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Fatou Diagne

Interview

The Inception and Evolution of Bootstrap Europe

Fourteen years ago, Fatou Diagne, along with her co-founder, Stephanie, embarked on a journey that would significantly impact the tech and life science sectors in Europe. Bootstrap Europe, born out of their vision, diverged from the traditional equity-based investment model, opting for venture debt – an alternative Fatou passionately advocates for. “We invest in venture… not with equity, but with venture debt,” Fatou explains, highlighting the unique approach of their firm in supporting burgeoning technologies and startups.

Venture Debt Europe: A Game Changer in Startup Funding

Fatou reflects on the early days of Bootstrap Europe, recalling a pivotal moment when they realized the potential of venture debt. It began with a Swedish AI startup’s struggle to find suitable loan terms in Europe, leading them to an American venture lender. This encounter opened Fatou’s eyes to the benefits of venture debt, both in terms of saving equity dilution and as a lucrative investment avenue. “It saved us a lot of dilution… but we also thought that it was a great investment,” she notes, underscoring the dual advantages for investors and founders alike.

When to Seek Venture Debt: Timing and Growth

Navigating the complex world of startup financing can be daunting. Fatou simplifies this by outlining the ideal stage for a startup to consider venture debt. It’s not for the early days but for those who have achieved product-market fit and have a clear growth trajectory. “You don’t take it before you get a product market fit… you need to know your unit economics,” Fatou advises, emphasizing the importance of a startup’s maturity in considering debt financing.

The Impact of Silicon Valley Bank’s Exit on Venture Debt in Europe

The recent shakeup in the venture debt landscape, particularly with the exit of Silicon Valley Bank from Europe, presents both challenges and opportunities. Fatou sees this as a pivotal moment for venture debt in Europe, noting the significant gap left behind. “Silicon Valley Bank… was providing something like 700 million just in the UK per year,” she points out, illustrating the vast demand for venture debt solutions in the European market.

Bootstrap Europe’s Approach to Deep Tech Investments

Fatou shares her enthusiasm for deep tech investments, an area where Bootstrap Europe has carved its niche. These investments, often complex and requiring substantial capital, align well with their venture debt model. Fatou explains, “We like the nerdy stuff because they tend to create a massive step change in the way we live,” highlighting their focus on transformative technologies that promise significant returns and advancements.

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