#10 Tech bloom in spring’s wake
February 2021 | Practical content about venture capital investment and the startup ecosystem curated by and for entrepreneurs
With the days getting longer and the nights getting shorter, we’ll soon be saying goodbye to winter in no time at all. To celebrate the coming of spring, we’re featuring two excellent Southern European players who are thriving in their respective fields.
This is the tenth issue of ¡Alirón! Thank you to all the investors and founders who have participated so far!
Today we are thrilled to spotlight Stefano Guidotti, partner at Italy-based P101, which invests in early-stage digital startups, and Pedro Torrecillas, co-founder, and CEO of our portfolio company Circular, the best network for hiring tech talent recommended by in-house recruiters. Circular just announced $10M in combined seed and pre-Series A funding from investors like LocalGlobe, Point Nine, Kibo Ventures, and All Iron Ventures.
WORDS OF VC-ISDOM
Stefano Guidotti, Partner @ P101
In our “Words of VC-isdom” section, good friends at other top international VCs tell us about what they do, what they look for, what they think about Spain as an investment destination, and share valuable do’s and don’ts with the entrepreneurial community.
P101 is a VC firm focused on early-stage investments in the digital sector. They aim to provide entrepreneurs with capital, expertise, and resources to sustain and accelerate their growth by working closely with private and university-based accelerators. P101 was launched in 2013 by Andrea Di Camillo, co-founder of Banzai and Vitaminic. With more than €200M in AUM, the firm has invested in 40 startups, including BorsadelCredito, Cortilia, Milkman, MusixMatch, Colvin, and Mundimoto.
Fun fact: the company is named after the first personal computer sold on a large scale, Programma 101. It was designed and manufactured by Olivetti during the 60s and was an example of Italian innovation that has left a mark on the history of modern digital technology.
Introduce P101 — who you are, your investment thesis, including what sectors, models, and stages you invest in, what makes you different, etc…
P101 is one of the reference VC investors in Italy and the Southern EU, active since 2013. We have €220M AUM and have invested in 40 companies in Italy, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and the US; some have become the digital champions in their respective sectors.
We are a team of ex/entrepreneurs, and we like to be as proactive as we can, flanking the founders we back. We are a Series A-focused investor and only invest when we can add value to the table, which is usually linked to how pervasive we are in the Southern EU through our networks in the business and financial communities. We are historically broad in our investment scope within the digital umbrella but are now more and more focusing on edtech, digital health, proptech, mobility, and sustainability.
The European tech ecosystem has grown significantly in recent years. How do you see Europe as an investment destination? Are there any particular European geographies you focus on? How much do you invest internationally vs. in your home country?
We are a Southern EU-focused investor, though we also invest in other geographies within Europe (in companies that have links to Southern EU).
Is Spain a geography you are interested in and actively looking into? Why is that? What are your views on the Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole and its state of development? How does it compare to those in other European countries?
We have a very successful history investing in Spain, with past and active portfolio companies including DeporVillage, Colvin, Bipi, Force Manager, and lately MundiMoto.
Based on the results we’ve had, we have matured the conviction that a Spanish company at Series A level often starts looking at international expansion outside of Iberia, especially looking at Italy, because of cultural similarities, competition levels, etc. And in all those cases, we can be a very strategic partner, helping founders and management teams put businesses on the ground and feast/track their growth significantly.
Regarding your overall investment track record and experience, what is your opinion about the Spanish entrepreneurs vis-à-vis those in other countries?
The Spanish ecosystem is one of those that have evolved the most in Europe but also more broadly in the last five years. And this is due to a mix of elements including the quality of universities and the broader education system, successful tech scale-ups, larger companies where young people out of university can have their first experiences and then launch their own business, and availability of capital. Also through public sources and a thriving VC ecosystem with top player VCs at a European level.
And we’ve always found in Spanish entrepreneurs the right mix of execution focus, ambition, and strategic thinking that you need to look for in an early-stage company.
What is a must-have in the projects in which you invest?
It may look trivial, but it’s the right mix of human factors in the founding team.
What are the most common mistakes you typically see among founders looking into raising capital from VCs?
The relationship between founders and VCs is almost a marriage. You need to have a very clear understanding of the other one’s elements of interest alignment for it to last and be as successful as possible. A common mistake is not understanding what VCs are looking for in terms of returns, timelines, interactions, etc.
If you were to give just one piece of advice to any entrepreneur, what would that be?
Spend the most of your time trying to understand who are the best people you can surround yourself with at all stages of your entrepreneurial voyage because it’s always people that make the difference between good results and huge successes.
What is the best way for entrepreneurs to contact the P101 team?
