The application and business project assessment period for Latvia’s first public startup acceleration funds concluded in September. The three fund managers, Overkill Ventures, Buildit Latvia, and Commercialization Reactor, received more than 600 applications, exceeding initial expectations and demonstrating high interest in the programme.
641 companies and startup teams applied in the first round of admissions to the fund. Nearly 30 earned a place in the acceleration programme in their first attempt and will have the chance to apply for pre-seed investment. Admissions will continue until 2021, as each fund manager announces 5 more rounds of investment each, with a total of 150 spots.
The three acceleration fund managers, Overkill Ventures, Buildit Latvia, and Commercialization Reactor, were publicly selected last year by the Development Financial Institution ALTUM. The fund managers will receive 15 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund and have already attracted an additional 1.35 million euro from private investors, creating a mutual fund with a 16.35 million euro total. This is currently the largest to-date available risk capital in Latvia for early-stage business projects.
Juris Vaskans, ALTUM Board Member:
"Latvia has become a part of the global risk capital community, especially in the area of acceleration funds, as demonstrated by the truly high interest of both local and foreign teams in our first acceleration programmes. At the same time, such interest very accurately characterizes the strong competition in this area, which goes beyond geographical borders – Latvian acceleration programmes compete with foreign accelerators, business angels, risk capital funds and other financial support programmes across the world. Similarly, every startup in Latvia competes with startups from across the world. We see that the bright minds of Latvia can equally participate in this competition by having qualified for the acceleration programme already in their first attempt."
The applications were made up of 40% Latvian or mixed teams, 40% teams from Central or Eastern Europe, and 20% from Western Europe, USA and other countries. Of the teams which qualified for the first programmes, 70% were representatives of Latvia or mixed teams, 10% were teams from the Central or Eastern Europe, and 20% were from the USA and other countries. Successful teams are represented also by participants from Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Ukraine, the Great Britain and other countries. In order to apply for pre-seed investments, the company must be registered and perform its activities in Latvia.
A wide range of industries were represented in the submitted projects: from biological medicine and robotics to transport and sports.
When describing the most frequent reasons that kept the teams from qualifying for acceleration programmes, Juris Vaskans explains:
"A portion of the business projects that applied for acceleration were too green and required much more work. There were also some well-developed and already self-sufficient companies which would not gain any added value from the acceleration process; several other financial solutions would be more suitable for implementation of these projects. Also, other stumbling blocks keeping the teams from qualifying for acceleration include companies older than 3 years, and lack of rapid growth potential. But ALTUM offers other support programmes for development of such businesses. It is also important that each of the three funds focuses on specific sectors; and business projects beyond these sectors may not qualify for participation in the respective programme. Insufficient skill capacity of teams should also be mentioned, including business understanding and language skills. Yet, it is important to note that these acceleration programmes will be open until 2021; therefore, I invite teams to work on the development of new business ideas and apply during the next round of applications."
The essence of acceleration is to support promising, early businesses with a high added value. The new funds are focused on the commercialization stage of a startup, especially in innovative and technologically capable companies. Contrary to classic risk capital funds, accelerators not only invest, but also provide acceleration services, which are critical for further growth in the startup sector. Managers of acceleration funds select companies whose development would experience the greatest impact from help of the acceleration fund team. The fund team provides specialized mentors from across the world, contacts for sales and investors, technological support, prototyping, market segmentation, etc. Each acceleration fund also provides pre-seed and seed investment options.
Managers of the funds select the most competitive and potentially successful business projects with the most motivated entrepreneurial teams. Commercialization Reactor specializes in commercialization of science or deep-tech. Buildit Latvia is focused on the hardware/internet-of-things direction. And Overkill Ventures works with work environment and business efficiency software direction.