© Adventury

Adventury: Turbocharged Marketing for Startups with Service4Equity

The Service4Equity approach is an alternative form of investing in startups that has become established in the US and is now slowly taking root in Germany as well. With it, young companies exchange shares of their company for support from their investors in the form of services instead of money. Adventury in Munich is just such an investor and has won over startups like B42 with their marketing expertise. In our interview, founder Thomas Less explains more about what Adventury offers and how their collaboration with startups and other investors works.

Munich Startup: Please introduce Adventury!

Thomas Less, Adventury: We’re the smart capital investor Adventury, in short, AVY. We help startups develop their digital business models and grow sustainably. We do so by taking the Service4Equity approach.

Adventury is backed by a total of five shareholders: Christine Buckenmaier and Christian Steiner, the founders and CEOs of the agency for digital marketing AnalyticaA, the company AnalyticaA itself, Rizek Ventures from Alphapet-founder and business angel David Rizek, and me, Thomas Less. Before founding Adventury, I was a managing partner at AnalyticaA for seven years.

AnalyticaA followed a classic agency business model: service for payment. But then I asked myself, what about the startups that are in serious need of our services but don’t have the budget to cover it? My answer to that was the Service4Equity approach, and I founded Adventury last year with support from AnalyticaA behind me.

Munich Startup: What exactly can startups expect from you?

Thomas Less: Service4Equity is not offered very often in Germany, but it’s already widespread in the US and is an important part of the startup scene. The idea behind it is actually quite simple: We offer our agency services – meaning all of the marketing solutions from AnalyticaA, such as SEO and SEA, affiliate or social media marketing – to a startup in exchange for direct participation in the success of the company.

What’s really exciting about it is the momentum that is created. That’s because the contact between us and startups is much different than what we’re familiar with from classic customer-agency relations. Startups have a much different appreciation of our role as experts compared to classic agency customers, which means that what we say in coaching or a meeting is met with a much different response. We’re recognized as colleagues who are extremely interested in being successful together.

Extensive business angel network

On top of that, we also have a large network to offer. Both our shareholders as individuals as well as the companies that are involved have large networks both nationally and internationally. Through the company group and the sister companies of AnalyticaA, we are able to provide expertise, staff and services with a focus on fashion and accessories, but have also supported all kinds of customers from a wide range of B2C and B2B industries. Our angel investor Rizek Ventures with David Rizek, one of the founders of Alpha Pet Ventures, also has an extensive business angel network and the corresponding know-how to offer.

Munich Startup: How do you look for the right startups? And how exactly do your tickets work?

Thomas Less: What is obviously important to us is the founding team, because you basically need to like one another. If we feel like we won’t be able to collaborate with the founders well – or also the other way around – then it doesn’t make sense to force cooperation. And, of course, we check the startups’ marketing in advance and see if the power provided by our team of 20 experts, who can get to work starting on day one, is the right tool for scaling. If the product isn’t ready yet, for example, then it’s too early for us to get on board. And we obviously also take a good look at things like the pitch deck, figures and annual financial statements.

If that’s all a good fit and we decide to work together, our tickets are usually between 25,000 and 250,000 euros. What’s different compared to other investors is that the amount doesn’t end up in the startup’s bank account entirely as cash. Instead, they primarily receive services that amount to the agreed value. If we determine together that more work is needed, the startup can book additional services.

“We’re like insurance”

Munich Startup: What is your relationship like with other investors?

Thomas Less: Very good. After all, for classic VC investors, we’re basically like insurance for scaling a startup. And that’s because as soon as the product, app, software or service is available, a big part of its success depends on digital marketing.
A coordinated team of experts who have experience from a wide range of customer projects and channels can obviously get moving a lot faster than a small team of one or two people in a startup and, on average, delivers better results faster.

On the other hand, we obviously also need the other investors, because what we chiefly provide is staff and hours of work. But without a budget, even the best marketing team doesn’t make sense. Shouldering a funding round all on our own isn’t in the nature of what we offer.

We are even contacted by classic cash investors now who already have startups to ask about cooperation or whether we can take an outside look at the marketing setup. That wasn’t originally on our radar, but we’re pleased about it and are open to others contacting us as a kind of “insurance” for existing investments.

Investment in B42

Munich Startup: Your first investment was in the Munich startup B42. What was that like for you?

Thomas Less: It was an extremely exciting time for us. As our first investment, B42 was also our test case and that was through AnalyticaA GmbH. It not only tested our offer, but also our contracts and possible stumbling blocks. Like I mentioned before, Service4Equity is widespread in the US. Which is why we set up our contractual framework based on documents from a US law firm, and then modified them for Germany. We received serious support from Simon Kofler, co-founder and CFO of B42 and an incredibly good CFO. I serve as a coach for B42 CMO Ben Menges, who works together with our team. Both sides have really benefitted from the partnership from the very beginning and we have an incredible amount of fun working with B42.

Munich Startup: To be successful, a startup needs to…

Thomas Less: …have excellent marketing, of course. But I also think that focus is extremely important as well as the KPIs that the management team uses to run the company. Turnover and costs are often overrated as KPIs – because they are actually just the result of other drivers of business that are much more important for being a success.

“It’s refreshing and motivating to meet so many smart people”

Munich Startup: As a young investment firm founded during the corona crisis, how have you experienced the Munich startup scene so far?

Thomas Less: To be honest, I’ve found my dream job in working with Munich startups. It’s refreshing and motivating to meet so many smart people who are working on their own dreams with total commitment and enthusiasm. I’ve also been very pleasantly surprised by the other investors that I meet and by how open and responsive they are to the “newbies.” All in all, there’s an exciting and interesting mix of characters. What I particularly like is everything that happens in the Werksviertel – the things that are accomplished here are absolutely amazing.

Munich Startup: And what’s next for you?

Thomas Less: We’ve only just begun. We’re already in talks with additional startups, but are also always happy to get to know lots more. On that note: If you would like to talk with us, feel free to contact me at any time: directly by email at tom@adventury.de or through the contact options on our website or, of course, through LinkedIn. It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup or an investor – I’m always happy to have a talk.