Meet the Investors: Markus from Pioneers Ventures

Since 2012, there is one of the most important gatherings of the Startup environment taking place in Vienna: The Pioneers Festival. But did you also know that Pioneers Ventures are investing in Startups themselves? As an early-stage seed fund their portfolio has grown to over 30 startups and already made their first exit with Atmosplay.
Markus Lang is Managing Director of Pioneers Ventures. With the venture arm he wants to support outstanding European startups with smart money. Read in the following what that exactly means and how you can get in touch with him.

Pioneers Ventures: Managing Directors Markus Lang and Philipp Stangl

Markus, can you please give us a short introduction of who you are and what keeps you busy every day?
I consider myself being an entrepreneur and started my first small company with 18. During that time I organized events & did some coaching with fellow students after university. Together with an Austrian serial entrepreneur I then started, a crowd logistics company. After working almost three years as managing director, I finally switched sides of the startup table in 2015 when I got the chance to build up & run Pioneers Ventures with “partner in crime” Philipp Stangl. What I do everyday? Let’s say there are four main task groups:

1. It’s all about dealflow: This means filling our pipeline of potential investment cases with good and high-quality leads, assessing and working with them in order to finally decide whether to invest or not. To give you some rough numbers: on 100 Startups screened, comes 1 actual investment.

2. The second main task is everything that has to do with the negotiation process and legal work after we have decided that we want to invest. We often act as a lead investor, which means that we structure the terms with the founders (in many cases first-time founders).

3. Task #3 is mainly related to portfolio management. With close to 30 portfolio companies, this takes most of our time. We try to support our startups in the seed phase as much as we can.

4. Everything else is stuff that nobody wants to do, but has to be done. Reporting, annual statements, bookkeeping,…

You are part of the Austrian startup ecosystem since quite a while now. Can you tell us a bit more about what makes this ecosystem so special and how it developed over the years?
Pioneers has been one of the first players in the Austrian startup ecosystem and the development of that ecosystem in the last years was amazing. Nevertheless I think that you can not and should not compare Austria with Silicon Valley, but if you keep in mind that the biggest startup event in Austria had 30 to 40 participants back a couple of years ago, there are many reasons to be proud of this development.

We from Pioneers Ventures see ourselves as an European VC with a special role. This special role mainly comes with our headquarters in Vienna. The city connects eastern and western Europe, and we try to do that with the startup ecosystem as well. Only 25% of our dealflow is from Austria, the other 75% are startups from all over Europe.

Assuming a startup made it through your pipeline and you will meet them personally: What are you looking for in a startup’s pitch and how do they get considered for an investment?
We are a pre-seed investor which means normally there is not yet a lot of traction in the vast majority of our investment cases. Having that said, the three most important things for us are:

1. Team: Almost every investor agrees that founders are key. The earlier you invest, the more important the founding team is: Industry & startup experience and the right feature set amongst the co-founders are crucial for us. And of course we need to have the feeling the teams loves to work together and wants to build great products.

2. Market: Is there a large enough market and do we think the whole startup can get big enough?

3. Actual prototype: We would not invest in “slideware” startups only. But why is this point the least important of the ones mentioned before? Because at the stage we invest we normally talk about prototypes that most likely change several times before the actual market entry.

Pioneers Ventures is looking for outstanding startups and provides smart money. Next to money, what is the smart part Startups can expect from an investment of yours?
I think there are a couple of benefits that every good investor would provide you with as an early stage startup: strategic advice, mentoring, access to network…. All things that are a commodity at least for what we call a good investor. 
What makes us special is first of all the bridge to the US-market. Meaning when it comes to US market entry, product feedback and first partners/ customers from the valley, we can definitely help.

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Secondly we support you with follow on fundraising: Pre-seed money usually lasts 12 months max, so obviously you need to start fundraising again soon. This is something where we really focus on. Over 90% of our portfolio companies that wanted to raise a follow-on round were successful.

How does help to communicate with your growing number of portfolio companies?
As mentioned before, we have 30 portfolio companies and there is a lot of data coming in every month. A platform where data is collected and visualized securely, saves us and our startups a ton of time.

Furthermore, many startups are in a very early stage and may not have all numbers in place. The combination of metrics and monthly investor updates, where founders describe their startup’s development within a few sentences gives us deeper portfolio insights, we know special needs and can support specifically. Overall the platform makes portfolio reporting, communication and management faster, easier and more engaging for both sides.

Thanks a lot Markus. Before we finish: How can Startups best get in touch with you Pioneers Ventures?
That’s super easy: Just visit our homepage and apply for an investment. Please provide some basic data directly online and we will get in touch with you shortly. We are always eager to work with outstanding entrepreneurs.