The Munich venture capital firm Vito One has existed since 2015 as an investment arm of the Hesse-based Viessmann Group. The focus is specifically on seed-stage financing of startups in the construction and real estate industries. Successful Munich startups that the VC company has invested in include the proptech company Building Radar and the IoT startup Gridx. The face of the investment company is Daria Saharova, who was distinguished as “Investor of the Year” at the 2020 German Startup Awards. We spoke with her about Vito One.
Munich Startup: Please introduce yourselves!
Daria Saharova: I would be happy to! Vito One is the first European venture capital firm focusing on proptech, energy tech and construction tech, i.e. startups in the construction and real estate industries. What makes us special: With our large and relevant network — in the construction and real estate industries as well — we’re able to help startups by giving them access to knowledge, customers, talent and additional capital.
A focus on startups in the construction and real estate industries
Munich Startup: What are your preferred areas of investment?
Daria Saharova: Since 2015, we’ve been investing in Munich in early stage (seed funding) B2B and B2C startups that have the potential of becoming the next “big player.” We currently have 19 companies in our portfolio, including Building Radar, an AI-driven search engine for construction projects, and the IoT startup Gridx — both of which are from Munich!
Vito One: Active, but never in the ‘driver’s seat’
Munich Startup: Do personal preferences sometimes influence your investments?
Daria Saharova: Our investments are hypothesis driven. Our goal is to find companies that have the potential to deliver a high return on investment. The usual VC criteria are more decisive than personal preferences. But of course as an investor, you should also be curious and fundamentally interested in the subject.
Munich Startup: Do startups need to be worried about you getting too involved?
Daria Saharova: No, they definitely don’t need to worry! We invest in an early business phase and see ourselves as a sparring partner. For example, we actively support our portfolio startups on the advisory board, but are never the ones in the ‘driver’s seat.’ The best investments are the ones where I have to do the least.
Munich Startup: After initial contact, how long does it take to conclude a contract?
Daria Saharova: That can be very different, but the process usually takes between three and six months. It also depends on how well prepared the startup is for due diligence, the quality of their documents and on how negotiations go.
There is a particularly high level of insecurity in the seed phase, which is why the founding team plays a major role. In addition to many personal meetings, what are known as “reference calls” are important for us and time consuming. For example, we talk to industry experts, former colleagues or investor friends to get a clear picture of the team, market and product.
“The momentum in the market has to be right”
Munich Startup: To be successful, a startup needs to…
Daria Saharova: … solve a real and major problem at the right time! That sounds trivial, but founders often lose sight of things because they love their product or technology so much that they forget about their customers. The momentum in the market also has to be right.
Munich Startup: Tell us about a no-go factor in a pitch!
Daria Saharova: That’s quite clear: The team has to be prepared! Of course it’s a test situation and you can’t be ready for every question. But you quickly notice as an investor whether or not the team prepared for the meeting and is taking it seriously.
The trend: sustainable tech
Munich Startup: The trend of the year is…
Daria Saharova: … sustainable tech. At Vito One, we invest in industries that are among the biggest CO2 offenders. I really hope that we, despite the corona crisis, don’t neglect the biggest crisis — the climate crisis.
Munich Startup: From an investor’s standpoint, what does the Munich startup scene do well? What could be improved?
In my opinion, the Munich startup scene is amazingly strong and is also of incredible historical importance! Particularly when it comes to tech startups, I have all of the components for a significant ecosystem here, and that is rare in Europe. What we could do better is to network even more. That’s also one of the reasons why I co-founded the 1E9-Denkfabrik last year to make a contribution.
The Munich startup scene should network even more
Munich Startup: Last but not least: Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet with you?