We talked Sanyu Karani of FundingBox about public funding for innovations, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sanyu Karani: Fortunately, we are all well and complying with precautionary measures, like everyone else, in order to stay safe under this pandemic context.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded FundingBox.
Sanyu Karani: I was born in an Indian family in Spain and was always given the opportunity to explore new horizons and cultures. This is why, from an early stage, I was constantly on the lookout for new ideas, cultures and ways of challenging the status quo.
I completed a BA in European Business Administration from ICADE Comillas (Spain) and from the Fachhochschule of Reutlingen (Germany).
As an entrepreneur, I had suffered the pressure and frustrations of starting a business. It was at that moment that I saw the opportunity to give small businesses access to European grants. This is why I founded Econet 30 years ago, FundingBox being a spin-off of Econet. I have now been involved in public funding for innovation since 1991 and have been angel investing since 2010.
How does FundingBox innovate?
The Group has managed many pan-European initiatives related to startup acceleration such as IMPACT, IMPACT Connected Car, RobotUnion, I4MS, AI4EU, among others. The FundingBox platform operates with more than 32,000 tech champion entrepreneurs and innovation stakeholders that can access numerous funding opportunities and engage with corporates that are in the quest for disruption as well as investors hunting for the next unicorn.
When we match highly specialized European technology startups in IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics with investors, it ignites innovation in the form of products, methods and knowledge which improves both profitability and competitiveness. This is what our Champions deliver and why our positioning is based on #FundingChampions (explained further on).
Amongst these Champions we can find, for instance, Situm, Clarity AI and Nozomi. They respectively propose indoor positioning solutions, company and investment social impact analytics and industrial cybersecurity technology.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sanyu Karani: Well, for many companies, the crisis has meant that they have had to adapt their management, finance and business activities completely. Nevertheless, for FundingBox, this adaption was rather unnoticed. Why?
– We didn’t have to ask our employees to start working from home because they already worked from home.
– We didn’t have to ask our employees to start running events or meetings online as we were already hosting them long ago.
We did, however, have to stop travelling unless we had to attend critical face-to-face meetings with our actors of the ecosystem. But again, technology has in general allowed us to maintain constant communication with them. We organized fully-online events such as the Funding Continuity Day, wherein just one day we gathered more than 550 attendants and 40+ Deep Tech expert speakers. We covered topics that were direct sources of concern to our ecosystem: Where to find additional funding? How Digital Innovation Hubs help boost the digital transformation of companies? How to close a deal with a VC post-Covid times?
With regards to our core target, startups and SMEs, they are now more than even looking for funding opportunities and technological transformation solutions. This has put a lot of pressure on FundingBox to close collaborations with investors and Corporates. We, for example, are collaborating with Realdania and Real Madrid Next to fund and accelerate innovative companies respectively in the construction and sports industries. We have also accelerated our communication towards startups and SMEs to keep them up to date with respect to these benefits that also include potential financing from a new Venture Capital activity we just launched, FundingBox Deep Tech Fund.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sanyu Karani: The FundingBox partners have undergone various crisis in the past, and this is what we have learned:
- Stay very focused on the business strategy in the coming years and identify new opportunities.
- Maintain constant communication with our stakeholders.
- Built a strong brand that adds value to our ecosystem so they can understand the purpose behind our mission – a better tech tomorrow for all of us.
- Build a clear culture and values for the company with which any colleague can identify with.
Of course, this could not have been possible without a tolerant approach (multidisciplinary and multicultural team present in 18 countries and talking 18 languages) and a resilient mindset. – This is part of our everyday life and thus of our DNA.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sanyu Karani: We are currently holding online meetings with our own tool, FundingBox Meetings, a fully encrypted, 100% open source “privacy- first” and free teleconference solution.
Also, in order to apply for a funding opportunity, our ecosystem stakeholders have to fill in a form through FundingBox Enterprise, a tool that was already implemented in the company and that automates the whole funding process.
And finally, we didn’t have to ask the members of our ecosystem -startups, SMEs, experts, mentors or coaches- to stay in touch as they were already doing so with our online community platform, FundingBox Spaces, where they can learn, share and grow along with the other 32,000 other registered members.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sanyu Karani: Our competitors are undoubtedly other fund distributors for startups and SMEs. What differentiates us from other competitors is that thanks to strict compliance in our methodology (that has come as a result of participating in many European Commission initiatives), we are one of Europe’s largest Ecosystems, with Deep Tech “Champions”: startups with ready-to-market technological solutions and highly relevant for potential collaborations with investors and corporates. This what we do at FundingBox, we are #FundingChampions.
Your final thoughts?
Sanyu Karani: We encourage and champion exponential growth for entrepreneurs; for this reason, we believe that funding should be a seamless process. Today, it is a long and somehow tedious process.
Whether you are a startup or an SME aspiring to take your business further or an investor looking to optimize your investment process, it has been our mission for over 20 years to champion you in matching you with the right funding opportunities or the most relevant deals in an accelerated and simple process.
We need to disrupt the industry in a more open and transparent way. We need to see that funding is no longer public or private but a combination of both.