Hello everyone 👋
We've got some great news to share. Curvo just raised €500,000 as a seed round. In non-investor terms, this means we've raised money for the company which we can now invest in growing and improving Curvo. It's a significant milestone for us and we're excited to dig into the details with you: what it means for you, what we gain from it, but also what we had to give up for it.
- Curvo raised €500,000 from prominent business angels to expand and scale the app for young Europeans.
- With over 1,250 members and €3m in assets, we're cementing our place as one of the fastest growing investment apps in Belgium.
- The fundraise gives us more means to improve the app for all members, as well as a financial cushion.
Why did we raise money?
We want to solve an important problem. The financial future of the next generation of Europeans, Millennials and Gen-Z, is under threat. In Europe, there's culturally been a strong reliance on the state to fund our retirement. But our state-funded pension systems are under increasing pressure due to changing demographics. And our political leaders are not doing what is necessary to prevent a pension crisis. So young Europeans increasingly need to provide themselves for their financial future.
Savings accounts are not enough though. The interest rates offered by banks remain low, and inflation makes the problem even worse. We believe that earning a dividend on the growth of the global economy by investing in the financial markets, will guarantee a financial future for our generation. But good investing is hard today in Europe. The traditional banking system still has a stronghold on the investment landscape. This results in expensive products, yet of poor quality. There's also a growing distrust in the traditional banks since the 2008 crisis.
On the other hand, it's difficult to successfully manage your own investments through a broker. It takes a lot of time, motivation, interest in finance, and a healthy dose of self-confidence to acquire the knowledge and make the right investment decisions for yourself when you have to choose among thousands of stocks and ETFs available through a broker. Figuring out what to buy, knowing when to buy or sell, managing your emotions of FOMO and regret, figure out local taxes... are skills that even professional investors struggle with, let alone the average young European. Good investing is difficult, which is why the vast majority of individual investors perform worse than a passive strategy based on index funds.
So the core problem that we solve is: young Europeans need to invest in the financial markets to guarantee their future. But it's incredibly hard to do successfully with the current products on the market. And we offer the solution through sound passive investment portfolios tailored for you, automated savings plans through direct debit, and guidance all throughout your investment journey.
What the fundraising round means for you as a Curvo member
First of all, the fundraise means we'll be able deliver a better product and experience. For instance, we recently reduced our pricing for long-term members. This is only the beginning though. We have an exciting roadmap for the app ahead, and we can't wait to turn these ideas into reality. Remember that your feedback plays an important role in shaping and prioritising the roadmap, so please keep sharing your thoughts with us!
Secondly, the financial backing hopefully will give you more assurance that "we'll still be around" in the future. After all, all of you who decided to invest their savings with an extremely young company took a significant leap of faith. And we value you enormously for that. With the fundraise, we are cementing our position in the market and give us a financial cushion to ensure the continuity of the app.
Do note that all your assets are held in your name and separate to Curvo or NNEK's activities. This means your assets are always safe, even if we were to close or be acquired one day.
How we've grown until now
When we started reaching out to investors, we had roughly 500 members and just under €1m in assets. We're glad to say that we've grown since then:
- 1,250 members who have collectively invested over €3m
- €145,000 in automated monthly investments
- 70% of our Curvo members have a monthly plan set up, with the average being €179 per month
Continuous growth definitely helped us close some investors and convince them of the value of what we were building. Also, as we're open with our numbers, it was easy for our potential investors to follow our traction throughout the process.
What do we get out of the fundraise?
Money isn't the only part. As a company and as founders, there are a few things that we get out of the fundraise:
- opportunity to grow faster
- valuable mentors
- a (small) salary
Opportunity to grow faster
Startups always want to grow faster, and we're no different. We have a constant drive to reach more young Belgians and Europeans.
The product plays an important role in the growth story. The app is the reason why so many of you keep sharing Curvo with your friends and family. Our mission is to solve the pension crisis for our generation, and we're only at the beginning of our vision for the product. The money from the fundraise unlocks some resources for us to continue innovating on that front.
Secondly, "build it and they will come" remains a fallacy that every entrepreneur should internalise. You can build the best product in the world, but it'll be wasted effort if no one knows about it. We will now have more resources to invest in reaching more potential members. This includes the growth channels that have been working since we started. But as founders, it’s easy to stay in your lane and focus your execution on the growth channels you know best. Now, we will also have the means to run growth experiments in channels that we haven't tried, and that we maybe don't know so well.
Raising money isn't just about having capital to grow the business. It's also a great opportunity to work alongside experienced investors you can learn from and who can help you grow. We were fortunate that thanks to the fundraise, we are now surrounded by top entrepreneurs who can support us in a variety of ways:
- Olivier Verdin: founder of AppTweak, WooClap and 87 seconds. He's a seasoned entrepreneur and is helping us with our business strategy.
