The 2015 edition of the pan-European startup contest Idea Challenge sees an increase in variety and internationality. The series of events re…
Photo credit: Loyalis
Rade Joksimovic, Boban Karisik and Dragan Leonidov are the team behind Loyalis – a Belgrade-based startup, providing retailers with integrated loyalty programmes. The trio made headlines this week after raising an investment from a local tech accelerator and a Slovenian angel investor. In the following Q&A, CEO Joksimovic talks about the deal, the future of the company, and about being part of a team of “three very diverse and insanely motivated individuals”.
Give us some more information about the investment. What is its official amount and who are the participating investors?
Joksimovic: Participating investors are StartLabs, the first and only tech accelerator in Serbia with tight connections in the Valley (story on inventures.eu), and Jugoslav Petkovic, probably the most notable angel investor from the region (covered by inventures.eu). The amount raised will remain undisclosed due to an agreement with the investors.
How long did it take to raise this money?
Joksimovic: This is an interesting story actually: We met Voja and Nebojsa (founders of StartLabs) about a year ago on a pitching event in Belgrade. At that time, we were very active in the region's startup scene, but were not looking for an investment. Our plan was to finance ourselves from my previous startup's acquisition, and then jump straight into Series A round.
Almost a year later, we had almost signed a large investment round led by a VC fund from the UK, but something wasn't right - they didn't have the expertise we were looking for at this early stage. We were looking for "smart money".
At that point we had arranged another meeting with Voja, Nebojsa and Jugoslav, where we were very much convinced that they would be our perfect investors at this stage, as they have vast experience in our industry and all the contacts we need. Everything was agreed upon within a few weeks and the process went very smoothly. I would like to add that the offered terms were all industry standards and very founder-friendly.
How many pitches did you make before you decided for the current investors?
Joksimovic: We've done about a dozen pitches altogether, ranging from local startup events to pitching in front of institutional VCs in London. After talking to dozens of angel investors and VCs, we finally decided to go with this combo as it was the “smartest” money we could ask for, and are very happy with the support we are receiving from their end.
Rade Joksimovic, CEO of Loyalis; Photo credit: LoyalisWhat was it that helped you the most in raising the money?
Joksimovic: In my honest opinion, I believe that our biggest advantage was the quality of the team itself.
Boban Karisik for example, my co-founder, has over ten years of engineering experience in tech startups from the Sillicon Valley, UK, Germany to Dubai, and has personally launched a software used on 3+ million websites. He knows the technology inside out.
Dragan Leonidov is in charge of sales, and was named the top 3 sales people in the banking sector, with one of the highest volume of SMB loans sold in a year, so he knows this customer segment very well.
On the other hand, I founded a B2B tech startup at the age of 19 and sold it within 18 months, with 400+ B2B e-commerce customers - which is in the same customer segment we are targeting at Loyalis.
The other advantage was the fact that we took a very strategic approach to pitching. We have prepared a lot of research documentation to show that we know what we're doing and are able to think long-term with the business.
How are you planning to use the investment?
Joksimovic: The investment will be used to further develop our product and properly position ourselves on the market.
What's your next big thing?
Joksimovic: We at Loyalis are very motivated in our goal to position ourselves as the group of mad scientists whose product engages and retains customers with minimal effort from the merchant's side.
What is one thing about you and your team that our readers would never guess?
Joksimovic: Interesting fact: If you visit our office, it is more likely to stumble upon a motorcycle helmet than anything else, as the three of us are all motorcycle riders :)
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