London-based early-growth VC, The Untitled Ventures has raised €100 million (around £85M) for their latest fund, which will focus on Eastern European breakthrough tech startups — especially those looking to relocate to Western Europe and the UK. The fund aims to help promising startups, that might have innovative and world-changing products but struggle to get investment because of their location.
The Untitled’s first fund operated in more traditional startup markets, funding startups located in the US and Western Europe, areas more traditionally associated with the tech sector. However, having had success with several businesses that relocated, the new fund hopes to benefit from the large body of potential tech entrepreneurs based beyond the usual European startup centres.
Why Eastern Europe?
Much of the focus will be on former Soviet countries. Konstantin Siniushin, one of The Untitled’s Managing Partners, believes this fulfils a social, as well as an investment, function. “We believe in good investments, but also serve a social mission, bringing tech projects from economically unstable countries like Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” he told UKTN. “We can help them bring their products to market, and move their HQ in Europe to help get new rounds of investment.”
Eastern European countries have already had a number of successful startups. Companies like Semrush, Veeam and Wrike all started there, and last year alone saw $1 billion of funding go into the region.
Part of the attraction is, surprisingly, a legacy of the communist past. Once set up for the ideological benefit, a key feature of the Cold War was a battle for technical supremacy, key parts of the education system in the former Soviet bloc have long survived the fall of Communism. One of the main features has been the retention of STEM education. Many local areas will still have a ‘scientific school’, creating a large body of technically minded students. There are around one million skilled developers in the region.
“For all its shortcomings the former USSR was a leader in technical education, and much of this has been retained in the decades since,” Siniushin says, “Developers just need to have the experience of international business and understanding of the needs of developed markets. We can help founding teams with that.”
A previously trodden investment path
Although success stories have emerged from the region, it lacks the mature and developed startup scene that exists in centres like London. The Untitled plans to capitalise on their experience in relocating other teams to move to vibrant funding markets, giving a whole new set of startups the exposure they need to grow and take their product to market.
“We accumulated a lot of great experience with our first fund but realised it’s not just structuring businesses, but also physically relocating startup teams so that they are perceived as fully resident in Europe and globally,” Siniushin said. The difficulties they challenged can be two-fold, their home countries may make global market access harder, while external funders tend to focus closer to home. The Untitled have partnered with InnMind, a deal-origination platform for tech startups and VC professionals, helping the region’s startups to identify potential funding.
“It is impossible for these founders to make money operating only in their homeland, while European and US funds struggle to find and assess startups,” Siniushin told UKTN. “But we do not consider political issues, the main driver of interest for us is a startup that’s striving for very large, global, markets.”
An AI focus
As well as a geographical focus, The Untitled will be looking particularly at startups operating in the business-to-business AI sector, especially those looking to disrupt the agritech, medtech, robotics and data fields. The Untitled has already had several successes with AI products from their first round, including Sizolution, a German-based size prediction engine, and SuitApp, which makes mix-and-match suggestions for fashion retail.
Additionally, the area is already rich in tech innovation. The Untitled have joined with VTB and Megafon to create the Emerge 100 report, which identifies the most promising startups in the ‘New East’ of Central Eastern European and Commonwealth of Independent States nations.
But for any startup hoping to benefit from The Untitled’s new fund, the ability to impact is paramount. “Deep tech startups contribute to solving the world’s biggest challenges,” says Siniushin. “We are committed to helping scale deep tech companies to bring them to the right markets and in front of the right people.”