By Muhammad Riaz Usman Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Andreea Danila, founder of "Millennial Capital" urges young entrepreneurs to dream big, work hard and focus on developing a great business model -- she says funding will follow.
With a habit of thinking out of the box and experience of over a decade in fundraising and investment, it was quite natural for Andreea Danila to come up with the idea of Millennial Capital.
"I founded Millennial Capital in early 2016 with the aim to deliver an out-of-the-box solution to the existing private equity and asset management approach in the region," says Andreea, founder and managing director of Millennial Capital.
Millennial Capital is the first specialist consumer-focused venture management firm in the region which promotes the partnership model targeting international brands looking to enter the GCC.
"My vision was to develop a solution for the traditional asset management and investment approach promoted by various firms in the local market by creating a corporate culture of entrepreneurship and empowering young people or millennials," Andreea explains.
"We started as a consultancy firm advising companies in terms of market entry strategies, M&A and other advisory services with a small team of interns. In less than two years, we have grown to 25 full-time employees, a portfolio of three operating companies, including a partnership with the world's largest cosmetics franchise, oBoticario, among other exciting developments which we are preparing to launch by the beginning of 2019."
Heading a female-run venture capital firm, Andreea says she is making a difference in terms of providing job opportunities to people below 35 years, especially women.
"Today in our organization, female professionals represent 65 percent of the total workforce. When we benchmark ourselves to other groups in the UAE and GCC, we understand that utilizing such a talented and young workforce will enable us to not only be more competitive in terms of skill set and diversity but also create a positive impact for the local communities," she elaborates.
"Most of the financial services or consulting firms report a very low figure in terms of females in managerial and leadership positions. Additionally, there are very few female-founded firms in the region, especially those who have received external funds from local investors," she continues.
Assessed from a financial returns perspective, Millennial Capital is a game changer for the industry, Andreea believes.
"Mainly due to our innovative approach in investing which is based on three criteria: a) investing at cost -- most of our partnerships are formed under a joint venture model which enables us to invest at cost along with some of the most experienced operators/brands in the world; b) lowering risk by partnering with international brands with deep operational expertise; and c) incentive structure linked to provision of services as opposed to fees charged as a percentage of AUM [assets under management]."
Andreea says that her first source of funding comprised personal funds along with a group of family offices.
"We successfully completed seed round funding of Dh11 million [$3 million] in October 2017 and will be looking at raising Series A perhaps mid of 2019. As part of our strategy to deliver profitability and dividends to our shareholders from year one of operations, we have delivered on our promises and turned profitable in the first financial period. We aim to continue to grow our ventures and deliver profitable results, which is a true testimony of the business' health," she says.
Andreea says that the UAE is a fantastic example of the development of a local eco-system which enables, supports and grooms entrepreneurs.
"Millennial Capital recently performed a study evaluating sources of financing for SMEs in the GCC where we are highlighting that only 20 percent have access to finance with a lack of alternative sources. In recent years, I have observed a clear government strategy in terms of launching incubators that promote and help entrepreneurs in the UAE along with a wave of digitization which allows companies like Millennial Capital to use online services for initiatives such as trade license issuance, visas, permits among others. This saves us time and money, allowing us to focus on scaling up the business model," she says.
Andreea discloses that she is working to launch a new initiative, Millennial Wellness, targeting the wellness sector in the UAE with the aim to create a disruptive and innovative brand in the beauty, well-being and nutrition sub-sectors which will offer services in retail points and online.
"The proposed new wellness brand will be heavily promoted on social media by local influencers and will target millennials and high-end shoppers and will be located in commercial spaces," she adds.
Andreea urged young entrepreneurs to dream big, work hard and focus on developing a great business model -- funding will follow.
"When I compare myself to other entrepreneurs, I feel that I gained a competitive advantage by focusing on developing a great product. Millennial Capital has developed a world-class business model backed by billion-dollar partnerships which enabled us to subsequently gain the trust of local investors," she says.
Andreea considers herself fortunate to have gained the confidence of investors in the early stages of her business venture.
"A big thanks to my early investors who believed in me when Millennial Capital was only a 10-page powerpoint presentation, to my team and my partner brands for believing in our vision to become a market leader in the specialist consumer sector investment space in emerging markets," Andrea concludes.