Think of the proverbial garage startup experience, but with a lot more structure.
Antler, a four-year venture capital firm and startup generator, is targeting founders very early on, replacing the usual freeform garage scenario with mentoring, services, and funding. The Singapore-based company with outposts around the world is now expanding its operations in the United States
Startup founders in their garage
“We see a lot of funding for companies that are generating revenue, but little for founders who are just starting out and honing the specific problem they want to address,” said Tyler Norwood, partner at Antler US. “We give people a place to go, to start the journey. “
While the average age of ventures in the Startup Accelerator Y Combinator is 1.7 years, according to Norwood, Antler focuses on an even earlier stage of the process that you may do before sowing. To this end, the company supports startups in providing their infrastructure needs for 6 to 12 months to help them get started. This includes everything from finding a co-founder to validating a business model to providing a job to work with like-minded founders.
In addition, funding is typically provided for three months so entrepreneurs can focus on their emerging ventures full time. Specifically, $ 15,000 will be invested based on a pitch describing the problem the founders want to solve. After building a team and making progress, some also receive a $ 250,000 investment.
Thanks to Covid, however, Antler had to optimize its US approach. The first cohort was in New York City 14 months ago, just before the pandemic broke out. As expected, the work became virtual. With the $ 15,000 smaller investment targeting very early-stage companies that particularly benefit from personal work, the focus has been on slightly later-stage startups and larger checks. Norwood says he looks forward to seeing each other in person in the third quarter. “Our founders really need access to a personal community, people from whom they can exchange ideas,” he says.
In the USA, Antler is active in Austin and LA in addition to New York City and is currently exploring Miami. The 33 US portfolio companies include Caria, a digital health platform that helps menopausal women connect with experts, a community and evidence-based support. My Home Pathway, which provides a platform to help consumers who cannot obtain a mortgage improve their risk profile; and Marco, a platform through which small exporters in Latin America can find funding.
Central to Antler’s approach both in the US and around the world is to find a way to address the rich uncle problem: helping founders who don’t have a network of wealthy friends and family to turn to for initial funding . This, of course, is a significant stumbling block for color entrepreneurs in the US who lack such networks. According to Norwood, there is a similar dynamic in other countries. According to Norwood, the company’s US investments have eight times more BIPOC founders than traditional VC firms.
Also central to the overall approach is belief in the power of entrepreneurship to address unsolvable problems. “The more problem-solving skills we have, the better we can resolve some of the existential crises we face,” says Norwood.
Antler has supported around 250 portfolio companies from almost 80 countries worldwide. Almost half of these companies are founded or co-founded by women.