survey, asking about issues with the product, or analyze their customer journeys. Inquire in the survey if they switched to your competitors’ services and why. Classify reasons for churn. With this data, you can also calculate the percentage of customers who might renew their subscription if you fix the problems. Brainstorm ways to improve the product. Examine drop-offs Scenario: Out of all users who downloaded your app, 80% registered but only 30% actually used the product. This implies that the biggest drop occurs between registration and product use. Here’s how to reduce user drop-offs: Categorize customers who didn’t use the platform in data analytics tools. Find out what they did after the registration instead of completing the target action. Build hypotheses on why they dropped and conduct A/B tests (you can also send them an NPS survey). Liliia Lutsenko is a senior product analyst at Wise and an advisor for the F1V portfolio. Watch her webinar “Numbers that matter: Product analytics for startups” via this link. Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. Each story can be read in under 5 minutes, enabling you to promptly implement insights into your business. Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

  • 3 reasons why Flyer One Ventures invested in Scalestack

    Startup Scalestack, an AI-powered sales co-pilot for large enterprises, raised $1M in a seed round in November 2023. Among investors are Flyer One Ventures, Ripple Ventures, Forum Ventures, Founders Network Fund, and notable angel investors, including leaders in sales ops, serial B2B entrepreneurs, and executives at Salesforce. Here are three reasons why Flyer One Ventures invested in Scalestack. Reason #1. Co-founded by ex-BD director of AWS with 2 sold startups Scalestack was co-founded by Elio Narciso and Alessandro Prioni, both of whom have impressive startup backgrounds. Narciso has already sold his two previous startups, ad-tech platform Mobave and mobile content company Zero9. He also operated as a BD director at Amazon Web Services, where he managed a global startup program for mid- and late-stage enterprise tech startups, including Zapier, Airtable, and Webflow. During his experience with startups through the AWS Global Startup Program, Narciso realized that salespeople spend only 28% of their time actually selling, while the rest of the work time is wasted on researching and organizing data manually. That’s how he came up with the idea of launching a tool that brings all of GTM data together, suggests prioritized actions, and helps execute business sales plays. Alessandro Prioni previously co-founded The Design Project which hit $1M ARR within 2 years. He also served as a COO at Measurence for 6 years and has great experience in operations. Reason #2. Big client MongoDB increased revenue with Scalestack Focusing on partnerships with big companies, Scalestack has signed contracts with MongoDB (used by Toyota, Forbes, Powerledger) and Typeform (used by Apple, Uber, Nike) as customers in the first year of operations. With the AI-sales co-pilot, MongoDB increased its revenue, getting 100,000 accurately enriched accounts per month. The publicly traded company has already expanded its contract with Scalestack for the next year and significantly increased its spending on the tool. After multiple months of using Scalestack, MongoDB’s senior director invested in the startup as an angel. In June 2023, Scalestack started to work with Typeform. As a result of its collaboration, Typeform achieved a 96% lead enrichment rate on average, highlighting the AI tool's ability to prioritize leads and blend with other tools the company uses. Reason #3. Solid product-market fit The AI Sales Assistant Software Market, valued at $30 billion in 2022, is projected to grow to $93 billion by 2032, at a CAGR of 11.7%. The predominant focus within this industry has been on tools aimed at the lower segments of the sales funnel. This conventional approach typically involves a manual — hence, often cumbersome — process of entering prospect data. Scalestack automates processes at the top of the sales funnel. That allows reps to focus on more strategic aspects of sales, like building relationships and closing deals — not on getting bogged down in data entry and initial prospecting. If you are an early-stage startup founder, building a company that aligns with our investment thesis, and seeking to raise funds, you can send your pitch to Maybe we can work together. Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

  • Get ready for 2024 with these 10 hiring trends in the United States, Ukraine and LATAM

    The in-house talent acquisition team at Flyer One Ventures is constantly seeking top tech and non-tech specialists for the firm’s portfolio companies worldwide. We've compiled key recruiting trends that startups should take notice of to acquire their ideal candidates in 2024. Trend #1 Providing a great recruiting experience for candidates was a trend in 2023, and it will continue in 2024. According to a survey conducted by the F1V talent acquisition team, candidates' interactions with both recruiters and hiring managers directly impact their decision to accept a job offer. Trend #2 Compared to previous years, candidates are now more willing to complete test tasks, considering them as a way to demonstrate their expertise. Trend #3 Despite the job market being shaken by massive layoffs in the first half of 2023, acquiring strong senior or C-level executives is still hard. Finding the perfect fit for early-stage startups remains challenging too, increasing the time recruiters spend to fill the the vacancies. Trend #4 Hiring people from around the world is becoming more popular. Companies that only hire in one place might miss out on talented individuals compared to those with offices in different locations. Trend #5 In the United States, candidates tend to drop out if there are more than 3 interview steps, while Ukrainian applicants usually persist through 5-6 hiring stages. Also, Ukrainians are eager to take on more responsibilities, being high-performing and more flexible in fast-paced environments. Trend #6 While the LATAM market is booming and salaries are slightly rising, candidates' English skills remain mediocre. Trend #7 Comparing markets in the US, LATAM and Ukraine, candidates in the United States tend to prepare for interviews better by researching the company and tech stack. Job seekers in the U.S. and LATAM generally showcase better soft skills than Ukrainians. However, Ukrainian candidates have a stronger product and technical background. Trend #8 Despite global downsizing in 2023, there is an uptick in profit-generating positions. This trend is particularly noticeable in areas such as sales and marketing, where higher salary ranges are becoming more prevalent. Trend #9 Outsourcing is dying, while product is hiring. Currently, many companies are seeking specialists with expertise in product development. Trend #10 Remote and flexible work options remain some of the most desirable perks for potential employees. Anastasiia Kuzmenko is the head of the talent acquisition team at Flyer One Ventures. Photo by Rubén García on Unsplash

