work in progress
- AI and circularity, we started looking at this last week. Ones to watch - Br1ck, FIRSTPICK portfolio startup which really understands robot technology (comes around when LEGO just ditched the recycled plastic project, as it would lead to higher emissions). Baltic Sandbox Ventures just invested in Trashify, AI-powered waste sorting solution. Minthive is addressing the trust issue which is limiting demand for refurbished electronics. Beamline accelerator welcomed Sustainability Page (sustainability management platform for SMEs) and Wingo (packaging collection and processing technology from Latvia). Movement, not a startup (yet we need more of those): Commune DIY (CDIY) is a skateboard recycling workshop in Vilnius, turning boards into cool accessories.
- The other side. There is a lot for founders in 20VC talk with Christian Lanng, Founder and Former CEO Tradeshift ($3b company). "We told everyone to be a founder, but did not tell what it actually entails". There is still a lot of stigma in talking about burnout, pressure, and when things go wrong. It might be easier to reveal vulnerabilities when there is a success story created, more tricky when a startup never really takes off. Important work by those sharing - just like Mindaugas (Vinted) did regarding the loss of his father. There is a lot about mental health in tech at Povilas' youtube channel (interviews). Here are LT startups actively addressing mental health challenges. And this is the "Loneliness Economy" market map, it will expand a lot.
- Fintech. FYI - Financial Crime is $4 Trillion Business. Amlyze is building partnerships, such as with Tuum recently. Ondato is not afraid to get hands dirty and streamline KYC/AML for various industries - case studies include TonyBet and OnlyFans. More on fintech - Vinted receives EMI licence, what features are coming there? Softloans will partner with ConnectPay. HeavyFinance combines a bold sustainability vision with solid day-to-day execution, average return rate has reached 13.58%.
- Proptech. Rendin (Iron Wolf portco) hits the 5000 contract milestone. InRento exceeds EUR 15m amount funded with 0 late projects. Good stuff, and here is a request for more: ways to decarbonize cities faster (Eurazeo piece) and applying AI to close the widening construction productivity gap (NfX piece)
- Deeptech. Baltic Sandbox Ventures has been busy and finally, we are getting deals signed. Besides participation at WeSky round, they took the lead or co-invested in several deals, including Libera Global, Mathos, Glassity, Trashify, SportsIQ, SkyCorp Technologies (see picture), and VitalSigns, as part of the pre-seed fund, totalling over EUR 700,000 in investments. Timely push for brainy founders!
rounds and capital
- Nord Security raised a surprising $100 million, just following a similar one a year ago. What highlights? 1] $3b valuation, which is double that last year - growth graphs must be looking beautiful. 2] Round led by Warburg Pincus LLC (joined by Novator Partners and Burda Principal Investments) - bringing significant PE brand onboard, handy towards IPO and not only. 3] Mentions organic and "other" ways to grow – let's see what acquisitions may be around the corner.
- Genus AI, a generative AI platform for D2C and e-commerce brands, has secured over $6 million in a seed round extension, bringing the company’s total seed funding to $11 million. New investors include: Aleph Group Inc., strategic angel investors such as Kazuki Ohta, Co-Founder & CEO of Treasure Data, Magnus Lundin, Founder of Heep Agency, Tomas Slimas, Co-Founder of Oberlo and others.
We talked with Viktoras Jucikas, Founder and CTO at Genus AI.
How do you think about moats when the main tech advantage - LLMs - is with large players or incumbents?
Big companies certainly have advantages in core technology like LLMs. However, we believe startups like Genus AI have own strengths that set us apart:
- Expertise: We're specialists in helping brands grow. We know their needs better than general tech companies and we’re building products to solve their specific problems.
- Happy Customers: Brands love using our platform. Their success stories prove we're doing something right.
- Unique Partners: Our investors and advisors include big names in the digital marketing world, like Aleph Group, Kazuki Ota (Founder @ TreasureData), Mariano Dima (former CMO at Visa), giving us a leg up on trends and opportunities.
- Quick and Talented Team: We're a smaller team, which means we can make changes quickly to meet market needs. We’re able to attract top talent in Vilnius/Lithuania - a leading tech hub in Europe.
So, while we might not have resources and sheer scale for the fundamental R&D, we excel in areas that matter to our customers and partners in our industry, giving us a strong competitive edge.
What do you consider to be the most interesting opportunities in AI right now, especially in the context of your work at Genus AI?
Certainly, one of the most exhilarating aspects of the current AI landscape is its application across various domains, effectively acting as a catalyst for innovation and disruption. What makes this especially thrilling is the opportunity to dismantle layers of legacy software and cumbersome abstractions that were necessary before AI enabled more direct, natural interactions with humans.
