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J&T Ventures
09 May 2024·7 min read

Konrad Koncerewicz

Head of VC & Startups, Vestbee

VC of the month — J&T Ventures

Headquartered in Prague, J&T Ventures is a group of early stage — seed to Series A — venture capital funds that are focused on supporting exceptional founders from the CEE and SEE regions. With AUM of €60 million, JTV has invested in over 30 companies, exited 6 so far, and more to follow. JTV I is fully invested and in divestment stage, while JTV II currently deploys capital and JTV III in the making later this year. 

Fund strategy overview 

Geography: CEE/SEE regions

Preferred industries: B2B SW, SaaS, sector agnostic

Investment ticket: initial ticket €0.5-2.5M, with potential follow-ons

Company stage: Seed to Series A

Product type: B2B SW, occasionally B2C and Marketplaces

Product stage: depending on stage, from initial MVP traction to high MRRs

Revenues: from initial traction with signs of product market fit 

Q&As with Adam Kocik, Managing Partner at J&T Ventures

What are the 5 main things you look for in a startup?

  • Founders: founders, founders, and again founders. Soft and hard skills, global vision, determination, sense of urgency, resilience, and composition of a founding team. 
  • Problem: does a startup attempt to resolve a major pain, creating a paradigm shift or new market? Do they have a unique angle to tackle the topic? 
  • VC type: would the startup be financeable across multiple VC rounds, taking into consideration all usual criteria such as market size, scalability, USP, traction, competitors etc.
  • Personal chemistry: VC investment is a long-term commitment and relationship, we look for certain personal chemistry (founders should do the same btw) based on integrity, authenticity and brilliant mindset.
  • Ability to execute on their technology: we try to learn as much as possible about their technology and how unique it could be, however, what makes a startup successful is the ability to deliver and execute on their technology — both from a sales and company growth perspective.

What disqualifies a startup as your potential investment target?

The opposites of the first question answers. Common denominators could be: small market, non-scalable business, local/regional vision.

In addition, showstoppers for us are usually things like lack of transparency, slow communication, arrogance, broken cap tables, and in general too difficult negotiation. We do understand the CEE environment and are not scared of complicated deals, often we even help founders to solve their issues prior to the investment. However, once the negotiation is simply too difficult and the parties are not able to communicate at ease, the difficulty of reaching consensus, once the tough situation comes, usually multiplies by a factor of 10.  

What in your opinion differentiates the best founders from the rest?

Strong global vision, domain expertise, determination to succeed, sense of urgency, resilience, ability to recruit amazing talent, ability to execute.

What startups should take into account before making a deal with a VC fund?

VC capital serves to accelerate massive growth towards multiple VC up-rounds, global expansion and large exit - founders should understand the VC path when accepting checks from VC investors. Not every startup is suitable for VC funding. 

Working with VC capital is a very intense 5-10 year process that can lead to massive rewards, but also sudden failures. 

We do communicate with all our founders very frequently, creating personal friendships and strong business relationships. Prior to closing a deal with a VC, founders should spend some time thinking not only about the investor’s added value (money, connections, intros, fundraising, track-record, other) but also whether they would get along for quite a long period of time. Since founders often need investors in case things don’t go as planned and serious issues arise, and at this moment, the well-chosen investor will come with help and can save you a lot of trouble.  

Aligning interests of founders and VC investors at signing usually leads to more synchronous approach to company building, growth, fundraising and timing of exit.

At the end of the day, VC is about investing and generating outlier returns to GPs, so founders should understand these dynamics when accepting VC capital. 

What is your approach to startup valuation and preferable share in the company?

In case we write the first check in an early-stage deal, we usually aim at 10-20% equity position (could be less in more competitive deals). Valuation usually depends on how much funding is needed for an 18 to 24-month runway. We pay attention to a correct structuring of a cap table (next 2 rounds perception), including ESOP strategy, as broken cap tables can often be a strong factor why startups would not get to fundraise subsequent VC rounds despite excelling in other business areas.  

With later stage and A round deals, we usually co-lead or take a co-investor position with equity around 5-10%. 

In all cases, we analyze valuations of comparable companies, we assess startup’s 10x return potential, while always considering the market situation (e.g. 2023 VC winter), dynamics and outlook. 

How do you support your portfolio companies?

We are quite a hands-on investor, frequently communicating with founders, discussing strategic topics and how to solve their biggest pain points and avoid major roadblocks. We do spend a lot of time assisting founders with fundraising and connecting them to relevant stakeholders (clients, partners, investors, exit partners). 

With some portfolio companies, we help with hiring or formulating go-to-market or expansion strategy, while we assist others with strategic negotiations and deal making. 

What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio? 

While 2023 has been called a year of VC winter, we have been very impressed by the performance of our portfolio companies. With only few exceptions, they have grown their MRRs or revenues 2-3x last year. 

Several companies — namely Daytrip, All Eyes on Screens and Apify, have reached revenues of €10-20M last year and continue with dynamic growth in 2024 towards Series B and beyond. 

Born Digital, Wultra, Talkbase, Spray Vision, CodeNow and Choice have all achieved a very significant 2023 YoY growth and are well positioned for a next funding round this year.  

We see plenty of activity on the M&A market, hence we could expect some liquidity events even in 2024.  

What are your notable lessons learned from investments that didn’t work out as expected?

Global vision, resilience/determination, and sales skills — a no-brainer for US founders, but a skill to be strengthened within the European, and especially CEE/SEE founder ecosystem. Many founders, with great skills and product, opt for the easy way out with post Series A exits, rather than extending their vision and sloughing through the rougher global waters to get to the 1 billion mark. 

Having learned that, we continuously look for founders with global mindset, who constantly and relentlessly push their boundaries towards a massive mid to long term success and are able to execute on it.

What are the hottest markets you currently look at as VC, and where do you see the biggest hype?

AI/gen AI still drives the hype. Other sectors that get a lot of attention these days: defense tech, spacetech, climate tech, quantum, DevOps tools, cybersecurity, blockchain while fintech and travel tech are coming back very strongly. 

In your view, what are the key trends that will shape the European VC scene in coming years?

There is a clear shift towards capital efficient companies where unit economics works long term and can be used as a step stone to build significant enterprises. CEE/SEE regions have a lot of potential in this regard.  

On the GP/LP side of the market, there is a strong push from LPs for liquidity events to verify paper valuations. GP exit capabilities will be important sought-after skills LPs would consider when allocating their future investments into VC funds. 

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