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Entrepreneur since he was 13, but lately mostly investor with rich experience in business and entrepreneurship. This is Julien Coustaury,managing partner of Fil Rouge Capital, a partner of PODIM. Since starting investing in startups, Julien has made some 50 direct and much more than 100 indirect investment into tech startups.
Till 2023, Fil Rouge Capital will invest 42 Million Euro in Croatian startups and scaleups. They’ve already began taking application for their accelerator program.

How, from your point of view, as an investor, startup ecosystem in the region has evolved through time?

“I think the ecosystem is now becoming an ecosystem. You can see it – you’ve got a number of initiatives, which are actually the builder of an ecosystem. You have very active business angels associations, you have a couple of accelerators that are coming to light and you have VCs that are now investing. Not a lot VCs but some pretty active VCs in the region, which is in the last two to three years making the region an ecosystem, which was not existent before. In the last three years there was a build up. Let’s say the ecosystem is three years old. At least, that’s my vision of it. There have been things happening before; business angels were talking to accelerators, which were talking to VCs … but it was not really part of bigger ecosystem.”

Should this system now evolve, should it become more mature through years?

“As you can imagine – when you’re a three years old baby, you would like to reach adulthood. The answer to your question is – of course, it should evolve, it should become bigger. It should have more financial means, more VCs should join ecosystem … It has to continue that way, and grow. And what I mean by grow, is the money that comes into it.”

And there is potential for that?

“There is plenty of potential! I think the potential is untouched. Today if you’re a successful company, you are raising money in US or in London. Why!? Tell me a good reason, why? It’s already happening to some extent, but the money should be more available here. People are no less talented, they are no less entrepreneurial than anywhere else in the world, so there is no reason, why they would need to go away to continue their entrepreneurial quest?”

Latest acknowledgement to your work, 42 million Euros, that Fil Rouge Capital will invest in Croatian startups and scaleups till 2023, is the step in this direction. What will the impact on the region be with this amount of money? What opportunities the investment fund will bring to startups and scaleups?

“The impact is pretty simple. You pretty much have one another fund, South Central Ventures, that is really focused on the region. That is not to say that Speedinvest, CREDO Ventures, Launchub, are not coming to the region to invest but we are a bit on the periphery of their core investment strategy. So, can you imagine, we are going from one to two funds, we are doubling the investment capacity in the region and that as such is very interesting. Of course, it’s gonna be a tremendous benefit for the region.”

What kind of companies will you look for?

“This program has four subsegments, going from incubation to follow-on. So, it will have an incubation stage, an accelerator stage, a seed-funding stage, and a follow-on stage. So, it’s really from incubation to maturity, to scaleups.”

Could you already reveal something about the ticket size?

“Yes, of course. We will start investing from 10.000 Euro, this is what we call the incubation stage, so it’s really a man with a plan or a team with a plan, and hopefully this team will continue their adventure and will join our accelerator program up to 50.000 Euro. Then hopefully those will continue and then they will be eligible for our typical seed investment, which will be up to 500.000 Euro. And then the best ones will be eligible to our follow-on investment, which can be up to 3 Million Euro.”

And you probably already have some startups and scaleups on your radar, right?

“Oh, we have almost 250 of them already. We started working actually quite actively when we had the first indication in the process, that we were gonna be successful, we have already started working on our pipeline. And I’m happy to say that we have around 250 companies on our radar at the moment.”

And as Fil Rouge Capital is also a partner of PODIM, we could say PODIM will serve as a pipeline for Fil Rouge Capital to find startups and scaleups. Your team will be scouting for two days for promising startups and scaleups, so what’s your message to them?

“We’ve been official and unofficial partner of PODIM for quite some time now and enjoyed a very good relationship with PODIM and we’ve used PODIM from the very first time we came there to screen and to hand for good opportunities. So, if you see us at PODIM, please come and reach out to us, we are open for business. That’s my message.”

Team is a key to everything, you always say. And also, “you need partners in your business”. So, is teamwork and partnerships a crucial criteria for you when making an investment?

“I think a bad idea with a good team might eventually turn out to be a good idea. A good idea with a bad team is always gonna end up being a bad idea.”

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