  • F1V in 2023: 15 new deals, portfolio startups’ value hits $3.8 billion

    In 2023, Flyer One Ventures reviewed 1,012 startups and backed 15 new companies, including Filmustage, AiSDR, Scalestack, Deskree, Zero Systems, Field Materials, Ludis Analytics, Machinet, and CloudChipr. This year we co-invested alongside Y Combinator, Techstars, Unpopular Ventures, 10X Capital, Forum Ventures, Hustle Fund, Web Summit Ventures, Seedcamp, Passion Capital, ff VC, and other great VC funds. Our firm also provided follow-on investments to 11 existing portfolio startups, including RedTrack, All Right, NewHomesMate, Mate academy, and Sheep Inc. Over the past five years, F1V has invested $40 million in nearly 78 companies. The fund has seen one exit (Vochi was acquired by Pinterest) and the portfolio company Chipper Cash becoming a unicorn. The total value of the F1V portfolio companies is roughly $3.8 billion. This number is higher than the GDP of San Marino, Andorra, Belize, and the Republic of Cabo Verde. In 2024, F1V plans to keep investing in startups at pre-seed and seed stages from Europe and the United States with about the same tempo as in 2023, while also supporting its portfolio. Performance numbers F1V is outperforming some of the European VC market's average numbers, according to the fund’s report made public in mid-2023. F1V has already returned its first fund (primarily invested in 2019), which is much better than the average return of 1% in Europe. The ratio of distributions to paid-in capital of Fund I is 1.0, while the median among European funds from the 2018 vintage is 0.01x. Fund I total value to paid in (TVPI) is 3.09x, while the median among the European funds from the 2018 vintage is 1.55x. Fund II TVPI is 1.95x, while the median among the European funds from the 2020 vintage is 1.09x. The top quartile conversion rate from seed to series A among European early-stage VCs is 40%, and the median conversion rate is 19%. As of the end of Q2 2023, the F1V portfolio's conversion rate from seed to series A was 47%. Events and recognition The F1V team participated in more than 15 tech events, including as speakers at How To Web, Web Summit, VC Platform Global Community Summit in New York, Pirate Summit, and Surge Summit. We juried at Techchill Milano, Infoshare, and Podim’s Demo Day. To bolster the local ecosystem, F1V supported the Ukrainian startup delegation at Web Summit and provided speakers for the Venture DeepDive lectures and StartUp Academy 3.0. General partner Vital Laptenok became a mentor at the Mission Possible program for entrepreneurs. We organized five webinars for the startup community with speakers from Angular Ventures, Earlybird VC, Redpoint Ventures, 20VC, and Wise. For the F1V portfolio, we conducted workshops on fundraising, B2B sales, AI, and other topics. We held an offline Founders Evening in Kyiv and organized Founders Summit, a virtual event for our founders and LPs. Screenshots of Founders Summit, a virtual event F1V held in 2023 for its portfolio companies and LPs. Vestbee, a matchmaking platform for startups and VCs, included F1V investment director Elena Mazhuha in the list of Top 100 Women In VC in CEE. F1V was also recognized by Vestbee in March 2023 as VC Fund Of The Month. News from portfolio startups In 2023, an impressive 37 portfolio companies secured funding. Here are 10 other noteworthy achievements of our portfolio: Mate academy was shortlisted for the People’s Choice award at the USF Startup Awards 2023. It also rolled out its services in Brazil. Since the beginning of 2023, the company has been generating $500,000 per month, marking a threefold increase from 2022. The number of its students employed after completing the courses increased by 40%. NewHomesMate started operating in Denver and Phoenix. Having tripled his team, the startup now covers 12 markets in the U.S., including Austin, Houston, and Miami. Competera won the European competition 2023 Vendors In Partnership Awards. The company was also shortlisted for the U.K. eCommerce Awards 2023, partnered with Starboard Cruise Services, and started working with the Novus supermarket chain. Filmustage was nominated for the Production Tech Innovation of the Year at the prestigious Makers and Shakers Awards 2023. Bairro was selected as a finalist at CTT Correios de Portugal E-commerce Awards 2023. made its debut appearance on the FreightTech 100 list. 99math won the Estonian Startup Award. The startup now has over 1 million users. Cargofy launched a venture studio and AI lab named Forward to provide expertise and funding to startups in logistics and AI. Fintech Farm launched the neobank Liobank in Vietnam, while its Azerbaijani project Leobank gained 1 million customers. All Right was recognized as one of Europe's top 100 edtech startups by HolonIQ. The startup also organized a free three-month English course for the children of Ukrainian soldiers. New advisors In 2023, F1V partnered with eight stellar advisors to consult its portfolio startups. Ruslan Nazarenko, senior growth product manager at Vimeo. Lilia Lutsenko, senior product analyst at Wise and lecturer and Laba Business School. Stan Lysenko, enterprise account executive at Amplitude. Marina Trypolskaya, head of sales at SplitMetrics. Olha Mateva, senior product data scientist at Preply. Iryna Filatova, head of marketing at Lift. Anastasiia Krasiukova, SEO/ASO Lead at Promova. Anatolii Kasianov, CTO at Holy Water. Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. Each story can be read in under 5 minutes, enabling you to promptly implement insights into your business. Photo by Jené Stephaniuk on Unsplash.

  • 3 reasons why Flyer One Ventures invested in AiSDR

    Startup AiSDR, which uses AI to automate sales prospecting, has raised a $3M seed round, including from Flyer One Ventures and Y Combinator. Other investors are Rebel Fund, SID Venture Partners, Pioneer Fund, Rahul Mehta (managing partner at DST Global), SCM Advisors, Bluepointe Ventures, Matt MacInnis (COO of Rippling), Terrence Rohan (investor in Figma, Notion), and Nick Bilogorskiy (managing partner at 408 Ventures). Here are three reasons why Flyer One Ventures invested in AiSDR. Reason #1. Founders: 2x Y Combinator alums with 1 exit Founders Yuriy Zaremba and Oleg Zaremba have already sold one company — their previous startup AXDRAFT (to Onit in 2020). They grew AXDRAFT from $0 to $2M through founder-led sales and managed a $10 million ARR business line for Onit, where Yuriy led sales teams after the acquisition. With 6 years in sales, Yuriy knows the market AiSDR is catering to from the inside out. Oleg, in turn, was a senior software engineer at before AXDRAFT and is AiSDR’s tech whiz. Y Combinator has selected the brothers twice for its acceleration program, with AXDRAFT and now with AiSDR. For VCs who invest in early-stage startups, having founders with a successful exit, a vast network, and such a strong founder-market fit. They know how to build a business in this market and they know how to sell it. Reason #2. Nearly 50 clients already and plans to reach $2M ARR within a year In just a week after its inception, AiSDR had over 200 demos booked. Four months after its public launch in August, AiSDR is already working with 41 clients, the majority of whom are B2B businesses. AiSDR’s clients have already used its AI tool to communicate with potential customers from Goldman Sachs, Nike, PepsiCo, Nestle, and other big names. The software supports multiple languages; the startup operates not only in the U.S. but has customers in Germany, Denmark, and the U.K. The startup plans to reach $2 million in ARR within 12 months. The average monthly revenue growth rate is 65%, which is impressively fast, especially for B2B companies. Reason #3. $50B market that needs automation AI market size reached $242 billion and is expected to show an annual growth rate of 17.30%, according to Statista. And after the release of ChatGPT, there is more interest from investors and large corporations in AI than ever. As of the end of Q3 2023, European and U.S. AI companies had raised 48 rounds of $100 million or more, Atomico reports. At the same time, there are about 600,000 SDRs in the U.S., and American companies spend nearly $50 billion annually on these specialists. It’s a huge market and there’s much to automate in it: SDRs in the U.S. and Canada spend 38% of their time on administrative duties and updating their CRMs (19% on each activity). According to McKinsey, lead identification and personalized outreach are poised to be the most impacted by AI. If you are an early-stage startup founder, building a company that aligns with our investment thesis, and seeking to raise funds, you can send your pitch to Maybe we can work together.

