FRC: When our founders call us in the middle of the night with an emergency, we pick up!

Fil Rouge Capital is a venture capital investment fund based in Croatia whose primary goal is to invest in entrepreneurs, start-up, and scale-up companies. They are one of the most prominent investors in the CEE region and have been supporting Podim for years now.

Even during the crazy 2020 made 66 investments and ensured that Croatian startup ecosystem kept growing.

Fil Rouge Capital’s plan is to invest 46 million € in Croatian startups from 2019 to 2023 which is a huge boost for the regional startup ecosystem.

In this interview we talked with Julien Coustaury, the managing partner of FRC,  and got some really interesting insights. 


For our readers who haven’t heard of Fil Rouge Capital before (if there are any) – what’s the one thing people should know about FRC?

We believe that the most prominent feature of our FRC team is that when we say “We’ve been there, done that”, that is exactly what we mean. The Fil Rouge Capital team is made up of entrepreneurs who know what it’s like to pave their own path and disrupt things for the better; straight from entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs!

As an investor that’s focused on the CEE region, how would you say the regional startup ecosystem is developing? Have you noticed anything particularly interesting during the last year or two?

I think it’s safe to say that we’re witnessing an amazing breakthrough when it comes to emerging startups from the CEE region. This region is loaded with talented people and great ideas and the quality has really been on the rise in the past few years. UI path, Rimac, Infobip, Flaviar have or will soon reach unicorn status and that is THE big news !

Is there something that especially excites when looking at a startup as you evaluate it for a potential investment?

Some good pointers for recognising great founders and teams are their responsiveness, passion towards their project, how well they listen to our suggestions, how ready they are to pivot their startup to reach better traction, growth etc.

Has anything changed during the pandemic? Is there anything you pay more attention to than before?

The pandemic was an interesting time to say the least. The one thing above all that remains crucial is the obligation for founders to keep an eye on cash flow. Spending money on growth is important, but they should never lose sight of the levers they should use to reach cash flow positive in no time .

Are there technologies or industries that Fil Rouge Capital prioritizes?

As we always say, we’re sector agnostic, so besides the few industries we are not allowed to invest in, we’re pretty much open to any good idea we come across. That being said, we do gravitate towards software companies lately, it’s more scalable. And we keep away from certain sectors we simply do not understand well enough to make an informed decision to invest.

What would you say is more important – a startup’s idea or its founder’s persona? Why?

I would say a founder’s persona, because a great idea with a bad founder is bound to fail, but a good and passionate founder will eventually find their way through all the bad ideas to a great one, and succeed! 

What’s another value you provide to your startups besides an investment?

We pride ourselves in being so much more to our founders than “just” investors. A founder-investor relationship is similar to a (hopefully) good marriage, both sides need to be present and committed to work on the relationship. So when our founders call us in the middle of the night with an emergency, we pick up!

What’s the best advice you can offer to startups?

Traction, traction, traction.

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