References by entrepreneurs and fellow VC investors are usually the best ways for us to start discussions with a team. Still, you can always reach us on LinkedIn, and we are always very open to listening to anything interesting where we can be a valuable partner.
Pedro Torrecillas, Co-founder & CEO @ Circular
In our “Learning with…” section, entrepreneurs we have backed put some of their hits, mistakes, and learnings when building and scaling their companies at the disposal of the ¡Alirón! community.
Circular was founded in 2019 by two former VPs of Jobandtalent, Pedro Torrecillas (VP of Product) and Teo Ruiz (VP of Engineering), to provide direct access to tech talent recommended by in-house recruiters within fast-growing tech companies. Circular has made almost 1,000 hires since launch and has helped set up on average 20,000 interviews per year with more than 5,500 in-house recruiters active in its community and over 19,000 candidates. It aims to use its $10M in funding to spearhead expansion within Europe beyond London, Madrid, and Barcelona.
Tell us about why and how you decided to launch Circular and where you guys are today
We saw an existing behavior: in-house recruiters introducing talent they liked and eventually didn’t hire to colleagues or friends in the industry (if the candidates are up for it, obviously). This collaboration had to occur in informal, unstructured, and low-trust environments, limiting its effectiveness and causing compliance and privacy issues. We believe it has the potential to transform the recruitment industry if done at scale. Circular is the network that allows talent-sharing at scale. We’ve closed 1,000 tech hires and do around 20,000 interviews per year.
What is an average day like for you as CEO? How do you manage to lead Circular and still find a work-life balance?
I try to wake up earlier than my family to clean my inbox every day. After breakfast, my day officially starts with a 15' daily with every operational team, where we review the last day’s results and prioritize work for the current day. After that, I usually have all meetings in the morning (mainly unblocking my team) and schedule focus time to get things done in the afternoon. When I arrive home, me and my wife play with my kids (two and one-year-olds with a lot of energy!), then give them dinner and put them to sleep. Working is forbidden until the following day.
How would you define your leadership style? What are you good at? What do you need to improve? What has been your primary learning in this area?
I would say I am results-focused, supportive, and challenging. I need to improve how I celebrate the small or big wins. One important thing that I learned is how important it is that every manager in Circular –including me– is trained in their management skills.
What has been your roadmap to define Circular’s strategic priorities over time when you have so much on the table?
We have a mission-to-metric framework that sets clear product and go-to-market strategies to achieve our mission. Then, we set three fixed priorities for the year that push us forward in that direction. Every initiative (we call them bets, deliverables, or experiments) has to impact one of these three priorities.
When did you decide to scale internationally? How did you define that process?
Timing is the most challenging thing. It can always feel like you are too early (the product is always WIP) or too late (competition will always pop up). We scaled internationally when we had the know-how on how to kickstart liquidity. For that, we define a three-step process to i) get supply in; ii) get demand in; iii) get to threshold liquidity when the launch team does the handover to the local team.
Building a great team is critical for any startup’s success. What has been your magic recipe to do that? What is the most outstanding challenge Circular faces in this area?
We hired an excellent and experienced Head of Talent (María Beneite) relatively early. This, plus our privileged access to tech talent (via Circular), was the key to building a great team. The greatest challenge has been telling candidates we were a real, well-funded, growing company while being in “semi-stealth.”
What main piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs raising capital based on your own learnings?
Run a tight process, have all materials and questions ready on day 0, control the timing, have a CRM ready and 15–20 VCs always in the process, and make it as fast and painless as possible.
Any other recommendations you have for current or aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you are ready to commit ten years of your life, don’t wait too much to get started!
Latest AIV portfolio rounds
Just a quick note on some of the most recent transactions relating to our portfolio companies
- Circular — a network for hiring tech talent recommended by in-house recruiters
Spain | Seed & pre-Series A — $10Mn founding with the participation of LocalGlobe, Point Nine, Kibo Ventures, All Iron Ventures, Kima, and Shilling, among other investors.
Circular.io is putting a referral spin on tech recruitment
Demand for talent continues to make tech recruitment a hotbed of startup activity. To wit: Madrid-based startup…
- DasLab — a digital infrastructure for medical diagnostics
Germany | Seed — €6.2M round led by Speedinvest with KAYA Ventures, All Iron Ventures, and Plug and Play participating.
Aiming to unite a fragmented medical diagnostics testing industry, DasLab raises €6.2 million
Berlin-based DasLab has raised €6.2 million in a seed funding round as it aims to help the telemedicine industry add…
- Sunhero — a marketplace that connects homeowners with technicians & service providers of self-sufficient solar energy installations
Germany | Seed — $4M round led by Speedinvest, with the participation of All Iron Ventures and relevant business angels.