2 January 2024 // 22:05

reflection letter 2023

Author: Ilinca Paun

reflection letter 2023


Bravva Angels is a club community, not a Venture Capital fund. Investors invest deal by deal, making individual judgement of their choices, taking full responsibility. Yet, my role as a community builder is to support the process of having the best opportunities presented and education available, as well as services to facilitate the investment, legal and fiscal. The goal of this letter is assessing the work, the results and plan for the year to come. Our community primary end goal is sourcing best opportunities to co-invest as angels and make high returns by exiting and selling shares. The business model includes angel annual membership for investment services, consultancy services for startups, and events fees.  

          co investments

Below you can find a list of co-investment choices since July 2022, when Bravva Angels started as a community of investors, by amount, type of investment and industry. Our members chose to co-invest in a total of 10 companies, which we call Bravvas.

The ones above were chosen in 2022-2023 out of 23 startups presented in our monthly Pitch Perfect sessions. Our curation process (investment readiness) selected the 23 to put forward out of 100 applications or startups who requested financing. Three companies are in assessment period as we speak and will close the loop of interest by the end of the month. They are Youni, Klap and Bright Spaces.

The business took convertible loans from investors in July 2022 (at a monthly revenue of 8,000 Euro) and managed to grow to an MRR of 24,000 Euro in 9 months. While they tripled their income, costs went up for launching the new booking platform and so did marketing budgets for attracting experts and clients. In March 2023 founders went out for raising another loan from investors, and failed to raise the needed amount, partially due to general caution from investors but also due to more clear signs of the model not working. In a few months, revenues dropped, being blocked at a flat level without growth. The founders decided to close the company after 6 months of plateaued revenue, December 2023 being the last month. Investors waived their rights for loan repaying.

I invested as an angel in Glow2Go first in 2020 and did a follow-on in 2022. We are now all at a financial loss. Founders and angels have lessons to learn, as it is always easier to understand after facts happen and you think you should have known. The truth is… you cannot know, otherwise the risk would not be high and therefore, returns would not be high. Venture Capital is a high-risk/high-return asset class. And one of the most difficult parts of angel investing is accepting you will lose money in the process of making money. And going through the emotional ride of accepting a (turned out) bad decision and doing the paperwork for closing is not a pleasant feeling. In our European region, of risk adversity, it is more important to not lose, than to win, as studies on our culture show.

The main lessons I learned from this Glow2Go company are:

On business model:

  • friction for one or another side of marketplaces is slowing down growth which affects network effect and puts everything on the effort of a marketing budget.
    • beauty services at home are not an established habit, but an exception (after covid), offering a small demand for subscriptions.
    • product software development is a risk that if managed badly can cost the company its life.

On the team:

  • founders lack of expertise in the beauty industry cannot be easily compensated without high probability and cost of making mistakes.
    • lack of experience in managing a sales team caused big turnover and hassle with staff and time wasted.

The risk that I took as an investor was the risk of assuming that:

  • demand for services at home post pandemic will rise. It didn’t, not in the beauty services sector.
    • beauty experts will adopt easy to work flexibly and legally and will go through the hassle of doing the papers and declaring the income and planning their agendas digitally. They prefer stability of a saloon and black money.
    • I can help a lot the business and use my expertise and connections.

My market and product assumptions proved to be wrong. Overestimating my ability to help in an industry I know almost nobody was also wrong. With this result I am marking a loss in my own portfolio of 10 companies that I started investing since 2019. Out of my portfolio investment overall amounts, Glow2Go represents 7.6%. I also had the opportunity to exit one investment in 2021, selling my shares in Flip to EMAG Ventures and made 4x on my initial money. In 5 years since I made my first move, I have one win and one loss and the others pending. If I calculate the compound results on my win and my loss it results a very positive yearly return of 25% for 4 years in a row.

