USEUM – A case study in funding

Boosted by winning Athens Startup Weekend 2012, USEUM is described as “The social network for art, offering two key features; firstly an art archive i.e. the ‘Wikipedia’ of art that is built collectively, and then a podium for everyone to express their opinion and to publicly ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ aspects of art, as in all other subject-specific social networks.”  We spoke with founder Foteini Valeonti about her experiences in finding funding for her startup.


As part of winning ASW, you won the chance to pitch at HackFWD in the Pitch in Berlin V2 event.  Did you get funding for USEUM there?

“Although it was a great opportunity, pitching in Berlin was very tough and we didn’t get funding.  The other startups had already been through previous funding rounds and had been in existence for at least 6 months.  USEUM was still under construction at this stage so a completely different proposition.  That said, I think had I done a live demo of our mobile app I would have increased our chances of funding greatly as the live demo at ASW was what really counted in our win.”

So after that, what sources of funding did you pursue?

“Well, we felt the best route at this stage was to bootstrap our company and create a minimum viable product using the least possible funds.  Starting out with this model worked well, but we couldn’t take it very far due to some legal expenses.  I decided I didn’t want to get a loan for the business or go to friends and family for funding, so instead set about looking for angel investors.”

“I successfully found 3 investors who were willing to back USEUM.  What I learned from this process, was that to find the best angel investors, you just have to find the people who share the same interests as you, and who can really click with your idea.  In USEUM’s case it was people who are into art and Greek entrepreneurship, so a perfect match.”

Would you use a similar method to get funding again at future rounds?

“Obviously we will give priority to our original investors, as they are the ones who believed in the team and the idea in the first place.  If still further capital is needed we might seek similar angels, although our strategy is to assess all options so we would also talk to some VC’s.  We are lucky enough to have a revenue model from our USEUM Gift Shop though, so as long as we are covered by that we will delay fundraisers and build our value.”

Interview by John Sherwin