Founders Fridays is a StartupAmsterdam initiative that showcases local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem’s most inspirational stories and role models. We hope that by providing startup founders a space to share their insights and experience, we’ll all learn and grow together.
This week we spoke to Pavel Timofeev, co-founder of Cooper Pet Care. Cooper Pet Care is an honest pet insurance company with fair and transparent terms. By using their insurance you can get instant access to vet support via chat or video calls.
How did your career journey lead you to found Cooper Pet Care?
I have always loved building things, and have started a few companies in the past. Last year, I came up with an idea for a new business venture which I was eager to build out. But I couldn’t pull it off alone, and was in need of a business partner. And if you think about finding a business partner, it can be quite a challenge.
Luckily, I found a startup incubator whose proposal was to help you work on your idea and to match you up with a business partner. And if they like your team they will make an investment into your company. The incubator worked out pretty well for me: I met my business partner Michael through their programme, we created an MVP (minimum viable product) around a completely different idea and received a 100,000 euros investment.
Michael and I are both dog parents, and decided to create a pet healthcare platform for pet parents of today, with a personal vet available online. Cooper Pet Care provides instant access to vet support via chat or video call, as well as honest pet insurance with fair and transparent terms.
Why did you choose Amsterdam to start and grow your business?
Because of the incubator I mentioned earlier. The incubator is called Antler and it has offices around the globe. But only a few countries have special visas for entrepreneurs, and the Netherlands is one of them. This visa allows you to come to the country for one year to start your company. And if your company succeeds (i.e. starts making money or raises capital) you can renew your residence permit.
The way it works: you apply online on their site, you have a round of interviews, and if Antler feels you are a good fit for their programme you’re in. Antler invites around 50-70 founders from the Netherlands and abroad to take part in the programme, with a mix of business and technical backgrounds. Founders start forming teams of two or three people and bouncing ideas off each other. If Antler sees potential in your idea, they give you a green light to start doing market research and building a prototype. Ideally you even add some customers and make first sales.
This phase of the programme lasts for two months and, by the end of it, your team has to present an idea to the investment committee of internal and external experts. If the committee approves your idea then you receive the 100,000 euros investment and move to the second phase of the programme, which takes around four months and allows you to fully focus on your newly created company. If the committee doesn’t approve your idea then the programme ends here for you.
Antler’s fourth program here in Amsterdam is going to open its doors in October and they are actively looking for excellent candidates. And it’s not too late to sign up (until the end of August 2021).
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
It’s really hard to get down to a single piece of advice, but I’m a big fan of Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, and his essays.One of his quotes, which resonates a lot with me, is:
“The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them”
What has been a recent “win” for your business?
We are lucky enough to have built an amazing team of people to work together with at Cooper Pet Care and have recently launched our product which includes a pet symptom checker, online vet and pet health insurance.
What has been a recent “challenge” for your business and what have you learned from it?
It’s a bumpy road from launching a startup to becoming a profitable business, and you hit multiple roadblocks along the way. As a young company we need capital for product development, marketing and to hire talent. And while we are still unprofitable we need to raise capital - so this has been quite a challenge over the last half a year. First of all, we quickly realised that investors in the Netherlands are way more conservative compared to the US. Secondly, almost nobody would want to invest in your company when you are still pre-revenue which is, again, quite different to what you see in the States. We started looking for investments outside of the Netherlands and EU, and made some progress on that front.
Also - speaking of talent - thanks to the great immigration programme the Netherlands has a lot of talented people from all over the globe. It’s our home market, so while we produce a lot of content in English on our pet blog we also want to create content in Dutch. But when we posted a job offer, out of 120 applicants who applied we didn’t have a single native Dutch speaker. If you feel like you might be a great content creator and you speak Dutch, we would love to talk to you!
And if you want to share your story with our local ecosystem, you can contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.