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Hunting Greek Unicorns #17
Behind the scenes of Marathon Fund II, Arrikto's Series A and other funding rounds, jobs, news and more
I hope this email finds you well. Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #17. I’m a startup guy based out of Greece, and every two weeks I will share news, jobs and more from the Greek startup ecosystem, and not only.
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🎙️ Behind the scenes of Marathon Fund II with Panos Papadopoulos
This week, I’m really excited to chat with Panos Papadopoulos, Partner at Marathon Venture Capital, a Greek VC firm partnering with Greek tech founders at the seed stage and helping them build world-class software companies. Previously, Panos founded a mobile analytics startup called BugSense, which was acquired in 2013 by Splunk. After a stint at Splunk as a Director or Product Management, Panos teamed up with George Tziralis and created Marathon introducing their first fund in 2017. In these three years, Marathon has backed 10 teams, including Netdata, Lenses, Hack The Box and LearnWorlds, currently maintaining a portfolio of estimated total enterprise value of $350M. Last week, the team announced the launch of Fund II, at an initial size of €40M, by releasing a launch video and blog post, giving insights on their journey and progress so far, who is backing their new fund and investment strategy. Panos has also angel invested in teams such as Pollfish, Transifex, TradingView, Nurx and others. We discussed about:
Marathon’s thesis and investment strategy
Aligning interests with Greek founders
Startup investing in a world where money is a commodity
What is your investment strategy with Marathon II?
We are looking for companies that bring a software product to market and we are typically the first institutional investors to back them. We invest when there is some validation by the market and this is different according to the sector. For example we might be looking for MRR movement, or some advanced POCs or crazy engagement/usage without revenues.
Of course another important component for us is that companies have or plan to have headcount in Greece. This is also where we help a lot with recruiting.
Are there any patterns related to market, team, product that pick your interest?
We are agnostic to sectors. We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t like trends. Founders know the future because they are building it. We really like to meet with founders who try to solve the problems they faced in the sector they were working before their entrepreneurial journey.
Team is of paramount importance. However there are a lot of unquantifiable attributes that make great founders stand out e.g. grit, perseverance, skin in the game, integrity. Unfortunately those are harder to read and this is what also separates great investors from the pack.
When it comes to product we are only investing in software & SaaS. This is what we understand, this is the industry where we have important networks. Sometimes there can be hardware components, but it is all about data acquisition. At the end of the day the most successful software products become workflows. Workflows are sticky and tend to become job descriptions. Just think how many job posts include company names such as Adobe, Splunk, Salesforce, etc. This happens when you are truly successful. People tie their careers to your products.
Startup investing is changing as way more options exist now for founders to raise money. In addition, we’re seeing cases of Greek startups raising even their first money from international VCs. How can you differentiate in such an environment as a VC?
This is true, money is a commodity and there are several sources to fund your startup, maybe it is your Bitcoin proceeds. VC is essentially branded money. We are selling you money (in exchange for your stocks) with a specific flavor. VC money goes along with the partner you will be working with.
What differentiates us from the likes of Index or a16z at the seed stage for Greek founders is alignment of interests. For one of these mega funds you don’t really matter before your company shows signs that you are the next unicorn. Till that point they have only bought the option to be able to deploy more capital in future rounds.
For us, as a seed investor and given our fund size, we are happy with more outcomes that usually fully align with founder interests. Given our small portfolio we are fully dedicated to the companies we back. On top of that, the lingual or cultural affinity creates very strong bonds that go a long way.
We are full in favor of having international VCs on board and we actively work with founders to bring them to the cap table but we think this should happen in later rounds when then there is clarity about the company’s potential and financing needs.
The Greek startup ecosystem is currently in full flywheel force. More promising startups founded, tier 1 investors leading rounds, bigger exits and global tech companies involved, successful founders backing new teams. What would you say is your ideal (or aspirational) vision for Greeks In Tech in 5-10 years from now?
Everything should be 10x what is today.
10x number of startups, 10x more available capital, 10x angels, 10x funds, 10x acquisitions, 10x tech employees.
It takes a village and all parties should work hard to get us there.
Having the VC experience now, is there anything you would have done differently as a founder at BugSense?
Everything would be different but I wouldn’t go back in time and change it. After all I am where I am today given my past actions and luck. The BugSense learnings given the numerous mistakes we made and the Splunk experience are what gives me the edge as a VC today. I think the learnings are already applied in companies like Netdata and Lenses.io and they will be 10 times more successful than BugSense.
What technology areas are you mostly excited about for the years to come?
