Global Startup Financing Is Booming! Time For Entrepreneurs (and Investors) To Become Fluent In Foreign Business

As articles below illustrate, there has been a noticeable surge in global startup financing. From established professional U.S. and European investors, to newly formed Russian venture funds, to crowdfunding platforms in Africa, there is a lot of money seeking to fund technology, alternative energy, robotics and healthcare startups around the world.  It is a fantastic and exciting time to be an entrepreneur.  Yet, it is a well-known fact that only a fairly small percentage of entrepreneurs seeking funding gets funded. The odds worsen considerably, when companies seeking financing and potential financiers are in different countries. In addition to the normal challenges that businesses need to address when seeking financing, international business carries with it a whole new set of barriers.  After looking at countless business opportunities, it has become increasingly clear that a substantial portion of the unrealized opportunities results from several repeating and recognizable factors:Lack of cross-cultural communications and relationship building skills among counterparties involved in transaction

Lack of brand or product adaptability to the target markets’ tastes, cultural or social norms

Lack of  international business experience and commitment to the desired markets

Lack of a mechanism to properly package transactions, evaluate markets and structure opportunities both entrepreneurs and potential investors.

Lack of an effective platform to develop in-depth relationships between QUALIFIED counterparties in multiple emerging markets

Thus the following challenge emerges – If someone could cost-effectively help entrepreneurs increase their international business IQ and help them become Fluent In Foreign Business,  billions of dollars of additional economic value would be created for those involved. Thus it is time for both investors and entrepreneurs worldwide to add a strong set of international business tools to their arsenal. 

Old World startups peddle their products to New World investors

Old World startups peddle their products to New World investors
March 20, 2013 4:42 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.-  Never separate an Italian entrepreneur from his coffee. That was one of the key takeaways, among others, at Mind the Bridge’s first ever demo day.

Mind the Bridge is a seed fund and accelerator that supports Southern European entrepreneurs from distressed economies, with a focus on Spain, Italy, Greece, Israel. The program helps entrepreneurs set up headquarters, establish a network, and gain exposure for their product in the U.S.

“It used to be there wasn’t good communication and no good way of breaking down international barriers to get all the ideas coming from different parts of the world,” said storied venture capitalist Tim Draper, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Now, I see things from Italy and Southern Europe and they look just like things in Silicon Valley. With the spread of viral marketing and information, and the connection we’ve all got with each other, the ideas are generally based on the same information. These startups are competing head-to-head.”

Draper kicked off the demo event, which featured presentations from six startups. Each of the companies participated in Mind the Bridge’s three-month accelerator program and received coworking space and guidance from mentors who understand the unique position of foreign entrepreneurs. Founder Marco Marinucci advocates a “dual-company model,” whereby development stays in the home country, but headquarters are in Silicon Valley, where the market and the money is.

“These entrepreneurs have a strong sense of creativity that is generally more pronounced than locals and easier and cheaper access to talent,” he said in an interview after the pitches. “Our startups all have a product launched and proved in different geographies, but the bigger challenge is to make it in biggest costumer market in the world- the U.S.. The market here is incomparable. This way you can play the big game of the mass market and find funding here, while maintaining all the development abroad. This is the model that I see working.”

Each of the presenting startup have built consumer-facing startups that span a range of sectors. Italian Atooma is a smartphone app that lets you set up conditional events that automatically trigger simple actions based on things like time of day, location, and favorite apps. Myze is a Spanish-based service that helps consumers collect and maximize their credit card rewards to access discounts, promotions and deals. Bad Seed is a gaming company from Italy developing mobile games that achieve ‘the quality of console games.’ Weendy is a social ‘sports mate’ application where surfers, skiers, kite boarders etc… can share information on weather conditions. The founders are from Greece. Also hailing from Italy, Map2App is a web-based platform that lets travelers create custom mobile travel guides to access on-the-go, and in3Dgallery’s technology turns 2-dimensional content into dynamic 3D presentations.

In true European form, the presentations were punctuated with breaks for h’or dourves, pasta, coffee, and cookies, and the entrepreneurs all seemed remarkably at ease. The event did not have the same level of tension or anxiety that often pervades the room at demo days, and the founders seemed just as eager to chat with each other as with potential investors. Marinucci said European entrepreneurs often have a different attitude than locals, and the Mind the Bridge community is a supportive, rather than a competitive one. “

“There is a more social attitude, he said. “It takes an immigrant to understand an immigrant and the nitty-gritty of the challenges you face. Everyone has different nationalities, but they all have similar issues, and that makes them a tighter community.”

Mind the Bridge was founded in 2007 as a side project while Marinucci worked at Google. It was first conceived as a non-profit accelerator program dedicated to developing Italy’s startup ecosystem, but has grown to encompass a wider geographical scope and includes a seed fund and startup school. Today’s startups were the first to graduate from the accelerator program, but they won’t be the last. Marinucci plans to make between 12 to 15 seed investments a year of between $40,000 and $100, 000 and is raising a second fund.

Accel’s massive new $475M fund is all about startups in Europe & Israel

Accel’s massive new $475M fund is all about startups in Europe & Israel

It’s a good day for European and Israeli startups seeking funding, as Accel Partners announced a new $475 million fund today for early-stage tech companies.

The new fund, Accel London IV, was raised in just eight weeks and makes Accel London one of the largest venture capital firms in the region, with $2 billion raised to date across its previous funds. The new fund’s total is more than what was initially rumored back in February, as VentureBeat previously reported.

