Antler’s first Iberian program: What our founders look like

Analysis of the main characteristics and backgrounds in Antler's first residency in Iberia: what does it take to become a founder?

Antler in Iberia

April 13, 2023
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The initial four companies in Antler's Iberian portfolio

We are excited to welcome the first four companies in which we invested in earlier in March 2023 to our portfolio. To give you some context of the founders that successfully received an investment: a software developer who previously worked for NASA, a second-time founder who has previously raised over 200 million USD, and others who are addressing a wide range of issues with their companies.

We received 1,500 applications from which we selected the top 60 entrepreneurs, which entails a 4% acceptance rate, and out of those 60 entrepreneurs we invested in 10. For a deeper dive into our first companies, please refer to this article.

Key learnings from our first Iberian program

After working closely with the 60 impressive founders in our first Antler residency in Iberia, we distilled the following main takeaways:

  • There’s no being too old for this. The cohort included a wide range of experience and seniority levels, with the average founder having around 10 years of work experience.
  • Tech talent is building. A significant number of people have a technological background (30%) or know how to build on their own (another 12%).
  • Repeat founders are joining. Fifty-five percent of the founders in the program have founded at least one company in the past. In aggregate, they have founded 30 startups before joining and raised more than €225 million.
  • People with exceptional trajectories are taking up the challenge. Top talent with careers in leading corporations as well as young builders with loads of potential are taking up the challenge of building their own company. Founders in the program have worked at companies including Amazon, Google, Uber, McKinsey & Company, jobandtalent, LVMH, and the United Nations, and have studied at institutions including Harvard Business School, Yale, INSEAD, and MIT.
  • Our program is a global melting pot. Only one third of program participants come from Iberia and there are representatives from all six inhabited continents.
Snapshot of founders in Antler first Iberian Program

The profile of our pioneering founders in Iberia

Sixty entrepreneurs (selected from 1,500 applications at a 4% acceptance rate) have taken on the challenge of building their own category-defining company by joining the first Antler program in Iberia. After starting on January 9, the program enabled these entrepreneurs to meet like-minded people with whom they were able to ideate, discuss, and stress test problem spaces, to eventually start building. For some, this represents the start of a multi-year long journey including many peaks and troughs as they build their companies with their teams.

Why launch a program in Iberia? What do these pioneering founders have in common? What different backgrounds and experiences did they bring into the program? This report dives into these questions.

Iberia’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem

Despite the existing macroeconomic headwinds, we believe Iberia’s startup ecosystem is poised for significant growth in the near future given its overperformance in priced rounds and identified underfunding. Homegrown and foreign entrepreneurial talent is flooding the region, – rapidly increasing the number and size of local startups—benefiting startups with highly skilled employees and increasingly attractive legislation packages, along with other advantageous factors.

Antler—strategically located in Lisbon and Madrid, the heart of Iberia's startup ecosystem—is poised to be the catalyst that enables this projected growth. Our program provides funding, mentorship, and ongoing support to exceptional entrepreneurs as they build the defining companies of  tomorrow.

Iberia program demographics

Twenty percent of our first program’s founders are women. Though there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the tech and entrepreneurial sectors, this figure represents a 7x improvement compared to the female representation in Iberian unicorn founders, which stands at a mere 3.1%. At a global level, 35% of Antler portfolio companies have one or more female co-founders. InIberia, we are seeking more women to apply and join our future programs.

Most founders have between four and 10 years of professional experience, with an average of 10.7 years. This accounts for all professional experience after graduation.

Past experience and education of Antler first Iberian Program

Past experience and education

The founders in Antler's first Iberian program have diverse background, including business profiles (63.3%, of which 11.7% have proven capacity to build a product on their own), domain experts (6.7%), and techies (30%). They have experience in areas such as sales, operations, partnerships, product, and fundraising. Domain experts have a deep understanding of a certain sector or skillset, often holding PhDs in a subject or possessing extensive experience in a certain area, such as natural language processing (NLP) or data science. Finally, tech backgrounds possess the coding and technical skills needed to build innovative products.

Founder Expertise of Antler first Iberian Program

Our founders have collectively founded over 30 companies (55% have founded at least one company before joining), raising more than €225 million in funding in the past and exiting four of them. Some of our founders have also achieved success in the corporate world, rising through the ranks in notable global companies before deciding to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. Below is a list of some of the companies that our founders have founded or worked for, along with some of their alma maters.

Founder Past Companies of Antler first Iberian Program
Non-exhaustive. All trademarks, logos, and brand names are the property of their respective owners. All company, product, and service names are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, trademarks and brands does not imply endorsement.

