Access to capital remains a key barrier for startups, especially in the FinTech space. Even for the best and most marketable ideas, the world of investment can be somewhat elusive and closed off.
“There is no end to people who need resources,” says Noor Sugrue, Founder of Vintro, a digital marketplace of decision makers “Demand feels endless: people who control these resources tend to wall themselves off from strangers because they’re afraid of having their time wasted.”
With a vision to make the inaccessible accessible, Sugrue founded Vintro to help turn ideas into reality. Rather than trying to meet the right person in the right place at the right time – with all the bias and exclusion that goes with it – Vintro allows entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to connect with highly influential investors or mentors, all online.
From a young age, Sugrue’s family had instilled in her the importance of enterprise and seeing opportunity everywhere. But it was when watching Shark Tank (the US equivalent of Dragon’s Den where entrepreneurs get to pitch in front of investors) that she realised only the very few have access to opportunity. Of the 45,000 applicants the show receives, about one per cent get to face the Sharks, with no guarantee of a return. This is the case for investment journeys off camera, too. The solution, she realised, was technology.
Vintro has assembled a network of VCs, corporations, high net worth individuals and NGOs who review pitches from entrepreneurs, offering feedback and forming relationships that can lead to investment. The model aims to be cost-effective and convenient, making conversations digital and making investors accessible from anywhere in the world. It is a dynamic market where Reviewers set their own market price. 65% of Vintro’s Reviewers are available for between US$25 and $300 for each interaction.
As a solution to the traditional process which Sugrue believes is inefficient and largely based on luck, the idea was to break down as many barriers as possible. In doing so, Vintro can make resource easier to access for entrepreneurs, allowing investors to make an impact and give something back to the entrepreneurial community, whether it be through capital or simply years of experience.
“The main barriers that come to mind are geographical, as well as social and circumstantial,” Sugrue explains. “This is incredibly important because people with a good idea don’t all come from the same place. There could be someone in a small village in Colombia right now with the next billion-dollar idea, but they can’t get the resources they need.”
The platform is in its infancy but already an experience stands out for Sugrue: a group of college students who developed a ventilator in response to Covid-19. With no need for specialised parts it would be easier and cheaper to manufacture – but in the current climate speed was of the essence to get such a vital product to market.
Through Vintro, the group uploaded a pitch video and selected the investors they wished to target. One such person was Art Collins, former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic.inc, America’s largest medical device manufacturer. Collins chose to connect with the group. “That is someone who, before Vintro, would have been completely out of their reach,” Sugrue explains. “They had an amazing interaction. Art gave them constructive feedback and insightful business advice and was able to introduce them to people who would help them further down the line.”
As those in the FinTech space know all too well, it’s not just capital an entrepreneur needs; these kinds of connections are worth their weight in gold. Vintro recognises that each startup will be at a different stage so allows investors to help in a variety of ways. “Some people need seed funding, some just have an idea, some are more established companies looking for procurement – the idea you can come to us at any stage and find what you need is really valuable.”
Developing such a network of investors was no mean feat. “We went through a lot of the same struggles our entrepreneurs got through,” Sugrue recalls. “We were cold calling, having people hang up on us or tell us our ideas were flawed… we had to go back to the drawing board and come up with these solutions!”
But this feedback has enabled the platform to get off the ground and it’s rolling out at a vital time as Covid-19 emphasises the importance of supporting new ideas and innovation. The coming months will be hugely important for the investment space and for a platform like Vintro. “After this horrible time, there will be light at the end of the tunnel and the economy will start up again, so I think it’s extremely important for us to be getting out there.”
Sugrue herself is fascinated by the potential for successful businesses to come out of unexpected places. “The ventures I’m most excited about are the underdogs – the person who needs a little help and traditionally might not have got that help.”
The investors on Vintro’s platform share this motivation. “It’s really important that they all recognise they were once that person who needed help and had the bare scrapings of an idea,” she comments. “I think they can see themselves in a lot of our entrepreneurs and so the opportunity to give back is hugely motivating.”
Visit Vintro's microsite here.