Viktor Kompaneyets, Digital Future: An opportunity to attend Pioneers gave us over 100 useful contacts.

At the end of May, Digital Future visited Pioneers Festival, Vienna, which is “the major event for future technologies and entrepreneurship”, according to the organizers of the conference. The key goal of Digital Future’s trip was meeting with investors, angels and startups. Viktor Kompaneyets, Investment Lead at Digital Future, shared his insights of the event, the details of his trip to Vienna, European hi-tech and startup trends.

DF: What was the reason for Digital Future to attend the Pioneers Festival?

VK: This is a unique investors’ get-together, where you can find European angels and venture capital companies, networking and discussing the latest industry issues. This event is mostly aimed at investors, though there were many projects, namely, from Austria and several other German-speaking countries. We were able to meet with several dozens of investors, including but not limited to large investors. We also held talks with the people that joined in our portfolio projects: members of syndicates, that Digital Future has joined, and investors of our portfolio companies. Among them were the meetings with Acton, which is a large German investor. We held talks with Runa Capital and 3S Capital Partners, and with reps of venture division of Bosch. We had some previous discussions with them about our portfolio project LifeTracker. This time we also touched upon this topic and discussed Bosch’s investing plans, as well as agreed on mutually beneficial information sharing in the future.

DF: Do you have some provisional results from the meetings you attended?

VK: Right now we are not talking about the actual results. The most important thing is that we’ve made acquaintances and shared our investment vision and that we’ve heard the vision of other investors. It’s interesting that with Bosch, Acton and 3TS we match on the prerequisites of projects selection: there should be a clear-cut business model, revenue earned, correspondence to the investor’s focus, just to number a few. Meetings with participants from Eastern Europe have been of particular interest to us.

DF: Could you name the geographical location of the majority of Eastern European countries you had talks with?

VK: Slovenia and Poland. We got acquainted with the reps of Slovenian angel group that provided us with very useful information on Hungarian and Czech angels. Our target focus matches theirs and we are most likely to continue our work in this direction. There have been way too many meeting requests and we were physically unable to gratify every single one of them. We had to mostly focus on meeting investors. For example, we took part in a very exciting talk with Angel Garcia from Barcelona StartupBootCamp. The planned short get-together extended into a several hours talk. We discussed perspectives of European Hi-Tech development, and Angel shared with me his insights.

Many communications actually happened without meeting in person. Just an opportunity to talk at Pioneers gave us over 100 useful contacts. We have already started working with an angel, a chief executive specializing in investing of one of the top banks in the world.

From time to time startups were trying to give a pitch to us on the go, but in Vienna, we were not primarily to buy, but to sell i.e. we were meeting with other investors to offer our portfolios to invest in the next rounds. We set ourselves a goal to gather as many contacts of investors as we possibly can, with a prospect of them to join us in the next round of funding of our portfolio companies. Meaning, that by the end of 2016 — early 2017 we should have a short-list of investors to do business with.

DF: In fact, you did not have enough time to analyze the projects during the event? But you have surely noted the overwhelming trends, have you?

VK: I was astonished by a number of hardware projects. The most exciting project offered to assemble/disassemble Bluetooth speakers of any volume output. It was similar a Lego constructor and you could build anything up to 200–200 Watt.

There was also an interesting project in augmented medical field — Araned. And another medical project that we might cooperate with, is Cardiolyse. In Vienna the latter one received great feedback from many investors that are thinking about financing the startup, but as we have been helping them for quite some time, we hope for a closer cooperation. For instance, we assisted them in meeting professionals that aid them in getting technical verification on the basis of real data from the USA.

DF: So what round of investments would it be?

VK: This will be early seed, but for a large amount.

There have been many other projects with elements of robototronics, medical projects, virtual and augmented reality: accessories, arm chairs, handling units and so on. It seems that the major effort in Europe is directed at hardware projects, and far less at software ones. But there are some exceptions, like Ludwig project. Service allows clients find a perfect wording match when translating a text into English. Quite a useful project, I believe. You could also find some governmental and intergovernmental support programs.

DF: Do you remember that we had a discussion with you about your trip to Barcelona for 4YFN event, and you noted that European support programs dim the enthusiasm of startups and many entrepreneurs become lazy and are not afraid to waste grants on their projects.

VK: Unfortunately, this is a common issue. Nevertheless, there are some useful Austrian governmental projects for locals. There is a variety of university and corporate programs, like when Samsung invested in a separate Austrian-Korean accelerator program with much success.

DF: In conclusion, what was the general atmosphere at Pioneers Festival?

VK: In the European VC-community attending Pioneers Festival is considered to be a good tradition that can lead to a plurality of useful contacts. Attaining them can be quite hard, though, as there are unnecessary obstacles at any major event that you have to overcome. As a matter of fact, Wi-Fi was not working properly, so two of my pre-planned meeting had to be canceled at the last minute. When you have over a thousand of investors and projects gather in one small space, no system can handle the volume of data exchanged. This is a challenge for future events and manufacturers of wireless networks. I am lucky to have a distinct beard, so people were able to recognize me on the spot.

To sum it up, the location was not suitable for such an event and the organizers did their best to have everything running as smoothly as possible. I believe that during 4YFN conference in Barcelona communication with projects was running more smoothly. Many people were also talking German when having small talk, but when things were becoming more complicated the language of communication was English, which is the main tongue for Hi-Tech business.

The food was quite tasty, which is important, as we did not have a minute to spare, which was actually free-of-charge for all Pioneer Festival participants at any time of day and night. This allowed us to have some informal talks over a cup of tea. Overall, I enjoyed the event a lot and I am sure that next year we should also pay a visit with a new portfolio of companies.

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