A marketplace matching investors with technology start-ups, SeedBlink is poised to play a key role in the development of Europe’s tech ecosystem.
Launched in January 2020 by a team of former bankers, serial entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, Romania-based SeedBlink is already Europe’s fastest growing investing platform specialised in sourcing, vetting, financing, and scaling European tech start-ups.
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Its vision is bold and yet brilliantly simple: to shape Europe’s tech future by creating an investment platform that has the reach of crowdfunding, the flexibility of angel investors, and the structure of venture capital.
As such, it’s no surprise that co-founder and President of the Board of Directors Andrei Dudoiu is keen to point out that SeedBlink is not a simply a crowd-funding platform.
“It’s crowd-investing,” he says, “and its role in the development of an ecosystem in Europe that can match what already exists in the US is twofold. Firstly, it is a way of financing start-ups, helping more companies innovate, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, but by also helping to educate investors, by offering tools that can facilitate their own development alongside that of start-ups, it creates a network of know-how and expertise that can only be good for the region’s growth.”
The seeds of what would become SeedBlink were first sown during Dudoiu’s time as banker, when it became clear that traditional financial institutions were simply not interested in tech start-ups.
“Banks in general are not excited by start-ups. They just don’t have the means to deal with them, they lack the know-how, the understanding.”
Having identified this gaping hole in the market, Dudoiu and his co-founders looked at the most developed markets, the US and the UK, and saw that equity crowdfunding was becoming a popular tool, a market worth billions of US dollars.
“We fell in love with the concept because besides bringing money to the table for start-ups, it democratises access for investors to an ecosystem which is not always easy to enter without being a business angel or a big-ticket investor. I am surprised that even for sectors with high digitisation, venture capital access is still mostly only for accredited investors,” he tells Emerging Europe.
“We want to service our community with curated opportunities and the infrastructure to access portfolio diversification,” he adds. SeedBlink Investors can start out with just 2,500 euros and join a special purpose vehicle (SPV) put together by the firm to fund selected start-ups.
The SPV route was taken to navigate legislation which has long made crowd-investment or crowd-funding somewhat problematic in Europe.
Since then, EU-wide regulations have been adopted which make the process easier, but which also offers transparency and protection for investors. SeedBlink is well positioned to take advantage, as its modus operandi already incorporated many of the new rules.
“One of these stipulates that investors must be given time to rethink their commitment, four days in which they can pull out without any penalties. We had been doing that anyway from the very start,” he says.
A SeedBlink SPV typically has 50 investors but can have as many as 120 or as few as a dozen. And while the firm serves both start-ups and investors, it is the investors who are the focus.
“Besides know-your-customer (KYC) procedures that are now standard in finance, we speak to our investors to find out their level of experience. We want to make sure that they understand how the ecosystem works, what their options and goals are. And if we don’t feel that a particular start-up is the right one for them, we’ll tell them,” adds Dudoiu, who says SeedBlink now has more than 8,000 investors signed up to its platform from across 35 countries.
With its own technology – SeedBlink is very much a tech start-up itself, and in June raised 3.3 million euros of new investment, 1.2 million euros from crowd-investors – the firm offers investors tools that Dudoiu says help them become “micro-VCs”.
“How to build a portfolio, how it’s evolving, follow-on opportunities, liquidity through secondary markets. Few crowd-funding platforms help their investors participate in a follow-on round at the same terms as the leading VCs: we negotiate these terms for our investors.”
He adds that SeedBlink’s decision to build its own tech, in-house, was “strategic”: “We know best what tech we want to create, tech that helps investors create portfolios over which they have control.”
Also strategic was the decision to fund only tech start-ups.
“We knew that meant sacrificing some potential business, but we see specialisation in one sector as important.”
Some 60 start-ups have so far been selected for the SeedBlink platform, from over 1,500 assessed. The main criteria, says Dudoiu, are scalability and founders with a good reputation. “We also prefer start-ups that already have traction, some paying customers. Other investors in the start-up also matter.”
So far, most of the start-ups SeedBlink has helped fund are Romanian, but with its own funding round complete, it wants to become increasingly international.
“We already have start-ups from the UK, Bulgaria, Italy, Estonia, France and Austria on board. So, we started to have a European footprint but expanding that was the most important commitment we made to our own investors when we raised money in June.”
Dudoiu says that the next steps for SeedBlink are a “real footprint” throughout the Balkans, including Athens and Sofia, then Prague, Budapest, Warsaw. And then Western Europe, where it wants to create alliances with existing platforms.
“But we can adapt that as and when the situation requires it. We are also a start-up, and adapting is what start-ups do.”
Photo: Andrei Dudoiu (left) with fellow managing partners Ionuț Pătrăhău, Carmen Sebe and Radu Georgescu. Courtesy SeedBlink.
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