“Europe has a strong talent base, including a growing community of repeat entrepreneurs, whose success, experience, and ambition continue to fuel our ecosystem,” said Accel London partner Harry Nelis in a statement. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are thriving in Europe, and with technology hubs developing across the region, the next billion-dollar company could emerge from anywhere.”

Accel, which has offices all around the world, said the newly announced fund will focus on investing mostly in companies in Europe and Israel that deal with consumer Internet, big data, cloud, SaaS, and mobile.

Accel is well known for its long list of early investments in wildly popular companies, most notably Facebook. It has also previously invested in Spotify, Rovio, Dropbox, Cloudera, Etsy, Trulia, and Groupon. More specifically, Accel’s London team has invested in QlikTech, Playfish, and Kayak, which sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion after going public last year.

New Russian high-tech fund to invest up to $20M in startups across the globe

New Russian high-tech fund to invest up to $20M in startups across the globe
March 22, 2013 1:38 PM
Adrien Henni, East-West Digital News

In a new illustration of the vibrant activity of the Moscow venture scene, Maxim Shekhovtsov and Alexander Zhurba – founders of TexDrive, one of the city’s largest startup accelerators – announced last week the creation of a fund dedicated primarily to IT projects in Russia and around the world.

Christened Genezis Capital, the fund actually launched and made its first investment in late 2012 – but the official announcement was delayed to take advantage of the most suitable moment for it, Zhurba said in an exchange with East-West Digital News.

Genezis was put together by a group of more than 30 limited partners, representing investment banking, PE funds, large-scale multinationals and just “wealthy people.”

The amount of the fund – which is still open to new LPs – has not been disclosed. But Genezis sources have stated that it has raised enough money to invest in three to five seed or early-stage companies every year, with each receiving from $25,000 to $1 million, and in two more mature startups for as much $20 million apiece – and this for at least two years running.

IT projects are expected to account for up to 70% of the fund’s investments, with the rest allotted to beefing up players in biotech, clean tech, energy saving, alternative energy and robotics.

A global focus

In Russia, Genezis works as an extension of TexDrive, managing the accelerator’s assets. Its playing field has been rather narrow, with no more than 70 investment-grade startups in the country, the fund has estimated.

But Genezis – which was registered in an as-yet unspecified foreign country – seeks investment opportunities across markets as diverse as the U.S., Europe, Russia and Asia. “We consider Russian and foreign startups under identical criteria,” Zhurba told EWDN.

The ‘invest abroad’ trend among Russian funds started in 2009, when Yuri Milner’s Digital Sky Technologies invested in Facebook. Since then, a bevy of Moscow-based VCs, including Bright Capital, Phenomen Ventures, Runa Capital and Ru-Net, have been chasing opportunities around the world, while DST’s cash has fueled AirbnbAlibabaSpotifyTwitter and several other top Internet companies.

Genezis Capital’s first investment – more than $10 million – went to an undisclosed company operating in the U.S. and Western European markets. Its Russian portfolio includes B-152, an Internet service that helps businesses comply with the demanding requirements of Russia’s personal data legislation; Martmania, a Novosibirsk, Siberia-based online retailer; and Fleecs, a startup developing a payment solution for fuel stations.

Photo Credit: John Leach/Flickr

Sell Outside the Box – over 50 years, 160 countries – proven philosophy

Advice from the most traveled packaging salesman

Global Trade Magazine Oct/Nov

“I never did any business in Morocco,” says Bob Harris, the world’s most well-traveled box and paper salesman, still making calls at 80-years-old for packaging companies such as RockTenn, Inland Container and KapStone, to name a few. “No,” he recalls, “it was too well covered by the French.”

If not doing business in Morocco doesn’t immediately register as noteworthy, that’s understandable. You just haven’t met Bob Harris. Over the past 50 years of working the paper and box industry, he’s visited more than 160 countries and still maintains clients in many of them (except Morocco, of course). Julie C. Morse’s new biography, Out of the Box: The Mostly True Story of a Mysterious Man, chronicles Harris’ adventures as part travelogue, part business how-to.

Asked to distill tips for a young salesman, Harris offers something more akin to philosophy: Go anywhere in the world on your own nickel, build relationships with the No. 1 company distributing your product, and you’ll get your commission. For Harris, this works as well in 2012 as it did in the 1960s.

“It’s amazing, the little countries that have a box factory,” he says. “There’s no industry in these countries, but they have a crop they have to export. Like the Canary Islands, for instance. There isn’t a single thing in the Canary Islands except three corrugated box factories. They are justified because they have a crop of citrus, a crop of bananas and a crop of tomatoes.”

The universal demand for packaging has allowed Harris to operate with a certain amount of freedom. In places like the Somali Republic where there isn’t already an established market, Harris says he creates one. “I went there and did a feasibility study. They had a huge crop of bananas. That’s the only thing in the country that they could export. The study was developed and sent. A company in Italy built the factory, and I helped supply that later on.”

Emerging markets continue to offer great potential for Harris, who will head to Myanmar for his next sales adventure. In the past he’s supplied fish packaging materials for Iceland exports, and carved niches for himself in countries from Macedonia down to Australia. “Emerging countries are really where it’s happening,” he explains about the current market. “Some of the best economies are the emerging countries, like Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and Vietnam. They’re not big but they’re not tiny, and there’s a lot to be developed there.”

Harris says his way of doing it is still applicable and that it can be that simple, adding only one caveat for the young salesman: “I wouldn’t recommend this approach for someone who doesn’t love to travel.”

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