  • 43 must-attend startup & VC events in Europe in 2024

    The Flyer One Ventures team has compiled a comprehensive list of events and conferences that will take place in various European cities in 2024 and will be relevant to founders, entrepreneurs, startups, and VCs. Startups World is for entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders who “try to change the world.” Its website says it will provide attendees with the "opportunity to hear [and learn from] the most remarkable leaders." Confirmed speakers: Runway Innovation Hub, E-spaces, MyHealthMirror, Exponential Design Lab. Tickets: €745–2,460. Online participation: €159. Website: sTARTUp Day positions itself as “the most startup-minded business festival.” The website says 3,900 people attended this event last year. Its agenda includes a stage program with 152 speakers, a demo area, workshops, a pitching competition, and a party. Сonfirmed speakers: Wise, Veriff, Icebreaker VC, Startup Estonia, Swedbank, the president of Estonia. Tickets: €199–249. For startups: €149 Website: The Future of Ukraine Summit expects 200 delegates: representatives from international corporations and tech companies, investors, policymakers, and Ukrainian startup founders. The summit aims to provide insights into "the challenges and opportunities for building a successful Ukraine.” Сonfirmed speakers: Kyiv City Council, CyberDiia, Honda Xcelerator Ventures, Swedish politicians. Tickets: €599–1199. Website: 4YFN is an event for connectivity startups, VCs, corporations, and institutions. It promises to boost startups in this field “with contacts, exposure and investments." The program also features the startup competition 4YFN Awards 2024. Confirmed speakers: S4 Capital, Global Innovation Catalyst, INBRAIN Neuroelectronics. Tickets: €879–4,899. Website: Startup Moldova Summit enhances connections within Moldova’s community and links it with global resources like investors, partners, and mentors. Participants from 19 countries attended the event last year, the website says. Confirmed speakers: Horizon Capital,, Google, NodeShigt, Graphy. Tickets: €25–100 (MDL 500 – 2000). Website: Launched in 2011 for the first time, this conference is making content for deep tech companies trying to improve human and planetary health. It promises science/tech discussions, advice for founders from industry experts and peers, and networking opportunities. Previous speakers: Stanford, Google, Harvard, Stripe, L'Oreal. Tickets: €490–1,290. For startups: €370. For students: €80. Website: The Investors' Forum is the annual flagship event of Invest Europe. It’s designed for LPs and GPs. Attendance is open to pre-qualified institutional investors and Invest Europe member GPs and LP fund-of-funds only. Previous speakers: HarbourVest, Atomico, Pantheon Ventures, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Allianz Capital Partners. Tickets: €1,900 (for LPs) and €3,260 (for GPs). Website: TechChill is one of the most important tech events in the Baltics. About 2,300 guests attend the conference each year. The program includes investor day, media tour, demo day, workshops, founders mixer, stage content, parties, and speakers dinner. Previous speakers: Atomico, Revolut, Wise, Speedinvest, Startup Wise Guys, Deel. Tickets: €129–259. For investors: €199–259. For startups: €79 and €700 (expo). Website: The goal of this event is to “showcase Europe’s hottest startups” and share their stories. Last time it gathered over 2,000 founders, startup enthusiasts, corporates, investors, and journalists. There will also be a pitch competition with startups selected from over 1,000 applicants. Previous speakers: BlaBlaCar, Glovo, TechCrunch, Eventbrite. Tickets: €169–600. Website: Podim is a nonprofit founded in 1980 to change attitudes towards innovation that evolved into a pretty influential tech event in CEE. It isn’t as big as some other conferences, and Podim says it works much better for networking. Previous speakers: Miro, Credo Ventures, Techstars, Amazon Web Services. Tickets: €490–590. For startups: €145. Website: This event is for the VC industry players operating in CEE. The attendee mix is about "two general partners for every limited partner," the website reads. Сonfirmed speakers: ARX Equity Partners, INVL Asset Management, Schroders, Impulse Ventures, 500 Emerging Europe, Innova Capital, CEE Equity Partners. Early bird tickets: €600–1,000. Website: Impact’24 is a tech conference that covers a lot of topics: from AI and fintech to cybersecurity and e-commerce. The website says last year 6,000 people attended the event. Previous speakers: Obama Foundation, Mastercard, Google, The Economist, Yale, UNICEF, IBM, CD Project Red. Tickets: $970 (will get more expensive after Feb. 8). Website: Mashup is a community-led event for startups from Pre-seed to Series A, VCs, LPs, Angels, Family Offices, and Partners across Europe. No stage performances - only networking, dinners, boule-pétanque, roundtables, and even karaoke. Previous partners: Atomico, Earlybird, Inventure VC, Cherry Ventures. Tickets: €250–400. Website: Forty-four percent of Summit London’s attendees are CEOs, founders and senior managers, 18% are investors. Overall, about 1,000 people attend this tech event to talk about the industry and network. Previous speakers: Index Ventures, Atomico, Wise, European Investment Fund, Target Global. Super early bird: £300. VIP pass: £1.750. Website: Infoshare is one of the biggest tech events in CEE for IT professionals and entrepreneurs. It is made to inspire people to embrace innovations. Nearly 50,000 people attended Infoshare (4,000 startups and 1,400 speakers). Previous speakers: IBM, MongoDB, Microsoft, GitHub, Forbes, Ukrainian Startup Fund. Tickets: $110–370. Website: Latitude59 is an event for startups and VCs, featuring about 30 side events and the L59 Pitch Competition (€1M prize fund in 2023). “It is small by design. We like the cozy festival vibe,” reads the website. About 3,000 people attended it last year. Previous speakers: Bolt, Creandum, NATO, Goldman Sachs, Karma VC, Google, Respeecher, CERN. Super early bird tickets: €139–249. Website: SHIFT brings change-oriented people and businesses together for two days to network, learn, and get inspired with a relaxed, fun festival atmosphere in the background. Previous speakers: Microsoft, Amazon, Nokia, Fujitsu, Turku Chamber of Commerce. Tickets: €129-550. Website: Also spelled VivaTech, it’s a four-day annual tech conference that’s attended by super-star speakers. Last year it hosted 10 conference tracks — including on AI, energy, foodtech, and the future of sport — and three themed stages. Previous speakers: Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Emmanuel Macron, Yann LeCun (a Turing Award winning computer scientist). Tickets: €280-1,490. Website: It’s a “tech festival” attended by roughly 8,000 people. It features four stages, workshops, and live podcasts. Topics: Future Machines, Future Enterprise, Future US, and Future Planet. Confirmed speakers: IKEA, Microsoft, European Space Agency, Oxford University, Pinterest. Tickets: €335. Early bird: €235. Website: SaaStr Europa is tailored for SaaS founders (obviously) and VCs investing in them. Its website reads, “No commercials, no paid content, and no boring panels. Every session is hand-screened and vetted to help you learn.” Previous speakers: Salesforce Ventures, Loom, Point Nine Ventures, Rippling, Accel, Mailchimp, Amplitude. Tickets: $620–775. Website: South Summit positions itself as a meeting point for entrepreneurs and investors. In 2023, 6,500 entrepreneurs and 2,000 investors attended the event, according to its website. It also features a startup competition, whose finalists eventually raised a total of $14 billion, the blurb reads. Early bird tickets: €150–1,360. Website: Arctic15 is a two-day startup event in Northern Europe, focusing on matchmaking and networking, featuring also a pitch competition