Europe’s most promising SaaS scale-ups – what investors are looking forward to at The Big Score 2021

julija.gifford@gmail.com
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We’re living in a time of hyper growth, and along with that, hyper funding. For context – global VC funding hit an all-time record in 2021 Q3, topping $158B. Put another way, startups raised more in three months of 2021 than the entirety of the dot-com bubble of 1999 and 2000.

It’s a hell of a time to be an investor – faced with unprecedented opportunities for growth, while also having to walk cautiously to navigate hyper-inflated valuations, sifting what’s hype and what’s here to stay. 

Events like The Big Score, which will take place in Ghent, Belgium from Nov. 30 – Dec. 2, make matching startups with investors straightforward. With a highly-curated selection of 50 SaaS scale-ups pitching on stage, investors are able to cut the noise and attend an event where they know the first round of due diligence has been done.

A direct line to Europe’s best scale-ups

On Day 1 and 2, 50 hand-picked scale-ups from 12 European countries will pitch in front of 400 VCs and corporate buyers. The Big Score nominates scale-ups with a minimum of 2M EUR in revenue, and impactful product market fit, making them ideally suited for later-stage investors.

Investors who have attended The Big Score emphasize that the curated list of startups is one of the biggest draws to the event:

“The Big Score is one of the few European startup events that are more focused on later-stage companies. There’s always a very good list of pre-selected scaleups. We’re a late-stage investor – we prefer to start with series B with an investment between 5-10M EUR, so it’s very relevant for us. It’s helpful that we don’t have to do the selection ourselves, crossing out the seed stage startups, which we usually have to do at conferences,” says Kristýna Machová, Investment Manager at Inven Capital.

Daniel Bull, investment director at Columbia Lake Partners, echoes Kristýna’s sentiment:

“It’s a low-commitment high-impact event. In a short amount of time you get a lot of return – we love that it’s a highly-curated grouping of B2B software companies in a setting where you get to listen to pitches and spend 1:1 time with the founders all in one day.” 

Networking is built into the format of the event – intel into selected scale-ups’ growth is provided, small batches of pitches are followed by breaking out into small meeting rooms where you can meet the founders, discreet networking rooms are provided for pre-scheduled 1 on 1 meetings, and there are plenty of 15 minute networking slots built into the program, so that you don’t have to chase prospects over coffee breaks. 

Both investors praise The Big Score’s attention to detail to make the event a success – from ensuring that meeting rooms aren’t too far from pitching rooms and upscaled catering and afterwork drinks, to the calibre of attending investors. All features that further facilitate the likelihood of a successful conference outcome for the attendees.

Networking with investors

Having access to a handpicked lineup of SaaS startups is only one reason investors enjoy The Big Score. In addition to landing potential deals, one of the major draws is the networking potential with other investors interested in similar stages. 

“When I think back to the relationships I’ve built with other investors, a lot of them have their origins at The Big Score. It’s a great place to network and get to know other investors. Especially as this is a relationship business. If you’ve invested in a company, and are making an invitation to another investor allowing them to contribute, you want to know that this is someone you can work with over the span of 3-7 years. There’s only so much of a relationship you can establish over Zoom calls, you need more time to get to know one another and you really need to do it in person,” shares Daniel Bull of Columbia Lake Partners.

With 400 investors and founders present from around the world, it’s an opportunity to network with some that you may not always have the chance to meet. 

Inven Capital, which is headquartered in Prague, appreciates the geographical array of participating investors:

“In terms of investors attending, it’s good quality, with lots of big global funds focusing on late stage investments like Target Global, Accel, and others participating. Benelux is close to London, so there are quite a few investors from the UK as well,” shares Kristýna.

Skip the hype, focus on fundamentals

While the startup world is being taken by storm by NFTs, decacorns, and hyper valuation, the investors we spoke to emphasized that the best route for success is to keep a focus on the fundamentals. 

Inven Capital, for example, is a clean tech fund that has been around since 2014. They’re thrilled that this year’s The Big Score has a larger focus on sustainability and clean tech (which comes through via the Challenge Day we wrote about previously featuring Volvo, Orange, P&G, Mittal, Ineos, Arcelor, and more), but they also suggest keeping a cool head around the hype:

“The clean tech sector itself is becoming hyped. We’re seeing big global funds coming to Europe, and validations are heating up. It’s more money for cleantech, which is great, as much innovation is needed. But we also need to be careful not to create another bubble and watch the fundamentals closely: sustainable competitive advantage, exit potential. Not all of these companies can make a great IPO, many will be acquired. Then their valuations will look different. I think we still need to be cautious and not get too excited.”

Daniel also preaches a focus on fundamentals as the best course of action, while also cautioning startups of thinking equity is their only option: 

“It’s hard for any investor to say with certainty why valuations are where they are today. When we assess investments we focus on the fundamentals – find good businesses with great management teams that can create long term value. Then everything else will sort itself out. 

But we’re also seeing pitfalls in founder mindsets – thinking that equity is the only capital available to them to scale their business. By using a mix of debt and equity, you can buy yourself more time, add another 6-9 months of runway, and keep growing. Then when you raise an equity round, you’ll raise at a significantly higher valuation, and you’ll own more of your business.”

Tickets are available online for The Big Score 2021. Investors looking to gain access to scale-ups and other similar-minded investors can buy tickets and register for the event taking place at the end of this month.

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