VROOM: technology startup’s heaven in Monaco
VROOM is an initiative to bring “cool tech” startups and investors to the Principality and will take place on the 27th of April. Olga Taran, editor-in-chief of HelloMonaco met with Peter Madsen, Managing Director of White Castle Partners and Founder of VROOM Summit to find out more about this event.
Peter, how did you come up with the idea of VROOM summit and how does it differ from other similar events?
This year is the 4th edition of the summit in Monaco. The first time we did it was like a test to see if there was an appetite for this sort of thing in Monaco as there are so many different events here. To differentiate ourselves we introduced a very simple technology-driven concept for companies that are looking for funding, using Monaco as the “where to go”. Our participants are international. We have business angels, high-net-worth individuals, and venture capitalists from all over Europe to look at the startups that we’ve chosen to represent the VROOM caravan.
How does VROOM work and what is its purpose?
There has to be a story, a belief and a passion. 99% of the companies that we include are already successful and are looking to build. So for us fundraising is not the endpoint, it’s the beginning point. Once they have money, we will help them find the talent to be able to build and establish partnerships, in order to be successful on a global scale.
Another thing that the VROOM is doing, together with White Castle Partners, is assigning a mentor to each of the companies that will be pitching on the day, to groom them and create simplified slides that will fit in the allocated 15 minute pitch time. In this way, they perfect their public speaking, which is very important for the audience as lots of high-caliber investors will attend and their time is precious.
Tell us about the VROOM caravan and how it works?
We quickly realized that to make a successful event in Monaco we needed to present good companies. So the idea was simple, we would go to specific countries, including Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, Poland and Turkey, to find the best technology companies out there and bring them to Monaco. We met with various companies in each country, but we only selected one to come to Monaco. Our panel was local; we carefully selected entrepreneurs, local investors, local angels, local VCs, local members of government to be a part of the judging team. And that’s how our caravan of companies came along with the summit as the end point of the caravan that we do twice a year.
How many companies did you approach during the research process?
To give you an idea of the number it was around 150-200 companies per country, we simply started a conversation with them, and then some were later pre-contacted and pre-selected. We tried to understand if they were ready to build and ready for funding… We don’t take companies that are still proof of concept. We coincided the choice of companies with the wishes of our overseas investors; if they invest in an idea, they want something that is already tangible in terms of generating revenue, having a clear business plan and readiness to expand. That’s the key element for us of how we go about finding and selecting companies.
How did you choose the countries you’d visit for the VROOM Caravan?
Our idea was to look at the countries where there is high potential and a high level of intellect especially in the field of technology, where perhaps they lack the facilities for big venture capital companies.
The other countries we visit don’t have any eco-system so it is quite easy for us to come in and showcase what we can do not only locally but also on a European and Global scale with Monaco being the center-point.
It was quite interesting to see that in the Netherlands it was all about e-travel, in Portugal about e-health, in Poland about gaming. Thus, the main criteria is to deal with one of the 12 areas that we focus on, then we have experts within each of these fields to help analyze the companies for selection. The next countries that we are doing are Ireland, Hungary and Italy.
Did you have any successful start-up stories following the VROOM summit?
Unfortunately, we do. I say “unfortunately” because in the initial testing phase we didn’t charge the companies or implement any fees. One of the companies ended up raising 2.5 million and a valuation of 1.2 billion. We found them before they became famous.
Why don’t you focus on local Monaco-based investors?
There are two reasons. First of all, I think that sometimes here there is a certain amount of conservatism around where the investments go. Secondly, it is a small community of active investors. We wanted a combination of the two; those with an appetite for alternative investment in technology versus those who do this for a living outside of the country and visit just for that, it’s a nice mix.
We have heard that Monaco Telecom launched an incubator here, the first one. We are hoping that will stimulate a certain interest in being in Monaco.
What about the location of your summit, is the Yacht Club of Monaco your partner as well?
It is a combination of both. Previously we were at the Fairmont Hotel but the facilities at the Yacht Club are just superb for what we need. There is a very high level of professionalism from their part and as a location for people coming from overseas, it is just excellent.
How can potential investors or companies participate in your event?
It’s an invite-only event and that is the way that we try to differentiate ourselves from other big events out there. Our idea is to invite good-feel participants, meaning that these participants are not just frying money on the table but are actually hands on. Potential participants should contact us by filling out a contact form at www.vroomsummit.com.