George Platanas: “SeedBlink is the right platform for those who want freedom of choice and a secure digital investment process.”
In an exclusive interview, SeedBlink‘s Country Director in Greece talks about the philosophy and goals of the specialized investment platform, which funds European Startups with innovative services and products, tells the unknown story behind its establishment and reveals the biggest technological and investment challenges for the Balkan and Southeastern Europe region.
S.M.: Mr. Platanas, would you be kind enough to refer to the profile and the historical background of SeedBlink? We would like to know more about its establishment, the start of its operation, its main purpose and the people behind this project.
G. Platanas: SeedBlink is a specialized investment platform in the field of technology, which enables investors and renowned entrepreneurs to finance leading European technology Startups and scale-ups alongside institutional investors. The platform was launched in early 2020 by former bankers Andrei Dudoiu and Ionuț Pătrăhău, who worked with serial tech entrepreneurs, Carmen Sebe and Radu Georgescu.A very strong and experienced team of co-founders with common decisions and vision. The problem they noticed was that there was difficulty in private investors accessing both innovative technology companies and investments. Europe’s Startup ecosystem is also very fragmented, which puts obstacles in the way of founders gaining access to capital.
As a result, the four co-founders were tasked with creating an effective investment infrastructure that needed the innovation and Startup entrepreneurship ecosystem for private and institutional investors to jointly finance innovative European technology companies.
It is characteristic that to date SeedBlink has attracted more than 11,800 individual investors from 62 countries and has a portfolio of 60 funded European companies. Funding rounds, in which platform users have participated in as co-investors, include FlowX with 1.6 million euros (round 7.3 million euros), Dronamics with 950,000 euros (round 3 million euros) and Hunch with 550,000 euros (round 3 million euros).
Based on official data, the average size of the portfolio is 20,000 euros, and the maximum total amount that an investor invests from his portfolio is almost half a million euros. And 25% of active investors have a portfolio of more than 5 companies, with the most diversified having 30 companies.
SeedBlink, which is also a Startup itself, in May 2021 raised funds of 3 million euros in Series A funding round, with the main goal of expanding in Europe. Thus, it recently opened offices in Bulgaria and Greece, while office openings in other countries will soon follow.
S.M.: What is the model that SeedBlink has adopted and follows in terms of its operation and development course in general, while what criteria and general KPIs are taken into account in terms of making investments in Startups that ultimately succeed in passing the relevant evaluation?
G. Platanas: SeedBlink cooperates and co-invests with established venture capital and networks of business “angels”, thus providing its investors with high quality deals and investment terms similar to those of VC’s. Given this approach to co-investments, we work closely with the lead investor to analyze the due diligence and vetting carried out by them. At the same time, our own investment managers use procedures similar to those of VCs to evaluate, review and obtain final approval regarding the Startup’s readiness for funding and sustainability. Following our internal assessments, the founders present the conclusions to the Funding Committee, where SeedBlink’s four partners together with experts in the field decide on the opportunity. Before a Startup becomes available to SeedBlink investors, our team analyzes the due diligence and makes sure that the round is well structured with the same rights as the lead investor.
Less than 5% of the opportunities we evaluate are accepted. The mandatory variables we are looking at are: European technology Startup or scaleup with lead investor, MVP and user traction, ticket size from 100,000 euros to 2 million euros. For each of the Startups, we analyze the team, the opportunity of the global market, the innovation of the product and the business model, the financial data and the terms of the agreement.
S.M.: What are SeedBlink’s plans for the Greek market, both in terms of the companies you want to invest in and of course the investors you wish to reach?
G. Platanas: Our investment team identifies and researches thousands of European companies to create a list of investment opportunities for technology Startups, which investors can access on the same terms along with VC and business “angels”. We invest in Software & Digital (e.g. corporate SaaS, HealthTech, EdTech, FinTech, AI/ML, cybersecurity), tangible (e.g. IoT, drones, hardware) and Health & Biotech Startups.
As far as investors are concerned, SeedBlink is the right platform for those who want to have the freedom of choosing the Startup, with pre-vetted opportunities but also a secure digital investment process for 2 categories of investors: First, private investors where investments start from 2,500 euros (minimum ticket of 1,000 euros for SeedBlink Club), who seek to diversify their portfolio with opportunities that are lead from VC.And secondly, institutional investors and Family Offices that benefit from due diligence but also well-structured deals and deal flow.