As it is the case with all angels’ portfolios, some companies (research says it averages at 90%) will fail. The percentage of failures decreases with the size of the portfolio (from 93% to 85%). The larger the investor’s portfolio, the higher the chances of overall return of the money. Ideal portfolio sits according to data in the range of 15 to 20 startups and the average portfolio return is in the range of 22 to 27% yearly, meaning returning 2.5 times the money in 3 to 5 years.

Whereas I could not find a more recent study about angel investing performance, most opinion papers from recent years confirm the data of a 2017 study, even if the venture capital market witnessed a cycle of growth unprecedented between 2010 and 2021, followed by a downturn of 2022 and 2023.

I do know that having a portfolio for myself as an investor will overall produce positive results when drawing the line in 5-10 years. But the key word here for a professional angel is building a portfolio instead of stopping at the first loss. This requires having liquidity for continuing investing until you have a diversified and large portfolio. The percentage indicated for investment in startups, according to expert risk-return analysis is no more than 15% of your annual savings, to match the risk profile of these assets. Given these criteria, it might take 5 years for most of us to create such portfolio of 10-15 companies, and another 5 to 7 to exit. As angels, you should get in this game if you have the source of personal finances, the patience and interest to perform these activities for the next 15 years.

Most of the startups in the list above are just starting their growth, with a product validated with clients, revenue in their accounts and needing to improve sales KPIs – number of clients, average order value, number of returning customer or number of orders per customer. Especially with a low marketing budget focusing on organic growth or direct sales. Achieving this KPIs was most difficult this year.

Overall, it was a very difficult business year for all startups, and many died, due to lack of funding and no ability (knowledge) or possibility (model didn’t allow) to bootstrap. It also put founders in front of a tough questions – is my product solving a real need for a client or a nice to have that disappears easily with economical constraints?

On the spectrum of stages of businesses, investors choose to invest in a prototype phase (OutDiD) and also in Procesio (a business unit part of Ringhel, a profitable stable business). But the more typical opportunity for this year were companies who had 1-2 years of traction reaching a monthly revenue of 3,000 to 5,000 euros, with the need to develop further the product/service while most of the money raised went for hiring sales teams and into marketing budgets. 

The startups which raised the most from our investor’s pockets were Charger, Glow2Go, Zitamine and Profluo. Let’s see what they have in common.

Charger is a service provider who integrates design, planning, acquisition, and maintenance of electrical chargers for homes, offices, or any type of user. As the green energy adoption scales year on year, the startup promises revenues from car leasing companies, real estate owners, hotels, and transportation hubs. The model is revenue for value-add services and sales commission on products sold.

  • Spin off from an Architecture practice, great technical knowledge.
  • Green energy legislation pushing for electrical adoption.
  • Profit margin sustaining the business, low CAC, direct sales through networks.

Glow2Go, as explained above, had a similar model with Uber. Plus, it is a success fee per transaction, therefore low capital intensive.

Zitamine is an online reseller of supplements, on personalized recommendation, packaged and sent for high convenience and easiness to take. Supplements market is growing based on pandemic effects, increased levels of education and potential access to longevity scenarios. Employers focusing on effective work offer access to health services or perks as a productivity measure.

  • Senior team with previous exit and experienced in employee benefits products.
  • Personalization as an effective product feature for improving results and make loyal clients.
  • Sales strategy through partnerships, multiplying sales efforts.

Profluo is a software as a service working with complex commercial activities for digitalizing the accounting documents, from paper to ERPs and any other internal tool. They captured the market of SMEs first and scaling now up to larger companies.

  • Senior team with strong financial background, coming from clients’ problem side.
  • Backed by a VC, having a senior board to support and help.
  • Digitalizing operations is a strong need and important focus of software products, having the support of legislation and the pressure on increasing efficiencies and gross margins.

What they have in common is:

  • They were revenue stage, with early adopters on board.
  • Offer digital services and experiences.
  • Strong value-based leadership.
  • Gender diverse shareholders or leadership team.

