Action points from TRMNL4 network
Despite the global downturn in venture capital investments, CEE region remains one of the fastest growing in terms of startup funding and VC fundraising. The total value of funding closed within the six months of 2023 in CEE amounted to almost €1.2 billion, with more than 10 new funds were launched, and acceleration programs appearing almost weekly. In an effort to bolster the region's vibrant advancement, expand educational and investment opportunities for CEE technology businesses, the Ukrainian co-founding IT company Genesis established TRMNL4 project as a connector for startups, investors, and global tech players.
In a joint project with Genesis, we spoke to TRMNL4 network members about the lessons learned by early-stage startups during their development path. We also gathered insights from community investment partners ffVC and Flyer One Venture on how startups can overcome challenges at the beginning of their journey.
billion euro of startup funding
“Learning from others’ successes and failures can provide valuable insights and save you from repeating common pitfalls”
Diego Cuadrado Hipólito
Founder and CEO at OptiVlak
Founded in 2022, OptiVlak is an Estonia-based logistics startup that develops a freight forwarding app focused on intermodal transport. By automating the booking and documentation process, OptiVlak simplifies and optimizes the entire freight transport process across Europe while reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainability.
To date, OptiVlak has already successfully developed a prototype and conducted initial testing to validate the app’s functionality and usability. We are now at the very beginning of our journey, but want to share some key aspects that are crucial to focus on in the early stages of developing a startup, in order to increase the likelihood of success:
Firstly, having a clear and compelling vision is essential.
Secondly, prioritize market research and validation.
Thirdly, build a talented and passionate team.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of networking and seeking mentorship. Connect with experienced entrepreneurs, join startup communities, and participate in educational programs like those of TRMNL4. They will definitely provide you with invaluable mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to resources that have significantly accelerated our startup’s growth.
TRMNL4 was officially launched in October 2023, but its story began two years earlier when the first edition of the Genesis StartUp Academy together with Meta program was held in partnership with Meta. Now the project is focused on two key directions:
T4.Programs: educational programs for the development and scaling of tech businesses. The flagship program, StartUp Academy, is equity-free and free of charge. Organized by Genesis and Meta, it aims to connect the most promising CEE startups with leading tech companies and investors to catalyze fast growth. Since 2021, over 120 startups have participated in the program, and seven of them raised investments ranging from $100,000 to $1 million afterward.
T4.Community, a community that unites founders of the CEE region. To date, it has already connected over 100 startup members.
In TRMNL4 network are also more than 40 VC funds that invest in startups from the CEE region and beyond, such as ffVC, Market One Capital, SMOK Ventures, Presto Ventures, Flyer One Ventures and others. Among TRMNL4’s tech partners are such companies as Meta, Amazon Web Services, AppsFlyer, Deel, and Zendesk.
“Previously, T4.Community was a closed community exclusively for StartUp Academy graduates. However, due to the high demand for membership, we opened it. Now, to become a part of T4.Community, startups can apply for membership, pass the selection stages, and be invited to join. As a member, each one will have access to the network of mostly CEE founders and investors, as well as the opportunity to receive feedback and advice from peers, business experts, and investors. Additionally, they can enjoy benefits from our tech partners, including Notion, Zendesk, and others.”
“We decided to join TRMNL4, because we are dedicated to supporting startups in Central Europe and empowering them to tackle the complex challenges of today's business landscape.”
Partner at ffVC
As founders embark on developing their startup in the early stages, there are several key tasks to set and areas to focus on to increase their chances of success:
Firstly, it is crucial to clearly define the problem being solved and ensure that there is a big Total Addressable Market (TAM) for the solution. By identifying a significant market opportunity and offering a relevant solution that brings clear-cut economic benefit, founders can attract the interest of investors and customers alike.
Secondly, taking a global approach and designing a scalable business model can significantly enhance the growth prospects of a startup. By considering international markets from the outset and building a business model that can be easily replicated and expanded, founders can tap into a larger customer base and unlock greater revenue potential.
Lastly, the mindset and execution capabilities of the founders play a vital role in driving the success of a startup. Having an entrepreneurial mindset, being adaptable to change, and possessing the ability to execute on plans and strategies are crucial attributes for founders. It is important to set realistic goals, prioritize effectively, and consistently monitor progress.
ff Venture Capital is a US and Poland-based international firm with a global portfolio of more than 90 companies and over $15 billion of enterprise value. In June 2023, it launched a €60 million fund to support Central European startups with funding from the US and Japanese investors. ffVC believes that these projects, with their deep technical expertise and skill set, have the ability to address critical global challenges.
TRMNL4 is powered by Genesis, a co-founding company that builds global tech businesses. It has been on the marker for over 15 years and has over 3,000 employees worldwide. For the Ukrainian market, Genesis has already created a unique ecosystem that includes more than 25 businesses. Now the company is scaling its expertise by sharing knowledge with ambitious entrepreneurs from CEE.