S.M.: You have already made two investments in Startups in Greec. Is there a specific number of investments in businesses that you have in mind or have already planned?
G. Platanas: The truth is that it is not a matter of plan.It all depends on the size of the market, the maturity of Startups and the dynamics of Greek investors, which I have to admit is quite large. In addition to the dynamics, the Greek investment community is quite sophisticated and knowledgeable about the Startup ecosystem. If I had to refer to a figure, I would definitely say over 20 investments in the next 12 months.The successful start in the Greek market has already been made with the 2 investments you mentioned and what we are focusing on now is to give the opportunity not only to the Greek but also to the entire European investment community to have access to unique deals through our platform.
S.M.: On a personal level, as an executive, what do you think are the elements you have already contributed to SeedBlink and its expansion in Greece? And how do you see your overall contribution to the domestic Startup ecosystem?
G. Platanas: Thank you very much for the question. In order to respond, however, I have to make a small reference to what has shaped me to date. I have a very diversified background that starts from Shipping finance with 15 years of experience as a Finance manager and continues with Digital transformation, the creation of my own tech Startups, where together with my partner George Pamiadakis we proudly created disruption at a time when everything was difficult for Startups. Also, I have experience in incubation / acceleration in one of the leading European organizations, as well as experience in VC and European Funds Fundraising. With this experience as an ally, I am convinced that I can not only continue but also expand SeedBlink’s highly successful course in Europe, starting in Greece, but also become a helper so that the Greek Startup ecosystem continues to prosper, as has been the case for the last 3 years.
S.M.: As head of SeedBlink in Greece, which sectors or sectors of the market show greater potential for evolution, growth and consequently investment interest in the coming period?
G. Platanas: SeedBlink’s investment thesis is based on technology. Therefore, I am looking at all tech Startups that come from Greece and want to expand globally. We believe in the potential and opportunities that the technology industries provide, as well as the extraordinary impact that the coming years could have on our daily lives. It is important to know that in SeedBlink’s deals, we co-invest and finance alongside a constantly growing network of business “angels”, Family Offices and VC’s to cover companies at all stages, supporting the funding rounds with know-how, experience, but also our team.
S.M.: In relation to Southeastern Europe, what is the position of Greece, given that Romania, a country from which SeedBlink “comes”, belongs to the same region? What can be the role that our country may have in this geographical area from an investment point of view?
G. Platanas: The ecosystem of Startups in Southeastern Europe is at its peak, with more and more Startups from the region attracting the attention of investors. There is increasing momentum throughout the wider Greek ecosystem. Looking at Sifted’s recent report, the country’s Startups received a total of 972 million dollars in investments in 2021, compared to 882 million dollars in 2020.
Romania is also in a good place. Experts are confident that the country is on its way to becoming one of the most vibrant innovation hubs in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2021, Romanian Startups raised three times the volume of capital compared to 2020, i.e. from 30 million euros to more than 116 million euros according to ZZ.
S.M.: By the way, in your opinion, what are the most important growth opportunities both in Greece and in Southeastern Europe?
G. Platanas: In terms of opportunities, plenty of talent and cost-effectiveness have made the countries of Southeastern Europe excellent places for the establishment of a Startup. But many young entrepreneurs were disappointed by the difficulties in raising or accessing capital. This is no longer a problem. With platforms active in the market – such as SeedBlink – funding is readily available for ambitious founders. In addition, a study recently published by Crunchbase shows that over 10 European VCs have fresh funds to support Eastern European Startups and founders at various stages of development. Most of these VCs are now looking for opportunities now beyond their borders to make new deals.The new ECSP regulation, which has now allowed uniform rules for crowdfunding in Europe since November 2021, supports Seedblink’s European expansion and allows us to continue our plan to reach more and more countries.
S.M.: I would also like to ask you about the challenges that are emerging in our region. Which ones do you consider greatest in the nearest environment?
G. Platanas: With regard to the challenges, I believe that cooperation between different cultures and the exploitation of the potential of each country are absolutely essential for further expansion. We open active partnerships before each launch of the country with VC, Family Offices, accelerators and other strategically selected bodies that support entrepreneurs to develop the local ecosystem but also to find these deals with the possibility of global scale up and become the Next Big Thing.