Meet the man redefining the playing field for entrepreneurs looking to build game-changing tech companies: Anastasios Papadopoulos, CEO & Founder of IMS Digital Ventures.
IMS Digital Ventures is Asia’s most promising venture builder, with a USD 250 million portfolio of ten venture companies and counting. With 90% of start-ups destined to fail, it’s no secret that the start-up scene is challenging in the best conditions. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Papadopoulos is offering founders a way to de-risk the path to success. After growing his first company, a digital agency, to span four offices and a 300-strong team, he recognised that the ecosystem he built to serve clients could be pivoted to accelerate the route to market for start-ups. Since founding IMS Digital Ventures, Papadopoulos has helped launch ventures such as OwlGaze, an AI-powered cybersecurity software; Whisky Genius, a web3 platform for investing in rare whiskies; and Property Raptor, a B2B real estate solution revolutionising the property market.
In this interview, we speak to Papadopoulos about his unique business model, how start-ups can negotiate market uncertainty, and what most people don’t know about being an entrepreneur.
You founded IMS Digital Ventures in 2018. How are you impacting the start-up space?
I started IMS Digital Ventures with the mission to tip the odds of success in favour of founders. After launching my first company, it quickly became clear to me that there was a unique opportunity to serve Asia’s aspiring entrepreneurs by de-risking and accelerating the start-up growth phase. I had seen established corporates struggle to adopt digital transformation initiatives, despite all their resources, and wrestle with integrating emerging tech into their business models.
I realised that we were in a position to change the rules of the game for challenger entrepreneurs by giving them access to an ecosystem rich in tech and talent.
How do you solve the challenges faced by start-ups?
IMS Digital Ventures invests in tech start-ups led by visionary entrepreneurs aspiring to change the way businesses, consumers, and entire markets behave. It’s tough for start-ups to attract (or to be able to afford!) the talent that can conceptualise and execute deep tech.
When we invest in companies, they get access to our tech team of AI experts, blockchain engineers, and software specialists that can build proprietary tech solutions. We don’t implement tech for tech’s sake: we’re really looking for a tangible industry or business challenge that can be solved by integrating innovative digital solutions into the start-up’s business model.
Unlike other venture capital firms, we don’t just provide funding, we have real skin-in-the-game. By allowing entrepreneurs to tap into the IMS ecosystem, we de-risk the launch phase for founders by supporting them with product-market fit and launching an effective go-to market strategy.
What advice would you give to founders looking to navigate market uncertainty in 2023?
My first piece of advice would be to hone your product-market fit. This is the number one hurdle to penetrating a new market, retaining clients, and raising future capital. Businesses without a strong product-market fit will struggle with generating strong sales and effective marketing, even in a bull market.
For founders struggling to get proof-of-concept for their product, another approach would be to revise their growth or go-to market strategy. This could be by exploring markets outside their home turf or repositioning their offering for a different subset of consumers.
What is the hard truth about being an entrepreneur?
You’re the one at the helm of the ship. Being an entrepreneur is about learning how to embrace extreme accountability. Honing your risk appetite, thinking in systems, and having an unshakeable belief in what you do helps you adapt to the immense responsibility that comes with being a founder.
Do you have a set of criteria for the start-ups you invest in?
Each of our ventures is different, but the first thing we look for in a start-up is a founder with deep industry expertise with a vision to change how businesses and consumers interact.
We also look for opportunities where IMS Digital Ventures can leverage deep tech or emerging technologies to create intellectual property that is unique to that business and barriers to entry to other competitors. For example, we specialise in B2B SaaS and marketplaces that leverage AI or blockchain solutions to create efficiencies or a strong competitive advantage.
What’s next for IMS Digital Ventures?
This year, we took a big step by opening our London office in the heart of Mayfair. We’re looking to grow our UK-based team to 100 employees by the second half of next year in order to be able to support the global expansion of our ventures such as OwlGaze, our cybersecurity software, and Property Raptor, our B2B real estate lead generation and CRM solution.
In the longer term, we are growing our IMS Digital Ventures team in Hong Kong to support our goal of reaching 30 ventures in our portfolio. We are building the foundations to open it up to other investors and will consider an IPO in the medium-term as well.