The startups financed today will be the stars of the stock market in the next years.
Vlad Sarca is Partner in Sparking Capital, an equity investment fund that finances early-stage startups (pre-seed and seed) in fields like consumer internet, marketing-tech, fin-tech, supply-chain tech, property-tech, travel-tech, circular economy and AI.
Vlad got interested in strategic management during his university years, and after graduating he continued his education at Said Business School, Oxford University, where he earned a diploma in Strategy and Innovation.
He is excited to support promising startups using his abilities, and 15 years of experience in developing and exiting multiple businesses.
Hello Vlad! At what moment in your career have you started investing in startups?
I have thought about this since 2012, when I considered diversifying my investment portfolio. I have become really active only in 2018, after selling EGV – a company that required my full-time attention – thus getting more time for being an investor. I remember that when I adhered to TechAngels we were about 20 members; I reckon that now we’re over a hundred.
What qualities should the ideal investor exhibit?
In my opinion, the investors participating in the early stages of a startup must support them in their process of clarifying their strategy, back them in finding the first customers or extend their customer base – if they are in B2B, and help them develop their team structure and clarify the key roles that need to be filled.
The ideal investor should listen a lot and act much like a coach: s/he should cut enough slack to the entrepreneurs so that they can implement their vision, nonetheless offering advice and support towards the desired results.
What do you lack from the qualities mentioned above?
Sometimes I wish I’d have more in-depth tech knowledge, to understand better the technical side of the products. However, judging from the previous experiences, the complementarity between my business knowledge and the technical know-how brought in by the founders worked very well, with encouraging results.
What inspires you in choosing the companies to invest in?
The most I am inspired by their founders and their teams. When I meet entrepreneurs really dedicated to their field, working to solve essential problems and to bring an increase in productivity for their clients, I feel we can easily team up to grow the company.
How do you see the ideal investment portfolio?
The ideal portfolio needs to be aligned with the investor’s risk profile. An ideal portfolio should include fixed income instruments, shares in listed companies as well as in private companies – and the tech startups are a good candidate. Depending on the individual risk appetite one can include other assets in the pot, too.
In regard to the “startups” part of the investment portfolio, I believe that one of the most important aspects is to invest in more than one company (around 10, ideally) and to put aside money for the following financing rounds launched by the same startups.
Sparking Capital decided recently to invest in Sypher Solutions. What were your main favorable points for this decision?
The main reason is the teams of founders. Both Cristi and Mihai have a lot of relevant experience in the chosen field. Another point was the market they address: this is in full blooming as increasingly more countries want to implement laws similar to GDPR in the EU; adapting Sypher to the legislation of any another country is quite easy.
In the US, California implemented already CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and more US states will follow the example, which will accelerate the market growth.
Why do you bet on Sypher? Did you know their team for long?
I had my first encounter with them in 2020 – by then they weren’t looking for financing – and I found their idea intriguing. A bit later, when they got in contact for financing, I pleasantly noted how well prepared they were: they had a coherent and well-supported answer for every question my colleagues and I cross-fired at them. This is how they convinced us they are really worth investing in.
Next, we have contacted a few of their clients and they let us know that they’re so happy with Sypher, they don’t even think about going back to the solutions used prior.
Another important point is the high client retention rate: basically, the majority of the clients acquired when the product launched, are still with Sypher.
What happens in the Regulation Technology - GDPR vertical, in which Sypher is a player? What are the main trends and opportunities?
There are two major players in this market: One Trust and Trust Arc. They have developed by performing multiple mergers & acquisitions, and I believe that this consolidation will continue. At a certain moment, Sypher might get acquired by one of these players too.
As mentioned already, the market is thriving and I trust this subject will be more and more in the spotlight, due to the high interest the citizens and governments have for data protection.
What are Sypher’s main, medium-term objectives? How do you plan to support achieving them?
Eighteen months from this funding round, Sypher plans to expand on multiple European markets and then to raise a Series A financing round. We intend to support their foreign expansion in Germany, UK, France, and alike; we already started to connect them with companies that could become their clients. We will also assist them in their strategic planning and with developing the sales and marketing team.
From your point of view, what’s SeedBlink’s role in the ecosystem?
I believe that Seedblink plays a pivotal role in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem because it connects the entrepreneurs – and their innovative products – with investors willing to finance them.
The projects are assessed by people with great experience in entrepreneurship and finances, and only those startups that pass their vetting are listed on the platform.
Since the beginnings of Seedblink, the number of financed Romanian companies has increased continuously and this is very beneficial for the entrepreneurs offering innovative products and services, but also for the investors eager to take part in developing the regional startup ecosystem.
Thank you for sharing your views with us. Any final thoughts for our readers?
I am glad there are so many investors enthusiastic to back the innovative products from Romania and our European region. Any cent we invest (and by we I mean: the ones who decided to be active in this field), helps the transition of the Romanian IT companies from providers of outsourcing services, to creators of products with considerable added value, with great potential to find their customers in a global market. The startups financed today will be the stars of the stock market in the next years.
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By Bianca Iulia Simion
PublishedSeptember 23, 2021
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