Founder nationalities 

Portugal and Spain have been a magnet for international tech talent in recent years. It was no surprise that many of our founders are foreigners; however, we were not expecting a significant number of them to have actively moved countries and continents to join our Iberian program.

Only one-third of the cohort consists of Portuguese and Spanish founders, with an additional 10% hailing from Italy. The remaining founders come from countries such as Canada, Argentina, Malta, and New Zealand—showcasing the attractiveness of the Iberian peninsula for exceptional tech talent around the world.

What does it take to be an Antler founder?

The founders who joined the first Iberian program are a heterogeneous group, with different perspectives on what being an entrepreneur truly means and takes.

In our experience,  great founders tend to possess several key qualities:

  • Willingness to go all-in. Great founders understand that running their own businesses will require significant dedication and that they will be competing with other great entrepreneurs from all over the world. If they are not compelled to give their all, how could they expect to beat other talented builders?
  • Looking for the next big-thing. Great founders tend not to limit themselves to providing incremental gains to the people around them. They aim to tackle complex and important challenges that will have a lasting and transformational impact.
  • Humility. Great founders are open to feedback and understand that there will always be someone who knows more about a certain subject than they do. Their job is to find those people, onboard them, and ask the right questions. 
  • Resilience. Great founders do not dwell on past failures and mistakes. They use them to quickly learn and pivot their current endeavors, or as fuel that will nurture their future entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Self-awareness. Great founders are self-aware and have a clear understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and goals. They are laser-focused on what matters most to them and do not waste time on things that are not aligned with their vision.

Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that points to a particular psychological profile (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—MBTI) or list of psychological traits being more advantageous for entrepreneurs. However, we observed dominant traits in our first cohort founders in each of MBTI’s assessment criteria:

  • Extrovert (68% of founders) vs. Introvert—energized by being around others, enjoy socializing, and tend to be more outgoing and talkative.
  • Intuitive (77%) vs. Sensing—interested in abstract concepts and patterns, tend to be more imaginative and future-oriented than people who rely on their five senses to observe and gather information, being generally more focused on concrete details and facts.
  • Feeling (63%) vs. Thinking—emotionally intelligent and attuned to the needs of others, able to build strong relationships with those around them.
  • Judging (75%) vs Perceiving—prefer structure and organization, and may be more decisive and focused on goals and deadlines. Perceiving types, on the other hand, tend to be more flexible and adaptable.
  • Assertive (82%) vs Turbulent—characterized by high self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as a sense of stability and resilience in the face of challenges. Tend to be more relaxed, confident, and optimistic, and may be more resistant to stress and anxiety.
Antler's First Iberian Program—Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Opportunity for promising young founders

Antler is looking for ambitious entrepreneurs who will build the defining companies of tomorrow. Our data tells us that these tend to be younger and hungrier people, compensating for their lack of experience and expertise with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a remarkable ability to pivot quickly, and an open-mindedness that allows them to envision new futures.

While our data suggests that more experienced founders generally have a higher chance of success, we have also found that the largest outliers in terms of outcome tend to come from companies built by younger founders. At Antler, we are committed to identifying and supporting the most promising entrepreneurs, regardless of age or background, and providing them with the resources they need to build successful businesses.

If you fit within this category, we encourage you to get in touch with us. Through Antler's program, you will receive guidance from an experienced team of former entrepreneurs even before our investment decision. You will also gain access to a global network of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors, and—if we decide to invest in you—receive full-stack investment from pre-seed to Series C.

We are looking for exceptional people for our upcoming programs in Portugal and Spain

At Antler, we are dedicated to working with people who are committed to building world-changing businesses. We believe that anyone can become a successful entrepreneur, regardless of their background or geography. We work with a diverse range of founders, from experienced PhDs to technologists to young entrepreneurs.

Whether you are just starting to build your business and have not yet raised capital, have an idea but have not taken the leap to get started, or are simply determined to be an entrepreneur, Antler is the right place to help you bring your vision to life. We are dedicated to providing the necessary funding, mentorship, and support to help you succeed.

We accept applications from individuals and teams.

If you’re interested, apply here and come build a future unicorn at Antler!

Please contact André Flórido, Ricardo Batista or Sérgio Massano with any questions, comments, or additions to the data obtained.

About the author

Antler in Iberia

Antler's Iberian location runs simultaneously in Lisbon and Madrid. Since launching in 2022, Antler in Iberia has supported founders from over 25 nationalities who are creating the next generation of startups.

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