and workshops for founders. Previous speakers: Isomer Capital, VC Lab, Atomico, Pale Blue Dot, SOSV, Rockstart, Peak. Tickets: €150–450. Website: London Tech Week is a week-long festival on tech. In 2023 the event was attended by about 30,000 people, some 300 of them were speakers. There were four main stages covering “growth,” “transformation,” and general tech trends. The next event will be at a bigger venue, the Olympia Exhibition Centre. Previous speakers: Meta, Channel 4, Snap Inc., Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce. Tickets: TBA. Website: Bucharest Tech Week is a one-week urban tech festival in Romania, featuring gatherings across its capital city. Its main two events are Business Summits (i.e. innovation, HR, retail, Java, and software architecture summits) and TechExpo. Previous speakers: BMW, Microsoft, Google, Bosch, Nokia, PayPal, EY, SAP, Oracle. Tickets: €240–330. Website: Techsylvania positions itself as an event to inspire innovators and share tech trends in AI, sustainability, code, and product building. It features networking and expo areas, a startup alley and business roundtables. Previous speakers: Indiegogo, MongoDB, Google, Meta, UniCredit Bank. Tickets: €49-219. Executive tickets TBA. Website: The Perspektywy Women in Tech Summit is an event in Europe and Asia for women in STEM, tech and IT. It’s attended by 11,000 participants each year. It’s a two-day conference, featuring lectures, upskilling workshops, mentoring sessions, and career fairs. Previous speakers: EMEA, Cisco, KPMG, Dropbox, Intel, Ericsson, Meta. Very early bird ticket: $100. Online: $25. Website: The Next Web Conference is designed for investors, startups, and policymakers. About 10,000 people attend it every year. In 2024, the event’s themes include “The AI Powered Rebirth,” “People, Planet, Product,” “Shaking The Foundations Of Finance,” and four more. Previous speakers: Wikipedia, Basecamp, VICE, Reddit, Vimeo, Electronic Arts,, Avast. Tickets: €210–1,200. Website: It’s going to be the 7th edition of European Women in Technology. Dubbed “The Central Meeting Place For Women In Tech,” it invites women and underrepresented technologists and promises “uplifting stories” and networking events. Previous speakers: Shell, IBM,, IKEA, GitLab, AWS, McKinsey. Tickets: €225. Website: Turing Fest 2024 is a multi-disciplinary event “at the intersection of product, growth, capital, and people.” It is designed for those launching and scaling tech companies. In 2023, it had 1,200 visitors. Previous speakers: Skyscanner, Amplitude, Intercom, Copyhackers, LinkedIn, Meta, Financial Times. Tickets: TBA (£600-700 in 2023). Website: TechBBQ is a place where stage content and networking “meet hygge.” About 7,000 people attend it, most of them are startup founders and investors. It started as a small BBQ gathering for tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs back in 2013, in a park in Copenhagen — hence the name. Previous speakers: Lightspeed,, Pandora A/S, Intercom, European Women in VC, TechCrunch. Tickets: TBA. Website: Throughout its history, Startup OLE 2024 has been attended by 40,000 people from 120 countries; this includes startups, scale-ups and spin-offs, corporates, and investors. According to organizers, this year’s 11th edition will be the biggest so far. Confirmed speakers: BME Growth, SpainCap, BME, ​​Iberdrola. Tickets: It’s free. Website: Oslo Innovation Week is an umbrella event that includes over 60 events hosted by both Norwegian and international incubators, investors, and startup ecosystem builders in Oslo. Nearly 15,000 people attend the event, its site reads. Previous partners hosting the events: Proptech Norway, Fori Inc., Xynteo, Startuplab. Tickets: Most events have free entry (registration required). Website: IT Arena is a tech conference that annually brings together more than 5,000 attendees from 30 countries, about 100 speakers and an equal number of journalists. In 2023, IT Arena featured 50 meetups in Lviv, a city in the western part of Ukraine. Previous speakers: Intellias, Uklon, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Ministry, Genesis, Green Flag Ventures, Payoneer, Respeecher, MacPaw. Tickets: TBA ($250-500 in 2023). Website: Bits & Pretzels hosts 5,000 founders, investors, and tech industry leaders for three days during Munich Oktoberfest. After two days of lectures, attendees can join Table Captain at the world-famous Oktoberfest celebration to network and participate in discussions over a cold beer. Previous speakers: Michelle Obama, Airbnb, UiPath, Atomico, Index Ventures, Accel. Tickets: TBA (€149 in 2023). Website: Sifted Summit is a “bridge between investors and founders,” that draws a European audience of startups and scale-ups who seek their next business partner. About 50% of the Sifted Summit’s audience (3,000 people) are startups and scale-ups. Previous speakers: Monzo, Stripe, Opna, Sweep, Plural. Tickets: TBA. Website: How to Web is Eastern Europe’s technology conference that brings builders and visionaries together. Last year it gathered 2500 participants to discover industry best practices, connect with experts and investors, and participate in the region’s largest startup competition for the €880,000 investment prize. Previous speakers: Warner Bros. Discovery, Google DeepMind, Atomico, Paddle, Seedcamp. Tickets: €89-489. Website: SaaStock aims to help SaaS founders and their teams scale faster. The event promises to provide actionable content and networking to help you hear the growth stories, learn the proven strategies, and meet the right people to scale a SaaS business. Previous speakers: Paddle, Replyco, SaaStock, Peak, Synthesia. Tickets: €550-850. Website: ScaleupFest focuses on the CEE investment landscape, bringing together tech industry players from this region. The event promises to share best practices of growing a startup beyond CEE, workshops and wide networking. Previous speakers: 3TS Capital Partners, 500 Emerging Europe, Genesis Capital, AWS. Tickets: TBA. Website: The Disraptors Summit (formerly SWCSummit) is renowned for hosting the final battle for the Startup Champion title, bringing together regional champions and business titans. The winner continues to the Startup World Cup global finals in Silicon Valley. Previous speakers: Y Combinator, Washington Post, Virgin, NASA, Apple. Tickets: TBA. Website: A group of motivated people from the Italian ecosystem and TechChill Riga is bringing a startup-centered event to Milan. The event agenda covers startup building blocks, Italian tech landscape, consumer tech, AI, Big Data, and other topics. Previous speakers: Wise, Reface, Cavalry Ventures, Bolt. Tickets: €219-700 for startups. For investors: €479. Website: Startup Fair is an annual startup event in Lithuania. It’s a platform for startups, investors, and entrepreneurs to “renew and forge new contacts,” pitch innovative ideas, and gain insights from fellow founders. Previous speakers: TransferGO,, Wolt, Startup Wise Guys, Katalista Ventures. Tickets: TBA. Website: Who doesn’t know about Web Summit? It brings over 70,000 IT professionals, entrepreneurs, investors and digital nomads together to talk about tech trends and to network. It features Q&As, roundtable discussions, panel lectures, and a wide range of side events. Previous speakers: Alibaba, Microsoft, Signal, Wikipedia, Byju’s. Tickets: €950. For executives: TBA (€4,850 in 2023). Website: Slush positions itself as “the world’s leading startup event.” And it’s close to the truth. Last year it brought together 5,000 startup founders and operators and 3,000 investors to talk about company building and tech trends. Previous speakers: Duolingo, Accel, Zalando, Slack, Sequoia Capital. Tickets: TBA (€395–1,095 in 2023). Website: Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. You can read each story in 5 min. and start implementing insights into your business right away. Photo by Elijah Ekdahl on Unsplash