As I said we are not investing in technologies but people who clearly see the present and create better solutions, the future. Now personally I am quite interested in several technologies like Web Assembly (WASM), Bitcoin but not crypto in general, software taking advantage of new architectures e.g. non-volatile memory and new AI chips, unikernels, differential privacy. When it comes to verticals I really like collaboration tools and anything that streamlines the operation of a business.
🦄 Startup Jobs
Greek startups are hiring! Here are some of the latest job opportunities:
B2B Wave - Senior Ruby on Rails Developer (Athens) - Apply here
Covve - Junior developer (Athens) - Apply here
Cube - DevOps Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
dci.ai - Clojure Developer (Data Platform) (Remote) - Apply here
Doctoranytime - Marketing Coordinator (Athens) - Apply here
Earth Science - DevOps Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
Ferto - Business Development Manager (Athens) - Apply here
Hellas Direct - Python Software Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
Lenses - Software Development Engineer in Test (Remote|Athens) - Apply here
Persado - Frontend Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
Signal - Data Analyst (Athens) - Apply here
👉 The list of open roles is growing fast! Check out the job board here, with 396 jobs from 67 companies.
New fund announced for Marathon Venture Capital and George Tziralis and Panos Papadopoulos. First closing of €40M for Marathon II, three years after launching their first fund to help Greek founders build world-class tech companies. Here is the coverage by TechCrunch.
Arrikto, a startup building an MLOps platform making it easy to build, train and deploy ML models in production, raised a $10M Series A round. The round was led by
Unusual Ventures with John Vrionis joining the board. Loved the more detailed deep dive from Constantinos Venetsanopoulos and Vangelis Koukis, from how they started back in 2015 to building a product that aims to put ML capabilities within reach for every company.
Green Panda, a smartphone recycling company founded by Fanis Koutouvelis (Intale) and Alexios Vratskides (Persado, Upstream), raised a €1.5M seed round from angel investors.
Navenio, a startup that aims to revolutionise healthcare efficiency through its infrastructure-free indoor location solution, raised $1.1M. This brings the total amount raised for the company to $12.7M.
Thymia, a platform using video games based on neuropsychology to make mental health assessments faster and more accurately, was highlighted as one of the top 15 EU mental health startups to watch out for on Business Insider.
MFlux Lighting, a startup providing a portable IoT lightning system for the construction & industrial industry, is one of the Techstars accelerator teams focusing on materials science, specialty chemicals, energy production, and sustainability.
Greek indie hackers making it to the top products of the day on Product Hunt. #3 spot for City Walks, a website that lets you virtually wander around the world.
💭 Reading or listening
Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst, wrote on TechCrunch about the sheer force of immigrant startup founders.
Some thoughts by Spyros Arsenis, Manager of NBG Business Seeds, on startup competitions in Greece and a quick review of past competitions and funds given to winners.
A post on Crunchbase by Joshua Hezghia, Head of Sales at Blueground, discussing how a growth mindset can help sales teams navigate this pandemic.
A look into Biopix-T, a startup building a 3D printed device which can detect COVID allowing the completion of tests even in areas outside laboratories in the near future, such as hotels, airports, and at home.
According to estimations presented by Angelos Galanakis, Head of Sales at Google, in 2025 e-commerce market volume in Greece will be 70% higher compared to 2020. In addition, 49% of consumers claim that their buying behavior changed due to COVID.
Maria Kokidou, Innovation Lead at Found.ation, wrote a post on how the media landscape is being reshaped through technology and startups.
Zaharenia Atzitzikaki, VP Design at Workable, published her latest newsletter on performance reviews and the debate of keeping performance and compensation discussions tied together.
A podcast episode talking about working remotely from Greece during and post COVID, as well as attracting economic activity from abroad, with Artemis Seaford, Public Policy Manager at Facebook, and Alexis Patelis, Chief Economic Adviser to Greece's Prime Minister. Some interesting thoughts on the integration of work into the daily life and side-effects of remote work are also discussed by Theofanis Tasis, Professor in Philosophy.
Greek founders making waves globally. Tasso Argyros talks about ActionIQ, the customer data platform he founded in 2014, which has raised $77M from investors such as a16z and Sequoia Capital.
With the rise of Product-Led Growth, product and engineering teams are far more influential in how SaaS companies acquire, convert & upsell users. An interesting report by OpenView Venture Partners on SaaS and PLG with benchmarks per stage in a company's lifecycle.
A deep dive into the adoption and regulatory treatment of blockchain & crypto assets in the 27 EU member states, UK and Switzerland by a team from the University of Nicosia, CERTH and others. Greece placed on the lower end of maturity in terms of ecosystem and regulation.
Stay safe and sane,
Greek Startup Pirate 👋