“We are preparing a new fund in 2024, sized between €12-15M.” Interview with Jan Kasper from ZAKA VC

Over it’s fourth investment year, 2023, ZAKA VC has made 20 new investments in pre-seed and seed startups across the DACH and Baltic regions, as well as in the UK and expats in the US. The year brought a total of 46 startups to its portfolio. The fund also strengthened its position in healthcare and biotech sector with 8 investments in the field.

AIN.Capital talked with ZAKA VC’s Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Jan Kasper about the fund’s activities and success stories in 2023, as well as further plans and predictions for 2024.

You can read the interview below:

Jan Kasper from ZAKA VC
Jan Kasper. Image: ZAKA VC

Tell us about ZAKA VC. Who do you invest in, how much, and at what stages?

ZAKA is one of the most active VC family offices in Europe. We have an agnostic approach, with strong focus on software solutions across multiple business sectors as well as on scalable health and biotech solutions.

Our primary focus is on pre-seed and seed, but we are always happy to assess startups even in the earlier stages. Geographically speaking, our portfolio startups are active on all continents, but our activity is oriented primarily on Czechia and Slovakia, the Baltic countries, and the UK.

In 2023, which was also ZAKA’s fourth year, you had closed 20 new investments. Can you tell us more about these deals?

With a strengthening network in the health & biotech sector, startups in this segment dominated our new investments in 2023. I will mention, for example, ExcepGen (where we became a co-investor together with Y Combinator, RA Capital Management, and Sam Altman’s Apollo Projects), Olio Labs, Medisearch (both also backed by Y Combinator), or Eigen Therapeutics (backed by First Round and Alumni Ventures).

Outside of biotech, there were, for example, Spanish-based Webel (service marketplace), Austrian-based Tripmakery (group booking platform), or the Czech startups Cruxo (retail media platform), and Sharpgrid (DataTech in On-Trade and Hospitality).

What startups in the 2023 batch impressed you the most so far, in regards to their team, product, or growth?

All of the startups in biotech sector have made some major progress since our investment – however, these are not measurable in MRR or CAC/LTV. All of the teams are working hard on proving their concept, IP registration, crucial partnerships, etc. Among the non-biotech startups, Webel and Tripmakery are proving on monthly basis that they “hit the nail on the head” and perceive a growing demand for their products. 

Can you share with us the proudest moments of 2023 that you’ve experienced at ZAKA VC?

We are very proud of the yearly progress that we have made – our know-how, energy, and investment opportunities get stronger every day. Not even once in the last year did we think about the fundraising crisis; we have rather perceived it as a stronger opportunity to invest.

Given you have a diverse geography portfolio, what did you find most challenging about the startup and VC market in 2023?

As mentioned earlier, where others see challenges, we see opportunities. Our independence and EU-wide activity allows us to perceive the situation on different markets which has led to a stronger focus on the Baltics and the UK. These are the countries where we see many success stories and a strong ecosystem development.

Did you face any challenges yourself?

One of the challenges is the precising of our assessment process – continuously shaped by tech innovation, market development, our network, and increasing knowledge.

With the arrival of 2024, what plans or expectations does ZAKA have for this year?

We want to continue growing and investing even more. We are eager to learn and to be better every day, which we are working hard for. We are also taking steps to prepare a new fund in 2024. With fund size between €12-15 million it will be based in Prague and focused on pre-seed and seed phase, active in the Baltic region, UK, and extended to the US.

This is the first time we are opening our investment instrument to other investors – our future Limited Partners.

By judging the market last year, can you share any predictions for the near future?

We are in the era of increasing implementation of artificial intelligence which has a massive influence on how people live and do business. Generation Z people think, act and work differently. All the startups which leverage these changes in business (sustainability, edtech, healthcare, biotech, mobility, etc.) gain a strategic advantage. We believe that VC activity will largely copy these trends.

What tips would you give promising startups in the region who want to raise capital from investors or, in particular, ZAKA VC?

  • Keep yourself concentrated and motivated and also, keep your mind clear.
  • Be ready to easily explain the problem you are solving as well as why your solution and your team are the best to solve it.
  • When fundraising, do your math. Prepare your argumentation for the round size, valuation, market size, pricing strategy, and your unit economics.