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Enis Hulli, General Partner at 500 Startups Istanbul, on investing in Emerging Europe

In a recent fireside chat hosted by Giovanni Amodeo, Enis Hulli, a General Partner at 500 Startups Istanbul, shared his extensive insights on investing in emerging Europe. The discussion, titled “How to Invest in Emerging Europe,” covered a range of topics from Hulli’s personal journey in the startup world to the strategic operations of his venture capital fund.

Background and Entry into Venture Capital: Hulli began by recounting his early days, starting from his boredom-induced exploration of startups during his college years at McGill University, to his initial startup attempts and eventual move into the family HVAC business. This transition allowed him to accumulate wealth and start angel investing, which later evolved into a venture capital initiative in 2016.

Investment Focus and Strategy: Hulli detailed the unique investment opportunities in emerging Europe, emphasizing the region’s potential to replicate the Israeli model of producing globally successful tech companies. Unlike other emerging markets, which often focus on local or regional success, emerging Europe has demonstrated a capacity to generate firms with global market reach.

Fund Operations and Investment Criteria: 500 Startups Istanbul operates with a focus on pre-seed to seed-plus stage investments, with typical funding ranging from €200K to €3M. Hulli highlighted the importance of founder capabilities over the specifics of the business idea, noting that a strong founder is crucial for navigating the early and uncertain stages of a startup.

Challenges and Competitive Edge: The discussion also touched on the challenges of maintaining focus across multiple countries and the competitive dynamics within different regions. Hulli explained their method of using data-driven strategies and local presence to identify and secure high-potential investments before competitors.

Future Aspirations and Impact: Looking ahead, Hulli expressed his aspiration for 500 Startups Istanbul to catalyze the development of an Israeli-like tech ecosystem across emerging Europe. He envisions a future where these countries are renowned for their tech unicorns, significantly impacting their economic and geopolitical standing.

This comprehensive chat not only shed light on Hulli’s personal and professional growth but also provided valuable insights into the strategic thinking behind successful venture capital investments in emerging European markets.

Key timestamps:

00:09 Introduction
00:34 Ennis Hulli Background
02:20 Angel Investing and Seed Money
03:36 Investing in Emerging Europe
05:30 Financing Provided by the Fund
06:21 Fund Size and Investors
06:54 Unique Aspects of the Fund
07:29 Talent Operations and Mapping
08:41 Investor Storytelling and Uniqueness
10:15 Maintaining Focus in Multiple Countries
11:46 Founder vs. Idea in Investment
12:40 Investment Funnel Process
14:15 Deep Dive Phase in Due Diligence
14:49 Ref Checks and Third Meeting
15:13 Handling Rejected Companies
15:54 Dealing with Lingering Deals
16:23 Strategies for Lingering Deals
16:50 Social Clues and VC CRM
17:19 Accelerating Hot Deals
18:04 Validation of Data and Gut Feeling
19:13 Negative Experiences and Intuition
19:46 Assessing Deal Hotness
20:06 Distinguishing Great Operators
20:27 The Importance of Branding in VC
21:15 The Role of Personal Branding
22:17 Best Track Record for VCs
23:05 Challenges in Building a Business
23:50 Personal Driver and Motivation
25:07 The Future of Venture Capital
26:23 Aspirations for 500 Startups