After the sale of Fileminders to US giant Iron Mountain, one of the company’s founders Marios Xenophontos is looking for the next idea to take root in the Cyprus market and develop into another success story.
Marios Xenophontos does not harbor the illusion that an idea will come out of Cyprus which will revolutionise world trade, but he is convinced that there are ideas and products that have a place in the Cypriot market and can make a difference.
Having experienced both sides of an innovative idea, as a startupper and more recently as an investor, he makes a point of reminding the many enthusiastic individuals he meets that being in love with their product is not enough; they need to get the market to fall in love with it too. And this is what he is trying to do through Venture Space, the company he created to invest in new innovative ideas.
Venture Space has found innovative companies in which it has already invested. What procedures do you follow?
Correct. A large number of young businessmen approach us to present their ideas and to discuss the possibility of cooperating and support them. By support we mean financial investment in the company in return for participation in the share capital.
The cases that come to us vary. Some may have just an idea. Others have a product or a service they have already developed and now needs to mature and evolve so that it can enter the market. There is also a third category, where the product has already been launched on the market and is generating revenue, but they need to expand to the next stage of development. We focus mainly on the last two categories.
When you invest in a start-up do you aspire to acquire a majority or a minority stake?
Always a minority stake. We do not want the person who has the idea to feel that we are coming in and taking it. Moreover, in successful cases, there are other capital increases at a later stage and we do not want to completely dilute his stake.
When we say that a product is innovative, what do we mean exactly? Can you imagine an idea which will start from Cyprus and develop into the new Airbnb or the new Amazon?
No something like that is very difficult. We are realists. Cyprus does not have the eco-system to support such a thing. Something innovative is not just something that will be a world first. It could be something that exists abroad and has still not developed in Cyprus. This is what I did when I created Fileminders. I saw a trend and a need companies had abroad, and I decided to implement it in Cyprus.
The investor brings the startupper back to earth
What is your opinion of this new environment with innovative companies, the eco-system being set up around them and more generally the hope everyone has that Cyprus will become a start-ups centre?
A lot of people are making considerable efforts today, incubators, accelerators etc. These are good efforts, but they must mature. Time is needed to pinpoint and correct mistakes so that the right eco-system is set up. On the other hand, what has been missing from the local market were the venture funds, which is what Venture Space does. Contact with an investor, and I speak from experience, helps bring those behind an innovative idea back to earth, it’s a reality check.
This may remove the romantic notion they have in their head, because at the end of the day, an investor wants to see results and poses questions such as “who are the buyers? When should you launch on the market? Where will the proceeds come from?” Often, people who come up with a new idea are so in love with their product that all their efforts focus on improving and perfecting it, and in the end they forget that the ultimate aim is to get their product on to the market. The presence of an investor reminds them of this objective. What value is there in creating something which is perfect, if it is not on the market?”
In my opinion this is the gap we currently have in Cyprus: Making in on to the market. Everyone focuses on the first steps and there is a gap when the moment approaches to go it alone and it is time to enter the real economy. That is why I said earlier that the Cypriot market needs to mature.
Venture Space’s investments
Blend app: An innovative personnel management app in the catering sector https://www.blend.app/
Hey Oliver: An automated marketing tool offering all the techniques required by a website to turn visitors into prospective clients
From Forbes Cyprus