Blackboxer Spotlight: Conno Christou
Avocarrot // Cyprus // Blackbox Connect 5
Originally from Cyprus, Conno and his co-founders launched Avocarrot, a mobile adtech startup specializing in native ads, after first meeting in the army, then attending Imperial College London together. The growing company secured their first office space at Google Campus London, a prize for winning London Hackathon. Recognizing their potential, the then-head of Campus London nominated Avocarrot’s founders to participate in a 2013 edition of Blackbox Connect, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. They were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants from the UK startup ecosystem.
At Blackbox Connect, Conno and his fellow Blackboxers were exposed to mentors, investors, successful entrepreneurs, topical experts, and coaches who gave a range of perspectives on the Silicon Valley mindset, shared key lessons learned on how to build a globally scalable venture, and offered a window into their own challenges along the way.
Mary Grove, Director of Google for Entrepreneurs, helped Blackboxers from around the world get a fuller picture of how networking and knowledge sharing works in Silicon Valley. For Conno, this was key to identifying major contrasts with the European startup ecosystem, ultimately serving as a catalyst for his decision to move Avocarrot to the Bay Area.
“Blackbox is not just about a place; it’s a state of mind. It’s a truly transformational experience for a few lucky ones.”
Recalling a session with Former Head of Google Ventures, Bill Maris, Conno says Bill “transformed the way we approached our mission to being a much broader and more global view.” This experience pushed the Avocarrot team to shift their business strategy to think big and cater to a significantly wider audience.
Within four months of Blackbox Connect, Conno had secured funding from Unilever Ventures, Bower Media, and Ingenious Media, and made the decision to relocate to Silicon Valley. One of the relationships he developed through Blackbox resulted in a near acquisition of the company, but instilled with a newfound confidence and sense of clarity, Conno and the team entered negotiations carefully, ultimately were unsatisfied with the terms, and opted to hold out for a better offer.
He cites this experience as a major learning opportunity that helped make the eventual acquisition of Avocarrot by Berlin-based global adtech company Glispa in late 2016 a smoother experience that favored all parties. Throughout the acquisition process, Avocarrot received advisory services from a deal team led by Blackbox Connect speaker Daniel Zimmerman of WilmerHale, a Blackbox partner. He continues to remain involved in the Blackbox global alumni community.