Imagine a world where instead of navigating through multiple layers of software interfaces, you can just speak or type what you need, and the system understands and acts upon it. This isn't science fiction; it's rapidly becoming a reality. The potential for direct language interfaces could revolutionise everything from customer service bots that understand context and emotion, to intelligent advisors that can provide real-time financial or medical advice.
By removing these legacy layers and replacing them with more intuitive, AI-driven interfaces, we can not only dramatically improve the user experience but also unlock new efficiencies and capabilities that were previously unimaginable.
So, while AI as a technology is profoundly exciting, it's the application of AI to remove barriers, enhance human capabilities, and open new doors of possibilities that I find most compelling. At Genus AI, we share this vision and are actively working to make these futuristic scenarios a present-day reality, particularly in the e-commerce and D2C space.
- Breezit closes sound pre-seed round, led by Practica Capital – bagging $2M to power its generative AI wedding planning platform. Earlier this year Breezit expanded into Southern California, and here are seven lessons learned. Don't think they are a niche player - there are 2.5m weddings in the US alone, and last year 13,000 of those had a budget above $1m!
- DIG Ventures recently led a pre-seed round into Poly API (streamlines API discovery and consumption), along with several angels – including Tom Okman.
- INVL started fundraising their EUR300m growth fund.
- Some weird tricks for working faster - especially when coordinating with others
- Using ChatGPT Custom Instructions for Fun and Profit
- SaaS products: price your 12-month rate slightly above your average LTV for monthly users
- Current ranges for advisor equity grants seen on Carta. The fast default is 0.25% for pre-seed.
- So you want to sell to the enterprise? Funny read, we don't talk enough about why our scale-ups struggle to grow into selling to enterprise!
The second option for selling into the enterprise is to start there, on day one. These startups brand themselves as enterprise software providers in their first TechCrunch article. They don’t source “design partners” from former coworkers and friends’ startups, or plan their launches around Product Hunt; they talk to Honeywell, and Starbucks, and American Express. They win their first customers by selling them, in effect, services instead of software—“we’ll sit alongside you and try to build exactly what you need.” And they don’t try to sell to enterprises despite the messy technical and cultural problems8 that fester inside of them, but because of them.
- Building venture firm as a startup. Tech and data-driven, and investing in the firm beyond fund cycles. Fun listen with Chris Farmer of SignalFire.
- 2023 SaaS Funding Napkin, here are seed rounds:
- Major announcements from OpenAI and Meta this week, it's probably best to read Stratechery to understand the big picture. So that you know,
Jony Ive, the renowned designer of the iPhone, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have been discussing building a new AI hardware device, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
- Map of train gauges of this part of the world - why is it taking sooo long?
- IEA annual forecasts have always been ridiculously off for solar energy- case in point how difficult to predict a breakthrough
- Not sure if we will like what we are going to hear, but AI could finally let us talk with animals.
- Does the American dream still make sense? The answer is "it depends", primarily on what you want.
- Which cities are most friendly for cycling? Fascinating how the percentage drops right after CPH and AMS (Some old data points but things hardly changed much). Tell me about weather as a key variable here?
Smartproxy - Head of Product
Hostinger - Head of Product
NeuralDeep.neet - Full Stack Software Hacker
Divaks - Head of R&D
Whatagraph - SDR
ConnectPay - Legal Counsel
Estoty Games - new project: PM / Team Lead, Experienced Unity game developer, 2D / UI artist, 3D artist, Game designer
three questions, previously
- Sten Tamkivi, Partner, Plural and Partner, Taavet+Sten
- Rytis Lauris, Co-founder and CEO, Omnisend
- Andreas Helbig, Partner, Atomico
- Domas Janickas, Co-founder at edON
- Milda Jasaite, Senior Director of Corporate Development, Vinted
- Darius Zakaitis, Founder & CEO, Tech Zity
- Roman Novacek, Partner, Presto Ventures
- Lina Zakarauskaite, Principal, Stride.VC
- Justinas Pasys, Managing Director, LitBAN
- Magnus Hambleton, Investor, byFounders
- Povilas Poderskis, Development Director, Darnu Group, ex-COO Nord Security
- Gytenis Galkis, Venture Partner, Superhero Capital
- Daniel Kratkovski and Dominykas Milašius, co-founders, Delta Biosciences
- Kasparas Aleknavicius - Co-Founder and CPO, Loctax
- Andrius Milinavičius, General Partner, Baltic Sandbox Ventures
- Laura Korsakova, Founder and CEO, Psylink
- Paulius Uziela, Investment Manager, Coinvest Capital