A Unique, Trans-European Founders Community in the Making

Tim Rouchon, co-founder of Upscalers

As every founder knows, one of the most important elements of success is building a robust network between yourself, other founders, and potential investors. However, finding that sort of community – one where you can get both the advice and the investment your company needs to thrive – is easier said than done. That’s especially true in Europe, where founder communities that focus on more than one country are nearly non-existent.

Timoteo (Tim) Rouchon, one of the founders of Upscalers, wants to change this.

A Different Kind of Startup Community

Upscalers is a different sort of startup community —  one with more than 200 members who are all key employees, founders, or C-level executives of top European startups and want to create meaningful relationships within the growing European tech scene. 

According to Tim, most founder communities are “95% mafia from one company” like Google. Moreover, he says, most startup investor groups primarily interact on Slack or other third-party online platforms, which is less than ideal for sharing information and forming a real sense of camaraderie. 

By contrast, he says that Upscalers seeks to connect investors between countries, which hasn’t really been done in Europe before — at least not at this scale. “Our job is to get all of these European hubs into one hub and make it more of a community,” he says. In other words, Upscalers wants to be a more collaborative, international group of founders and investors that isn’t focused solely on one country or region. An international approach can lead to better mentorships, more cogent advice, and more lucrative business deals for everyone involved.

A Booming, but Fragmented, Tech Scene

By many measures, the tech sector in Europe is booming. For example, the continent has seen 109 new unicorns in 2021, VC investment is set to reach an all-time high of $136 billion this year, and angel investors are becoming more Eurocentric. However, Europe is still a “fragmented playground,” and very few investors get opportunities to invest beyond their national borders, Tim says.

Upscalers addresses this problem by connecting top operating angels across the continent. Its investors fund the most promising startups they can find at both the pre-seed and seed stages, where operating angels bring the most value. Angels are free to invest or not as they see fit. About 60% of the startups that receive funding have at least one woman on the founding team, which the company says improves a company’s likelihood of long-term success.

Unique Benefits

Tim says Upscalers relies on the “collective intelligence” of its members to form relationships, exchange information, and spot the best deals. For example, someone who founded a company in Switzerland might meet an interested investor in England, or a founder in France might find someone to answer a question about French law that directly affects her business. All of this and more occurs on Upscalers’ online platform, as founders, advisors, and investors who otherwise probably would never have known about each other connect in myriad, meaningful ways.

Members of Upscalers receive other benefits in addition to being part of a community. For example, they’re promised:

  • Two qualified deals per month. Upscalers selects the most promising incoming deals from the community in which they want to invest, asks for input from experts in the community, and even co-invests when a deal is made.
  • Simple tools to connect. These include Whatsapp teams, monthly team calls to discuss investment opportunities, a platform to share the latest deals and news, and exclusive in-person events.
  • Content to help your business grow. Members receive a weekly newsletter that discusses hot topics in tech, a monthly podcast in which successful investors share their best tips, a video series to showcase women in tech, and a quarterly report on a topic of widespread interest.

You can request to join Upscalers by filling out their online form. After that, one of the co-founders will join you in a 30-minute call. “We make it a priority to meet all our prospective members before they join,” Tim says. “Upscalers is all about people.” 

After the call, you will receive materials to review and be granted preview access to their community platform so you can check it out for yourself.

Realize that joining requires commitment. Specifically, the company asks its members to agree to three “golden rules”:

  • Be proactive in your team and on the platform. In other words, bring real value to the community.
  • Participate in monthly calls with your team. These are the best way to meet other members and build trust.
  • Regularly review deals shared with the community. Doing so and providing feedback helps Upscalers select more relevant opportunities in the future.

More than ever before, Tim thinks that a company like Upscalers has a real chance at success because of an increasing interest in startups. “The European ecosystem is becoming more mature, and we’re seeing more investment in early-stage companies,” he says. “We believe that investing in startups will become sexy and as easy as investing in the stock markets. However, at pre-seed and seed, this is where most of the startups require support and mentorship. We want to be the one-stop-shop for collective intelligence to co-invest while having fun.”

Be Bullish, but Realistic

Tim notes Upscalers has faced several challenges along the way, including getting people to understand the purpose of the community that the company is seeking to create. “It’s about building relationships and spending time together,” he says. Indeed, it’s the unique opportunities for relationships between founders and investors across Europe that gives Upscalers its reason for being. A related difficulty has been creating the architecture for people from different countries to connect and interact. Both of these have been difficult, Tim said, but he is pleased with the progress Upscalers is making.

When it comes to advice for other founders, he says first and foremost to “invest in yourself and be yourself.” In other words, make strategic investments that will help you further your company’s purpose. “There’s no shame in asking for money to found a startup, but you need a true strategic vision and the ability to execute it,” he says. At the same time, don’t drink too much of your own Kool-Aid. “Be bullish, but be super realistic in the way that you’re bullish,” he says. 

In addition, choose your team members and advisors wisely because they can make or break your company. “Founders who are super-successful are the ones who know whom to have by their side,” he says. 

Finally, make sure you have something compelling to sell that many people will want — even if they don’t know it yet. “Investors don’t like nice-to-have, but must-have,” he says. “Don’t waste your time building a ‘nice’ product or service” that ultimately will have little impact on the market.

Adriaan Brits

An analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in advanced analytics and media.

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