There is one clear challenge for the majority of the startup ecosystems in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): Even though early-stage ventures now have various funding opportunities, the growth stage is a bit trickier. One of the main reasons is that there are still not that many local investors providing post-Series A tickets. UNIQA Ventures has stated an intention to deal with this problem. According to CEO Andreas Nemeth, bold investments in the future are an essential part of the fund’s self-image.
Five exits following an investment from UNIQA Ventures
UNIQA Ventures strives to partner up with startups in the early scaling stages, providing support with capital and growth know-how.
One of the first investments of the corporate VC was in Chezh BNPL startup Twisto, back in 2017. UNIQA Ventures joined the fintech’s Series A round and four years later Twisto exited to Australian Zip Money for about €100M.
Nemeth explains that this is a very good showcase of how UNIQA Ventures supports startups on their scaling journey. At the time of the investment, Twisto was a local player, with about 50 thousand customers.
Soon afterward, Poland became Twisto’s next target market. Next to the geographical expansion, the fintech startup also reassessed its strategy and value proposition, rolled out new products, and positioned itself as a leader in the European BNPL vertical.
Nemeth shares how UNIQA Ventures supported Twisto when not everything was so positive. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, a US investor withdrew from a financing round and UNIQA Ventures stepped in with other investors to fill the gap.
Just one of many success stories
Among multiple successful investments, UNIQA Ventures has made an early investment in crypto exchange unicorn Bitpanda as well as Playbrush, a smart toothbrush company acquired in 2021. All in all, five UNIQA Ventures portfolio companies have already reached an exit.
At the end of 2021, another successful deal came to life with the acquisition of Viennese RegTech startup 360Kompany by global rating agency Moody’s.
Some other notable investments of UNIQA Ventures feature health tech startup Telemedico, which facilitates over 1 million digital consultations on an annual basis, as well as Omnius, having some of the world’s biggest insurance groups for customers, or Irish Wayflyer, assisting e-commerce providers with revenue-based financing models – one of the top 3 fastest growing fintech startups in 2021, according to European media outlet Sifted.
UNIQA Ventures has repeatedly shown good scouting abilities when it comes to high-potential scale-ups. Looking at Bitpanda, Nemeth states the digital asset revolution has transitioned from a niche to a global phenomenon.
For him, a really good startup needs a strong, complementary, and resilient team of founders that mutually enrich each other. Another important component is an unwavering commitment and vision to solving some of the big problems of our time and society.
Betting on the tech potential of CEE
Together with Western Europe, CEE is also very interesting for UNIQA Ventures. The investor is actively looking for startup opportunities in the region across the fintech, insurtech, digital health, and mobility verticals.
UNIQA Ventures sees a particularly big market in the face of fintech startups, with digital health startups from the region also showing excellent potential. Besides the two insurtech ventures – Insly from Estonia and Bestdoctors from Russia, Polish Telemedico is probably the other big CEE success story in the portfolio of UNIQA Ventures.
Nemeth says that the last few months have demonstrated how big fintech can actually become. Driven by global revenue of about $5T, insurtech has also established itself as a very important sub-vertical for the VC. That said, Nemeth observes the greatest potential in the healthtech industry and predicts exponential development for the sector pushed by the need for continuous medical progress.
We will see more unicorns in the following years
At the end of the day, UNIQA Ventures’ main goal is to bring great financial returns for the investor. Furthermore, the investments create value for the group in other ways, too. Besides financial returns, there’s also a ‘digital’ return as well as a know-how transfer to the core business of UNIQA. UNIQA Ventures is at the pulse of the tech ecosystem and can help the group discover, assess, and pursue new opportunities and trends. Nemeth highlights that despite these benefits, his team doesn’t have any strategic agenda when selecting startups for its portfolio – it’s all based on purely economic potential, same as other VC funds.
In the past few years, CEE has become home to 35 unicorn companies, showing good prospects for the thesis of UNIQA Ventures, in addition to the ongoing trend for digitalization of traditional industries (further accelerated by the pandemic). For Nemeth, the biggest challenge remains in the training of more well-qualified human capital. Because, despite the numerous funding opportunities, ultimately the startups are going to use the capital to hire more people to help them scale.
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