Boston Based Freyja HealthCare, a medical device company founded by Jón Ívar Einarsson, MD and professor at Harvard Medical School, just announced a $1m (120m ISK) financing by undisclosed, Icelandic investors. The round values the company at 1,000m ISK (~$8.3m) post money. Spakur assisted with the financing round.
Jón Ívar, which Academia.edu describes as “a leader in the minimally invasive gynecologic surgery (MIGS) field” said in conversation with MBL.is that the company is finalising a deal with a big medical company on the sale of three devices aimed at standardising hysterectomy operations.
“This financing allows us to continue development of more devices,” Jón Ívar told MBL.
It’s incredible – even to me – but the fundraising round we at GRID disclosed last week is the 10th time I raise capital for one of my ventures. Admittedly this one was in many ways unique, and also the largest one. Yet.
Despite this, I’m still learning. For one thing, the world has changed since we raised our first round at Lon&Don back in 1997 (Icelandic only)! For another, 10 times is still hardly a statistically relevant sample so it’s natural to still be discovering a few things.
Here are the three main lessons I took away from this latest experience:
Local is dying: I heard this from startups and investors ranging from Seattle to Silicon Valley and Berlin to London: Investors are – less than ever – focused on investing in companies based on geography. Some of them are actively betting on that the Next Big Thing™ may come out of areas you’d least expect. Also, from the startups’ perspective, they’re no longer necessarily going to local investors first. In some cases I heard investment funds complain that they didn’t even see some of the best deal flow in their area because those entrepreneurs didn’t come to them. They went straight to investors they thought would add more value or they thought were a better fit – even halfway across the globe.
The best investors hunt: Success in investing – especially early stage – doesn’t come from waiting for deals to come to you. It comes from networking, plugging yourself into the ecosystem, keeping your ear to the ground and then jumping with conviction on the best opportunities because you spot them before anyone else does. Being one of the few brand-name investment funds in the world may counter that a little bit, as you will be getting good inbound opportunities. But an aggressive hunt will always outwit, outplay and outlast them. A complacent investor is probably not a successful investor.
Thesis and stage match: I paid more attention to the characteristics of each fund this time around than I’ve ever done before. As an entrepreneur you should seek out funds that have an investment thesis that matches what you’re doing. I felt this strongly in this latest raise. Talking to investors who already had theories around modern productivity tools and/or the spreadsheet market was so much more productive and so much more valuable to us than talking to ones where we had to explain our background, research and theories from the ground up. Also, make sure you understand the size of the fund, the typical size of their investments (jargon tip: their “ticket size”) and the funding stage they’re most comfortable with. Convincing a typical Series A or Series B investor to invest in your Seed round will not only be harder, it may come back and haunt you later if they for any reason don’t lead your next investment round. You’ve more or less put yourself on a single track, while working with a typical Seed investor keeps all the doors open for next steps.
Again. Despite having been around this block a few times now, my experiences are still anecdotal, so take them with a grain of salt, but I hope this may be of help to some of you fellow fundraisers out there.
The author is founder and CEO of GRID. He previously founded (and exited) DataMarket.
Icelandic bicycle manufacturer Lauf Forks has just announced a $2.5m (300m ISK) funding round led by New Business Venture Fund (Nýsköpunarsjóður). The funding will be used to grow in the United States.
“The bicycles from Lauf Forks have been well received in the United States, so focusing on growth their is a logical next step,” chairman of Lauf Forks, Erla Skúladóttir, said in a statement.
Lauf Forks was founded in 2011 around the invention of the lightest bicycle fork in the world. The company has since developed into designing and manufacturing full blown bicycles. They paved the road with Lauf True Grit, an award winning Gravel bike, and now also offer Lauf Anywhere, a mixed terrain bike.
“It’s been a pleasure following the development of Lauf Forks and we believe the company is poised to grow even more,” commented Huld Magnúsdóttir, CEO of the New Business Venture Fund. “Lauf Forks is an example of a successful innovation, and with added funding the company gets the opportunity to grow in new markets.”
