Blockchain Investors, International VCs and Business Angels: Racing For The New €20M Acceleration Fund

© Pixabay
© Pixabay

Who will manage the third acceleration fund financed primarily through the governmental Fund of Funds? This is a question that has been asked for over a year now. Last October, the selection procedure was stopped after one of the two participants withdrew the application. Now some of the partners of the company that pulled back, apply under a new brand. Vitosha Venture Partners and Firеpath Venture Fund are going to be competing for the management of the €18.2M public funds.

A positive sign is that in both investment management companies that are applying there are partners with either investor or entrepreneurial experience and international networks. This relieves to a certain extent the concern that the procedures by the Fund of Funds could attract people who don’t understand the dynamics of the startup world and lack the capacity to raise additional funds to the public financing (see our interview on the matter). Once selected, the new manager will have to secure an additional 10% funding to complete the fund, and invest in around 200 pre-seed, seed, and startup companies.

The entrepreneurial touch

Vitosha Venture Partners and Firеpath Venture Capital are the two companies that apply to manage the fund now. Both companies have put together teams with strong and convincing resumes, and international networks, which will make the competition exciting. 

The first fund consists of six partners, four of which were also part of the consortium that withdrew its application last year – Spring Europe. These are Max Gurvits, Erik Anderson, Paul Weinberger, and Maris Prii. Gurvits is a well-known networker and connector in the Balkan startup ecosystem, and former advisor at the investment fund Eleven. The Estonian Maris Prii brings along experience as Chief Operation Officer at the incubator Startups Wise Guys and was also a member of the Estonian Startup Visa committee to the Ministry of Interior, where she reviewed applications for the program.  Erik Anderson is currently Venture Partner at the Estonian Tera Ventures and active mostly in the US. Paul Weinberger is venture partner at the Viennese Gamma Capital Partners, and growth capital consultant with several successful exits and a total transaction volume of over €100M on his track record. One of the new partners – Marin Iliev, has served as an investment manager in venture fund NEVEQ in 2007-2012, and private fund Rosslyn Capital earlier, his LinkedIn profile shows. Nikola Stojanow, the CEO of blockchain investment company Aeternity Ventures is the sixth partner.

Among Firеpath Venture Capital’s six partners we find Bjorn Pirrwitz, who is known to the local ecosystem аs business angel. Together with one of the other partners Steve Keil he’s also sitting on the board of tech company SingleID. Keil, alongside one of the other partners in the fund – Alexander Aldev, were co-founders of MammothDB, a business analytics startup that was sold to Finnish MariaDB last year. Zornitsa Yordanova is an innovation manager and Chief Assistant Professor at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, her Linkedin profile shows, and has spent the early days of her career in the banking sector. Yavor Vassilev comes from the energy sector and has on his resume almost two years in the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. He has also founded the clean energy startup CO2 Cards.

What happened last summer

On paper and Linkedin profiles everything seems more than beneficial for the local ecosystem. The pre-history of this new acceleration fund, however, cannot be neglected, and it raises another concern – how long will the selection procedure take this time?  Last summer it was stopped after the applications were already assessed.

Back then six companies applied, and only two made it to the assessment – Spring Europe and Impetus Early Stage. After the assessment, Spring Europe had more points and was supposed to win, yet withdrew its application because they wanted a change in the management team, but this was not allowed in the procedure. In one of the protocols, we read that there was no clear evidence for the declared experience of the partners. The Fund of Funds stopped the process explaining there was not enough competition. Impetus didn’t apply this year. According to one of the partners, the fund has decided to work with the private capital that was raised last year and already has six dels. 

This is the third and last acceleration fund manager the Fund of Fund has to choose. The first two – New Vision 3 (from the partners of NEVEQ I and II) and Innovation Accelerator Bulgaria, have already signed their contracts earlier this year, after also going through long procedures. Both are supposed to close their first investments this summer.  

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