Sergey Kartashov: only 1 out of 10 investments makes headway

Every investor wants every startup they finance to “make a hit”, or even better—to become one of the first projects in a new niche. But not every investor gets the chance to “saddle” such a unicorn, and many of them were out of pocket because of investing in unsuccessful projects. Sergey Kartashov, the Senior Partner at technology company Roosh, shares the secrets of successful investing and points out typical mistakes young investors make.

According to the expert, today’s investment market is changing dramatically, while continuing to develop intensively. More and more foundations and business angels are no longer interested in making a profit “here and now” but are focused on long-term values ​​and are ready to finance ideas.

The riskiest venture capital investments in the first six months of 2021 were $290 billion. And this amount is double the investment made 10 years ago. Almost every day, the market is replenished with new “unicorns” with a capitalization of $1 billion. At the moment, there are 900 such projects, and in 2021 alone, 300 companies were granted this status.

But not every startup can come this far. Moreover, many of them do not even pay off. Therefore, any investment must be preceded by a thorough analysis of the project. And this is where most budding investors make mistakes. They finance the project without a sufficiently clear understanding of the market. Sergey Kartashov believes that if such major market players as Andreessen Horowitz or Sequoia Capital, or similar foundations do not join the deal, then one should think twice before investing in such a project.

Dozens or even hundreds of failures accompany each success story. He cites as an example a PwC report stating that in 2017 only one in ten startups managed to “make a hit.” And according to Kartashov, this trend has remained the same for 4 years.

When choosing a project to finance, young investors often focus on finding talents, overlooking such important aspects as the founders’ ability to correctly draw up a business plan or an understanding of how to monetize an idea.

For example, the first project launched by the founders of the platform Restream (today its capitalization is $250 million) was a flop and spent $480,000 of investments. According to Sergey Kartashov, the reason for this failure was the lack of business expertise of the project founders. It often happens that talented engineers who founded a startup focus on the technical part of the project, while practically ignoring business rules. For instance, novice marketplaces often make this mistake. Their founders fail to establish a connection between buyers of services and those who sell them. Or the startuppers do not understand the principles of team building, where competently delegating authority and motivation are necessary.

The legal side of the business is no less important. An investor should assess to what extent the founders understand the legal nuances of their niche and whether they have scenarios for overcoming a crisis. And if the team does not have such skills, then the business angel needs to help them. Sergey believes that a single lawsuit can “sink” even the most successful startup.

According to Sergey Kartashov, investing in revolutionary ideas is also risky. It happens that such an idea is 5-10 years ahead of its time, and the infrastructure is not yet ready for such an advanced solution.

The partner at technology company Roosh believes that novice investors should choose projects from the field they are familiar with. After all, effective investment is not only about just financing the project but about constant interaction with the team that will help make a startup successful.