Profile: Startup Wise Guys — Estonian B2B startup accelerator

AIN.TECH conducted a series of interviews with the most active Estonian VC funds and accelerators. It is aimed to give the startups full information about the startup ecosystem of the country, as well as to make it easier for them to find the appropriate fund for further cooperation.

This time we prepared an article about Wise Guys. Wise Guys is the leading B2B accelerator in Europe for early-stage startups with passion, founders, and a vision.

When the fund was launched?

Startup Wise Guys (SWG) both as an accelerator and fund was launched in 2012 in Tallinn, Estonia. In 2019 we launched 2 larger funds: SWG Challenger out of Estonia and Preseed and seed funds out of Lithuania.

What is your investment focus?

We are the most experienced B2B startup accelerator in Europe and currently invest in 4 verticals: SaaS, Fintech, Cybersecurity, and Sustainability. We proactively scout in the CEE and CIS region, with 70% of our deals during the last year coming from Baltics, Ukraine, and Turkey, while overall we have invested in founders from over 40 countries.

What is the average investment amount?

Our standard accelerator investment deal is up to 55K euro with follow up, so one startup can access as much as 300K euro total investment from us (typically co/investing in successive rounds up to series A), provided startups show truly accelerated traction after the accelerator.

How many deals does the fund make per year?

On average we run at least 4 programs per year, which means at least 40 accelerator investments + follow-on rounds in portfolio companies and some few direct investments in seed-stage from the fund. This number grows year over year as Startup Wise Guys is also expanding outside of the Baltics and runs more programs.

In 2019 alone, Startup Wise Guys has done 86 investments in 59 companies from 21 different countries thus according to Crunchbase data being the most active accelerator in Europe in 2019. The pandemic hasn’t stopped us – we have done 19 accelerator and 7 follow-on investments since March and are about to start 3 programs this fall (totaling at least another 30 additional investments in 2020). Also, our portfolio is growing despite the current economic challenges: 28 startups from our portfolio have closed bridge and seed rounds with external VCs and angel investors since March 2020.

Does the fund invest only in Estonian startups or in foreign projects too?

No, we are geographically agnostic, which means that we invest in founders from anywhere, as long as they have an awesome tech, the right team setup, and global ambition. We have worked with teams from as far as Australia, India, the US, Africa, and we believe we can add the most value for companies that are looking at the European market for scaling. There are more than 40 countries represented in our startup portfolio and actually Ukraine is our top 2 country in terms of investments – more than 25 Ukrainian startups have received investment from Startup Wise Guys, including StepShot that exited to UiPath last year. We were also voted “The most active accelerator investing in Ukrainian startups 2020” by Ukraine Innovation Awards 2020. Most of our portfolio comes from Central Eastern Europe (CEE) or as we like to call it New Europe – Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, Kazakhstan, Balkan countries, and similar.

What does the fund offer except the investment?

We are an accelerator fund, which means that apart from investment startups receive an intensive acceleration program based on content modules and 1:1 mentoring by more than 100 mentors per program. The acceleration happens in cohorts or what we call “batches” and after graduation, a startup enrolls in our life-long community and after-care program. The latter is something we pride ourselves greatly in and also invest a lot of time – this means that startups not only report to us, but they can also get quarterly calls with our top management, on-demand legal help, intros to investors and potential clients. This support lasts till the exit or the next large investor takes over the role. More than 70% of surveyed portfolio startups said the biggest help was in fundraising, whereas the next 2 most popular types of help that they valued were business and personal advice (co-founder issues and company growth-related issues usually fall in the latter together with company values and mental health).