Zoe Adamovicz, CEO & Co-founder of Neufund tells us about funding and fundraising.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Neufund.
Zoe Adamovicz: I’m passionate about building technology businesses that are impactful and positive, and at the same time profitable and powerful. Prior to Neufund, I founded several companies and raised numerous rounds of venture capital: Xyo, a search engine company that re-imagines how people discover apps (exited to the NASDAQ-listed Digital Turbine); Priori Data, an app store intelligence tool for mobile startups; Concise Software, which provides software development and engineering services; and others. As an angel investor, I’m looking for positive, impact-driven companies that aim to solve society’s pressing problems in the long term. I often support local companies and entrepreneurs located outside the tech hubs, get involved in businesses that are not necessarily aiming to take over the world but are very focused on aligning values with profits.
Participating in the investment ecosystem from both the fundraising and investing side, I’ve experienced how hard it can be to find partners and close the deal. Fundraising demands enormous amounts of time, capital, and resources, as each investor has to be handled individually. IPOs are only available to companies with capital requirements of €100 million or more. Private companies are limited by size, geography, and capital requirements, and many just don’t fit traditional fundraising “boxes”. For investors, private markets are costly and inaccessible. Access to unlisted equity is restricted to accredited investors or those investing 100,000 or sometimes even 200,000 EUR.
At the same time, I’d been watching the development of blockchain closely and realized it was a pivotal moment: we had the possibility to build a legally-binding environment for safe investments. Finally, we had a chance to solve the problems we’ve been experiencing for years. That’s how Neufund started.
How does Neufund innovate?
Zoe Adamovicz: Neufund makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to invest and raise capital. Founded in 2016, Neufund is a fintech startup that connects innovative companies seeking capital with over 11,000 progressive investors (individual, VCs, business angels, and non-professional) from 123 countries. In 2018, Neufund conducted the world’s first fully compliant public offering on the blockchain, and in 2019 hosted the world’s first blockchain IPO. To date, investors have committed more than 20m EUR through the platform.
The company’s products include a fundraising and investing platform, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) Manager, Light wallet, post-investment instruments, and others.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Zoe Adamovicz: The global pandemic and isolation period hit us like any other startup. We experienced hardships and had to pause all fundraising campaigns on the platform for several months to rebuild all our processes and find a way to restructure the business. The main lesson we’ve learned over the last year: resilience is the king.
Despite all the hardships and challenges crazy 2020 ended with good news for us. In December, we raised 4m EUR of funding that will be used to obtain a financial license, accelerating the development of new products and hiring. We’ve re-opened applications for fundraising campaigns at the start of 2021 and aim to prioritize and work closer with impact-driven small and medium-sized businesses that are, or could be, profitable while solving some of the world’s urgent problems and contributing to sustainable development.
Our team is working on several projects at the moment: our investing and fundraising platform, a mobile app, supporting our current portfolio of products, and creating new solutions to make blockchain-based products accessible and user-friendly to a broader audience, especially non-tech-savvy users.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Zoe Adamovicz: Like any business, we’ve had to change the way we work across a range of areas. The situation has led us to boost cross-functional projects, and our efficiency and speed have grown significantly – though that’s something we’re always conscious of.
Initially, we didn’t have to adapt much to the “new reality” and the lockdown: we were used to working from home on Fridays, so we just switched all our offline meetings to online, created update channels on Slack, and permanent video calls, and kept working.
But as the situation evolved we transformed our office into a “members only” coworking space with Flexi desks and new meeting areas, combining optional WFH (working from home) with in-office time: our teammates decide when they want to work from home and when they come to the office (when lockdown restrictions permit).
We’ve always believed in the “human-first” approach, and during that time the health and happiness of the team was one of our key focuses: we’ve invested in regular COVID tests for the team and their family members, and found external health consultants who help our teammates whenever they have questions.
Thanks to new technologies and services, we were able to run the business during the pandemic, but we still believe that to make breakthroughs, we need to be able to meet in person to create and discuss ideas. For kindness and empathy, words from a loudspeaker might be not enough: sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on, or someone who will laugh with you. Teams and offices are our second home and second family, and we really miss it, so as soon as restrictions are lifted we’ll meet each other more often for sure.
Your final thoughts?
Zoe Adamovicz: Making a stable and safe system that allows people around the world to fund and get funded is a great challenge and responsibility. Since the beginning, Neufund has been challenging the market, raising questions like, “What will the financial rules, services, and regulations look like in the future, and how will we rewrite them to make sure no one is left behind?” We keep asking these questions and looking for answers. We have a lot of work ahead.