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Investor Profile: Vesa Laakso, Sparkmind.vc

"Investing is all about building mutual trust. As a result, we at Sparkmind, place a high value on founders’ transparency and honesty."

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Hello Vesa, and thank you for taking part.

How long have you been investing in early-stage companies, and how did you get started?

Sparkmind has been around for two years now, since we launched their first fund in January 2020. Personally, I've been in the venture capital industry since 2007.

What are you most excited about in terms of early stage investing in the future? What is it that keeps you awake at night?

This profession has a lot of interesting aspects. One, without a doubt, is that I get to work with smart and ambitious people from various backgrounds who are committed to resolving significant educational challenges. I've learned to sleep well after being around for a while, but seriously, managing a portfolio of early-stage companies is very hectic, and there are always some companies that are struggling.

Do you have an investing thesis or a preference for a certain type of founder, business model, or industry? Are there any types of startup companies that you avoid?

We are an EdTech-only venture capital firm investing in seed and Series A stage companies across Europe.

Where do you get your best deal flow?

It's difficult to say for sure. Due to the fact that our team is based in Finland, we naturally see a lot of high-quality deal flow from the Nordics and Baltics. We also have a strong and expanding presence in Central Europe. Surprisingly, we've also made connections with EdTech hubs outside of Europe, such as Singapore and Australia.

How do you see the evolution of cross-border investing? Do you also invest in companies outside of your target region?

There has been significant progress since I began my career in the venture capital industry. It is natural for a specialist VC focusing on a specific industry to look for opportunities across a broader geographical scope. And, because we launched our fund just a few months before the pandemic hit Europe, doing cross-border deals remotely has come very naturally to us. We can do deals outside of our core region on a particular scenario premise.

SparkMind recently decided to invest in Fretello. What were your main reasons for making this decision?

We liked the team and their previous experience as startup founders because you are likely to avoid many mistakes that you made previously. We also liked how the team approached the product: it needed to be both pedagogically sound and cool in order to stand out from the competition and make the business equation work. This may appear to be a minor detail, but we have seen dozens of products that lack one or both of these features. Finally, despite the fact that this is a highly competitive market, we believe that there is room for a few large players to coexist.

Why are you capitalising on Fretello? Have you known their team for a long time?

We began talking with the founders about a half-year before the investment.

What are Fretello's main medium-term goals? How do you plan to help achieving them?

Fretello is currently scaling and optimizing their marketing, working on marketing partnerships, and putting their product vision into action. One of the most important mid-term goals is to raise a good Series A financing round, the success of which will be determined by the activities mentioned above as well as other things the team is working on. We are an active investor, so we want to help Fretello wherever and whenever we can, without becoming involved in the day-to-day operations.

We're excited to be working together on a deal. What is SeedBlink's role in the ecosystem, in your opinion?

We see SeedBlink as a valuable partner in early-stage financing as well as a follow-on investor in future rounds.

What would you tell entrepreneurs if you could only give them one piece of advice about working with you?

This is probably very generic advice you’d get from other VCs as well, but venture investing is all about building mutual trust. As a result, we at Sparkmind, place a high value on founders’ transparency and honesty.

Thank you for sharing your views with us.

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Fretello's raise is active on SeedBlink. Explore this investment opportunity here.

SeedBlink is a full-service investment platform that enables everyday and accredited investors to access curated European tech startups through equity crowdinvesting and angel syndicates. To learn more about startup investing and tech opportunities, sign up now.

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By Roxana Cicea

PublishedJanuary 27, 2022


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