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Deal 5: 500 Startups General Partner Enis Hulli on Investment in Ango AI

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On August 11, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that BTS & Partners had advised 500 Startups and Qnbeyond Ventures on its investment in Ango AI. CEE In-House Matters spoke with Enis Hulli, General Partner at 500 Startups, to learn more about the deal.

CEEIHM: To begin with, tell our readers a bit about 500 Startups.

Enis: 500 Istanbul is a EUR 50 million early-stage VC fund, under the broader 500 Global umbrella, focused on defensible technology companies created by Turkish and Eastern European teams. The fund’s mission is to back seed-stage companies targeting sizeable markets and help them scale globally. Over the past 5 years, we've invested in 45 companies from the region, out of which there is 1 unicorn, 1 soonicorn, and 5 companies valued at over USD 100 million. These companies currently generate more than USD 350 million in annual revenue and employ about 3,000 people.

CEEIHM: Your fund recently invested in Ango AI. What attracted you to the target?

Enis: Ango is a data annotation and labeling platform with an annotation management tool and a vertically integrated marketplace with expert annotators. We are still at the infancy stages of AI/ML and we’ll see a transformation in our everyday software tools which will all be re-developed with AI/ML at their core. Ango aims to benefit from this transformation, by optimizing for speed and specializing in high value-added verticals that require sophistication. Ango aims to position itself as the fastest training data delivery platform by focusing its resources around AI assistance and excelling in human-computer interface technologies. The vision is to utilize the high-quality talent and cost advantages around MENA and Central Asia providing next-day delivery to its customers and also creating impact in the region by educating and employing thousands of annotators.

CEEIHM: What is your plan for Ango AI, following the investment?

Enis: Ango is led by two co-founding brothers, Gokhan and Gokalp, with engineering degrees from top universities in Turkey, and prior startup, product management, and software development experience. Both with deeply technical backgrounds, they complement each other well on all aspects of the business, with Gokhan driving the broader vision, and Gokalp leading the commercial aspects of the business. Their plan is to leverage the high quality of talent in Turkey and become a vertically-focused domain-specific data labeling platform with an emphasis on serving customers that are tackling the toughest AI problems in industries such as health care, manufacturing, and logistics. 

CEEIHM: What was BTS & Partners’ mandate on the deal?

Enis: BTS has advised us throughout the process from the beginnings of our early interaction with the company, all the way to post-closing. Apart from conducting the legal due diligence and making sure that the company has taken the necessary measures regarding all of its contracts, BTS also helped us identify potential issues around data sharing and data compliance.

CEEIHM: What made you choose BTS & Partners as your advisor?

Enis: We have a long-standing relationship with BTS and work with them closely for all of our investments, spanning from the US to Europe and Turkey. They always respond in a fast manner and understand our approach with regards to the investment to be able to almost negotiate and finalize open items on our behalf. 

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