Mozza Angels - Europe’s first product-led syndicate
November 20, 2023
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Mozza Angels is Europe’s first product-led syndicate, with an existing network of top product specialists. Mozza Angels invests alongside top VCs, including Gradient Ventures (Google's AI fund), Founders' Fund, XAnge and Moonfire. So far, its portfolio includes Roundtable, Green Got, PlayFetch, Groover, Omena, Homaio and Jitty. The syndicate has plans to spend over one million euros in 2024.
Mozza Angels is one of multiple syndicates opening up to applications on Roundtable.
We speak to Adrien Montcoudiol, CEO of start-up studio Mozza, and Antoine Sakho, former head of product at Busuu, about how they started the syndicate, who they are looking to join via Roundtable and how they can spot the best product investments out there.
Pioneering Product-Led Investments in Europe
Roundtable: Could you tell us a little bit about how Mozza Angels started?
Adrien: We started with Mozza’s product studio – where we help founders build strong products and scale them, alongside our members who are senior product people from some of the best European tech companies.
We were investing personally on a few projects started by previous colleagues. Roundtable was launching and we knew the founders, and we thought, OK, let's invest together in a few companies to build our network and our ability to analyse the deals, and develop the skills to help our investee companies build a better product. We invested in a few companies and at the end of the year, we met Antoine, who was also an investor on the Roundtable platform. We connected on this vision of building a strong product-led syndicate for top founders in Europe for early-stage rounds.
This is how it started. So now it's been ten months working with Antoine. We’ve invested in almost ten deals since then. Our vision is to empower the early-stage tech ecosystem with product knowledge through investing, and we do that by gathering some of the best product people in Europe in this syndicate.
Roundtable: What is the main motivation to launch a syndicate as opposed to joining a syndicate as a member or going it alone?
Antoine: I think syndicates are a great way to dip your toes into venture capital and work your way up to becoming a fund. The old way of doing funds was like, you're going to have to raise with institutional investors and it can be hard if you don't have a track record and so on. It’s like going from zero to one very quickly. Whereas I think the beauty of a syndicate is you can build these things over a longer timeframe. You build your track record, you start investing bigger sums.
I would say there are also a few short-term motivations. Community is definitely a big one. Angel investing can be really lonely. You build a Rolodex over time, but just having a community that you consistently invest with is nice because it feels like a team sport. We share, we learn together. We challenge each other, which I really enjoy. There's an intellectual debate and exchange side of things which is really great. It’s about networking as well, creating a working relationship with other professionals in your field. So that's also very valuable.
Another motivation is deal flow and access. We're also getting a lot of deal flow from our members who are incentivized to bring us new flow because then we give them a bit of the carried interest. We also have more access because it's not just me being added to the cap table – all these people behind us add incredible value. The last point would be carry – although for now, we're not paying ourselves or anything. So it's a very long-term kind of bet, which we might see pan out five to 10 years from now. But I would say these are the main motivations.
Roundtable: Can you tell me a bit more about the new feature on Roundtable, where users can apply to join your syndicate rather than be invited to join?
Antoine: We’re thinking about it like tiers, where we have like a core tier of Angels, who are an invite-only community and on our Slack channel. These people are all product executives and product leaders who have proved themselves in the European tech scene and have scaled start-ups. They are part of our value proposition when we go to other start-ups because we bring them all that expertise. [Core Angels include John Vars of Mixhalo, Eveline Mozcko, former head of product at Blinkist, Jordane Giuly, cofounder and CEO at Defacto, and Vincent Nallatamby, CEO at Tempow.]
Then there's a larger group who can apply to join the syndicate, that is not necessarily restricted to product professionals. They are investors who could still bring value and disposable capital to the start-ups we invest in – the benefit the new members get is access to the deal flow.
We have over 50 people in the syndicate bringing deals, and all of them are extremely well connected, so that's incredible quantity and quality. We are extremely critical and hard on the selection of the deals that we share because we only want to share the best with our syndicate.
Building a Community of Experts
Roundtable: How would you vet or select potential new members who apply to be part of your syndicate?
Adrien: Either they need to be experienced product operators or founders, in which case they join the core community. Or they might be investors with no prior product experience, but high disposable capital to invest (i.e $50k/year)
Roundtable: Unlike some syndicates, your co-investors are not passive – they are required to put some work in. Is that something potential new members should be aware of?
Adrien: Yeah, I think that's a big differentiator of Mozza Angels. Even with our little community of 50 people, we have really strong engagement. Most of our members are involved in the conversations, in the Q&A calls, and we can leverage their industry expertise depending on the deal. It’s super helpful and powerful.
What also brings value is that every investor commits to helping the founders for 30 minutes every quarter, on any strategic topic required. It could be on product strategy, hiring, organizing your product team, all those topics where it's hard to find help on the investing side of the business in Europe. This is also why we started Mozza Angels – because there are very few product-driven business Angels or VCs.
Antoine: Regarding the new members that come via Roundtable and have no product experience, they will be considered as part of our extended community. They won't be involved in deal flow sourcing or collective due diligence. It'll be a more passive role, which also means a lot less work for them. Everyone wins. Because the start-ups still get the support from our core community and then the people who join the extended community get all the benefits from us doing the work upstream without necessarily doing the work themselves.
Investment Strategy and Success Stories
Roundtable: Can you describe your investment thesis in more detail?
Antoine: Sure, it's quite broad because we have a wide base of members. We have experts in pretty much any domain you can think about whether it's healthtech, proptech, or fintech: you name it, we'll probably have it.
However, I would say there are a few things that we do across all deals. We tend to invest from pre-seed to pre-series A. This is a sweet spot where we shine. We’re talking about early-stage startups. They're not scaled yet so we can invest at reasonable valuations, but there are early signs of traction and product market fit. We are, we would say, sophisticated enough to understand those metrics and make a call on that. Because of our DNA, we tend to invest in companies that place a big premium on products.
Roundtable: Can you give me an example?
Adrien: Yes: Omena. It's an app founded by three female founders that helps women go through the menopause. They get access to knowledge, to medical experts they can talk to, and to a community to help each other go through this phase. And they have robust engagement. This is typically the kind of product where we were able to detect very early that the service provided by the app was strongly impactful for the users, even if they had just a few hundred of them. Now they're growing the community and it's pretty promising.
Antoine: When Omena reached out to us, they had acquired 40,000 users with almost no marketing, and 10% of their free users were converting to paid. And any given day, 70% of the entire monthly active user base was using the product, which is huge. It's like, 50% is world-class: that's WhatsApp-level of engagement.