- Sabba Keynejad: founder of VEED.io, a product we use ourselves at Curvo. He's successfully building a hyper-scaling business and raised $35m from Sequoia Capital, one of the top venture capital firms in the world. Sabba is going to help us with growing our customer base.
- Nicolas Hulsmans: co-founder of Dexerto. Nicolas will help us with our marketing efforts.
- Brice Le Blevennec: founder of Emakina. Brice is going to support Curvo by pushing us in building the best possible app experience. He also very well connected in the press, which is helpful when we want some media attention!
- Sébastien Dellis: founder of AppTweak. We've known Sébastien for over ten years and he followed our journey with Sutori and us moving back to Belgium to launch Curvo. He's a successful entrepreneur who will support us with our marketing and growth efforts. We couldn't have raised this round if it wasn't for Sébastien, so we're grateful to have him onboard.
- Pieter Van Eynde: founder of Admiral Digital. He's very knowledgable about tech products and creating the right framework for our on-going growth experiments.
- InvestSud: micro fund in Belgium. We will be supported by Jean-Philippe Mathieu who also joins our board. He will help us with our governance and challenging our assumptions.
We also have the support of the BeAngels network who have been supporting entrepreneurs for the last twenty years.
The investors above chose to invest in Curvo because they believe in us and our mission. This puts an important responsibility on our shoulders. We are now accountable not only to ourselves, but also to them. We want to use the money wisely, and keep them in the loop. So it forces us continue being diligent in tracking company performance, and staying very focused on cash flow.
A (small) salary
Our first business Sutori is still our main source of income. But as a complement and to diversify, we allocated a small salary to ourselves as part of the fundraise.
What we gave up
Of course, nothing comes for free. Raising capital also brings a trade-off and we had to make some concessions:
- we gave up equity in the company
- we lost some independence
- we accepted overhead
- the fundraise itself was a distraction
We gave up equity in the company
Obviously when you raise money, the investors want something in return. In this case, we gave up equity in the company, although we remain majority shareholders.
We lost some independence
When it's just the two of us, decisions are made quickly and we're able to execute rapidly on growing the business. We now have someone else on the board (although we still control the majority), meaning that we gave up some of our independence. However, we do see it as an advantage as the board member will be able to challenge us, which will hopefully lead to better decision-making.
We accepted overhead
Having external investors means we now have to send investor updates, answer their questions and hold more formal board meetings. Although not entirely a distraction, these don't directly contribute to growing Curvo and so are a form of overhead.
The fundraise itself was a distraction
We spent an enormous amount of time in the fundraise: preparing the pitch, doing the meetings, answering the questions, providing more documentation, answering some more questions... And then once we had an agreement from all the investors, we had to prepare the shareholder's agreement, deal with each party's lawyers, notarise everything... All this is part of fundraising so it was a necessity. At the same time, this is time we could have spent finding new Curvo members or improving the product.
The challenges of fundraising
I don't want you to be reading this and thinking our fundraising was an easy process. It took a long time. It also didn't help that we launched an investment app just before a market crash. this confirms again that market timing never works! We had to focus on the fundamentals of the business and showed that we were solving a real problem for people.
We received tons of rejections. Some of our favourites included: "you're not ambitious enough", or "why only Belgium?". That's the thing though, you will receive rejections. It's part and parcel of being an entrepreneur. We used every "no" to better understand if our assumptions were right and tweak our pitch. In the end, the whole process took nearly nine months from start to finish. Fortunately we were able to continue growing during this process.
The administration was also something that we underestimated. There's a lot of red tape involved with fundraising in Belgium, especially compared to our experience with Sutori in the United States. We thought we were done when we got all parties to sign the shareholders' agreement. Unfortunately, we spent two more months afterwards, getting people agreed on the notarised change of the company's legal status, we were forced to get a company auditor involved, dealing with the bank who held the money on an escrow account was slow and cumbersome... This was all very frustrating, because it felt like an enormous waste of time to us (although we're sure someone from the Belgian administration would disagree). We just wanted to get it done and work on the business!
A special thank you to everyone that helped us successfully raise this round. We couldn't have raised without the help of Emile-Victor Portenart from Marker.io who designed our awesome pitch deck. And we want to send out a big thank you to Nicolas Quarré from Accountable who helped structure our pitch and who was a great sounding board during the whole process. And of course our wonderful members who continue to trust Curvo with their savings.
The pitch deck
If you're interested and have made it this far, here's our pitch deck that we used to raise the round:
We want to help you
We want to pay it forward. If you're a founder reading this and looking for help with your round or would love to chat with us, don't hesitate to reach out. We would be happy to help.
Thomas and Yoran