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Mastering Entrepreneurship: From Skills to Investment

Helery Pops - Investment Manager at Practica Capital

Introducing Helery Pops. An Investment Manager at Practica Capital. Practica Capital is an early-stage VC dedicated to backing Baltic founders. They have invested in tech potential in the Baltic States for over 10 years. With their current 80M€ fund, they’re  hoping to back great founders in their ambition of building ambitious tech companies with ticket sizes ranging from 300k€ to 3M€ 

What are some of the key skills or qualities that you think are essential for success as an entrepreneur?

Courage and a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. 

Of course, you also need to have a background relevant to what you are building. You need to be a good storyteller, understand finances, GTM, be resilient and optimistic, and be realistic at the same time. You need to be fearless and know when to quit but never quit! 

So, a million things that a successful entrepreneur needs, but if you start by understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, you'll be able to find the right people to work with you. 

What are the key factors you consider when deciding to fund startups? What is the decision-making process behind it? 

When considering an investment, I prioritize finding a start-up that aligns with our strategy. Beyond that, I thoroughly analyze the team and company, including unit economics and the team's experience. While investor checklists are common, the importance of a strong investor-founder match is often overlooked. I believe that investing is a long-term commitment, typically lasting around 10 years, and a positive emotional connection is crucial. I have found that having a diverse team, including female founders, leads to successful entrepreneurship. Women, in particular, bring precision, decisiveness, and value-based decision-making to the table.

What advice do you have for female founders regarding building a strong founding team and leveraging their unique insights to drive business growth?

Whether you're a female founder or not, it's important to find a strong team around you that complements your weaknesses. In order to do this, one needs to know themself well enough. It's tempting to hire someone exactly like yourself but that rarely leads to good outcomes. I believe women are very well positioned to build successful and happy teams as they know how to value people. And a loyal team is a great foundation for business growth.

How do you view failure in the startup world? What advice do you have for female founders on overcoming setbacks and turning them into opportunities for growth?

Failure in the startup world is very common. However, I would say that it's not inevitable. In my experience, the founders who truly believe in what they are building will find a way to keep going despite the setbacks. And this is what separates successful founders from average ones.

How can female entrepreneurs build strong relationships with investors and secure funding?

The only debilitating misconception I see is thinking that for some reason female founders are not as good as male founders. That's simply not true - just google any statistics to confirm it. So once both investors and female founders themselves start realizing that we will get to a much fairer and more successful world. Until that day arrives, connecting with female investors and growing your network of fellow warriors will help.

What are some common mistakes or misconceptions that first-time female founders make when fundraising, and how can they avoid or overcome these challenges?

I believe the common mistakes are mostly the same for both female and male first-time founders: A confusing deck and story, raising money too early, giving away too much of the cap table to some angel investor, not getting feedback from the customer etc. There is a plethora of information online that will help with this. Also, many accelerators are there exactly for this reason - to help with the first steps in this new and often confusing world. I personally have become more intolerant against these kinds of mistakes. It just shows me that very basic research has not been done. Research that is available for everyone.

How do male and female founders approach networking differently in the context of the funding gender gap, and what opportunities are available to female founders to overcome these differences?

While the approach to networking is similar for both men and women, its traditional forms may be more challenging for women as many of them are caretakers and may not be able to attend networking events as freely. Additionally, stereotypes and a lack of role models may play a role. I recommend researching and partaking in networks, mentorship programs, and investor initiatives aimed at bridging the gender gap in funding. Participating in startup competitions and industry events can also provide valuable exposure and connections.

What was your career path that led you to become an investor? Were there any specific events, mentors, or experiences that shaped your interest in this field and ultimately your decision to focus on investing in startups?

My path to becoming an investor was mostly accidental. I started my career working in a few different startups that led me to meet Ragnar Sass. Together with him and 2 other Pipedrive founders, we put into motion Honey Badger Capital - while not a real fund, that was the beginning of my investment journey. The number of males and females in this industry is definitely skewed. For example, there are no female partners in Estonia. Nevertheless, I have not felt that there have been many unique challenges on my way just because I'm a woman. On the contrary, I see that it is encouraged for more women to join the industry. Our challenge now is also to break into the partner level. I think this reality is not far away anymore.

Founders often face the challenge of prioritizing personal well-being amidst the startup grind. Can you share some specific strategies you would like founders to implement to create a healthy work-life integration while managing the demanding schedule of a startup founder?

Being a startup founder is a challenging journey. Initially, it involves long hours, no income, and uncertainty. This period often lacks work-life balance, emphasizing the need for genuine belief in your venture. Your mission acts as a guiding light through the ups and downs of early-stage entrepreneurship. While the journey may remain tough, as you grow your team and gain clarity, you can gradually reintroduce work-life balance. Embrace the intensity of the early phase, but recognize when to delegate tasks to maintain sustainability and growth.

Interview series by Riga TechGirls for TechChill 2024 

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