Meet PROfounders: “We’ve Been Actively Investing in Finnish Startups – the Likes of Small Giant Games and Applifier – for 10 Years”

PROfounders is a London-based venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology startups in Europe – or, as they like to say, in all Eurovision song contest countries. We sat down with Sean Seton-Rogers and Oskari Tempakka to learn more about the fund and their new approach to being an active part of Finland’s startup ecosystem.

PROfounders invests in tech companies that set out to ‘fix broken customer experiences’ – make them faster, better or cheaper – in both the B2B and B2C spheres.

“We always invest in companies quite early-on, typically in the late seed or early Series A rounds. Our investments are always made together with local angel investors or VCs,” Sean Seton Rogers, General Partner, says.

While PROfounders’ core team is based in London, the fund is active in the early-stage startup scene across Europe. Finland, according to Seton-Rogers, has been one of the fund’s best-performing markets, and the team has made several investments in Finnish startups over the last ten years.

Feet on the Street in Finland

When the pandemic hit, PROfounders’ team soon learned that their whole team didn’t, in fact, have to be in the same location for operations to run smoothly. This realisation got them thinking about new ways to be present in the markets they invest in.

“There’s an abundance of talent and great companies in Finland, and the startup ecosystem in the country is extremely vibrant right now – we had to make sure we continue to be an active part of it. That’s why we decided to join the FVCA and made the decision to expand our team into Finland,” Seton-Rogers explains.

In February, PROfounders became the first London-based VC fund to grow their team into Finland, when Oskari Tempakka, previously the CEO of Wave Ventures, joined the team as a “PROmoter”. For Tempakka, the part-time role at PROfounders is cross-complementary with everything else he is doing – growing his influencer marketing firm Maukas Media and heading the Creator Awards Finland whilst still actively working with Wave Ventures’ portfolio.

“My role at PROfounders is to be a brand ambassador of sorts. I’m helping Finnish founders to think about raising international capital early-on, keeping active discussions going with the Finnish VC ecosystem, and being an all-around active part of the startup scene here in Finland,” Tempakka says.

“We’ve been investing in Finnish companies – the likes of Applifier, Small Giant Games, Surrogate Games, and others – since the beginning of PROfounders. We now wanted to find a way to continue to work alongside the Finnish startup ecosystem in this ‘new normal’. Oskari lives and breathes the early-stage ecosystem, so he was a great fit to help us help Finnish founders,” Seton-Rogers adds.

A PROactive investor

When working with their portfolio, PROfounders’ team focuses on the aspects where they can make the biggest difference. They often help founders think through resource allocation decisions: what will be the best use of time and capital – focusing on internationalisation, sales and marketing, tech development, or something else?

“The way we see it, we have around 18 months between funding rounds to make a meaningful difference. In Finland, founders, by default, have to think internationally because of the size constraint of their home market. We can help them take what they’ve got and expand to international markets. We can also connect them with UK and US financing at the next growth stages,” Seton Rogers says.

“We understand that time is a scarce resource for founders, and we respect that. We give you space to build the company and do what you know best, but we’re always there to support you when you need it,” Tempakka concludes.