Female Founder Office Hours Edition V: Meet the Investors Part I (ft. Atomico, Breega, Expa & Felix)

Last week, we launched Female Founder Office Hours Edition V in collaboration with Tech Nation and Google for Startups.

With 90 investors signed up, this is our biggest event to date. On 6th May 2021, we will bring together investors and founders with four key pillars in mind:

  1. Access. No warm intros needed.
  2. Remote. Geography is not a barrier.
  3. Collaboration. All investors, groups and initiatives working together.
  4. Founder-driven. Ask for advice, feedback, funding, or introductions.

After the success of the first four events, we are more focused than ever on ensuring that this initiative leads to meaningful relationships and more pounds being invested in women led businesses. As a result, each participating investor is committing to mentor at least one founder from the event on an ongoing basis and we will use AI matching to generate relevant meetings between investors and founders.

In preparation for this event, we want founders to know who they will be meeting and what to expect. Therefore, we have created a public Notion page collating useful information for this event and for those approaching their fundraising journey overall.

Additionally, relevant not only for this event but for any founder on their fundraising journey, we published our team’s tips and advice when we first launched and are releasing weekly ‘Meet the Investors’ series, where we have been interviewing investors. This week, we sit down with investors from Atomico, Breega, Expa and Soho Ventures.

Read on for insights into their investment strategy, what they enjoy discussing with founders and their top tips for office hours.

1. What is unique about your fund?

Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico

We have very strong operational expertise, both on the investment team and in our growth acceleration team, a group of individuals who have helped scale some of the world’s most successful technology companies such as Skype and Twitter and support our portfolio daily. We also believe that tech companies that identify and mitigate long-term risks related to their impact on society and different stakeholders will be more financially successful than those that don’t. That’s why we engage teams in thinking about these risks from the beginning of our journey with them.

Camille Thomas, Breega

Breega is a fund launched and managed by a team of founders. Everyone in our investment team has been an entrepreneur before, and we believe it makes a real difference in our approach to VC. Also, we have a very hands-on operational model. Half of the fund’s team (ie 10 people) is dedicated to supporting our portfolio on 1) talent hunting & HR topics; 2) bizdev; 3) PR, marketing & comms.

Dylan Itzikowitz, Expa

Expa is a global generalist pre-seed to Series A fund that was started by Garrett Camp, the founder of Uber & StumbleUpon. Having initially launched as a startup studio, helping founders take their business from 0–1 is inherent in our DNA. In addition to Garrett, our partners are founders & operators, bringing a builders mentality to how we invest & support our portfolio. As such, nothing is too early for us. We are truly founder led, investing in people & ideas, the earlier the better!

Angela Chou, Felix

We are a venture firm for the Creative Class. We operate in the intersection between creativity and technology, and thrive to partner with founders and companies that operate at this intersection!

2. What investments do you enjoy looking at?

Sasha Astafyeva, Investment Partner at Atomico

Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico

I lead consumer early-stage investing at Atomico. Within that space, I’m particularly interested in companies that are providing an experiential, innovative customer experience of the highest quality, democratizing access to those sorts of experiences and integrating data into improving customer experiences, especially in areas of consumer where data has not played a large role until now.

Camille Thomas, Principal at Breega

Camille Thomas, Breega

We are a generalist fund and can, in theory, look at any topic that is not biotech / medtech or crypto-related. But we have a particular focus on fintech / insurtech / digital health topics.

In terms of stage, we can do pre-seed to series A, with tickets ranging between 500k€ and 5m€. We generally like to lead or colead investment rounds.

Dylan Itzikowitz, Investor at Expa

Dylan Itzikowitz, Expa

We invest from the idea stage at pre seed, where founders are in the early days of building out their product and acquiring their first customers, all the way up to Series A. Average cheque sizes range between 200k-3m.

Angela Chou, Investor at Felix

Angela Chou, Felix

I personally enjoy looking at Gen Z and millennial focused brands, platforms and tools. These usually come with futuristic or mission-driven propositions, or sometimes have a sustainability angle.

