Recently a group of 15 Estonian angel investors and venture capitalists spent a week in the East Coast USA visiting local startup ecosystem stakeholders, angel and venture capital investors.
Boston – one of the best cities for startups
We spent two days, October 30-31 in Boston, meeting with the most influential ecosystem players: Mass Global Partners, Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), Intel Ignite, Joint Effects VC, GrayBella Capital, OpenView VC, Polsinelli, the main take away was to see how important role a university (MIT) plays in an innovation ecosystem, and definitely the economic situation today came up as a topic everywhere.
On Monday evening Invest Estonia hosted a networking night which brought together people who we met during the day and other relevant ecosystem stakeholders, local Estonian students, startups and investors in order to have a longer chat and bond.
New York continues to be dynamic and busy
From Wednesday to Friday, November 1st to 3rd, we grasped in New York city and took in as much as we could, since the size of the NYC ecosystem is incomparable to what we’re used to. In New York we had interesting meetings with European American Chamber Of Commerce New York, AmplifyHer Ventures, IVP – Institutional Venture Partners, Baker & McKenzie LLP, New York Angels, NYU Innovation Venture Fund, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, TriNet, Glia, Golden Seeds, MindTheBridge and Republic.
Sneak peak into the few places we visited and what we heard
Our trip kicked off at Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) – an American real estate services company which bills itself as a “community of entrepreneurs”. Founded in 1999, CIC today manages more than 1.2M square feet of workspace, laboratories, and event space and has seen the startup world unfolding since beginning. Over there we picked up that in Boston and all around MIT the tech giants are always chasing ideas and talent. Current investments mostly go to health and biotech.
Openview VC shared that they are very keen to see how Estonian startups are evolving and consider investing in Estonian startups. European startups in general are seen as a reasonable investment decision – they might progress a bit slower but will definitely use the money smart. Related to that, at Baker & McKenzie we got a friendly reminder that investing outside the US for private investors from America is complex and tax system for all US citizens is difficult. But on the positive side – if there is a will there’s always a way.
One of the most memorable discussions we had happened at the New York Estonian House with NY Angels. The panel was held by Alvar Soosaar who hosted Jeff Seltzer and Seth Master from NY Angels and Kristjan Raude and Pirko Konsa from EstBAN. The discussion rolled around similarities and differences of the Estonian and NY angel groups, also screening process, due diligence, possible joint investments in the future and how to set them up. Later at Republic, we talked about the possibility of Estonian investors investing into US companies and US companies investing in Estonian/European companies using broker deals.
In addition, we had two insightful meetings at Glia and Golden Seeds. Glia is a unicorn that has an Estonian founder and a team in Tartu. Glia creates digital-first moments that transform how financial institutions connect with their customers using Messaging, Video, Voice, CoBrowsing, and AI.
Golden Seeds’ Loretta McCarthy took us through the history of Golden Seeds that was founded 20 years ago with the goal of changing the landscape of angel investing and directing more funding to high-potential women-led companies. We learned that the numbers in investments going into woman led companies are still not where they should be.
Key takeaways from our meeting in the US
- Many of whom we talked to sense the downturn in VC and angel investing.
- Startups are facing a hard time to raise the next round, the round will not be that big and the runway is expected to be longer.
- Why startups fail: 1) they run out of capital and 2) there’s no market need.
- Downrounds are a hot topic and how to go about.
- Bootstrapping being worshiped – as long as you can survive with the minimal money the better.
All in all it was a great experience and successful study trip. Thank you everyone who joined us, hosted, helped to set up meetings and make everything run smoothly. Thank you organizers from the US – Alvar, Arvo, Silve and Maris. The program was supported by Startup Estonia and the European Regional Development Fund.