What is your background briefly?
I worked in the multinational world for almost 20 years with Nielsen, the market research company, as Country Manager in Ireland and then in a number of International roles as part of the European leadership team covering 40 + countries. I went on to co-found a tech business in 2009 which was acquired by our strategic partner three years later. During the earn-out period, I became involved as an angel with four other early-stage tech companies. That’s when I came across my current partners in COSIMO Ventures. They were, and still are, headquartered in Boston and were helping UK and Irish companies beachhead into the US market. They helped one of the companies I had invested in, so I worked closely with them for about 9 months. I loved their approach and the fact that they were serial entrepreneurs themselves and tech pioneers in many respects. They were taking on investments at that stage from US backers to help fund some of the companies they were working with, and the COSIMO Ventures model was born. I joined them as the European partner with a focus on identifying early-stage companies that would fit our model for seed level investments in deep tech companies. That was three years ago.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
If you met someone I knew 10 years ago and described what I am doing now, they would say it was a case of mistaken identity. There have been a couple of giant leaps that disguise many small iterative steps along the way. I continue to develop and take small steps.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
COSIMO Ventures invests in early-stage deep tech companies. Deep tech for us includes CyberSecurity, IoT, AI, AR and products built on blockchain technology. We have been particularly active in the blockchain space with two client projects underway at present and the launch of our latest fund, COSIMO X: the world’s first evergreen, tokenized venture fund. Because the fund is tokenized, it offers better liquidity which is a major differentiator compared to traditional venture funds, wherein investors typically lock in their investment for 7-10 years. It is also open to smaller investors (min investment $10k outside the US) who were traditionally shut out of the venture capital world and who can now benefit from the leverage and processes of the Venture Capital world to gain exposure to a portfolio of deep tech companies. We are truly disrupting the venture model, making it liquid and accessible to a broader investor base.
Then would be good to understand who you are looking to invest in?
Our primary focus is UK and Irish deep tech companies, though will look further afield in the blockchain space. These deep tech companies are challengers who are targeting disruption of large global niches. We look to invest when these companies are at a significant value inflection point, with compelling, scalable business models. People are obviously a critical piece, so teams with depth tick a lot of boxes. Our model is quite hands-on, so we seek companies that we can impact, and support them to develop through Series A or ICO and beyond.
How much will you invest?
We look to invest in the range of $500,000 to $1MM at seed stage. However, we are open to larger investments if a deal seems particularly attractive. For example, earlier this year we invested above this threshold into Oneiro, a digital currency and blockchain company – though this level of investment was an exception.
What criteria will you use?
We have a very structured process which starts with short-listing and evaluating companies across a range of criteria. This initial assessment forms the basis of further engagement with my US colleagues. As the process progresses, we do a formal group evaluation which determines whether the company is put forward to the investment committee. In addition to the criteria that most VC’s consider – team, product market fit, potential, etc. – we also factor in whether there is significant opportunity in the US for the company, which in turn influences the extent to which we can impact the business.
What tips would you give to those pitching to you?
We come from the start-up world and are empathetic towards early-stage companies. We know there will be gaps and that is ok. Know what you are good at and where the gaps are. A good question for a company to ask themselves is: “why are we unique? Are we an incremental business or are we potentially exponential?” Most VC’s are looking for the exponential opportunities.
How can people find out more?
If any startups want to get in touch, they can contact us at cosimoventures.com. Investors who have an appetite for exposure to the venture world and a portfolio of deep tech companies can check out COSIMOX.com. There are bonus allocations available for initial investors.