Note: This article is the fourth in a series of interviews highlighting the work of interesting family office investors.
Donatas Dailide is the Chairman and CEO at DOJUS group, a leading provider of agricultural and heavy equipment in the Baltic region that has been in business for over 30 years. In addition to running the DOJUS group’s business, Donatas is involved with the venture investing of the family office. Donatas is a founding member of YPO Lithuania, and an experienced angel investor.
Tell me a little about the family office and how it came to be.
Our family business was established in 1992 with primary activities in agricultural and related services. Some businesses were acquired, and some sold, and financial investments started taking a growing part of the activities.
Our family office serves just our family, and we outsource most of the activities, leaving the investment strategy and decision making in-house. Venture capital investments are focused on seed stage direct investments predominantly in the Baltic States. We also occasionally participate in Series A rounds.
Does your family office have investment guidelines or preferences or a specific impact investing mission?
DOJUS group core businesses are related to agriculture, so we naturally prioritize investments solving food security, agriculture, and climate problems.
Has the office been doing early stage investing since its founding?
We have added Venture Capital investments later to the portfolio. Although we started investing in early-stage companies more than a decade ago, we have increased the share of these investments later as the startup scene became more established and more professional in the region.
How big a part of your portfolio is the early stage work?
5-10% depending on the timing.
Where does your best deal flow come from? Do you syndicate with other offices, VC funds or angel groups?
We syndicate 90% of the venture deals so naturally deal flow comes from the network: co-investors in other projects, other family offices, VC funds, etc. Sometimes deals are sourced by interacting directly with the founders.
Would you consider yourself an active or passive early stage investor?
We are mostly a passive early-stage investor. However, if the investment amount is bigger or we can add value then we take a more active role.
Do you lead rounds or do you tend to follow other leads? What's your view on taking a board seat?
We usually lead rounds if there is no institutional investor, or if the share in the round is substantial. We tend to act in an advisory capacity, not taking the board seat. However, we generally prefer deals with fund participation as this allows leveraging their resource capacity in governance.
Do you have a thesis or focus on any particular type of founder, company or industry? Are there certain kinds of startup companies you steer away from?
The critical point in any startup is the founder and the team. All early-stage companies have ups and downs, so you want the founder and the team to have fire in their eyes to go through those hills. Also, they need to have a skillset and mindset required to grow the business. As we operate in a rather small geography, we are generally sector and company agnostic, but with strong preference to B2B SaaS, AgTech and Climate Tech.
What do you see as the key drivers of success when investing and driving returns?
Portfolio diversification, discipline, no panic, invest in strong teams.
What are the top 3 qualities you look for in a startup/start founder?
Fire in their eyes and motivation, leadership and communication skills, industry experience, business and technical knowledge.
Do you have set expectations for founders on how they should lead their teams and communicate with their investors?
Timely communication is key. Too much communication is better than too little.
Are there some portfolio companies you are especially proud to be working with or simply would like to highlight?
I am happy with the performance of Walk15, a step challenge app, which allows companies and institutions to engage their employees in healthy and sustainable activities. After starting in the Baltics, they have replicated their business model in Germany and Denmark signing major corporations and other institutions, such as Euroleague, the European equivalent of NBA.
What early stage investing blogs/thought leaders/sources do you follow?
Peter H. Diamandis, CB Insights, Crunchbase, Bloomberg Tech Daily, The Hustle, TechCrunch and many more...
If you could give entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
Fail fast, do not be afraid to pivot!
Tell us about "The one that got away"?
Too many to tell, but you cannot look back and regret things you haven’t done. It is more important to focus on things you can still do.
What's the greatest advice you received about early stage investing?
Be consistent and accept the risk.
What tips would you pass on to someone making their first investment?
Start small and diversify.