Results: Starting to have a solid track record as a business angel with 2 out of 8 investments IPOed on smaller listings (Prowebce.com in France and Dibs.se in Sweden) and partial exits from which he can reinvest into new ventures.
Dusan will be speaking at FACE; we asked him a few questions:
FACE: You are a very busy man on the board of several high-growth companies and angel groups. Why have you decided to dedicate time, transatlantic travel, and money to join FACE? What do you like about this event?
Dusan: I strongly believe that the speed of globalization is accelerating in general and especially within Internet, Software and Mobile Applications. Also, I think the French-American business relations in general needs to be accelerated. Being ex-GE and now living in Paris and married to a French lady I think I can bring something to the table to speed up business exchanges between the two economies.
FACE: Can you tell us more about Paris Angels Capital and the other angel groups you are a member of?
Dusan: Being a new “bread” of European I invest in countries from which I have origins:
Sweden, where I was born where I am part of Stockholm Innovation Growth one of the strongest Nordic ex-entrepreneurs/business angels groupings where everything from incubation to seed fund is covered.
Further, Croatia where my grandmother is from where I helped kick of CRANE, the Croatian Angel Network.
Last but not least PBA, Paris Business Angels which is I think by number of members the largest business angel group in France. Paris is also the place where I live and where my wife is coming from, where my kids were born and where I pay my taxes. At Paris Business Angels we have launched a business angel fund which co-investing with the business angels which is called Paris Angels Capital and the first investment was done last Friday.
On top of all this I am also part of Venturepreneurs a network of business angels who are all former or existing entrepreneurs based in Spain, Germany, Sweden, France, the US and some other countries. Its one of the few truly cross-border networks in Europe mainly based out of Barcelona in Spain which has become something of a melting pot in Europe.
FACE: Less than four years ago you invested in a company that made a few million dollars in revenue, brought on board an American Business Angel, and you grew it by 2,000% since then. How did you do that? How do you select your companies and how do you support them?
Dusan: First of all I did not do anything. The founder and CEO of the company Patrice Thiry made it happen. Patrice was born in France, studied partly in Boston and worked for a while in the US/UK before returning to France and kicking of Prowebce.com. The only thing I did was that from the about 700 entrepreneurs I have seen during the last 4 years I strongly believed that Patrice could make it. I did know the sector as well (software/web) and I was familiar with the business model. I have helped Patrice by finding some client but especially partners, helped renegotiate bank loans and introduced new Investors to the company such as the first angel of Tradedoubler, Alven Capital (a French VC) and Edmond de Rotschild.
Actually, even before me entering the capital an American Investor had invested in Prowebce and he is still the largest shareholder of the company together with the founder. He had the vision to enter as shareholder when times were not that easy that is after the latest dot.com crisis a timing which could be consider the same as right now. It’s funny that an American (and not a French guy) more or less saved the company at that time. Hopefully there are more Americans who dear to invest in French companies especially in difficult times when there are some good deals around!
Although Proweb has grown quite spectacularly in the French market it still has loads of potential growth in France but also internationally where I hope to be able to contribute in the future as well. Who knows maybe we will be in the US one day as well! For that we need to modify our business model slightly but nothing is impossible!
FACE: Who are you looking to meet at FACE? Who should come see you?
Dusan: I would love to meet up with American entrepreneurs who are either still entrepreneurs or are acting as investors in general and more specifically within internet, software and mobile applications. My idea is that I would like to co-invest with them like I did with the American who invested at Prowebce. This time around I am formalizing it into an entrepreneurs fund but preserving all the flexibility that private investors have investing directly. The new fund has received a strong welcoming in Europe and now I am focused on America and at a later stage also Asia and South America.
FACE: What are your top-three pieces of advice for individuals looking for business angels?
Dusan: – Try to find angels who understand a bit what you are doing. They do not necessarily have to be based in your home town.
– Try to find angels who have some kind of link to your region or country. Many angels want to do something from the place where they were born or where they have grown up.
– Remember that most of us invest in people and not in products and business plans. Not saying that this is not important but since we tend do invest very early we can not really count on a business plan since maybe there are no sales yet and the product is not ready yet.
Last but not least: Never Give Up!