What they have as diverse is:

  • Sector / industry – all markets are large enough.
  • Equity structure (VC or not) that impact the resources availability both financially (secured follow-ons) but also knowledge and guidance.
  • Client types – B2B or B2C. Although all are in large markets, the difference sits with the type of resources you use to acquire clients – organize a powerful team for direct sales or prepare and iterate constantly the marketing strategy and paid campaigns.

Another important element to check is their ability to survive without a future investment round in the next 18 months, and their road map to sustained profitability. Hard to say who will get there first, but chances have the companies with lower IT costs (high level of standardized product), and a high margin on product/service they sell. Profluo has the highest margin on its product (very low cost per processed page) of all, and Charger is the leanest of all, being an integrator of services, with the lowest fixed cost structure and no capex. All startups promise in their business plans achieving break even in the next 18 months. Fost most, this will be a make it or break it scenarios, as raising another round in the next 12 months might be difficult considering: economic uncertainty, cost of money, and AI technology challenging any market / demand analysis for service and product, due to risk of AI offering a better and cheaper version of it.


Since I opened the AI pandora box, it is the right place to admit I am far from being an expert in the domain and I see the frenzy around AI and panic because it faster than my ability to follow and track its evolution. Clearly, I see a huge opportunity for so much innovation that needs money and could produce great returns, due to the huge markets. AI tools are now integrated in many services offered by startups, and there is a race for taking off the shelf generative tools and creating practical business applications for them.

It is important to pay attention when founders say they use AI. Good questions to ask:

  • By how much is the use of AI improving value to clients? What impact does it have in solving the real problem of the client?
  • What is the impact in cost margin of using AI?
  • How many data points/months are needed to train the algorithm?
  • Where is the data coming from and how do they access it?
  • What is the process/team/costs for continuous training the algorithm?
  • Who is the AI specialist/team and exactly what expertise he/she has?

To a degree, all companies will be integrating AI in their businesses, as an enabler, offered for now by the big players who hold our data, our work processes, and our communication channels to the world. (Microsoft, Google, Meta, etc). Anything related to language and text, we can do it better with AI.

Yet, there is still little breakthrough (mass adoption) of AI in areas of transportation, health, or education, where it would really count for a universal better life. Until now, the most obvious benefit to companies and threat to humans is about jobs being replaced by automated processes. But it is just the beginning and great life enhancing tools will be created. My 12 years old son enjoys a lot creating AI based photos with his text prompts. It fuels his imagination and makes the reality more expanded to things he cannot see for real. Can this become a universal life enhancing tool? I am looking forward to seeing how.

I am not skeptical or afraid of AI. On the contrary. As an investor I am reading a lot and follow big talks about AI future, and seeking to invest in companies who get the answers to the questions above right and prove the insertion of AI brings real multiplied value to clients and the margin of the business. I believe AI might just be the star product to restart the engine of VC in 2024.

smart money

The startups above have different shareholders structure that allows for angels to be influential either in a formal basis in the company decisions, or offer their help and knowledge, at request, informally.

Based in amount invested, an angel can be in the cap table as shareholder and have a seat at the board table. This is usually the case with amounts invested exceeding 50,000 Euro, or if the angel has a special skill or industry expertise core for the business. In the case of co-investments done through a syndication vehicle (Spark, Zitamine, Vestinda), an administrator is chosen to represent legally the vehicle and therefore be active in administration process of the startup. Nevertheless, angel investing should be about helping, getting involved, formal or informal and Bravva is facilitating communication and advise for all startups. It is smart money after all.

More specifically – all 4 startups listed above with large investments have monthly monitoring through angels or representatives of angels from Bravva. The system is mainly through monthly meetings where results and growth tactics are discussed. A recent board meeting for Zitamine had the following agenda: Financials (CAC, LTV, Churn), Product (subscription features) and Partnerships (medical side, companies).

For the other startups, where our investments are rather small, help is offered on a request basis from founders. All startups are early stage and will most likely target to get a new round, so our work as angels is mainly to help them drive growth for securing next financing. Given that the economic context is not favorable, a KPI recommended to all startups is having a plan to achieve sustainable (monthly revenues higher than over all costs) on a bootstrapping format, for the next 18 months.