  • 4 reasons why an early-stage startup should hire a chief operating officer

    The COO: Mentor, CEO’s right hand, secret weapon. The role of the chief operating officer (COO) in the corporate world has long been underestimated, but that perception is now changing. According to McKinsey & Company, 40% of leading companies had a COO in 2022, an 8% increase compared to 2018. The role itself has evolved, becoming “bigger, bolder, and more transformative than ever before.” The specific responsibilities of COOs vary depending on the industry, stage, and long-term needs of a company. But in most cases, they resemble a chef on the kitchen floor: they closely collaborate with department heads to support employees’ day-to-day activities. Over the past five years, I’ve helped startups of various industries and sizes with operations. Here’s why I believe any company should consider hiring a COO once it starts growing. Reason #1. More productive, engaged workforce It's common for a COO to take on some of the HR responsibilities, improving both productivity and the overall work environment at the company. For example, a COO can introduce automation tools to the teams, including CRM systems or productivity tools like Asana, Zoho Flow, or Jira. In small teams, a COO can fulfill the HR role, improving communication and the working environment. According to Frost & Sullivan, on average, effective teamwork has been shown to boost company sales by 27% and product development by 30%. Apostol says a COO can contribute by establishing regular 1:1 meetings between employees and their managers, a practice that 71% of workers claim boosts workplace engagement. “Just because my startup has properly set up 1:1 meetings, we can postpone hiring an HR manager until the team exceeds 130 employees,” she says. These are just two of the HR-related tasks a COO can do. Others include employee development and training, performance management, workforce planning, and HR policy development. If you have a small team and want to increase collaboration between departments, at this stage, a COO will be more useful than an HR manager. A COO typically has a broader scope of responsibilities, including operational, strategic, and organizational aspects. And with a limited number of staff members, a COO can handle HR as one of their tasks. Reason #2. Easier expansion Before startups start to expand, enter new markets and hire new people, they need a strategy and an enforcer of that strategy. At a growing startup, a COO is a person who connects the company’s strategists with doers. Having a helicopter view of the company’s day-to-day operations, a COO can translate the marketing and strategic plans into actionable steps. They coordinate with various teams and departments to ensure smooth execution and alignment with the firm’s goals. A good illustration of this is Sheryl Sandberg’s tenure as COO at Facebook, which started in 2008 when the company was still relatively small and had a limited global presence. Sandberg spearheaded the expansion of Facebook’s reach by recruiting local teams in new markets and customizing the product for various regions. With her background in economics and prior experience as a vice president of global online sales and operations at Google, she possessed a deep understanding of technology, operations, and business strategy. This allowed her to effectively oversee Facebook's day-to-day operations and manage resources. Sandberg was the first who shaped the role of COO at Facebook. Hiring her proved to be a successful strategy for the social network’s expansion: today it has 2.8 billion users. If founders want to improve this aspect in their startup, they need a COO with the knowledge of market entry strategies, who understands local regulation and culture, and who can build partnerships in new regions (ideally, who knows the language and/or lives in that country). Reason #3. Fine-tuned product development Only 66% of businesses have aligned their strategy with the product development process, which, according to studies, gives them a significant advantage over their competition. Hiring a COO can help become one of those businesses. Working closely with both the C-level managers and product developers, a COO takes part in developing the strategy and then assigning tasks. From 2016 to 2019, Linda Kozlowski served as the COO of Etsy. During her tenure at the marketplace, she worked on improving service for sellers and the overall buyer experience. She helped make Etsy a more user-friendly and efficient platform for both sellers and buyers. “She [was] instrumental in enabling Etsy to expand our global base of buyers, improve the shopping experience, and launch new products that make it easier for sellers to succeed,” said Etsy CEO Josh Silverman about Kozlowski. For this task, a startup should look for a COO with a background in product management and who is well-versed in technology and software design. Other important aspects are data-driven decision-making and experience with agile methodologies. Kozlowski, for example, before joining Etsy, worked as the COO and President of Evernote and held various leadership positions at Alibaba Group (senior vice president and general manager of the international division). Reason #4. Financial management beyond crunching numbers Financial management in startups is crucial; mistakes in this area can jeopardize the company’s survival. In fact, nearly 45% of startups failed in 2022 due to running out of cash. A startup's ability to effectively handle finances is also a significant factor for VCs when deciding whether to invest, particularly during the global financial crisis. Not every startup founder, however, possesses strong financial management skills. Some might come from technical backgrounds, while others may have marketing or sales expertise. While a financial manager typically focuses on budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and risk management, a COO has a broader operational focus. For instance, if you need to plan a budget for launching a new product, a financial manager can handle the task. However, a financial manager primarily deals with numbers, whereas a COO can assess whether launching this new product is necessary at this particular time. They possess the knowledge to determine which specialists should be hired or outsourced, and how to tune the team to optimize resources. To go beyond budgeting and reporting, it is advisable to seek a COO with expertise in strategic financial planning, cash management, and operations. This ensures that the company can align its financial goals with the overall business strategy more effectively. This article originally appeared on Vestbee titled "4 Reasons why an early-stage startup should hire a chief operating officer." *** Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. You can read each story in 5 min. and start implementing insights into your business right away. Photo by Laura Meinhardt on Pexels

