The Three Angels: Helping to Build Future Unicorn Startups
Wuruhi team would like to spread the great news with all founders, startuppers and tech enthusiasts!
Three inspiring well-known entrepreneurs and angel investors, Rain Rannu, Veljo Otsason and Marek Kiisa have put together a different kind of early stage investment fund Superangel that will help founders to build the next wave of global startups.
We in Wuruhi are inspired by the multiple ways of how people have chosen to live their lives while helping to build up others – and Rain, Veljo and Marek surely have their own unique way. To be truly honest, our team generally doesn’t know a lot about investing and venture funds. So we feel grateful for the opportunity to make this interview with three high level investors and entrepreneurs – not only to educate ourselves but also to inspire You.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning when our Wuruhi team visited Lift99, asked questions, learned a little bit about their new project and got to see where the great Estonian startups come from. From our part, we in turn of course introduced unique Estonian design to people who always look forward.
Tell us about yourselves.
Rain Rannu: I started my first company out of university and have been an entrepreneur ever since. I am a co-founder of Mobi Solutions and Fortumo.
Veljo Otsason: Me and Rain have been building technology startups together for 17+ years. We started Mobi Solutions in 2000 and co-founded Fortumo in 2007. Since 2013, we have been making angel investments with Mobi.
Marek Kiisa: I am a mechanical engineer and took my Master’s degree on combustion processes analysed by neural networks – so I am kind of a combination of “real world” and “digital world”. My entrepreneurial DNA was tested during my high school studies when I started my own company to finance my university studies. During past 17+ years I have been building up Astrec group companies together with my partner Sven Reppo and done over 20 angel investments into ICT start-ups.
Can you introduce us the Superangel investment fund?
Veljo: Superangel is an early stage investment fund and company builder. We invest our time and investors’ money to help great founders start and grow great companies. At the same time, Superangel is a startup itself. We’re developing a new model for early stage investing and company building. We will be experimenting a lot with different ideas on how to help founders and startups grow faster.
Who are ‘angel investors’ and what is ‘venture capital’?
Veljo: Angel investors are very early stage venture capitalists, investing from early on into promising founders, usually being one of the first ones to believe in them. Venture capital is investing into companies that have a high potential to grow.
Rain: The most successful companies in the last few decades — Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook — were all funded by angel investors and venture capital.
What kind of companies do you invest in?
Veljo: We invest in early stage technology startups from Estonia, Europe and elsewhere. Our first investment into a startup is typically between 50 000 and 200 000 euros. In addition to that, we allocate funds to continue supporting our startups in following investment rounds.
Which sector do you follow & who are your ideal targets?
Veljo: Our general focus is information technology (ICT). Other than that, we’re sector agnostic. Ideally we invest in great founders, who have clear vision, relentless determination, and who are good at getting sh*t done.
How do you evaluate a business plan and what makes a good investment?
Veljo: We’re early investors, so we mostly look at the founding team. They might not have nailed down the product idea or business model yet, but if they’re kickass founders, they have a good chance to figuring it out eventually. So we look at the founders first, but we also brainstorm and evaluate the idea and general field of business.
We like business models that can grow big fast and become more efficient the bigger they grow. Also, that it is possible to capture enough value the business creates. Then of course, both team and business model can be improved. That’s where we can add value.
What are some of the great investments you have made in the past?
Veljo: Pipedrive, Taxify, Fortumo, GrabCAD, PlanetOS, Monese, Veriff – some of them have already exited. We have been lucky to have only very few failures so far.
Rain: In the startup world, the most valuable startups, the ones that are worth over 1 billion dollars are called “unicorns”. These are extremely rare — just like the animals they are named after. Most countries are lucky to have one, if any at all. It’s somewhat of a miracle that Estonia, with just 1.3 million people has already been able to produce 3-4 such companies. We’ve been investors in some of them and hope to invest in the ones that come in the future.
Where does the money come from?
Veljo: Fund invests its investors’ money. We have been backed up by Smartcap, LHV pension funds and a number of successful entrepreneurs and investors. We’re also putting a large chunk of our own money in the fund.
How do you make money?
Veljo: We invest our capital in return for shares in the company, helping the company grow and become more valuable. We get our return together with other shareholders of the company – usually when the company is sold, goes to public stock market, or pays dividends.
Besides investing, what is your lifestyle like?
Veljo: I’m a father of three little ones, which keeps me busy (and happy) besides investments.
Rain: My other passion besides startups is film-making.
Marek: I am a proud father of two grown-up sons, the older one studying math and computer science and the younger one is passionate about film and digital media studies. So this gives me and my lovely wife more time to explore exotic cultures by backpack travelling. Reading and podcast listening takes the rest of the time combining the last one with jogging or just walking.
I am a strong believer that entrepreneurs are born in schools so I am the founder of #mystory – kind of a voluntary organisation that motivates great founders to go to schools once a year and tell the young kids how they became entrepreneurs and how cool it is. So we have done this for already 4 years and last year we nearly covered half of Estonian schools.
Why do you do what you do?
Rain: It’s super fun to work with enthusiastic people and new technologies.
Veljo: Mainly because helping to build the future is fun and exciting. Technology has changed how we live, work, learn and play, but it’s just a beginning. We can communicate and collaborate a lot better globally and many things have been automated. But we haven’t even started to see how artificial intelligence can change and improve our lives.
Many of today’s professions may be extinct in 20 years. What can we achieve if things that need hours of error-prone human labor, get done perfectly in seconds by AI? And what are people going to do with this freed up time? AI has potential to improve lives and enable completely new jobs and activities in future.
Marek: I would also like to add that modern technology leans all dull activities and bureaucracy which gives people opportunity to be active in much more interesting fields. This so-called digital revolution is probably going to have the biggest impact on mankind. We should fully concentrate on our younger generation, including young entrepreneurs, and make sure they are fully prepared for these interesting challenges.
How much do you know about Estonian or Baltic design?
Veljo: I’m amazed by the quality of Estonian design. I think it deserves much more promotion.
Marek: I am an absolute fan of Estonian design; why, because what is really special about Estonians is that we do care about nature and this is fully reflected in our future-minded design.
Rain: I think Estonian designers are on the verge of global break-out the same way Estonian startups were 10 years ago.
Photographed by Arttu Karvonen
Styled by Alli-Liis Vandel
Wooden watch: WOOCH Hüti
Leather wristbands: Stella Soomlais (LINK here)
Production: Wuruhi.com team
Contact Superangel fund investors via email: firstname.lastname@example.org