‘It’s a very exciting time to be an investor’: Here’s what this one is looking for

9 Dec 2021

Elina Berrebi. Image: Revaia

Revaia’s Elina Berrebi discusses opportunities in the software sector and why entrepreneurs should create relationships with investors and with other founders.

Elina Berrebi is the president and co-founder of Revaia, a European VC fund she started in 2018 with Alice Albizzati. The Paris-based VC, formerly known as Gaia Capital Partners, closed on its first growth fund at €250m in September of this year.

Prior to founding Revaia, Berrebi was an investor at Eurazeo Growth, the growth equity arm of French group Eurazeo, where she co-led investments in tech companies such as Farfetch, PeopleDoc, Younited Credit, Contentsquare and Vestiaire Collective. Including her previous experience at Bpifrance, she has participated in the financing, structuring or monitoring of more than 20 growth companies.

Here, she gives her advice for start-ups.

‘From getting things off the ground to navigating a competitive mature market, there are many moments when you just have to keep your head down, iterate, repeat and hold steady’

What work are you doing with start-ups now?

Through our first fund, we have now partnered with 15 scale-ups in Europe and the US – including several unicorns – that are shaping new consumer and business habits. I invest in B2B and B2C products and services that have a strong brand, that are loved by their users and that have a sense of purpose.

My role is to identify, carry out the investments, advise founders and sit on the board of the companies when it makes sense. Being an entrepreneur myself, I can relate with a lot of their challenges.

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

It’s a very exciting time to be an investor as we’re seeing all aspects of our private or business lives being infused with more tech and science.

As the way we work is changing in a profound way across all generations of workers, I believe software fostering collaboration, improving the workplace or enabling remote work have great days ahead. Obviously, the category has been around for many years but there is still so much potential in the SMB market notably and in under-digitised industries.

Another theme that is rising, with now hundreds of millions of developers and creators, is how we help them carry out their activities and, for some, how we can help them make a living. They are heavy users of tech, with tools that must be best-in-class and highly specific, but also that can make their work usable by the rest of us.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

There’s no single set of qualities that make a good founder. We do look at the capacity to articulate a clear and bold vision, combined with leadership skills and a doer mindset.

There are some verticals that require more creativity and empathy, while others would require stronger execution discipline. Overall, it’s important to see a fit between the qualities that founders display and the problems they tackle.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day? What tools and resources are a must?

A successful entrepreneur is usually obsessed with the company’s customers and makes sure every single action carried out by their employees is in line with the strategy and the brand.

In today’s fast-paced environment, with remote teams on several time zones, it’s critical to build a strong culture around writing as much as we can. All tools contributing to making explicit what everyone’s trying to achieve are a must-have. Feedback culture and making a habit of celebrating milestones together are key parts of a successful start-up journey.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

I wish there was only one! But I’m seeing resilience as a common trait of many successful ventures. From getting things off the ground to navigating a competitive mature market, there are so many moments when you just have to keep your head down, iterate, repeat and hold steady.

You have to find ways to sustain the energy levels of the beginning and the humility that came with it. And all of that need to be conveyed to your whole team as well. 

How can founders assemble a good team?

Employer branding is an absolute priority in such a heated talent market. It comes with stating clearly who you are, what you are here for and why. Great talents have just so many opportunities out there – they need a reason why, which is not just compensation.

Plus, building a team that is diverse, in terms of gender, colour and culture, goes without saying.

What advice do you have for founders who are starting to look for investment?

It’s always good to create relationships with potential investors ahead of any financing need. It’s definitively a win-win, because you can test if there is a mutual fit, ask for advice and intros, while the investor gets more comfortable with you doing what you said you would do or on why you made such and such choices.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Hard to teach lessons here, as I’m in their shoes as well. When it comes to selecting investors, I believe the cultural fit and alignment on values should be ranked very high. But, more often than not, it is underestimated.

When everything goes well, it is easy to be aligned. But when you need to pivot your strategy or make difficult choices, the reason why we all decided to partner together in the first place helps cement the relationship.

What are your views on mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor?

When you are a first-time founder, there are so many things that are new for you but part of a well-trodden path for all the entrepreneurs around you. So basically, getting the mentorship of another founder, who is more advanced in his or her journey and ideally in a similar industry, definitely accelerates speed of execution.

As you grow in your journey, or as a serial entrepreneur, you may want to benefit from more senior-level mentorship from expert people that know well your industry and can help you steer your strategy.

What’s the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Aim for something big enough to fulfil your aspirations for many, many years and impactful enough to give a meaning to each of your days.

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