Let’s meet Jan Lätt and Sven Kotkas – EstBAN lead investors at sTARTUp Pitching 2024

It’s time to get to know Jan Lätt and Sven Kotkas, lead investors of the EstBAN syndicate at the sTARTUp Pitching 2024 competition. The Estonian Business Angels Network (EstBAN) is awarding a syndicate investment of up to €200k to one team from the sTARTUp Pitching dealflow. We also asked Jan and Sven for their tips for startups attending this year’s festival.

You are the lead investor of the EstBAN syndicate at sTARTUp Pitching 2024. What should startups know about you?

Jan: I’m an entrepreneur, angel investor, and board member of the Estonian Business Angel Network (EstBAN). Additionally, I serve as the CEO of Tartu Business Advisory Service Foundation, where we support startups and SMEs with idea validation, business model optimization, finances, and investments. I have experience in all stages of company development, and each year we support around 1000 startups and SMEs.
I’m an active entrepreneur and investor in the green energy sector and SaaS platforms. Most of my investments are directed towards SaaS platforms and the green energy sectors. But, I’m open-minded, I believe all good teams and projects will always be financed.  

Sven: I am an entrepreneur, mentor, and an investor. Most of my life I connected to one very traditional company – Kinema, which I established in 1991 when I was 24 years old. Since then, I have been investing my energy to grow it.

With more than 30 years of existence, I also created several companies in several countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and the last one in Indonesia where I spent 5 years of my life.

I discovered the startup world several years ago, because of my constant interest in new technology and future society development. The more I study about it, the wider my curiosity is, at the same time it gives me a glimpse into what can happen in the world tomorrow, what direction this universe is moving forward to, and I want to be part of it.

We often hear that the tougher economic environment makes investors more cautious. Does the current economic climate affect how startups should present to investors for instance, what they should highlight in their pitches?

Jan: The current economic climate can indeed impact how startups should present to investors. Investors tend to be more cautious and risk-averse. If applicable, highlight revenue streams and demonstrate a clear path to profitability. Demonstrate strong team, experience and capability of the team in navigating challenging economic environments.  

Sven: There is a lot of money still waiting to be invested. Investors nowadays are more looking into ‘secure startups’. Startups who have something more than just an idea, something that we can see and feel and, most importantly, a secure feeling that comes with it.

In a startup, the idea and product are very important, but above those is the team. A team that has strong synergy between them. You can have a million-dollar idea but if the team can’t cooperate and learn, then nothing good comes out of it.

And vice-versa, if the team is good, then they can turn a ‘not so good idea’ to become the next Bolt, Wise, Veriff, or AirBnB.

So – do your homework, prepare your pitch, be honest, and know your product/service/idea very well. Don’t worry, do not overthink, take it easy and just go with the flow.

If you could give some piece of advice for founders taking part at this year’s sTARTUp Day and looking for contacts with investors, what would it be?  

Jan: Take the time to build connections and try to find an opportunity to talk more about your business than just an elevator pitch.

Sven: Stay yourself. Do not try to be somebody else.

Do not try to be somebody who has all the answers and who knows everything. It is ok to say: “I do not know this, but I will check it out and let you know next week,” or “I do not have much experience in this field (management, building up a company, how to hire people, how to build up good team, finances, bookkeeping etc.) but if you have this knowledge, then I am ready to listen and learn. Teach me and let’s have this journey together.”
Be yourself, be honest, always stay open for new lessons and learning.

Check out the TOP 40 teams of sTARTUp Pitching 2024. You can listen to their pitches at the festival's pitching stage on January 25, and the TOP 5 again on the Starlight stage on January 26.
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