Laszlo Czirjak
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iEurope Capital focus on investing into companies in the Late Seed or Early Series A stages

This interview is conducted by Burak Buyukdemir, a VC, and the CEO and Founder of Etohum, a Turkish accelerator program. This article is written by Nardine B. M’barek, a Contributor Author at Startup Turkey.

Laszlo Robert Czirjak is a US/Hungarian entrepreneur and businessman. He is the co-founder and Managing Partner at iEurope Capital. Laszlo graduated from Columbia Engineering University in 1982 with a BS in Industrial Engineering. He also holds an MBA in business from Columbia Business School from which he graduated in 1986. Laszlo also has a number of volunteering experiences such as being a member of the Board of Trustee of the US-Hungary Fulbright Commission since 2013.

iEurope Capital was established in 2001 and its headquarters is based in New York, USA. It was co-founded by Laszlo Czirjak and Kristina Davison. As a Venture Capital firm, they manage private equity funds that invest in growth companies in Central Eastern Europe. Their interest and focus is primarily in B2B software companies.

iEurope gathers funds from investors, and usually, invest from about EUR 500 thousand to EUR 1 million. Although they do target all of Europe, they have a tradition of investing in Central Eastern Europe. As a venture capital firm, they have around EUR 30 million under management. They focus on investing into companies in the Late Seed or Early Series A stages. They do look for revenue in their companies, but it does not need to be a lot, yet the company does need to have high growth.

Laszlo talked a little bit about iEurope Capital’s portfolio and gave us examples concerning the successful companies they have. He mentioned a fast-growing company called ‘Wunder’, which started as an urban ride-sharing platform and is now a full digital mobility solutions company serving consumers, companies, cities, and governments.

In order to reach iEurope and apply to get their funds, startups could just send an email to which is quite an easy way to reach them. Prior to making a decision regarding a startup, the iEurope team needs to first have a summary investment deck that highlights the startup’s concept and product, the problem they are solving, the market dynamics/ competition, and the growth potential. After that, they would have a call with the founders, and of course, before investing, they would meet the startup’s team.

For investors, revenue, growth, as well as the success of the product, are crucial. While every startup says that they can bring all those, iEurope’s team always asks questions concerning whether or not they can bring clients, and what kind of clients do they plan on attracting. According to Laszlo, these questions are the best and most effective way when it comes to building trust and strong relationships; it makes the difference between a team who will be able to manage the day to day operations, and keep their team stable while opening doors for you, and between those who will not be able to do all that.

When selecting entrepreneurs, Laszlo gave us an example of red flags that they consider. He talked about an entrepreneur who came to a meeting with iEurope’s team in a recent model Mercedes. When Laszlo commented on how nice the car was and asked from where did that entrepreneur get it, he simply said that it was from his old company that went bankrupt. For Laszlo that was definitely a red flag. He also mentioned that one founder was not enough and that two co-founders would be great to sustain the company and co-work in order to make their product and idea more successful and build sales.

“ Launch fast, fail fast”

Laszlo thought that this quotation is a cliché, he mentioned that people need to learn when and where to stop, and how to do things correctly. Some people have a sense for it, and know how to do it; however, others do not. But, even if you fail, that is not a problem since you can just get up and do things all over again but in the more correct way. You have to walk through the mud and figure out whether a pivot makes sense or not, but never stand in one place and make continuous efforts to reach your goal.

“European venture ecosystem”

Laszlo often made presentations concerning the difference between the European and American VC open market. The data shows that the annual investment in Europe is 3 to 4 times the US annual investment. The ecosystem in Europe is also earlier than in the US for sure, London could be considered as more advanced. However, it is getting better in Europe which could be considered as good news although there are 10 times more Unicorns in the US than those in Europe. There are a lot of differences also because of the mindset and culture, also because of the differences between the investment sides in both Europe and the US. For example, there are also a lot less of serial entrepreneurs in Europe than in the US.

“Recommendation”

When approaching a VC to look for funds, startups need to be honest and tell things straight instead of lying since if they will be proven wrong, they will lose credibility. It is about you and your idea, as well as being self-confident, but not too much.

 

─ March 22, 2019

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