Outward VC Panel: Founders and Investors navigating the Covid-19 landscape

On Thursday 23rd April, Outward VC led a panel at FTA x DTA Virtual Investment Series. Founders Shachar Bialick (Curve) and Peter Goodman (Aventus) from the Outward portfolio were joined by reputable investors Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp) and Vinoth Jayakumar (Draper Esprit) to discuss the all-consuming Covid-19 crisis and the implications for the start-up ecosystem.

Founders, take note

Kicking off the panel, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder and managing partner of Seedcamp, highlighted that companies should hypothesize for a number of Covid-19 inflicted scenarios that stretch beyond 18-months. Sohoni noted that whilst it was a difficult time for start-ups, “there needs to be empathy for your supply chain and for customers who are also being impacted.”

Peter Goodman, CEO of InsureTech start up Aventus, added that now is not the time to be sensitive on valuation and urged founders to “take a reality check on what you’re worth – something investors may find quite refreshing at this time.”

 

 

Curve and Aventus on the front foot

Shachar Bialick, CEO of Curve, spoke of two dedicated teams set up to respond to the crisis. The first, is focused on making sure the “muscle” already built does not weaken over the Covid-19 period. The team should be in a strong position to act when they come out on the other side. The second team is dedicated to finding new opportunity, which means iterating the product with new consumer needs top of mind. “We’re looking at ways of working with the market conditions to accelerate our growth” Bialick concluded.

Goodman, who recently closed a £2.6m funding round lead by Notion Capital and Outward VC, is using the time to deeply focus on product. Goodman notes that “customer pain points have shifted since the start of the year. We’re looking to pivot and change our roadmap to help companies out in this period rather than sitting and waiting to see what happens.”

 

Investors are open for business – really?

Vinoth Jayakumar, Partner at Draper Esprit, noted the trend of spread sheets and email chains circulating among investors who have declared they are open for business as no one wants to be seen as closed. With two term sheets in the market, Jayakumar admits “the nature of how much work we are doing now has increased, the bar is higher than it has ever been…so it will take longer for deals to get done, but they will get done.”

Sohoni echoed that “there is a slower pace for sure. There is a more conscious look at longer term business models.” However, she encouragingly affirmed that “[Seedcamp] are very much open for business. We’re seeing follow on investors coming into our companies and rounds being done.”

 

Covid to the side. Let’s talk diversity…

Sohoni, well versed on the topic, is positive we are moving in the right direction. “We’ve had such a focus on [diversity] in the last couple of years. As long as we keep that focus, it enters the conversations at the board level, at leadership level and with VCs as well… we just have to make sure we don’t get tired of the topic – it’s not a topic to get tired of!”

Jayakumar, added “where VCs have made progress, is we have begun to measure it…we’re starting to know what the numbers are. That’s step one. Step two is actually understanding this doesn’t mean we bring the bar down when recruiting… it means we look harder in those pools… and go deeper.”

 

Closing on a future note, predictions please  

Jayakumar’s bet is on fraud companies. Sohoni agreed and extended the focus more broadly to companies looking to disrupt piping and infrastructure, using debt collections as one example. Sohoni emphasised how difficult it will be for B2C players coming up against big players with massive war chests at a time where consumer demand will be incredibly difficult to prove out over the next 18-months. Not too dissimilar, Goodman is confident companies will shift their focus to rethinking processes, especially where people are attached. Bialick, concluded he too is bullish on infrastructure, payments and processes.

 

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