1 Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.
Hi, my name is Gustas, I’m a co-founder of EvoEstate. I could say I’ve started my entrepreneurship journey relatively young when I raised my first VC funding at the age of 18 for an AI company, which I’ve exited a few years later. I enjoy investing in real estate, stocks, alternative finance and startups.
In spare time I greatly enjoy reading books, training for a triathlon and playing basketball daily. Prior to COVID-19, I used to travel a lot and live in different countries, while spending most of the time in Spain or Lithuania. Due to great passion for sports and learning of new cultures, I’ve spent some time living and training with Shaolin Monks in a mountain monastery in Western China.
2 Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?
EvoEstate is a real estate investment aggregator, which is helping investors from 72 countries to invest in 18 crowdfunding platforms from a single account. Investors can diversify their investment portfolios with buy to let, fixed-interest loans and equity real estate investments in 15 countries. Different to individual platforms, we provide investors with liquidity on the secondary market and risk scoring to better understand the underlying investment risk.
We like to ask if one would eat in the restaurant, where the chef doesn’t eat his own cooking? The answer is likely to be no. Therefore, being investors ourselves, we have skin in the game and invest our personal money alongside our investors.
Up to date, we remain the only ones to aggregate real estate crowdfunding investment, but I’m sure it will not take long for this to change.
3 How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?
Prior to launching EvoEstate, we have been investing in real estate crowdfunding for 6 years, and found out that it’s almost impossible to diversify. Even if you consider the large European platforms, they are still very regional while offering investments in their respective locations. This forces an investor to open multiple accounts which of course isn’t the most convenient thing to do.
Additionally, many foreign platforms including the ones from Spain, restrict non-Spanish residents to invest and a lot of them withhold taxes, which may reduce the attraction of a given investment. Lastly, a lot of platforms did not have a secondary market, where investors could sell their investments prior to their maturity date.
We’ve launched it relatively fast, as we believe in lean methodology and delivered an MVP to the market working further on it. As we’ve been investing on our own before, we were already a part of various investment communities and started to spread the word about us there trying to attract key industry influencers to join our platform.
4 How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey?
Initially, we were bootstrapping. As we have been growing almost 50% MoM over the first months, it didn’t take long for us to work at a close operational break-even level. However, we’ve decided to take the next step to gain some credibility and knowledge from the best investors we could find.
We’ve raised a 320K EUR pre-seed from Startup Wise Guys, who have been very active in crowdfunding vertical and their portfolio includes leading European Real Estate crowdfunding platform EstateGuru and business lending Investly. We’ve also looked for key experts in the field we are operating and attracted a large Real Estate Broker, RE development from Spain and a stealth investment fund from Honk Kong which is also actively involved in crowdfunding.
I can say, that now there’s a lot of capital in the market and founders should look for smart-money and experts in the industries they operate in, rather than just funding.
5 Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?
I believe it’s investments. Crowdfunding platforms are popping up around Europe right now as mushrooms and Neo Banks have introduced plenty of investment products. This trend is coming from the US, where more brokers are following the Robinhood are switching to commission-free trading. The savings rate in Bank Deposits are very high across the whole EU and everyone is entering the fight for retail investors’ savings.
With upcoming EU crowdfunding regulations, we will discover more interesting business models including investing in art, agriculture, renewable energy and others. I expect to see more investment platforms besides crowdfunding, which will enable retail investors to invest more easily and cheaper than they were able until now.
6 What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?
I enjoy reading a wide range of books, starting from philosophy and history, ending with science, technology and business. My all-time favourites, however, are the biographies including Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and not that much a biography Zero to One by Peter Thiel.
7 Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?
As a proud investor of Lahhentage Distillery, I would recommend visiting Botaanik bar in Tallinn, Estonia where they make a special from our award-winning gin and while you are there, make sure to try our Tonic which is made from recycled Christmas trees from Finland and Estonia