The SEE region, once overshadowed by Western counterparts, has been emerging as a fertile ground for entrepreneurial spirit during the past decade – and at the heart of this transformative journey are the venture capitalists who recognize and fuel the potential of these innovative ventures.
According to data from Dealroom’s SEE 2022 report, since 2012, regional startups have grown 50 times in combined enterprise value, significantly faster than its neighbors in CEE (9.1x) and the European average (12.1x). Additionally, combined VC funding of SEE-based startups reached over $1.3B in 2022, an all time record. The report also shows that since 2017, VC funding in the region has grown almost 6 times and shows signs of continued growth.
In this article, we will showcase the most active players who are reshaping the investment landscape in the region, while driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and contributing to the development of the local startup ecosystems.
With offices in Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade and Skopje, South Central Ventures (SCV) focuses on tech companies in the SEE region. The fund’s investment strategy is targeted primarily to early-stage and growth investments in technology companies. The main purpose of the invested capital is to facilitate the international business expansion and growth of the most promising tech startups that can show traction and prove their potential to “make it big”.
Early Game Ventures (EGV) is a Bucharest-based fund which invests in startups that jumpstart new industries in the emerging markets of Europe. The fund invests at the earliest stages in companies whose founders have vested interests, are coachable and address big markets.
EGV is also running a concierge accelerator, taking in only 5 or 6 startups per year for a very intensive and tailor-made program.
Sparking Capital is an early stage Venture Capital fund backing entrepreneurs with unique industry insights, powerful vision, passion, courage and excellence in the execution of their plans.
The Romanian fund focuses on pre-seed and seed investments. While they are industry agnostic, their preference for investments is in consumer internet, marketing-tech, supply chain-tech, fintech, propertytech, circular economy-tech startups with differentiating value propositions and disruptive business models which have the potential to become national champions.
Underline Ventures is a Romania-based fund that partners at the earliest stages with Eastern European founders building high-growth startups with global ambitions. The fund invests at seed stage (pre-seed, seed, late seed) along with other investors, with an average cheque of €500K. Underline helps founders define the right strategy, milestones and priorities in their company’s journey from seed to Series A and also assists with connections to capital and talent.
Vitosha Venture Partners is a Bulgaria-based VC that invests between €25K and €1M in early-stage and growth-stage companies that are based in or related to Bulgaria. The fund’s main focus is on resourceful founders, ideas that matter, and strong execution. Vitosha Venture Partners leverages their investment experience, global network, and market access, and aims to turn entrepreneurs into champions.
Eleven is one of the leading early-stage VCs in Southeast Europe, investing in startups since 2012. With 150+ collective investments over 12 years, Eleven’s team has been instrumental in catalyzing the regional startup ecosystem. Eleven supports tech companies in four priority verticals – fintech, healthcare, future of work, and sustainable food. Some of the startups that Eleven has backed include the first Bulgarian unicorn Payhawk, and ecosystem stars such as Quantive, Dronamics, SMSBump, Kanbanize and Nitropack.
BrightCap Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm investing in companies with defensible technology and significant global growth potential. Headquartered in Sofia, BrightCap deploys an extended network in Silicon Valley and Europe to assist its portfolio.
LAUNCHub Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund, supporting technology startups in the Seed and Series A funding stages. The fund invests in Central and Southeastern Europe (SEE and CEE), as well as in companies built by ambitious founders from that region who are based in the leading startup hubs around the world. Their initial investments are between €300K and €2M, leading investment rounds up to €4M.
Presto Ventures is a Prague-based VC firm investing in fast growing tech companies and empowering ambitious startup founders across the broader CEE region. The fund focuses on early-stage B2B software startups and online marketplaces. Presto helps companies scale rapidly and lends a hand where it matters most – in sales, hiring, and next-round fundraising.
With €100M assets under management at the beginning of 2023, Presto is currently exiting Fund I, investing from Fund II, and opening Fund III. Presto Ventures usually enters companies with a €200k to €1.5M investment, then follows up until late seed or Series A.
Inovo Venture Partners backs early-stage, post-traction startups from Poland and the CEE region with up to €3M of initial investment, and helps them build global brands while driving growth of the local startup ecosystem.
SMOK Ventures is a Warsaw-based US venture capital fund investing between $100K and $1M in early stage software startups in Central and Eastern Europe. Their main focus is on software and game development. SMOK VC is led by a team of entrepreneurs and community leaders with the aim to help early stage startup founders build multi-million-dollar global software enterprises from CEE and the diaspora.
Roosh Ventures is a Ukrainian early-stage fund investing across various sectors with a slight focus on fintech, gaming, and AI-driven products. The fund has an agnostic approach to investments, allowing it to explore diverse opportunities within these industries.
Roosh’s area of expertise includes AI/ML tech implementation through consulting and ML outsourcing, expedited hiring of engineers, comprehensive AI upskilling programs, and effective sourcing of venture capitalists, partners, and clients.
Flyer One Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm which invests in startups from Europe and North America. It has several teams based in Portugal, Poland, Ukraine and other European countries, and has already invested in over 60 startups and deployed $35M within 4 years.
The fund invests at pre-seed, seed, and Series A stages. Their average check is $500K, with an option to go as low as $100K and as high as $2M.
Big Pi is an Athens-based venture capital fund, investing in founders working on proprietary technologies that help solve big problems. The fund is focused on solutions based on advances in computer science, artificial intelligence, life sciences and climate technologies.