Startups in the Czech Republic find another path toward funding and exposure

Original article can be found on www.ihned.cz.

Keiretsu Forum Prague connects start-ups with potential investors. The Prague chapter is targeting companies beyond the friend’s/family stage and that are seeking Series A and B rounds.

"I visited Prague five years ago, but I found that it was not yet the right time for our expansion into the Czech Republic,” said Keiretsu Forum International President Judith Iglehart. Since then, she says, the concept of angel investing has become more prevalent in Central Europe and it was time to open in Prague.

Keiretsu Forum Prague will also expand activities into the Polish, Slovak and Belarusian emerging entrepreneur markets as well.  They are aiming for 100 investors in Central Europe. Keiretsu Forum is a by-invitation only angel group that charges $3000 USD for membership. Members receive a regular overview of vetted startups looking for investors. Membership is global, and investors can choose every month from start-ups in San Francisco, Tel Aviv or any other of the 46 branches that showcase global companies.

The Keiretsu Forum network expands through licensing. "Over the past 16 years our original concept of people sitting around a table and discussing start-ups has evolved into an organization of licensed regions with 2500 plus members and nearly fifty locations. All are independently licensed and managed on the basis of the cultural and economic needs of the region," says Iglehart.

One example of a successful project that through her organization received money for further growth was the Clarisonic skin cleansing system.  Investors received a 13x return on their individual investments when the company was sold to L’Oreal. "Not every project is so successful," says Iglehart.

Angel investors are aware of the risks. Some angels contribute to the growth of start ups with mentoring and counseling. "Angel investors use their own money, write checks on their own accounts, want to know when they will get their money back, and what is the exit plan for the company," says Iglehart.  She says the amount of time from initial investment to exit differs between countries.  For example, in Israel it is an average of two plus years and in the US and Europe, it is usually five to seven years.

Projects that are currently offered to investors in Prague who are looking for a so-called "EXIT” plan still have a long way to go. Yet they are all  in the phase of finding investors. Some of them are well primed, said the Executive Director of the Czech branch of the Keiretsu Forum Petr Lemoch.  Money for further development is sought for Czech diverse companies such as one  managing security cameras and one developing a shrimp farm.  The shrimp farm  wants to build near Rakovníka, said American/Czech entrepreneur Mark Chavez.

140 interested investors and members of the startup community were in attendance last week in Prague at the Angel Capital Expo Europe including the startup Socifi. "It is an IT start-up, focusing on how to get the most money out of Wi-Fi and LTE networks. Their solution is usable and prevents global security risks. In the United States the company works with the Federal Agency for Crisis Management (FEMA)," says Peter Lemoch. According to him, companies do not go to angel investors always just for the money. Some companies are looking for marketing and distribution channels, or experienced people who will work with them in management.