The concept of Foundcenters’ work differs from others in that they do not combine money and ideas, but are rather investors themselves. Therefore, they have the right to choose the best, to decide and to invest. The competition they carried out in Belgrade has already largely proved to be exceptional, attracting a large number of stakeholders, which gave the Fund’s management wind in their sails to start planning the next big international event and to make this competition a tradition.
You have launched a competition for the best business idea. The competition will be finalised by the release of this publication. What is the aim of this competition and will it become a tradition?
– We are surprised by how much interest there is. More than 900 companies from across the region applied for the competition that we posted. This has motivated us to consider making everything traditional. That’s why we need to plan a great event next year in Southeast Europe, but also on an international level, and we are already working on that. We differ from other conferences, because we do not connect investors and start-ups, but are rather investors ourselves.
We contact start-ups, make decisions regarding investments and invest. This system does not exist in the West, and we do not do that only in Serbia, but also in Germany and around the world. What we need to emphasise is that this concept is well received everywhere.
The main reason why we are looking for something in this part of Europe and outside Berlin and Los Angeles is the potential of this region. There is a lot of talent and ideas, but all of these markets alone are too small and too weak
What is it that you offer customers, other than money, that they cannot do without you?
– Money is in itself very important and it is a big deal, but our investment philosophy has four steps. In the first step, we analyse whether people are capable of doing the job, how much potential they have and whether they have management skills. When we see that they possess that, we move on to the next step, and that is to see what kind of idea they have. Sometimes even if they have a bad idea, but good quality people, they can modify their idea and fix it.
The reverse is impossible – if it comes to people who are not flexible enough, they are able to destroy the best idea. If you like the idea, the next step is very important, and that is to ensure that everything is feasible. Then we conduct a detailed analysis because some things are fantastic but currently unrealistic. If we go through these three steps and see that they are good, we deal with us – the question of what we can contribute other than money. We always have something more to contribute. This is the fourth law.
We need to contribute strategically – whether it’s connecting to the market, helping in management, marketing and the financial system. However, it is important to say that we are not entrepreneurs. Each of the investors is an entrepreneur because they have made their millions by themselves, but we, as investors, do not enter actively into the management of the company.
In this case, there would be no liability for those who run the project, and on the other hand, it would be an unmistakable sign that we have done something wrong if we become entrepreneurs in the companies in which we invest.
What are the main goals of your visit to Belgrade and what you will be focused on in the placement of funds?
– There is huge untapped potential. People are hesitant because of the general impression that quality often has no real chance, and these people have great potential in every profession – medicine, the IT profession, and other activities. Those same people in another market could be big players. And this is the potential that we want to utilise and instantly give a basis that is healthy and that the market is healthy.
What type and whose capital is the base of your fund?
– The capital comes from private investors – from me and some important German businessmen. Our investments go through the whole world – this is just one part of our investment, where we see great potential and undiscovered treasure.
Our investment philosophy has four steps and if we find a combination of all four steps, then we say – yes, we will suggest this for investment, because it meets all the criteria that we feel are important to realise the idea and make it become viable
How much do you know about the Serbian market and how do you assess the investments?
– I’m familiar with the Serbian market, but also with all the markets of the Balkans, and I can say that they all have something in common – they are quite small and not as developed as those of the West. This is, on the one hand, a challenge for everyone, but on the other hand, it also reduces the chances for anyone who wants to build something here, even with great ideas and people.
The Serbian market operates as more of an import market than an export one, which is a bad assumption for every economy. We think that the market may still have something to offer – and that is people, talent and ideas that could compete on the international market if given good support, if they are provided with a system in which to operate, and financial support of course.
In addition to offices in Berlin and Los Angeles, which parameters contributed to reaching a decision to open an office in Belgrade?
– We chose Belgrade as the centre of Southeast Europe where all markets in the region could be combined. On the other hand, Belgrade is my city. Therefore, although many people often point out that networking and connectivity are important, we are the only ones in this area that embraced this big challenge to unify all the potentials to become more visible to the rest of the world.
For this reason, we created a concept where we can launch good ideas and talent from the region to the Western world, which is large enough for these ideas and where their realisation does not have to be an impossible mission, but rather, on the contrary, perfectly packaged synergies. We believe that if you revise market funds in Southeast Europe it almost does not exist. If you compare this to other parts of Europe, it is a great opportunity. This enormous potential leads us to ask where it all meets, and that is Belgrade.