“The startup ecosystem seems to be very vibrant, and I am particularly impressed by the speed of getting ideas to market in CEE. The region’s opportunity (a downside at the same time) is market fragmentation — cultural patterns vary from country to country. This makes going to market difficult, but this also fosters adaptability or companies in various markets.”
Founder Ministry of Good Spirit, Chairperson of the board for several companies, Advisor and Investor
In this challenging ecosystem, the mission of Genesis and TRMNL4 project is to provide startups with resources for growth: network, business content, access to the best funds investing in the region, and honest feedback from colleagues and experts.
“Don’t expect things to get easier. They won’t. Instead, expect problems to become more interesting and challenging as you advance,”
CEO and co-founder of memoryOS
Started by Swedish and Ukrainian founders in 2019, memoryOS is an innovative ed-tech app that equips individuals with essential Learning and Memory Management skills & tools to thrive in an increasingly information-rich digital world. It offers a series of interactive micro-lessons and HD Virtual Mind Palaces designed to help the user remember needed information quickly without making them tired of the learning process. Imagine a world where our minds get a 'save button'.
Throughout StartUp Academy 2023 and TRMNL4, we've gained valuable practical insights that have helped elevate our startup game across all business areas: management, hiring, analytics, product development, unit economics, performance marketing, negotiations, fundraising, and more. With over four years of startup development experience, I would like to share some advice for those who are at the very beginning:
Focus on building an MVP that will pass the POC (Proof Of Concept) stage, meaning it should effectively solve the problem for your target market while ALSO making your early adopters to pay upfront for you to deliver a more refined version of your product.
Build something users will be willing to pay for as early as possible and continue improving its value along with all primary product and funnel metrics.
Try to bootstrap for as much as possible and seek VC capital only when you see it is now the most logical win-win-win path for further growth. Initially, focus on building, selling, and scaling your product.
Avoid moving forward with co-founders and core team members that don’t align with your principals or share the same vision. It’s a long adventure and requires great team spirit, dedication and resilience to reach the top.
“Community is another important aspect. So I wholeheartedly support T4's vision of industry players sharing expertise with each other — it helps our tech ecosystem grow. As a VC firm, we've created a platform for our portfolio startups, but I believe that fostering a larger community can have an even greater impact on the industry. Investors like me value connecting with new founders and investing in community-led companies. Founders, in turn, find more success when they can communicate with peers, investors, and industry experts to share ideas and expertise.”
General Partner at Flyer One Ventures
The Ukrainian VC firm, Flyer One Ventures, has already invested $35 million in over 70 startups. It is industry-agnostic and focused on founders from Europe and North America who are building global companies at pre-seed, seed, and Series A stages. Currently, the fund is in talks with a few new startups and anticipates closing at least one more deal by the end of 2023.
Being an entrepreneur involves consistently facing difficulties and making tough decisions, not just at the outset. By preparing for a marathon rather than a sprint, you can rise above challenges and conquer them.
Be bold in business, yet stay humble and compassionate in your personal life. Prevent your own burnout, take care of nutrition and health, and embed that culture within the team.
Founders should also stay curious about things around and always ask other people for their advice. I’ve made my biggest professional mistakes because I haven’t asked for advice. My best decisions, in turn, were made after conversations with people smarter than me.
One key to a founder's success is clear thinking and good communication. Practice speaking clearly, because you will never get what you need if you don't articulate your messages well.
“Follow the advice of experienced venture capitalists: create a compelling narrative for investors and keep them updated with your startup's achievements.”
Founder & CEO Warehouse
Founded in 2022, Georgian Warehouse is on a mission is to create a digital bridge between the EU and EECA countries using our innovative freight forwarding web app. We're dedicated to helping businesses streamline their supply chain operations for maximum efficiency. Right now, we're in the product-market fit, actively rolling out new features and fine-tuning the beta version to make it fully functional.
Some tips I would personally wish to have realized earlier are as follows:
Choose co-founders wisely. Selecting your co-founders is a decision similar to choosing someone to raise a child with. It's a long-term partnership that requires trust, alignment, and a shared vision.
Prioritize MVP launch. Avoid dwelling on unnecessary features at the beginning. Focus on delivering a solution that truly resonates with your customers. Launch your MVP quickly and iterate until you find the right product-market fit.
Start fundraising early. Initiate fundraising six months in advance. Whether it's through equity-free grants or other means, it's essential to secure funding before running out of resources. You'll need to balance product-market fit, sales, and fundraising simultaneously.
From November 27th to December 1st, startup founders will have an opportunity to know better the TRMNL4 network — within the T4.Startups Week, IT entrepreneurs and investors will share their lessons learned while building or advising early-stage startup funders from CEE region. Participation is free, but registration is required.