GRID, the SaaS company with the goal of “freeing the spreadsheet,” just announced a $3.5m seed funding round, only five months after their initial $1m angel round. The funding round is led by Berlin-based BlueYard, with participation from Slack Fund, Acquia Capital and angel investor Charles Songhurst. Previous investors, including Brunnur Ventures, also participated.
“We are happy to work with this group, as they add a lot of value to our mission other than their funding,” the company said in a statement.
“This investment – on top of our $1M angel round in October – fuels current plans well into 2021,” the statement continues. “It gives us breathing room to focus on building the initial version of our product, take it to market, and hone our commercial approach before raising capital for further growth and expansion.”
GRID is the second company, led by a repeat founder, to raise substantial money from foreign and local investors in a short period. The other, Teatime Games, raised over $10m in a 6 month period – both a sign of a maturing ecosystem.
Avo, the SaaS company preventing human error when implementing analytics, is the first Icelandic company to be accepted into Y Combinator, widely regarded as the world’s best accelerator. As part of the program, Y Combinator invests $150,000 in the company. Avo (then as Viska Learning), previously raised a $1.2m seed round from local investors Brunnur and Investa.
The company was founded by several former employees of QuizUp, which raised more than $40m in venture financing from investors including Sequoia Capital and amassed 100m users before being acquired by Glu Mobile.
“Every company is already or will soon be using analytics through tools like Amplitude, Segment, Looker, Google Analytics or even their custom pipeline,” comments Stefania Olafsdottir, co-founder and CEO of Avo. “The problem is, humans suck at implementing analytics.”
According to Stefania, the team ran into this problem at their previous workplace QuizUp. “We ended up building our own, in-house analytics validation tool to help us alleviate that.”
Later, when the team had founded another company they ran into this problem again. They couldn’t believe they would need to build internal tools for this again, so they started investigating what friends and colleagues were doing.
“We found that a surprising amount either had this problem and hated it, or fixed it by building similar tooling to what we had done at QuizUp,” Stefania adds. “To us that meant we had something.”
And seemingly, the partners at Y Combinator think they have something as well.
“I always wanted something like this at Airbnb,” Gustaf Alströmer, former growth lead at Airbnb and currently partner at YC commented in a statement.
“The constant problems we had was analytics implementation being mistakenly removed while refactoring or launching new flows, misspelled event-names leading to incorrect funnels that took until next release to fix, and poor knowledge of where you look up the meaning of events for other teams. Avo solves all this!”
While Avo is the first company from Iceland to be accepted into Y Combinator, they’re not the first Icelanders. Ari Helgason, currently principal at Index Ventures, participated in YC with his company World on a Hanger (Winter 2012), and Ingvar Helgason was at YC recently with VitroLabs (Spring 2017)
The Nordic Web, just announced that it has raised its second investment fund. The company, founded and led by Neil S W Murray, has been investing out of its first fund, and has already (if you count a not-yet-announced investment out of the second fund) invested in all Nordic countries (including Iceland).
The fund invests in pre-seed and seed stages, with 14 investments to date, and has invested alongside other notable investors like Y Combinator, Point Nine Capital, Seedcamp and Founders Fund.
The Nordic Web Ventures goes to the community for financing, having people active in the startup communities as LP’s (investors). For Iceland, this includes Georg Lúðvíksson (of Meniga), Crowberry Capital, and Kristinn Hróbjartsson (Norsthack).
Founding Partner Neil S W Murray commented in a press release: “The Nordic Web Ventures is already well positioned to write the first cheques into the next billion dollar companies from the Nordics, however I believe the opportunity is even bigger than that, it’s not just about funding entrepreneurs, it’s about nurturing and improving the conditions of an ecosystem that make this possible.”
Drone startup Flygildi, which is creating a drone that is disguised as a bird, flies flapping wings, and is undetectable by radar, has raised an angel round. The amount is undisclosed. Flygildi was founded by the two engineers Hjalti Harðarson and Dr. Leifur Þór Leifsson.
In a press release, Helga Viðarsdóttir, CEO of Spakur, and chairman of Flygildi, commented that the drone has already garnered significant interest from Tom Moss of the drone company Skydio; Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus; and the defense company Lockheed Martin, which has shown an interest in participating in further financing of the company.