Bravva Angels is a large community consisting of founders, angels, and institutional investors. The database of contacts in our community grew to 650. The number of active premium members holding a membership to access startup opportunities and receive investor services is currently, as the year ends, 35.  

Our community activities this year followed a few principles:

  • Getting together to network and know each other builds trust and sparks ideas.
    Ginger Night networking events happened almost every month, with a turnout of 60 participants. In each event I hosted a dialogue with 1-2 speakers, for the personal story. 
  • Technical education for angels regarding venture capital is building abilities to make better investments. Angels met trainers and speakers in 4 events – Become an Angel and Angel Advanced, offline, and online.
  • International input is valuable for opening our minds to future and opportunities. We invited in the online workshops very experienced investors, angels, or VC representatives from most active markets – California US and London UK.
  • Female leadership as founders or angels is particular and needs balance as well as courage and strength in tough times. Our 3 systemic coaching workshops were sold out.


Bravva Angels has a platform to organize activities and services. Our www.bravva.ro website serves for listing our services, accepting applications to join the community or investment, as well as profiling our premium members. All events are displayed on the website, both future and past. An event registration and online payment process are in place.

Bravva Angels IT stack:

The Pitch Perfect sessions are happening online on Zoom and recorded for investors who are not present. Each startup has a data room created onto our drive, shared with investors, on Google.

The communication channels are email and a WhatsApp community, with a members group, and dedicated groups for each startup we co-invest in. Our team is lean (myself and a PR coordinator) and we work with partners for the events we organize. The Bravva Board has strategic and representation role, also offering expertise to founders or angels.

We are hosting our events @ The Entrepreneurship Academy, Impact Hub, BISM and Doro 16, all with great entrepreneurial focus, cool design, and friendly vibe.


We clarified our community services and our OKRs for 2024. Our focus is supporting the startups we co-invested in and growing our pipeline of very solid investment proposals. We believe our core strength for attracting great startup is our platform of expert angels, therefore availability of smart money, and our educational resources.

The OKRs will be adjusted every three months, given the economical and investment market context. The overall objective for 2024 is to select 15 startups for co-investments, but given the market conditions, the objective is challenging. I will not formulate an investment amount as a target for our community investments, for same reason, of high unpredictability. My desire is to double our investment power from 2023. As a very early-stage financing platform, our angel group investment activity will reflect the overall general sentiment of financial markets.

The factors to influence specifically our niche activity are complex, and are positive and negative:

  • Liquidity over all & investors’ appetite for high risk.
  • Founders’ ability to survive without expensive VC money.
  • Evolution of legislation to push innovation related to macro level issues like climate change.
  • AI regulatory and speed of development.

More factors affect our activity locally, since we operate in Romania only, for now.

  • Pipeline scarce compared with flood of money coming in 2024 from EIF (European Investment Fund) backed funds.
  • Exits will be postponed due to low valuations, downsizing the pipeline of serial founders.

On top of that, women lead, or diverse teams of founders faces the risk of becoming a too small niche. The percentage of money going to female founders, out of the total volume of investment, went down this year, given the AI focus and lack of growth money for later stages of more traditional business models. Whilst it fuels Bravva mission, it makes the pipeline smaller.


What we witness in 2023 could continue in 2024, as solutions to adjust to less liquidity – smaller rounds as bridges, with cap valuations and discounts. Overall, this past year, lots of investment went focused rather than spread, with AI, sustainability and the energy transition towards green being top products. Activity overall in Q3 was at lowest levels, stable from Q2 2023, but only at levels from middle of 2020, and under half of the peak volume in Q4 2021. This year will be, by the estimations of analysts, the worse year in venture capital in a decade.

