Founded in 2013, Forward Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in the Marketplaces, Applied AI, and E-commerce domains — including several successful startups with whom they have built stores using Saleor. We spoke to Chief Technology Officer, Leonidas Tsemantzis, about why it is so rewarding to work with hungry new companies in the technology sector.
If you have an idea for a startup, find out how to maximize your chances of getting investment and why a free-to-use open source solution like Saleor might be the right fit for your business.
What is exciting about working with startups?
Leo: “I really enjoy working with early-stage companies. I’ve founded my own businesses, so I understand the emotional investment people put into their vision. There is never a guarantee of success and my job is to clear away as many obstacles as possible to give people the best shot. As CTO, I don’t just help new businesses build their products, I try to define their whole tech platform.
“Sometimes I see red flags. If a startup is investing in a bespoke solution rather than using open source technology like Saleor, for example, I might question if they are making the most of their limited resources — which is absolutely essential for most startups.”
What are the pain points for a new business?
“We usually invest in domain experts. The hardest part of starting a business is making decisions outside of your area of expertise — such as the right technology to use when building an e-commerce platform. Hiring is also a crucial step and it takes time and effort to put together the best team. We spend the first six to twelve months with a company, helping them to get the right people, processes, and technology in place.”
Is there a template for a successful entrepreneur?
“There is no hard and fast rule but good candidates usually have some common traits: they are positive and have a clear vision of their business, as well as the ability to build and manage a team. Confidence is important; we seed companies but founders then need to go out and get further external rounds of investment. It helps if someone can sell their ideas.
“As a VC, we build our metrics around business data, not around people. We create a playbook for things like analysis of customer lifetime value and the cost of customer acquisition, which helps us to make consistent, informed decisions.”
Why is e-commerce a compelling area for investors?
“It was one of our first investment areas. The shift from in-store to online retail started about 20 years ago, but the greatest innovation has been happening in the last four to five years. It’s very exciting to work on that transition between worlds.”
What makes Saleor a good fit for some of the Forward Partners startups?
“I’ve worked with so many different technologies over the years; Ruby, PHP, Go, and .NET to name just a few. As soon as I found Python, I was so impressed by the language and the community that I wanted to spend my time there. I later looked for e-commerce platforms in Python. Saleor really stood out from the pack; it has since continued to improve and the team has done an amazing job refactoring and adding features.
“From an investor’s perspective, open source Saleor delivers a bespoke platform that is a long-term foundation for business. We know we have the flexibility to do whatever we want with Saleor as our startups evolve. We are not relying upon the varying quality of third-party extensions and can build a new version within weeks, rather than trying to patch something like Shopify. The only limitation is the capacity of the internal development team.”
If you are thinking of starting up a business or are looking for investment, there are a number of things you can do to give yourself a better shot at success. Build your team and your technology foundation with care. Have a great idea and check if there is a market fit. And, above all else, build what you know and do it with passion.
Hungry for more? Read our interview with Patch Garden and find out how Saleor is helping them revolutionize the horticultural industry.
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