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INVESDOR INSIGHTS | 26.6.2023
The Berlin start-up restaurant chain Beets & Roots is in the middle of its fourth successful crowdfunding round in four years. In an interview, co-founder and CEO Max Kochen reveals why investors and customers are very happy with the results.
Max, you founded Beets & Roots in 2016 together with star chef Andi Tuffentsammer. You offer healthy bowls, salads, wraps and high-quality soups in your restaurants and via online ordering. You first financed your growth via crowdfunding on Invesdor in 2019, and you are now in your fourth crowdfunding round. How did you get into crowdfunding?
Yes, it is indeed our fourth crowdfunding. We came to crowdfunding for two main reasons. Firstly, crowdfunding is particularly suitable for food companies because there is already a large customer base, which increases the visibility of the company. At the same time, the customers are also potential investors. Restaurants are a very investor-oriented topic that is well suited for the crowd. Secondly, we in the shareholder group already had great experience with campaigns on crowdfunding platforms and therefore knew how a successful campaign has to be structured. For example, we offer discounts on our dishes to customers who are also investors. This also serves to increase customer loyalty and makes investors happy.
The very first financing round at Invesdor was a complete success. You were able to raise 750,000 euros in just two days, and the campaign was three times oversubscribed. What did you do with the money?
At that time, we only had our first three restaurants in Berlin and wanted to expand further. With our ordering system via the internet, we had a real boom phase at the time and wanted to expand that further. We used the capital to open more restaurants. In the meantime, the investors have received their 750,000 euros back, along with 8.5 per cent interest per year and a one-time profit interest of 5 per cent. So it was a complete success for us and for the investors.
Your second funding campaign was then in October 2021, in the middle of a peak phase of the pandemic. Wasn't that risky?
Corona was like a dark shadow over us at the time. But we wanted to continue the growth course and reach more customers with our own app, among other things, despite the pandemic. It was important for us to become a mobile-first company in the next step, and we made up for it. In addition, we want to take customers and investors along on our journey to climate neutrality 2025, which we had set as a goal. Our products, the brand and our target group fit very well with the theme of sustainability. That's why we designed the second campaign differently.
What did you do differently from the first time?
This time we did not pay interest on a subordinated loan from our investors, but issued 16,000 shares in our company as participation rights, which corresponds to 8.7 percent in our company. In return, the basic interest rate was lower at 5.0 percent. With the participation rights, we offered investors a new participation model, especially since we tokenised the shares, i.e. issued them digitally. This allows investors to participate in the increase of the company's value. We were among the first in Germany to choose this path.
Was that well received?
Yes, after only 22 days we had the 1.1 million euros together. The goal of this financing round was to also expand nationwide with restaurants in Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main and Düsseldorf.
In 2022, a third round of financing for 537,000 euros took place. Did you take the big leap after the Corona pandemic?
That's one way to put it. In the third crowdfunding round, the main focus was on financing our new high-frequency locations in Berlin at Potsdamer Platz, at the main railway station and at BER airport. Here, too, crowdfunding was the best fit because we had already won the leases and were able to appeal to the travel industry at the same time. For investors, this was an interesting investment opportunity. We always finance everything in a mix, which means we financed both equity and mezzanine capital via the crowd. In terms of marketing, we focused less on the retail investor and more on the semi-institutional investor.
You also joined a large family office, which brought you 2.7 million euros for 18.5 percent of the company shares. Why did you turn to the professional investor?
For us, it is important to create stable growth, and for that we need a stable financing structure with substantial equity. That's why we didn't want to focus everything on the crowd, especially in uncertain times where the equity cushion always plays a big role. We need strong partners, we need a strong equity ratio. That is also in the interest of the crowd.
Is this participation of a family office directly linked to distributions or does it only rely on an increase in the value of the company?
There are no distributions, we are a growth company and reinvest our cash flow in our growth projects. This is also comprehensible for all existing shareholders and crowd investors. No one has to fear that any shareholders will be served from crowdfunding funds.
How is the fourth crowdfunding round offer constructed?
In terms of company law, it is the same as the first and third rounds, so it is a subordinated loan. But because of the increased interest rate environment, we have also increased the interest rate to 10 per cent. In addition, a one-off success interest of another 10 per cent is possible. The financing costs have risen for us, as they have for all companies, which is why we now have to offer investors a higher return.
What sum are you aiming for and what do you intend to do with it?
For example, we currently have the second contract with Deutsche Bahn in the pipeline for Ostbahnhof, where we would like to open a restaurant. We are hoping for investor money between 500,000 and one million euros. We would also like to use the money to expand the licence business. We already have two licensed stores with partners, for example in Frankfurt. We want to grow in the markets outside of Berlin primarily with licence partners, simply because it enables operational stability and faster growth.
Where does beets & roots stand today, how has the business developed?
We now have 14 restaurants in five major cities. In 2022, we had a turnover of 7.2 million euros including the licence partners. For 2023, we expect a turnover of around 11 million euros. We also have initial cooperations with Rewe and Edeka, which resell our bowls from the freezer. The delivery services Flink and Gorillas have also included our dishes in their range. The desire for healthy, sustainable gastronomy is huge.
You have remained loyal to Invesdor as a crowdfunding platform for your campaigns. What are the advantages for you? Why did you choose Invesdor?
At the end of the day, what counts for us is the relationship of trust, which also comes from our circle of shareholders. From the first to the fourth campaign, the cooperation with Invesdor has been characterised by a high level of professionalism. That gives us a very good feeling. After all, we also enter into liabilities with this form of financing and want everything to be based on the highest legal and social standards, both for the investors and for us. Invesdor guarantees that. Another huge plus is the flexibility and simplicity. Existing banks are more cumbersome in the financing process than a modern, digitalised partner like Invesdor. In addition, Invesdor itself is a growth story and has continued to expand through mergers and continuous improvements to the platform and investor experience. This shows us that we are betting on the right partner.
So further crowd campaigns with Invesdor are not out of the question?
Absolutely not! The bigger we get, the bigger the funding pots get, and the mix can certainly change in some way. But the crowd always plays a big role for us. As long as it works for us and for the investors, we want to continue the cooperation.
The information contained herein is not meant to be, and it shall not be interpreted as investment advice or a recommendation and investors must neither accept any offer for, nor acquire, any securities unless they do so on the basis of the information contained in the applicable investment material of a target company. Investing in securities of unlisted companies is associated with high risk.