3. Which part of a business do you most enjoy discussing with a founder?

Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico

I love discussing the founder’s vision and what they think gets them into the best position to make their vision come true. This not only helps us create alignment but also creates homework for us helping us better define how we as a fund can help them.

Camille Thomas, Breega

I like discussing founders’ vision and value proposition. My main point is to understand what makes the project unique, what tangible benefits it will bring to its users, and what will drive defensibility in the long run.

Dylan Itzikowitz, Expa

As an industry agnostic fund, I am privileged to learn about a diverse set of industries & problems daily. I enjoy meeting founders that are solving problems they have personally experienced and are genuinely passionate about addressing. I want to leave a meeting with a founder inspired to go learn more about the problem they are solving and wonder how the world continues to operate without it being solved.

Angela Chou, Felix

I’m always curious about the story of the founder and the business! I also enjoy speaking to founders about how they build a community, whether that community lives on Instagram, on Facebook, on the website, or elsewhere.

4. What are your top 3 tips on how to make the most of office hours?

Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico

  • Send as much information in advance as possible. That will minimize time spent intro-ing your business so you can get to the real conversation.
  • Come prepared with some knowledge about the VC firm itself and the individual investor you are meeting with. This will make the conversation more fruitful for both sides. For example, if you know that the investor worked in marketing before, you might want to ask them about something related to marketing that you have been struggling with.
  • Think of office hours as relationship building, not as a transaction. You’re not there just to pitch, use office hours to get advice on specific areas of your business and generally get to know that VC firm and that investor better.

Camille Thomas, Breega

1. Prepare the 3 key messages you want to deliver

2. Be structured and straight to the point

3. Listen to questions

Dylan Itzikowitz, Expa

Ask, ask, ask. You don’t ask, you don’t get. But don’t forget that office hours and investors provide just one opinion. Ultimately, this is your business. So take all advice with a grain of salt, be open minded, but stay true to your convictions.

Angela Chou, Felix

  1. Come with questions — this time is for you! So please let me know how I can help :)
  2. Come with an intention or purpose — you don’t have to have an agenda or a deck. I often find the best office hours are the ones where we just chat and problem solve, but with a specific purpose or intention in mind.
  3. Stay in touch! I always enjoy the casual update from time to time on how the business is shaping.

5. What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate Covid-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post-series B)?

Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico

  • Working fully remotely can be difficult from a communications standpoint, both at the company and team levels and for companies of all sizes. Many of our companies have pivoted to spending more time on internal communications, and we’ve encouraged them to allocate time and resources here. It really makes a difference, especially given the stressful time we are living through.
  • Being creative is now more important than ever. Think about how your business offering / team you have created can deliver on your mission in a new world that’s shifted a lot more online.
  • Be flexible in how you build your business and also keep your eyes and ear open for new opportunities, including bringing on new people on the team if it is something that you are thinking about. Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to many people finding themselves looking for new challenges, and we have seen a number of companies making great additions to their teams during this time.

Camille Thomas, Breega

It really depends on the sector they operate in, but as a general principle I would say not to be too assertive about what the “post-covid” world will look like. It is hard to predict if (and when) we will go back to our former lifestyle or change it forever, so keep your options open, be agile and cash-efficient, size opportunities to increase your runway, keep occupying your field, and give yourself clear milestones before accelerating.

Dylan Itzikowitz, Expa

Make sure your product is a need to have, not a nice to have.

Angela Chou, Felix

In our portfolio, we see 2 types of businesses with regards to COVID impact — the ones that were impacted, and the ones that were boosted due to the shifts in consumer behaviors. For the ones that had unfortunately been impacted, they have taken the opportunity to restructure for better cost efficiency, which would benefit them in the long run. I have also seen very successful and clever pivots that take advantage of the emerging consumer trends, and admire companies and founders for doing so.

If you either are or know a female founder who would like to join us for Edition V, please register here.

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium. If you’re a male founder and would still like to pitch us, please submit your application on our open-to-anyone pitch page.

You can find out more about Tech Nation’s Founders’ Network here and Google for Startups’ Immersion: Women Founders programme here.

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