Startup Spotlight Success Story: Monitor Backlinks gets investment from SOS Ventures

Monitor Backlinks was a finalist for Startup Spotlight 2012, where they met Bill Liao of SOS Ventures, who later became their first investor. Now, Monitor Backlinks is developing nicely, taking part in Lisbon Challenge, having pitched for Mini Seedcamp Lisbon and looking to the future for more great developments. Here’s their story related to Startup Spoltlight, in the words of founder Razvan Girmacea:

As an entrepreneur, I always look for situations I can put myself in or new people I could meet, to push my startup forward.

In the Autumn of 2012 I was searching for a validation for Monitor Backlinks and I decided to go wherever I could go on a minimum budget, to make my product known and learn new things, get new perspectives.

Then I heard of the How to Web conference, the fact that it happened in Bucharest, and especially about the Startup Spotlight competition taking place during the conference – where, if you qualified, you got to meet investors, press and win cash prizes (although I had no particular aim for the money – that’s a plus, but never a purpose). There was nothing to loose in applying, plus the questions in the application form helped me to better formulate the presentation for my product. And there was plenty to benefit from it.

I got accepted for Startup Spotlight, I was one of the first 32 teams from CEE that applied (there were plenty of applications as far as I understood) and there came 5 extenuating days of pitching, mentoring, presenting and networking. I got to eat lunch only one day out of them, in all the rest I was always on the run to meet someone interesting or to prepare for the next steps.

Talking to a lot of the mentors, I figured out how investors think, how the accelerator representatives evaluate a startup.

The last day of the program was dedicated to private meetings with investors who had shown a special interest in your business and wanted to talk more in detail. For me, that was Bill Liao of the SOS Ventures investment fund in Ireland. Because it was Friday, I had to drive a long way back to Iasi , I left home without meeting him (I was dead tired and all I could think about was home sweet home.)

Maybe it was luck, but it must have been also because I took initiative and contacted Bogdan to ask him for an introduction with Bill Liao. Two weeks after the event, we arranged for a Skype talk and that’s when I got their proposition for investment in Monitor Backlinks.

It took 5 months before I got the 50.000 EUR (cash in the bank), but it was mainly because I had to open a new company in Ireland, get a new bank account, an accountant, lawyers and office space. It was all done online, sending the necessary paper work by mail and carriers. I still haven’t visited Ireland, nor met Bill face to face.

Once I had the investment, it was much easier to advance with the development of the project, hiring 3 more people and working with some other project-based collaborators.

This spring I applied for the Lisbon Challenge accelerator, and even though I hadn’t completed the application, they had some data about me and called me to ask me to finish applying, as they found my project attractive. I once again qualified and on August 27 I moved to Lisbon for 2 months and a half. If I manage to be one of the top ones again, I’ll get to present Monitor Backlinks in New York, London and Sao Paolo.

Lisbon Challenge participants
Lisbon Challenge participants together with Portugal president and Carlos Espinal from Seedcamp

For me, How to Web was a road opener, and I have great respect for Bogdan and the team organizing the event.

Gotta say it brings us great joy to see that the contexts we aim to create with Startup Spotlight and How to Web nurture great relationships and connect the right people. Get your own chance this year and apply for Startup Spotlight! There are less than 10 days left!

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