  • 14 startups with Ukrainian roots that raised money in 2023

    Despite challenges such as the war, global financial instability, and a 38% decrease in European startup investments, Ukrainian founders show resilience and keep raising money to build global innovative businesses. Here are 14 Ukraine-founded startups that successfully secured funding in 2023. Carmoola — $125 million The British fintech startup with two Ukrainian co-founders Carmoola raised $125 million in February, not disclosing its valuation. The Series A $10-million round was led by QED Investors, with participation from VentureFriends and InMotion Ventures, the investment arm of Jaguar Land Rover. An additional $115 million was secured from the British bank NatWest in the form of a debt facility. Carmoola is a “neo-car finance” service that speeds up the process of purchasing a new car. It generates a budget in 60 seconds, offers a free vehicle history check, and enables users to make instant online payments or pay in the showroom using a Carmoola virtual card. The startup was co-founded by Aiden Rushby, Amy McKechnie, and Ukrainians Roman Sumnikov and Ihor Hordiychuk in 2022. It is based in London while half of its 20-person team is located in Ukraine. Preply — $70 million Global e-learning platform Preply raised $70 million (a combination of debt and equity) in July, which took its Series C funding to $120 million. It didn't disclose the valuation at which it closed the round. The round was led by Horizon Capital, with participation from Reach Capital, Hoxton Ventures, and other existing investors. Preply develops a platform that allows tutors to teach 50 languages, including English, German, Arabic, French, Polish, and Ukrainian. The startup has 35,000 tutors from 190 countries. The funding will help Preply launch an AI assistant for tutors and develop personalized learning tools. Preply was founded in 2012 by three Ukrainian entrepreneurs: Dmytro Voloshyn, Kirill Bigai, and Sergey Lukyanov. The startup employs over 500 people and has offices in Barcelona, New York, and Kyiv. CAST AI — $55 million The Lithuanian startup with Ukrainian co-founders CAST AI raised $20 million in March and $35 million in November (Series B). The valuation hasn’t been disclosed. The latest ($35 million) funding was raised from Vintage Investment Partners and existing investors Creandum and Uncorrelated Ventures, bringing the company’s total funding raised to $73 million; and the $20 million investment round was led by Creandum. CAST AI automatically manages the cloud resources of its customers and, according to its website, saves users up to 63% on cloud technologies such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. The startup's tool analyzes cloud usage for the best cost-performance combination. ShareChat, Iterable, and Branch are among its clients. The startup was founded by Laurent Gil and Ukrainian co-founders Yuri Frayman and Leon Kuperman in 2019. It has 75 employees who work from its Miami and Vilnius offices, and remotely from Ukraine. Fintech Farm — $22 million Fintech Farm raised a $22 million Series B round in April. According to Dealroom, its valuation may exceed $100 million. The round was led by Nordstar; Chrome Capital was among the contributors along with other participants, according to Ukrainian tech publication AIN.Capital. Fintech Farm creates digital banks in emerging markets. One of its projects is Leobank in Azerbaijan. In March 2023, Fintech Farm launched Liobank in Vietnam. The startup was founded by Oleksandr Vityaz, Mykola Bezkrovny, and serial entrepreneur Dmytro Dubilet in 2020. It employs about 200 people and headquarters in London; it has offices in Kyiv and Dnipro. DressX — $15 million Digital fashion retailer DressX raised $15 million in a Series A funding round in March, not disclosing its valuation. The round was led by Greenfield Capital, with participation from Slow Ventures, Warner Music, The Artemis Fund, Red DAO, and other investors. DressX is a fashion tech company that sells more than 3,500 digital clothing and accessories items worn in AR, video calls, photo dressing, and by avatars in metaverses. The garments can also be found on external marketplaces like Roblox, Zepeto, Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Horizon Worlds), and Snapchat. The startup has teamed up with tech, fashion, and lifestyle brands, including Google, The Coca-Cola Company and Farfetch; it launched an exclusive collection on the Meta Avatars Store with Diesel in September 2023. The startup was founded in 2020 in Los Angeles by Darya Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova. DressX employs around 70 people who are based in Los Angeles and Ukraine. NewHomesMate — $5.5 million Proptech startup NewHomesMate (formerly Propretymate) raised a $5.5 million Seed round in June. It’s valued at $30-40 million, according to Forbes Ukraine. The round saw participation from Gaingels, Geek Ventures, Asymmetry Ventures, Unpopular Ventures, Flyer One Ventures, U.Ventures, Verras Capital, SID Venture Partners, Pragmatech Ventures, and several angel investors. NewHomesMate is an online marketplace to find, compare, and buy new construction homes. The startup operates in 10+ markets, including in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. The platform hosts over 26,500 new buildings, and its clients include American agencies Keller Williams, eXp Realty, and Compass. Bohdan Hnatkovskii and Sofia Vyshnevska launched NewHomesMate in 2018. Currently, the company employs 200 people and has offices in Austin (where it’s based) and Lviv. Deskree — $1.5 million Deskree, which builds a no-code cloud infrastructure tool, raised a $1.5 million Seed round in September. It didn't disclose the valuation at which it closed the round. The money came from Forum Ventures, Hustle Fund, N49P, Flair Ventures, ZAKA VC, League of Innovators, Flyer One Ventures, AAl VC, and Vesna Capital. Deskree is a versatile platform that simplifies backend infrastructure creation by eliminating the need for expensive DevOps and cloud architect specialists. Deskree promises to help its clients create backends in minutes, for a $19 monthly