Early-stage investment firm Antler VC has unveiled 7 new portfolio companies which are addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges and operating in Europe’s most booming sectors. The firm has now invested in more than 20 startups since its 2021 Berlin launch. We take a look at the investments and explore how investors and startups can work together to inspire resilience and innovation.
Antler VC, a firm with offices in 23 cities around the world, including Berlin, London, New York, Stockholm and Sydney, has made its latest investments in 7 early-stage startups in Berlin. We decided to take a look at the investments to understand what it means for the region as a whole in the current wider economic context. For this, we got the expert inside scoop from Partners Alan Poensgen and Dr Christoph Klink.
“A combination of resilient early-stage investment activity and highly skilled and experienced tech founders entering the market means the wider economic context could actually inspire a new generation of world-class tech companies in Europe.”
Antler VC is committed to writing cheques to early-stage startups and innovations that have a visionary edge. The firm was founded with the aim to remove the barriers to entrepreneurship so more people can launch sustainable businesses that solve meaningful problems, drive innovation, and improve lives. Antler operates on a model of supporting these promising entrepreneurial ventures from the very beginning and then supporting them with team formation, deep business model validation, initial capital, global scaling, and follow-on funding.
Taking a hands-on approach in this way is becoming more popular in Europe’s VC space, with more and more investors recognising that innovators need more than just capital – they need support and guidance.
Now, the firm which launched in Berlin in 2021, has backed 7 new startups in the German capital, reflecting a strong vote of confidence in Europe’s startup ecosystem.
Earlier this year, Antler opened up its Spring cohort and saw more than 1300 applications. 50 founders were accepted and after some weeks of development and mentoring, 7 startups have now been presented with a €100k investment.
The startups are addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges and operating in some of the fastest-growing sectors in the European tech landscape. The startups are specializing in a diverse range of industries and sectors including climate tech, web3, proptech, automotive sales and space tech.
Further, it composes a diverse cohort of founders including 19 nationalities, 26% women and very diverse backgrounds with 2 new female-led ventures.
Maya Climate – combining climate tech with fintech, Maya Climate allows investors to support ‘Nature-based solutions’ from an early stage onwards
Airmo – women-led space tech startup using satellite-based sensor technology to track carbon emissions globally
Gomoto – a used car buying marketplace created by former employees from Auto1, Zenjob and Mytheresa
Gleans – a novel website builder and content hub for the creator economy
Reach – technology for elderly people to access health and therapy services through their existing home entertainment systems
Comoon – startup creating the infrastructure to build Web3 communities at scale
Novo – woman-founded prop-tech company reducing emissions in private real estate
Speaking on why these companies are worth backing, Alan Poensgen, Partner at the firm, said: “All of these companies are led by extremely strong and experienced founders – many of them are serial entrepreneurs. They are addressing major social or economic challenges in sectors experiencing rapid growth. Whether it is using satellite-based lidar systems to track carbon emissions, building the infrastructure for Web3 or creating a platform to bring therapy and support to an ageing population – in very different ways these founders are developing world-class technologies to solve major problems.”
Dr Christoph Klink, Partner at Antler: “The Antler Journey is truly a unique one, and we are proud to support the founders we work with from day zero. The global platform we have established allows us to work with exceptional founders from a wide range of exciting backgrounds, which is reflected in the variety of sectors and the diversity of founders within the seven startups we have most recently backed. Whether it is addressing climate change, supporting energy renovations or realizing the potential of web3 communities, these founders are creating outstanding tech companies that are addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges.”
The position of the CEE and DACH tech ecosystem
We wanted to get more insight into how the CEE and DACH ecosystems are faring at the moment and explore why the firm has so much confidence in the region.
According to Christoph: “The current economic situation is very challenging for any company, including tech unicorns and more mature tech companies across Europe. In Central Europe, we will continue to see layoffs, more modest valuations and consolidation for many of the companies that have been the success stories of our ecosystem. However, for early-stage companies and founders at the very start of their founding journey, the economic context presents a lot of opportunities.”
Alan Poensegen added: “We are also seeing an influx of founders looking to start tech companies as a silver lining connected with the tech downturn. We are seeing highly talented individuals with experience working for established tech companies setting up their own companies either because they have been made redundant, or because they become disillusioned leading teams and building products in companies that are not performing at the same levels that they used to. They have spent the last ten years driving growth and learning invaluable experience in tech startup environments – the downturn is a chance for them to become founders in their own right.”
Supporting diverse and visionary innovation from the beginning
As many in Europe begin to tighten the purse strings and become adverse to writing cheques and banking on fresh innovation, Antler’s investments reflect a commitment to the early-stage junction of the innovation ecosystem.
Early-stage startups are, in many ways, the building blocks of a startup ecosystem. They promote entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, they allow space to try out new ideas, and they reflect the innovative potential to impact society. Investing in them can help these small resource-stricken founders access the support and capital they need to scale, attract brain power, and push forward their vision – and that is critical in keeping the economy rolling in times of crisis.
Christoph commented: “The early-stage VC funds are still out there and investors continue to look and execute on early-stage investment opportunities. In this stage, founding teams are quite nimble and have an easier time adjusting to a changing environment. Also, it will take them a few years to reach later stages or even consider going public, which is where the current climate appears to have the biggest impact.”
Further, Antler’s portfolio does include tech-enabled innovations that aim to improve life for the better. Three of the startups are tackling climate change and reducing carbon emissions – including Airmo’s cutting-edge satellite technology which is already attracting interest from European governmental organizations.
In addition, more than 19 nationalities were represented in the cohort and 26% of the founders were women. Airmo and Novo are both women-led. We recently discussed Europe’s inclusivity problem in the startup community, and so, this is a progressive step forward that we like to see. It also reflects the diversity in Berlin’s ecosystem. Berlin has long been a powerhouse of Europe’s startup network and so it is really a city leading by example in this regard.
In just 18 months after launching in DACH, Antler has now backed more than 20 startups in Berlin. Companies the firm has backed out of Berlin have already secured significant funding rounds following Antler’s initial investment. Some examples include NeoCarbon, a climate tech startup that raised €1.25 million this month in a round led by Speedinvest and PropTech1. Whilst clare&me, a female-founded mental health startup, raised €1 million at the start of the year and is now expanding globally.
According to both Alan and Christoph, getting through the current economic crisis will rely on a combination of capital investment and a commitment to the scaling process. Startups, founders and investors shouldn’t hold back at this time, rather they should push forward with solid building blocks and strong convictions.
Christoph: “We are working closely with our portfolio companies to help them navigate the current economic situation. Many early-stage companies will likely be less impacted by the dawning recession – recessions typically last two to three years so by the time the founders behind our latest portfolio additions start looking to raise their Series A or B rounds the climate should be more positive again.
However, our advice to founders right now is to make sure they are getting the basics right. They need to be protecting their financial runway, focusing on generating real revenues and building a dedicated customer base. The rules haven’t really changed – they are just more important to remember than ever.
We remain very bullish on backing strong founders, despite the macroeconomic sentiment. We believe that in particular in these times of change and disruption, going overweight on talent is even more important than ever.”