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vc fund of the month zaka
26 October 2023·6 min read

ZAKA is a pre-seed and seed VC family office operating from Prague, London and Bratislava with 46 portfolio companies invested in the past 3 years. Investing all across EU with focus on CEE, Baltics, DACH, UK and CEE diaspora in US. Looking for B2B, B2B2C business models mainly in verticals such as biotech, health-tech, sustainability, mobility, edtech, fintech, hospitality.

Past notable investments: Miros.ai, Sensible Biotechnologies, Supliful, E-mobilio, ExcepGen,Webel, Tripmakery

ZAKA is a VC family office founded by entrepreneurs Peter Zalesak and Jan Kasper (1bn.+ Eur turnover of their founded or managed enterprises in retail and e-commerce (Nay, Electroworld), media and marketing (Unimedia, Digiline), mobility (Soria Mobility, Autopolis), hospitality and real estate.

ZAKA invests 3m Eur every year into approx 15 companies.

Fund Strategy Overview

Geography: Europe but mostly CEE, Baltics, DACH, UK + CEE diaspora in US
Preferred industries: biotech, health-tech, sustainability, mobility, edtech, fintech, hospitality
Investment ticket: 250ths. Eur
Company stage: Seed and Pre-seed
Product stage: Existing product
Revenues: Early traction data

Q&A with Jan Kasper & Peter Zalesak, VC Family Office of ZAKA

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

Problem, solution, insight, team, market

Problem: We look at the problem the startup is trying to solve from many angles, like: how big is it and how is it growing, how urgent, frequent, mandatory is it or whether it saves reasonable amount of money/time.

Solution: Is this only a feature or can you build up a whole company and wider offering out of this? Is this an incremental innovation or a real step-up to provide significantly cheaper, faster and better proposition for the customer?

Insight: What is it the team has that will make them succeed & grow fast? Are they significantly better than the competition? How is the market evolving? What is their CAC and defendability factors? These are just examples of characteristics that make the solution stand out.

Team: Are the founders market-fit? Why should we believe them that they are the ones to make the solution happen in the real world? (Due to their education, personal/business experience?) A crucial factor is what we call clearness of thinking – can the founder easily explain what he is doing and why? An evangelical founder/visionary should be able to listen to the customers, to fundraise, hire, lead the team (there are overall 17 characteristics connected to the team we are following).

Market: We are closely looking at the market size as well as the potential market growth which should be at least 17% yearly.

2. What disqualifies a startup as your potential investment target?

Main question - is this even a start-up? A start-up not only means a newly established tech-driven company. It means scalability potential, real innovation, huge addressable market and significant problem to solve. Overall, we assess more than 50 criteria which can be disqualifying for the startup during our analysis.

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

Concentration, obsession, motivation. These are great preconditions for a hard-working founder committed to what he/she is building.

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

It Is a long-term relationship. The founders should take into consideration whether the investor is startup-fit and what he/she can bring on the table, except for the money.

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

Valuation is a result of negotiations. Generally, we prefer equity but also invest via CLAs, SAFEs, etc. In pre-seed, we are looking for valuations between 4-8M, however, we also invested in startups with higher valuation. The decision to invest is always a product of numerous assessment factors.

6. How do you support your portfolio companies?

Where we help the most is helping to structure the next fundraising round, helping with PR, connecting the founders with relevant experts/contacts in our own network as well as with other founders which is always beneficial in order to share experience. The problems the founders face in early stage are pretty repetitive. We continuously gather the know-how in our team and are happy to share it further.

7. What are the best-performing companies in your portfolio?

Miros.ai - Wordless Search solution for e-commerce with their proprietary AI model. The best AI product in Retail according to prestigious CogX Awards in London. Based in Tallinn, Estonia.

Supliful - Creator economy e-commerce infrastructure. Average 30%+ monthly growth in the past 6 months. Already profit-making and only in seed round, preparing for Series A. Based in Riga, Latvia, operating in US.

Sensible Biotechnologies - Engineering cells to unlock the next generation of mRNA medicine. Producing high-quality mRNA in a cost-efficient and scalable fashion in vivo. Based in Oxford, UK and Bratislava, Slovakia.

E-mobilio - German leader building a charging management SaaS platform, enabling e-mobility. We invested in the seed round, followed by strong Series A round in September 2023.

ExcepGen – A US-based biotech company working on mRNA therapeutics engineering that adapt the cellular state. Invested together with RA Capital Management, Gravity Fund Apollo Projects (Sam Altman) and other top-tier investors.

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

We learn our lessons every day. We are constantly precising our assessment criteria in order to better identify startups with huge potential. A good example: One learning from data we have is that founders who do not properly prepare for board meetings or any type of frequent reporting (KPIs, controlling, business updates), and are not proactively leveraging their investors are underperforming. Keep in mind that you, as the founders and C-levels in an early-stage company, are the majority owners. Reporting and business updates are not only for investors, those are mainly for you.

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

The markets where we are active are the ones we see as the hottest: biotech, health-tech, sustainability, mobility, fintech. All of these markets heavily profit from the rise of AI, LLM and deep tech.

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

Venture capital in Europe reacts to global trends. We are in the era of artificial intelligence which has a massive influence on how people live and do business. Generation Z people think, act and work differently. All the startups which leverage these changes in business (sustainability, edtech, healthcare, biotech, mobility etc.) gain a strategic advantage.

Related Posts:

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VC Of The Month - Flashpoint (by Konrad Koncerewicz, Head of VC & Startups, Vestbee)

VC Of The Month - Molten Ventures (by Konrad Koncerewicz, Head of VC & Startups, Vestbee)



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