Constantin Marcu is an experienced entrepreneur, organizer and analyst. His investment journey started in 2017 by investing in an education company and then by co-founding an accelerator in Iasi – TBNR.ro which was aimed to help start-ups in Moldova region.
Hello Constantin, thanks for this talk! ****
What does it mean to you to invest?
Investing in start-ups is primarily a business exercise and a work and social experience.
I look at investing in start-ups to expand my knowledge and understanding of the different areas directly connected or tangential to my expertise.
Ultimately this exercise should make me better at what I do while helping others at the same time.
For how long have you been investing in startups and how many companies do you have in your portfolio?
My investment journey started in 2017 by investing in an education company and then by co-founding an accelerator in Iasi – TBNR.ro which was aimed to help start-ups in Moldova region mainly.
Just lately, last year, I did two more investments on my own, SenseTask being one of them.
What lessons have you learned from your first investment experience?
A startup takes process, patience and commitment and those things might be under evaluated by investors when compared to the “dream/idea/market potential”.
What motivates you to invest in startups?
I feel good participating in projects that I believe solve a real problem and help people and businesses in ways I could not do myself. I usually invest in things that are marginal to my expertise but promise to solve issues I dealt with in my primary activity.
How would you describe your investor profile?
It is premature to say I have an investment profile. So far as an entrepreneur I like things that are challenging, modern, tech- oriented and that promise to expand globally.
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?
I am working on building one. I focus on the team, their experience or their drive first.
I prefer tech/software-oriented companies/solutions. I truly believe tech/software companies have the greatest potential of solving problems while being creative and having some sort of fun in the process.
I don’t disregard any startup at all. I think all startups should be listened to, and at least guided, if not financed. It is the least we can do to encourage them in their journey. I believe we need to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and to build business communities that help each other. We should learn from every startup we come across, the good, the bad and the ugly.
What was one of the best or most impactful investments you have made so far?
I would say SenseTask has the biggest potential to solve a global problem that exists in most companies out there, no matter the size or field of work. They are also my latest investment and I am very excited about their work and their future.
You recently invested in SenseTask – the document processing startup originated in Iasi, Romania. What were your main points for favoring this decision? Did you know their team for long?
Funny thing, I know the founder since we were in the elementary school. In time we took different paths in life, then we met again in US during some business trips I had there and where he resided.
We talked about setting up a company in Romania, then after he set up the company, we talked about working on their own product and then last year I was convinced about their product and took the opportunity to be an early investor in their project.
I have appreciation for the team and their product and I trust their experience, expertise and dedication. It is a strong team, working together for the last 6 years almost, that has the technical and business expertise, and the drive to see this through.
What are SenseTask‘s main medium-term objectives and how do you plan to support achieving them?
My involvement with SenseTask is on three directions:
- advising and offering support in the decision-making process from development matters to business matters;
- sharing my network connections;
- helping to secure funding;
What do you look for when evaluating a startup - what are the most important aspects for you?
- The team (structure, expertise, connection);
- Their solution/product should solve a real-world problem/need;
- Their drive and motivation;
- and if it is possible their previous experience related to what they aim to do.
How involved are you in the development of a startup (and how)?
As often as I can I offer my advice, my experience and my connections.
Do you think it is important to have a diversified investment portfolio?
If we are referring to startups, I think it is important to invest where you have a good understanding of the idea/product presented, the technology or the business itself, where you can give input and where you can be helpful beyond the financial part. Ideally a startup should make you feel good and be participative in the journey, it’s not always about “crunching numbers”.
As a rule, yes, it is essential to have a diversified investment portfolio since history shows us most of the startups don’t make it towards their initial goals, thus qualifying mostly for the riskier side of your investment portfolio.
Do you have any advice for a startup investor who is at the beginning of their journey?
I do. Prepare yourself for the long journey. “Start-up” is a mentality so never give it up. Be ready for anything, have a plan and a back-up plan always, keep in mind that a wall is built brick by brick, it may take longer than expected but never give up. Especially if you truly feel you can solve a problem and that your solution/product/research would have a significant impact in the real world.
What trend / vertical technology excites you and why?
I like all that is Technology / Software related – I loved technology and software since I was a child, and it never stops to amaze me.
We are living times when creativity and ingenuity are the most appreciated qualities and I think technology/engineering/software field is the one where those qualities are best put in practice with tremendously interesting and useful outcomes.
To be specific I would probably pick Applied AI and Process Automatization.
The creativity and the ability to go further and further in exploring things and processes are key to significant changes in the way we work and live and we should push forward always for continuous improvement of every aspect of our life.
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