**Eleven is an early-stage VC, investing in technology companies in Southeastern Europe and has supported more than 150 startups from inception to growth in the last 10 years. Based in Sofia, Bulgaria, Eleven is one of the pioneers of early-stage investing in Eastern Europe and consists of a team of entrepreneurs and investment experts passionate about the world of technology and innovation.**
Today we share with our community a conversation we had with Daniel Tomov, one of Eleven VC's founding partners. Enjoy!
Hello Daniel, I would like to start by thanking you for participating in this interview! How long have you been investing in early-stage companies and how did you get started?
We started Eleven almost 10 years ago and we have been a very active early-stage investor ever since. At that time, I had previous experience investing in private equity, in various stages, through an investment company I had founded, and also as an investment manager in an international firm. I can say that early-stage investing has been a passion for me throughout my professional life.
Looking ahead in early-stage investing, what are you most excited about? What keeps you up at night?
We stay true to our vision to make local heroes achieve global success. We started connecting the dots a long time ago and we are now very happy to see our efforts – as well as the efforts of the entrepreneurs we support – coming to fruition.
Today, as these startups have indeed grown to global companies, we stand together with our founders to face new and bigger challenges, and this keeps us fresh and inspired. Southeast Europe is visibly a cradle of innovation now, and we are happy to be a part of it.
Do you have an investment thesis or a focus on any particular type of founder, business model, or industry? Are there particular kinds of startup companies you steer away from?
Over the years we have accumulated knowledge and experience in several domains, and we steer towards companies in that space. Our current priority verticals are fintech, health, future of food, future of work, and e-commerce technologies. We are in the best position to be a value-adding investor in these areas and we really aim to find good matches for tying our expertise to the types of businesses we support. Further to this, we usually prefer companies with a B2B model.
Where does your best deal flow come from?
The best opportunities for us come when supporting founders, we already know for some time, or who have been referred to us by another entrepreneur or mentor. Partnerships are most fruitful when both parties have trust and know what to expect from each other. That's why building relationships and the right community has been paramount for us.
What do you think about the evolution of cross-border investing? Do you invest in pan-European companies or do you focus solely on Bulgarian startups?
Our region of focus is Southeast Europe. We believe that the ecosystem works across the borders because each country is too small for truly ambitious companies. We are very actively collaborating with investors across the region; I can say that the lock-downs in a recent couple of years have even increased the value of these partnerships.
Eleven invested in Dronamics, a company with an active crowdinvesting campaign on SeedBlink. What were your main points for favoring this decision? Did you know their team for long?
We have been supporting the amazing team from Dronamics since 2014. We are together since the very beginning; we've seen their outstanding work ethic and been impressed by their abilities to overcome challenge after challenge.
When we first invested in Dronamics, they came to us referred by one of our alumni founders. Indeed, back then it was a bet and a rather risky one, but even then we could see the fire burning in these two people. Although we didn't know where exactly it would lead us, we believed that our mission is precisely to offer such teams the opportunity to realize their vision.
They are now just about to reveal their great achievement to the world, but for us, this is not a surprise as we are convinced that, if there's a team that can make this take off, it will be this team.
What are Dronamics’ main medium-term objectives? How do you plan to support achieving them?
The company plans to certify and start flying Black Swan, next year. Initially, it will just operate the routes, later on, the business model will evolve with manufacturing and airline partnerships. We are helping them to refine the business model and prepare their Series A round, which will scale the enterprise globally.
We’ve been in touch for more than a year now, and we’re excited to finally have a deal together! From your point of view, what’s SeedBlink’s role in the ecosystem?
We see SeedBlink as a catalyst and a showcase for the entrepreneurial success stories in the region. Thanks to SeedBlink, investing and supporting the local heroes becomes a mission for a wider audience and, the more people stand behind a venture, the greater is its likelihood to thrive. The innovators from our region deserve to become well known, just as any other Musks' and Jobs' of the world.
If you could give entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't sacrifice integrity.
Thank you for sharing your views with us. Any final thoughts for our readers?
I would like to congratulate the SeedBlink’s team for the efforts made for putting together this great community of investors & believers in the potential of entrepreneurs.
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