San Francisco

Collider12 Alumnus Avocarrot raises $2M

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We’ve got big news from the US – Collider12 alumnus Avocarrot have just closed a $2M seed round! We’re so happy for the guys, who moved to San Francisco after participating in the first Collider programme in London. Their round is made up of investors Giorgos Zacharia, Darling Ventures, Odyssey Ventures L.P. After an exclusive VentureBeat article provided some insights into the native mobile ad space, we had the chance to get down to the details with Co-Founder Conno Christou. Read on for some insights into working across the pond, raising funding, and the challenges of running a multi-national company from Conno.


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•         What were some of the struggles and opportunities you faced when moving to SF?

The biggest struggle is to find a way to network and get out the word for the company to a totally new audience in a new environment with brutal competition and noise. There’s not a standard recipe to succeed on this, however the 3 tips from me would be to try and keep your confidence levels high at all costs, to listen carefully even if you don’t necessarily agree and to be as specific as possible when asking for favours.

If you re a first timer and you'll learn by doing, then by definition you'll make a lot of mistakes that will seem silly to you after a while. The large abundance of potential clients, partners and investors in Silicon Valley will help you accelerate this learning process to nail your pitch and understand better the mechanics of the game. Remember to listen carefully to what everybody has to say.

•         This is a big seed round of funding. How will you manage the money and how far are you expecting it to take you?

In Europe this might be one of the biggest seed rounds so far, however in Silicon Valley it is rather the norm. A general rule of thumb is that you get the money for 12-18 months runway. In our case, we'll mostly invest in expanding the team with exceptional people both in SF and Europe, while at the same time market the ad exchange to both app developers and demand sources.

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•         How did you choose your investors for this round and how long did it take? Was it what you anticipated?

It was much worse than we thought - both in terms of time and resources but also in terms of energy consumption and expectations. The VC game in SV is extremely different compared to Europe and the time to adapt to the new rules might be underestimated. A VC once told me that bad fundraising looks like a 100 no’s and a successful one like 99 no’s. As you see, continuous rejections are part of the process, which at some point makes you question your own credibility and value, resulting to low confidence. Remember that if you lose your confidence then you lose the game.

•         You have some of your team based in Greece and others in SF with visits back and forth to London. What are some of the highlights and pitfalls of running an international company?

You get to see lots of different people and replicate processes to create a quick buzz in new territories, given that you know what you re doing. The challenge is that you have to be disciplined and systematic on how to maintain excellent communication bridges between the distributed teams. A catalyst here is to create strong, well-defined processes and find ways to enforce them so that the team embraces them and doesn't reject them.

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•         What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the MadTech space who are looking to raise a similar round to you?

The mobile adtech space is a huge space that is kind of doomed and blessed at the same time. Doomed because there s a lot of noise and few successes; blessed because unlike the web adtech landscape, there are no dominant players in the mobile space yet, so there s a huge opportunity to be amongst the first ones.

If you re looking to get money, then start meeting with VCs at least a month earlier to start getting to know them under no time pressure. If you have a rockstar team and a strong vision then you have pretty good chances to secure a seed round. If you manage to report steep hockey sticks in your KPI graphs then you have great chances for a big seed. Don’t give up and stay confident. 99 no’s is the norm..


Guest Post From Locomizer

 This is the full post that Alexei Poliakov, co-founder of Locomizer, was recently asked to write for the Telefonica blog, which you can see here

Recently, we had a very interesting group discussion at the startup networking dinner hosted by Telefonica in San Francisco on “What is the future of maps?”. Since my startup, Locomizer, deals with a lot of location data on a daily basis, I would like to share my thoughts regarding this topic with a broader audience.

First, let us touch on some key trends that are redefining our notion of location and maps. We must admit that the era of persistent location is upon us as we speak. For better or worse, our whereabouts are tracked, analyzed and recorded on a constant basis. The abundance of mobile phones makes it easy to access personal data such as location. For example, cell-tower triangulation tracking generates tons of location data as the nearest cell-tower signals are determined every seven seconds. Moreover, the reality is that personal location data is not confined to just telecoms as it is being generated across multiple verticals. It is imperative for governments and business organizations to obtain customer consent and be more transparent about their usage of personal location data to avoid controversies like the NSA surveillance program.

Despite all these concerns, let’s face it - persistent location is here to stay. Location is our identity – the places we visit in our daily lives define our real-life preferences and interests. Consumers are warming up to the idea of personal location sharing as shown by the increasing usage of Facebook’s Nearby service. Last December, Facebook reported that 250 million users were tagging posts with location on a monthly basis which roughly corresponds to 800 geo-tags a second.

The explosion of personal location data creates a rewarding opportunity for organizations to gain a better understanding of their customers and their needs. However, the challenge is not in data availability but in how it is translated to retrieve the data-driven insights about customer behavior around certain places. To start winning in this space, one must own the “geo-stack” as famously described by Chris Dixon. Nevertheless, controlling the functional layers of geo-stacks, including geography maps, point of interest data, and customer geodata, may not be enough. Industry players must create a winning proposition showcasing a clear benefit for consumers to use their services AND to be at ease whilst sharing their personal location data.

So, to answer “What is the future of maps?”, I would like to paraphrase Fred Wilson and say that the future of maps is in understanding maps with people in them.

Alexei was working for big corporate names in the mobile and wireless domain until he co-founded a startup called Locomizer in February 2013. Locomizer is an enterprise location data analytics platform that enables audience discovery for relevant targeting. In June 2013, Mashable included Locomizer in their list of 25 Top UK startups.


Locomizer joins San Francisco Accelerator 'Momentum'

One of our startups, Locomizer, has just been accepted to the startup program Momentum, based in San Francisco. Alex Polyakov, Locomizer's Co-Founder, says "We are very excited to have this opportunity to get access to the Silicon Valley's network of mentors and potential investors."
Duncan Logan, the Founder & CEO of Rocket Space, said "Here at RocketSpace, we love meeting the top startups from all over the world, so it was only natural that we'd open our doors to great startups in London. The environment, networking opportunities and changes of scene will all help Locomizer continue the excellent work started at Collider12 to achieve their goals."
Momentum startups will benefit from RocketSpace’s startup services and access to their corporate innovation program, as well as spending 12 weeks at RocketSpace’s highly coveted San Francisco campus. They will be joining four other startups who have also been accepted into the program, which are:

The 12-week program provides the class with weekly workshops, networking dinners, and an enviable mentor list of Silicon Valley’s top 50 mobile executives. The program team consists of Mario Tapia (AT&T, Disney, Yahoo!), Arte Merritt (Motally,Yahoo!), and Mike Rowehl (Admob, Chomp, Metaresolver, Skyfire).

The Momentum program is more of a graduate level program, geared to help accelerate businesses in the mobile space, as opposed to teaching startup basics, making it perfect for Locomizer, who are more than ready to take on Silicon Valley.