subscription, saving them thousands of dollars and months of their time. Over the last year, the number of Deskree users has grown from 300 to 10,000 developers worldwide. Founded by Dmytro Grechko in 2021, Deskree employs eight people and is based in Toronto, Canada. Masthead Data — $1.5 million Masthead Data raised $1.3 million in a pre-Seed round in June, not disclosing its valuation. The investment round was led by focal, with participation from SMOK Ventures, DEPO Ventures, Monochrome, and Alchemist Accelerator. Masthead Data reads tables, processes, scripts, and dashboards in data warehouses and connected BI tools, looks for anomalies and, if any data failures occur, notifies data teams. In 2022, Masthead was one of the startups that received funding as part of the Google for Startups Ukraine Support Fund. Founded in 2022 by Yuliia Tkachova and Sergey Tkachov, Masthead Data employs 10 people and headquarters in Toronto. Zeely — $1 million The AI-powered sales-growth mobile app Zeely raised $1 million in a Seed round in April, not disclosing its valuation. The round was supported by Vesna Capital, Angel One Fund, ZAS Ventures, Imaguru Ventures, as well as angels Murat Abdrakhmanov and Adrian J. Slywotzky. Zeely is a platform that allows businesses to create an online store and promote themselves on social media. It integrates with platforms like Shopify, Wix, and WooCommerce and helps set up ads on social media. The app automatically creates ads and, using machine learning, promises to help entrepreneurs achieve higher ROI. The app was downloaded more than 50,000 times in the U.S. alone; it’s also used by businesses in the U.K., Brazil, and Mexico. Zeely was founded in 2022 by Alina Bondarenko, Dmytro Samoiliuk, and Yaroslav Samoiliuk. Twelve people work at Zeelly both remotely and from the Google for Startups Campus in Warsaw. Osavul — $1 million Information security company Osavul raised $1 million in a Seed round in May, not disclosing its valuation. The round was led by SMRK. Osavul develops an AI-powered tool for information security intelligence. The AI-based software helps identify and counteract disinformation campaigns and other forms of malicious activity. Currently, Osavul software is used by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and the National Security and Defense Council, as well as businesses like FlixBus, Ukravto, and Alliance Novobud. The startup will use the money to scale globally; according to Forbes, it has already started negotiations with foreign states and NGOs. Osavul was founded in 2022 by Dmytro Pleshakov and Dmytro Bilash. All Right — $1 million Online English school All Right raised $1 million in April. The startup is valued at $20-40 million, according to Forbes Ukraine. The money was attracted from 11 private investors, including Depositphotos founder Dmitry Sergeev, ex-Kyivstar CEO Peter Chernyshov, and three of the startup’s board members. All Right offers online English classes for kids 4-12 years old combining lessons with real teachers and homework with AI-powered tutors. The company operates in 12 countries, helping more than 22,000 young students learn English In 2021, All Right bought EnglishDom, a company that teaches English to adults. The EdTech startup was launched in 2019 by Oleg Oksyuk. Fuelfinance — $1 million Financial planning software Fuelfinence raised $1 million in a pre-Seed round in January, not disclosing its valuation. Among the investors are Stratmind,, and two CEOs of unicorn companies, Bolt’s Markus Villig and SendBird’s John S. Kim. Fuelfinance simplifies financial management for SMBs, reducing the time CEOs and CFOs spend in spreadsheets. It provides a set of tools from accounting to producing reliable P&L statements, and provides its users with financial planning scenarios. Startup manages finances in dozens of companies, including Reface, Petcube, and Awesomic. In 2019, Alyona Mysko created Fuelfinance; Petcube’s co-founder Yaroslav Azhnyuk joined the company in 2021 as a partner and co-founder. The company’s biggest market is the U.S. Most of its 20+ person team are Ukrainians. Workee — $900,000 The online business management system for freelancers Workee raised a $900,000 Seed round in July at a valuation of $9–12 million, according to Tech Ukraine. This round brings the company's total funding to $1.6 million. The round was led by SMOK Ventures, with participation from the Google for Startups Ukraine Support Fund, Slava Ventures, and anonymous angel investors from Silicon Valley. Workee is a platform that enables freelancers to create a personalized website with a booking system, built-in payments, invoicing, and tax management. With this software, they can manage all their work processes: tasks, schedules, communication with clients, and finances. The startup has more than 7,000 active users from 50 countries. Workee was founded in May 2020 by Ihor Bauman, Artem Kanaki, and Yevhen Kiseliov. Currently, it employs 12 people. The head office of Workee is located in Delaware, the U.S., its R&D is in Kyiv. The startup also has offices in Lithuania and the Czech Republic. Awesomic — $800,000 The Y Combinator-backed startup Awesomic raised $800,000, adding it to the $2 million Seed round it raised in 2021. The company’s valuation hasn’t been disclosed. The money came from Pioneer Fund, Flyer One Ventures, Red Rooster Ventures, Y Combinator managing director Michael Seibel, Y Combinator group partner Jared Friedman, and other participants who haven’t been named. Awesomic is a platform that helps companies quickly find designers for their projects. It’s subscription-based, and customers receive workweek-long status updates on their tasks. The company has completed over 10,000 projects for more than 1,500 clients, including such companies as Reface, Ciklum, and The startup was launched in 2020 by Roman Sevast and Stacy Pavlyshyna. It headquarters in San Francisco, California. According to the company’s profile on Linkedin, it employs around 150 people. Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. You can read each story in 5 min. and start implementing insights into your business right away. Photo by Tobias Keller on Unsplash

