MSS Jan2022: Changing of the Startup Guard
The two big stories of 2021 were undoubtedly the acquisition of Malta’s flagship tech startups. Altaro announced its acquisition by backup solution provider Hornetsecurity and more recently Contentsquare acquired Hotjar following the French company’s $500 million in funding at a $2.8 billion valuation. Whilst this news is of extraordinary importance, both transactions came with an undisclosed amount announcement, thereby making it difficult to quantify the dollar value impact of the value of these companies. From an ecosystem standpoint the founding teams of these two companies have been conscientious about educating the fledgling startup industry in Malta on what it means to “think big” and build for an international market.
The aftermath of these transactions will hopefully allow for a new generation of seed stage investments in the next generation of startup pretenders. My educated bet is on “2nd generation founders”, that is, company builders who will emerge from the leadership and management teams of these two companies, probably combining forces and forming founder teams with professionals from the corporate or iGaming industry in Malta.
The new guard already seems to have early leaders: Weavr, a FinTech startup, eCabs, a Transport and Mobility startup, and EBO an A.I. startup. There are other compelling startups that have received support from Malta Enterprise in regulatory, A.I., gaming and cannabis sectors and I am also sure a number of FinTech startups have applied for M.F.S.A. licensing and keep Malta as their HQ, but there is little to no information about them. The good thing, as I mentioned previously, is that each passing calendar quarter new stories emerge. In Malta Startup Space we also like to celebrate Malta connected initiatives, such as Peaq, a Berlin-based blockchain initiative led by a Maltese founder, and Flasc, an offshore energy initiative in the Netherlands. It is critical to count these as members of the community as the amount of knowledge, contacts and experience they are building will be immeasurable to this new generation.
The reason I insist so much on being able to quantify the transaction amounts of Malta connected deals is that it can be a benchmark for traditional investors to viably consider startups as an alternative, albeit more risky alternative, to more traditional investment opportunities, most significantly real estate investing. In a recent Malta Startup Space discussion, leveraging the excellent video uploaded by Spunt.mt, a content house discussing topical issues in Malta, the following 10 year benchmarks were discussed:
- MSE index10 year gain – 28% (although has dipped since 2020)
- Immoveable property 10Yr gain – 78% 🏗
- US Stock Market 10Yr index gain – 283%
- NASDAQ 10Yr index – 695% 🤯
Whilst it is true that immoveable property is a relatively safe bet that generated alot of wealth for a lot of people, it is a brick and mortar investment, that people easily understand the utility of. My argument for this discussion was that Malta’s dependance on this asset class has now inherited a 10 Yr generation workforce who know little but immoveable property speculation as a profession and as an investment. We probably missed out on 10 years of investment in technology and innovation and are trying to artificially make up for the lost time. My hope is that the success of Hotjar and Altaro will encourage a renewed interested in tech entrepreneurship or maybe, just maybe, Shark Tank Malta will reveal an untapped gold mine of entrepreneurial genius.