Luxury Guide interview with David Jelen

He started as an accountant and through the study of international business and financial management, he has become a financial manager and adviser in the field of accounting and financial analysis. This spring, he became a partner in Crowdberry - a crowd-investing platform that is able to connect people, who have available free funds with those,
who are looking for money for their business.

written by KATEŘINA DAŇKOVÁ, photographs made in Worklounge Prague


When we were talking about his job, he was really enthusiastic about it. He says the work is incredibly entertaining and he is still enjoying the game with numbers with which
he spends nearly every day and sometimes also nights. David Jelen has been specializing in business management for many years, helping entrepreneurs and businesses find solutions to various financial transactions. Now he focuses on even more sophisticated activity: he connects interesting projects with even more interesting investors.

Words such as crowdfunding and crowd-investing are quite popular today. Can you explain them? Both terms describe ways of mass financing of companies (mass in English means crowd) when a company gains capital from a group of customers or investors. In crowdfunding, the customer receives a product or a service for their money usually earlier. In the case of crowd-investing, the investor obtains a share in the value of the company for the money provided and thus becomes a co-owner or gives the firm a loan
with a negotiated repayment period and a pre-agreed interest. Crowd-investing works primarily on the basis of online platforms, where with the help of websites and portals links people who want to invest their money to entrepreneurs who need capital for the start of their businesses and projects. A classic example of crowdfunding can be the situation around a flood. When someone establishes and publishes the account number to which people can transfer the money for the victims of the flood, he actually creates
a crowdfunding account. It collects money for a useful thing, and it is more or less unlikely that donors should gain something else in this funding besides a good feeling. Crowd-investing means investing in companies, start-ups, technologies in the same principle, but they expect an appreciation of their investment and want to benefit from it.

So, company Crowdberry is more about crowd investing? That is exactly what we are doing. We help investors valuate their investments by linking them to businesses
and companies looking for funding. The company was founded in Slovakia where it has been operating for two years. I have become a partner for the Czech Republic this year.
I specialize mainly in small and medium businesses and real estate.

When someone has free funds and decides to invest through Crowdberry, what should he do? We are an online platform, so he should register, that is a step number one. Once,
it is done, he gains an access to information about companies seeking an investment. Crowdberry differs from other investment platforms by adding a personal contact to the online dimension. This is the added value of our platform, we are not machines, we are people who understand the needs of investors, we are able to pick out specific acquisitions,
we solve their budget and preferences together with them.

When you talk about the budget, is there a limit when a person can become an investor on Crowdberry? We are not a project aimed at a mass of users, such as Zonka. We focus
on private clients who want to deal with the business and have the appetite to participate in an important business transaction. We say that we associate "smart capital"
with companies, where the investor has an opportunity to offer his know-how. The minimum investment is therefore ten thousand euros.

And does the potential investor have to tell you how much money he wants to invest when registering online? There is a box called financial options within the registration process, but filling in this field is not mandatory for registration completion. Everyone can leave a message about his investment intention. Most investors are interested in communicating with us. And we are interested in contacting them personally. We would like to hear their wishes into what they would like to invest their money.

Do I assume well that your target within the first appointment is to find out what the investor is expecting and whether he is progressive or conservative? Of course,
we have to know from the actual beginning what the investor expects from our co-operation, and the potential return on investment is calculated according to how risky it is.
If we think about start-ups, for example, their risk potential is really high, so it is good to diversify the investment into this kind of opportunities, I mean investing smaller amounts
of your money into more companies. The investor can also invest in small and medium-size businesses that have a solid history and want to expand, for example. This investment
is safer because it can determine future profitability using economic tools such as audit or historical analysis. We have also real estate opportunities in our portfolio.
Their conservative profile is one of the safest ways to deposit.

So everyone is able to find in your portfolio something of his interest. But what is the difference between classic investment in capital markets through investment funds
and investment through Crowdberry?
Crowdberry is definitely a bigger experience. Anyway, there are several differences. Crowdberry investor has an opportunity to “taste”
the investment, he is able to experience personally and sometimes, he can test a prototype. It is possible for the investor to meet the founder and management of the company.
The advantage of investing through Crowdberry is in ability of control over the investments and also in possibility to influence them up to a certain extent. There are investors
who do not like this option and who prefer to remain passive. But there are also a lot of people who like to join the process and provide the company with their experience and business contacts. These are investors who have already achieved something in their business life, are secured, have a solid income, and want to support something. In addition, Crowdberry gives Czech-Slovak capital the opportunity to stay in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Instead of investing in a stock exchange, where money is mostly transferred into foreign funds, we help to grow Czech and Slovak firms with the support of domestic capital.

You talked about conservative investments into some development project. How does such investment look like? It can be a co-investment in real estate. There is such a trend today that the developer leaves the seventy per cent share of the investment to the bank, fifteen to pay out of its own funds, and another fifteen percent left to small investors
in crowd investment. This way of financing the developer makes it possible to implement more projects at once because it has more free resources.

Does this mean that when an investor participates in the financing of a building, then he owns a specific part of it and can trade with it in the future? From our view we might say that an investor who buys a share in a developer's project and then walks around a building can say: "Here I own a brick, here is mine a whole floor." However, owning one particular apartment is risky, situation when twenty investors own twenty apartments is much better. There is no risk that just my apartment will not be saleable, rentable, and so on.
Risks are diversified.

How many campaigns, where you have successfully connected an investor with people seeking funds, have you already implemented? We have completed six campaigns in which we arranged investments of three million euros. That is not change money, but a solid investment opportunity. We currently run eight opportunities in value of nine and a half million euros.

What start-up you've funded are you most proud of in Crowdberry? It is not possible to select a single project, but one of the most interesting projects that we have helped finance
is the production of Ecocapsule. It is a portable, energetically self-sufficient micro habitation that looks like an egg. It can be built anywhere in the world, it is a brilliant form
of accommodation with no electricity, gas or water ... At the same time, this "capsule" is luxuriously equipped, has a clean interior and can be easily transported. The first Ecocapsule from a limited series of fifty pieces was sold for eighty thousand euros and all fifty are sold out. It is interesting, that architect Tomáš Žácek already designed Ecocapsule in 2008, but it was more likely a concept at that time because the technology needed to its realization did not exist yet. This has changed over time and Ecocapsule is now being produced and its serial production is about to go. One of the first "capsules" was ordered by one of the prominent Hollywood actresses.


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