In early 2021, our founder Ana got fed up with the API documentation tools available on the market and developed a prototype to solve the problem herself. By July, the prototype had gained traction among her circle of friends, so she released a public beta in August. Hoping to use this opportunity to develop further, she reached out to her friend and AI expert Maria. The Idea - a unique tool that did not exist in the market and suggested content for documentation.
While Maria was working on AI in her home base of Seattle, Ana was working from Tbilisi and decided to enter a local startup competition. The top 20 companies in the competition would be awarded 100,000 GEL, and we were lucky to be among them. This competition was a game-changer. Thanks to Gita, the organizer of the competition, the top 50 startups received a week-long mentorship and pitching Bootcamp with experts from the EU and Silicon Valley. It was then we realized our startup idea truly had potential.
After conducting market research that clarified our value proposition and building our business and financial models, the product’s potential was truly validated. A successful pitch to Gita resulted to the grant and a superlative: “Most Likely to Be the Next Unicorn.” That gave us a boost of confidence and a lot of attention from the media and investors.
In Georgia’s booming startup scene, investors are lining up to write checks for the right products! We plan to write another blog about the startup ecosystem here in Georgia, but in the meantime, we’d like to say a big thank you to all the startups that supported us in this funding round.
In the pre-seed round, the most important aspect investors pay attention to is the team. The reason is simple: the MVP or pre-MVP concept you present in your pre-seed funding discussions is almost guaranteed to evolve in the months and years ahead. Investors are not looking for a perfect, market-ready product, they are looking for a team that has the potential - the market knowledge, the drive, and the right attitude to build a successful company regardless of the product.
Although this attitude is common among U.S. investors because of Georgia’s burgeoning startup scene Georgian investors love a strong MVP and spend a lot of on due diligence. This is a useful challenge, but understanding that the product will change significantly as it evolves is important for a successful startup. We are sure that Georgian investors will appreciate this in the near future.
In the month following our successful pitch, we spoke with more than 50 investors! Most of them were introduced to us through our network or contacted us directly. Still, it can be overwhelming to talk to investors, especially when you have so much interest at once. A single day can include two meetings, two dinners, and drinks with five different investors! But of course, the packed days and busy schedules were worth it.
We have two important pieces of advice when it comes to fundraising. First, set a deadline by which you want to make a decision. This provides the right amount of urgency to encourage you to move forward. Second, look at the investors themselves and consider who can really make the biggest impact on your business and why. If you are fortunate enough to have multiple offers, look not only at the resources themselves, but also everything the investor has to offer, such as their networking capabilities, industry knowledge, and any business relationships you may be able to leverage. (It goes without saying that you first need to know how much money you want to raise and how you will use those resources.)
After receiving tremendous interest and several promising offers, we set a strict deadline and made a decision based on the investors we believed would make Theneo successful beyond funding. And just like that, thanks to the Gita Grant, the TBC competition, and all our other investments, we raised a total of $900,000. We cannot wait to see what comes next!