Global dollar volume in Q3 2023

The year 2023 seems to be the worse, but also the last one to hold the VC crisis. As the stock markets come back, the interest rates are about to decrease, so eventually positive outcomes will affect the liquidity for early-stage phase. In Romania, the VC funds were less active, almost all being in raising mood. They are mostly fed on institutional money, which is plenty, but EU is slow in deploying. Early-stage valuations were affected by international VCs expectations, so founders put on hold their qualified rounds and went our raising bridge rounds. Almost all in rounds, pre-seed or seed, founders signed CVL or SAFES, rather than equity deals. One positive outcome for angels was an unprecedented access to more advanced startups, raising a post seed bridge round instead of series A, counting on existing cap table stakeholders and adding new angels, or crowdfunding platforms, so they don’t get smashed by VC business KPI targets and low valuations.

Forbes has a selection of VC sentiments and predictions about 2024. I read them and concluded that everybody is looking at a perspective and its influence which they assume they understand (like elections, or family offices run by millennials, or AI hype, or huge dry powder, etc), but I could not extract common leading thoughts. An over all positive (partially wishful thinking) was displayed. Please read Forbes top trends for 2024 here.


In terms of Bravva services, we clarify what gives us energy and where we offer value, both to angels and founders. What started as a community, and now we are adding a layer of professional investment services.

Cultivating knowledge for both stakeholders is our main core competence, as well as our ability to bring together the community to share and find inspiration. After one year of consideration and analysis of our industry, we are adding a more professional connection platform for matching interests between founders and investors and services for investment related needs, like syndication or bords of advisory set up. Find below our service list for 2024: 

 Bravva Services for angel investors:

Community services – MEMBERSHIP

  • Curate and present startups pitches, deep dives, round coordination.
  • Education events – Workshops, Systemic Coaching.
  • Networking events – Ginger Nights

Investment services – PROJECT BASED

  • Due diligence, screening.
  • Angel representation, reporting & monitoring the investment.

Angel Syndication services – PROJECT BASED

  • Set up and administration/legal/accounting for syndicates for each deal until exit.

Bravva Services for founders are

Community services – MEMBERSHIP  

  • Education programs – Workshops, Master Minds, Systemic coaching, Pitch Perfect
  • Networking – Ginger Nights

Investment services – PROJECT BASED  

  • Investment readiness program.
  • Access to angels and Investors relations.
  • Board of advisors’ set up and coordination.

Angel Syndication services – PROJECT BASED

  • Set up and administration/legal/accounting for investors.

Bravva Services for Corporate Companies

  • Employee education programs about venture capital, startup life, innovation
  • Systemic coaching for risk taking
  • CSR programs for entrepreneurship support
  • Co-branded programs for entrepreneurs and angels
  • Research Papers on entrepreneurship, gender diversity, risk taking and investment.


As a last chapter, I want to thank crucial contributors this year. With their support Bravva Angels is building on its mission to support female founders, and gather a large community to learn, share and make investments together.

I want to thank the first angels who onboarded Bravva membership, signing up to our mission and our services: – Raluca Mazgrad, Gina Matei and Teo Mercioniu. Will always remember and be grateful for their trust.

I worked so well with my fellow trainers in our Become an Angel workshop: Marius Istrate, Iulian Carciumaru, Vlad Druta and my dear Bravva board member Mary Andronic. Their contribution was extremely appreciated and together we created a two-day curriculum and an educational flow I am so proud of. I thank them for their openness to share in a structural and inspirational format unique venture capital expertise. I am looking forward to organizing our next workshops in 2024. 

And I thank the Bravva Members of the Board for creating a circle of trust and knowledge so valuable for me and the female founders we worked with. I am also very thankful to Madalina Nitu from PRESSENCE for supporting the Bravva brand to reach its matching audience.

This year we worked with partners to create the web platform and the community events: thank you Difrnt Agency, Kumo Sinergy, Grafica si Tipar, Complex Media and my very dear students at The Entrepreneurship Academy.

And I bow to the entire ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors and to the work that laid the foundation for Bravva Angels to exist.  

Our mission is even stronger today – to support with resources and smart money the most amazing female founders and leaders.

Thank you all for being part of this journey.


Ilinca Paun
founder Bravva Angels


Bravva Capital Str Dobrota 3 Bucharest