Announcing investor search

By Joni Lehto

A part of what I do is matchmaking connections between startups and investors. I meet dozens of startups every month, sometimes that many per day, and introduce the investment-ready ones to investors whose investment criteria they fit in. This was doable by memory alone at the point when I knew about twenty investors. After meeting 50 new investors in one day (thanks, TechChill!), I knew I needed a more systematic solution for matching startups and investors.

I took two weekends off from other hobbies (thanks, coronavirus!) and made an investor search that is open for everyone. It’s now available at ecosystem.fi/investors.

The search works in a different way than most people imagined an investor search should, as some of the seemingly obvious choices turned out to be less than helpful, and much better alternatives were found. I’ll explain the reasons behind the most significant design choices next, followed by content choices, how to get new investors added, future plans and a glossary of terms used.

Why is there no filter for sectors/industry verticals?

This has been the most common question during the testing rounds. The short answer is that I haven’t found a way to make a sector choice useful as a search filter.

The search works by showing you all the matches except the ones excluded by your search criteria. If you don’t select any criteria, you’ll see all the investors. If you select that your company is based in Finland, you’ll see only the investors who invest into Finnish companies, as the search can safely exclude those who don’t.

This works for all the criteria where investors have clear boundaries beyond which they do not invest. Most investors don’t exclude any industry verticals out. For example Helen Ventures could invest into anything that is energy-related enough, Butterfly Ventures in anything that is hardware and deep tech enough, and Icebreaker into anything with substantial domain expertise. Knowing a company’s industry wouldn’t help exclude almost any investors, so it wouldn’t be useful as a search filter.

Investors’ preferences and criteria that didn’t make it to the search filters are described on every investor’s profile page.

The goal of the search is to give you a shortlist of investors whose hard investment criteria your company fits in. Using any search filters is voluntary and you can play around to see who would be interested in your company after you reach milestones or make some changes. You can see all the investors by not using any filters, which is the default view.

Which investors are included?

Investors that I know personally. This is to ensure the accuracy of the results. I’ve checked everyone’s investment criteria directly with them to ensure the information is as correct as possible. As a result I can also introduce you to any of these investors directly.

I’m adding new investors every week after getting their investment criteria and preferences.

Could you add investor X?

I’d love to! The only requirements are that they want to be added, are actively making new investments into related startups, and have a moment to chat with me to make sure I get their information down correctly. Here’s the contact form.

I focus on investors investing into North or East Europe at the moment, but will be happy to add others into my list to follow up with as soon as I’ve got this region covered.

What about a filter for the funding round name? Seed, Series A and so on?

I’ve thought about making a separate blog post on these, but for now I’ll answer this shortly here. The problem with funding round names like pre-seed, seed, series A and so on is that everyone uses wildly different definitions. If you put two startups and two investors in a room, you’ll likely have four different definitions on what is an A round and how it differs from a seed round. Using them would add more confusion than clarity to the search results.

Funding round names are mostly used as rough approximations for the startup’s actual situation: revenue, product readiness level, amount of funding sought, and so on. These are more clearly defined and help create more accurate search results, so I’ve decided to use these.

What about other investor lists?

There are excellent alternatives to this list, some of which include a search function. I recommend you to make full use of them as well. For example Finnish Venture Capital Association lists approx. 80 funds in their filterable member list. A limitation of that list is that it doesn’t include funds based outside Finland, so it doesn’t include all the funds who invest into Finnish companies.

The reason I made a new one was to serve my own needs. Due to my background in web development it didn’t take me long to prototype my way onto the current solution that fits my use case remarkably well. A number of people have said this helps them a lot as well, so I decided to make it open for everyone and continue to develop it based on feedback as best I’m able.

Some of my main criteria were that I wanted an investor list that was international, had clear and precise filters, and wouldn’t require you to log in. Other criteria included being helpful even with partial information (all the search fields are optional) and so fast that it’s convenient for repeat users like myself.

What are your future plans? Want to cooperate?

I love cooperating and getting feedback! Please let me know what you think of this and how this could be improved.

A bunch of ideas have already been presented on potential next steps and I’d love to hear more and discuss about them with people who have similar interests. You can reach out to me through the contact form or join the discussion in the #investor-db channel in Startup Helsinki Slack.

Some of the improvements ideas for the investor search include:

  • Better mobile support (placing filters under each other on narrow screens)
  • Display the investment criteria on each investor’s page (another priority)
  • A visual effect to see that the filters results have been applied
  • A search button (not needed as the filters are applied instantaneously, but some have said it might still be nice to have a decorative button)

These are some of the ideas that have come up on other things that could be made searchable:

  • Public funding instruments
  • Accelerators’ application periods
  • Piloting project application periods and ongoing opportunities
  • Incubators
  • Other ecosystem organizations

Some of these could use almost the same structure as the investor search. Some could benefit from search options that weren’t helpful in the investor search, such as industry sectors.

Media (newsletters etc.)

If you’d like to mention this in media (including newsletters) and would like my comment on it, please let me know through the contact form. I have some material ready that can be helpful in writing about this.

Glossary

Terms used on the search form:

TermExplanation
B2BBusiness to business
B2CBusiness to consumer
B2B2CBusiness to business to consumer (sell to intermediary)
B2GBusiness to government
SaaSSoftware-as-a-Service
Deep techTechnology that provides competitive advantage by being significantly better than alternatives and either IPR protected or very costly to imitate.
MarketplacesPlatforms connecting buyers or sellers, or other kinds of parties. Their value is in their network more than technological advantage.

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