  • 3 reasons why Flyer One Ventures invested in Deskree

    In September 2023, Ukrainian startup Deskree, which builds a no-code cloud infrastructure tool, raised $1.5 million in a Seed round. In addition to Flyer One Ventures, the funding round saw participation from Forum Ventures, Hustle Fund, N49P Ventures, Flair Ventures, ZAKA VC, League of Innovators, AAL VC, and Vesna Capital. Deskree aims to use the investment money to bring in more users globally, develop new products, and partner with more cloud providers in the upcoming year, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Here are three key reasons why F1V has added Deskree to its portfolio. Reason #1. Experienced founder with solid technical and sales skills Deskree was founded by Dmytro Grechko, an experienced Ukrainian entrepreneur and web developer who started to run his own business projects about 10 years ago. While his startup was officially founded in 2021, the company’s history dates back to 2015 when it started as the eponymous project management platform. Eventually, it evolved into Deskree Studio, a software development company. As time passed, the studio team realized they had to go through the same tasks for every client when creating backends. The process was long and tedious. These projects also hit the clients’ pocketbooks, as they were charged on an hourly basis. In 2021, Grechko launched Deskree as a project within Deskree Studio to create a cost-effective and optimized backend infrastructure solution for his company. They designed a tool with pre-made modules, which increased developers' productivity and significantly trimmed costs for clients. It didn't go unnoticed: Soon, clients began inquiring about the “magical” tool. “After building dozens of projects and speaking with clients, we realized the need for our tool outside of our agency. Clients started asking if they could use it, too. That’s how Deskree was born,” Grechko told Silicon Canals. Having dedicated years to his businesses, Dmytro Grechko has built a solid technical and sales expertise, which is “a valuable combination since tech founders don’t often excel in sales,” says Elena Mazhuha, F1V investment director. The founder is also proactive and quick to learn and iterate — these traits became evident in our interactions with the startup before the deal. The F1V investment team met Deskree in 2022 at the WeaveSphere conference in Toronto. Our firm had been acquainted with the startup for three months and had conducted numerous sync-up calls with the team before investing in them. Since F1V typically doesn't lead funding rounds, our firm engaged in detailed negotiations with Deskree after the startup had already secured investment agreements with several other VCs. Reason #2. “Painkiller” solution that helps 10,000 users Deskree is a user-friendly platform that aids freelancers, startups, medium-sized businesses, and enterprises in setting up and scaling their backend infrastructure. Building the backend for a new project with this tool takes just a few minutes, compared to the typical 20-week timeframe. With Deskree, companies will no longer need a legion of developers, complicated DevOps and networking, or even any expertise in building a backend. “A company using their tool can have just one developer on the team, which will be enough to roll out the backend they need — in minutes,” says Vital Laptenok, F1V general partner. Deskree can integrate with dozens of popular tools, including Firebase, Webflow, Asana, OpenAI, and Mailchimp, allowing customers to leverage their preferred platforms when working on a project. This is a “painkiller” product, not a “vitamin” — it helps many people solve their problems, while significantly reducing costs. Deskree's customers tell impressive stories. One startup’s client, a global manufacturer of industrial cleaning supplies, planned a four-month backend project. With Deskree's assistance, it took just 4 days, costing $400, instead of the allocated $40,000. Next, they expanded the project from handling 100 API requests per hour to processing 1.5 billion requests. Over the past year, the startup has initiated active promotion and sales campaigns, growing its user base from 300 to 10,000 customers. The majority of users are from the United States, India, and Brazil. Reason #3. Growing market, outstanding product The global market for low-code development platforms is rapidly growing. It's expected to reach $94.8 billion by 2028 from $13.9 billion in 2021, with a projected annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.6%. Deskree has competitors in this area, but the startup provides customers with opportunities that set it apart from its similar platforms like Supabase, Amplication, or AppWrite. One of its advantages is a user-friendly web interface. Through it, customers can provide their infrastructure requirements, and Deskree takes care of constructing the specified infrastructure. Without this option, users would have to take time to choose among multiple cloud service providers; it adds costs and security challenges. The startup also distinguishes itself from other Backend as a Service companies by granting clients control and independence. Deskree establishes a distinct infrastructure for every project, with each one serving as a self-contained microservice infrastructure hosted on Google Cloud. Another great feature of Deskree is its versatility. The tool is suitable not only for prototyping but also for scaling projects, making it a good choice for both small companies and large/midmarket enterprises. "Many tools in the no-code and low-code developer market assist in creating product prototypes and testing ideas, but scaling such products can be challenging," says Mazhuha. “Deskree's no-code tool stands out for its ability to build scalable products without the need for large backend teams.” If you are an early-stage startup founder, building a company that aligns with our investment thesis, and seeking to raise funds, you can send your pitch to Maybe we can work together. Photo by Israel Andrade on Unsplash

  • How to know if your startup has a proper founder-market fit

    In the early stages, startups often lack impressive numbers to showcase their potential. That's why investors primarily examine the co-founding team to assess how likely they are to build a thriving company. In simpler terms, investors are looking for something called founder-market fit when the founders' skills, experience, and personal qualities align with what the market needs. But how can a founder determine if they have this so-called founder-market fit? A background check Deep industry expertise can indicate a strong match between the founders and their target market. The ability to execute ideas is vital for early-stage founders, and the more bulletproof they are in their domain, the higher the chance they'll be able to do it. It's also about knowing what to disrupt and how, because, at its core, a founder-market fit means that the person starting the company has personally experienced the problem they're now trying to solve. In some cases, outsiders have disrupted industries they knew little about, but generally, founders have a much better chance of succeeding if they have a sense of how a specific market works. About 35% of startups fail because the founding team doesn't know enough about the market and what customers actually need. There are many examples of this: Airbnb's founders hosted people in their apartments before building a marketplace for homestays; Slack began as an internal communication tool for a company owned by one of the founders — he knew what app his team needed. Health tech startup Theranos is a well-known case of the opposite when a lack of industry knowledge — among other things — led to a startup's failure. Investors were swayed by the founder's grand vision: they collectively invested $1.3 billion. Unfortunately, they overlooked the significance of the founder's background. The founder, Elizabeth Holmes, promised to revolutionize health care while having only two semesters of chemical engineering classes at Stanford. Synergy among co-founders When a founder presents me with a startup that heavily relies on sales but struggles to articulate their thoughts, it raises a red flag. In such situations, investors should carefully assess the other co-founders in the team, seeking a partner who brings the required expertise — in this example, in sales. Founder of Awesomic, a platform that matches web design talents with businesses, Roman Sevast has a background in software development. He takes full responsibility for Awesomic's technical aspects and product development, while another founder, Stacy Pavlyshyna, is a former digital marketer who handles operations, communications, and marketing. This serves as a good illustration of where both co-founders bring their domain expertise to the table, and their collaboration enables them to achieve a solid founder-market fit. A prominent global example of a synergistic partnership is the relationship between Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. How to tell investors about founder-market fit To increase the likelihood of securing funding, early-stage founders should make sure they communicate their founder-market fit to investors. My several tips: Share specific examples of the co-founders' industry challenges and how they resolved them. Emphasize accomplishments relevant to the target market, such as previous startup ventures, industry accolades, significant milestones, or partnerships. Present a compelling narrative about a co-founder that showcases their in-depth industry knowledge. Instead of stating "5 years of IT experience," highlight achievements by saying, "developed a product used by 300,000 clients." Demonstrate a scalable business model that aligns with market needs and show how exactly it aligns. Problem-solving experience This does not suggest that successful startups can only emerge from founders with prior experience. Quite the opposite, according to Sebastian Mallaby's book "The Power Law," groundbreaking ideas often originate from individuals who are outsiders to the industry. These outsiders, however, must possess certain character traits that enable them to achieve a founder-market fit. I'd like to highlight perseverance and curiosity. Outsiders should thoroughly study the market to understand their potential customers, launch effective marketing campaigns, and ultimately develop a product that people will find valuable. Curiosity serves as the driving force behind acquiring the necessary knowledge. Perseverance is crucial because the market landscape constantly changes, and founders continuously overcome new challenges. We seek to invest in founders who are prepared to adapt to evolving market conditions, meet customer demands, and embrace emerging trends. Founders never know which particular problems they will face when starting a business. But if they previously solved problems in a chosen market or if they show they have grit, VCs take it as a good sign. This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur titled "How To Know if Your Startup Has a Proper Founder-Market Fit." Subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter to get one useful article every week via email and on LinkedIn. You can read each story in 5 min. and start implementing insights into your business right away. Cover photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash.

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