Recipe for a successful pre-seed round? An experienced team, focus on being global from day one, stellar co-investors and a growing technology trend. Here’s why we invested in Bitskout.
Founders, founders, founders
In early-stage startup investing, founding team quality is the most important success/failure indicator. The product will likely change a 100+ times in the next 2 years, markets will shift, new competitors will show up, and the team will be there to navigate it all.
This time we made a bet on Ilia’s and Alexey’s experience and proven ability to deliver. Many years in the world’s top tech corporations and entrepreneurial mindsets made a great foundation to become startup founders. And yeah, if you didn’t notice already, they are brothers! One may say that SMOK, also being co-founded by two brothers, may have an affection for these types of deals, but hey – if it works, it works.
What is also worth mentioning, Ilia and Alexey managed to deliver a working product in just a few months, with no budget. They literally did that by the book. Before reaching out to investors they established key product hypotheses, created an MVP and proved that it works.
Stellar co-investors and global mindset from day one
The round has been filled with investors from three distinct corners of Europe. Bitskout managed to convince SMOK Ventures (American fund investing in CEE), Shilling VC (Portugal) and Octopus Ventures (UK). Why is that so important? Because it will be a major multiplier for Bitskout’s business and VCs network, especially when fundraising for the next round. Bitskout had these two elements from the start:
- Global mindset – rather than focusing on local market;
- Long term vision – as the current round is not a destination, but rather a beginning of the journey.
Bitskout allows users to make use of the most powerful AI engines in the world, without writing a single line of code, and all of that directly in the user’s working environment. It means that users can employ powerful AI with close-to-none effort. I believe that no-code is the next step for work automation. Rather than software replacing people, it should make them more efficient. People who work with manual and mundane processes should have easy access to the best automation tools, and Bitskout makes it happen.
If you want to learn more about this emerging technology trend, here’s a recent article from NY Times.
Moving to remote investing
Not that long ago I would have met all our portfolio founders offline a few times before making a decision. The Bitskout investment process is one of the first steps into the direction of fully remote or hybrid (online/offline) investing. Why so?
Obviously, I still want to meet founders and get to know them well before making a decision. Though, keeping in mind SMOK’s focus on investing across CEE, I cannot be personally present in each major startup hub in the region as much as I’d like to. So, much like many startups switching to fully remote, I need to hold up on the idea of having a beer with each team before investing. And honestly, it’s great! There will be plenty of time for social chit-chat in
So how exactly did the process look like in the case of Bitskout? I scouted the lead remotely, later we had a few online chats with the CEO. During the process we met face-to-face only once, with the CTO, who happened to be an expat living in Krakow, Poland. In the meantime, SMOK’s Venture Partner – Dan Bragiel verified the deal from Sillicon Valley standpoint. What was also of great help in the process, the CEO did a tremendous job in preparing an investors’ data room.
Are you working on a startup relevant to SMOK?
If you read the above, liked what you saw, can relate to how we think, communicate and act as a fund and you know of a startup we should be talking to, please read our investment FAQ and send me an email with the deck firstname.lastname@example.org!
SMOK Ventures is a US venture capital fund investing between 100k and 1M USD in early stage startups in CEE. We like software and gaming startups run by serial founders who think global market domination.