“The Nordics are our home, but we take on a global front in spotting the unexpected.” Interview with Venla Väänänen, Maki.vc

Founded in 2018 by Ilkka Kivimaki and Pirkka Palomäki, Maki.vc is one of the most active Nordic seed-stage VC firms. The fund focuses mainly on deeptech, commercial products, commercial services, consumer food products, healthcare technology systems, AI, ML, and technology sectors. Usually investing from €200,000 to €2 million, its 2023 investment portfolio includes Databutton, Strise, CarbonCloud, and Ever Dye.

AIN had the opportunity to talk with Venla Väänänen, Marketing & Platform Manager at Maki.vc, discussing the fund’s activities in 2023 and plans for 2024, as well as talking about the CEE and Finnish market.

Tell us about Maki.vc.

Our founding partners include Ilkka Kivimäki and Pirkka Palomäki. We also have Pauliina Martikainen and Paavo Räisänen as partners. Maki.vc invests in brand-driven and deep tech startups at pre-seed and seed stage. Our portfolio includes for example European quantum leader IQM and sustainable fiber company Spinnova. Additionally, we have €180 million AUM.

Maki.vc partners with deep tech and brand-driven companies obsessed with challenging category norms. The Nordics are our home, but we take on a global front in spotting the unexpected — venture capital investments from B2B to B2C, with a sweet spot for scientific advances, strong IP, and customer understanding that looks beyond convention.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building Maki.vc, and how have you overcome them?

Macroeconomics affects the venture capital industry in many ways, as it affects how many top notch founders are out there, how much top talent is available and how much financing is available in different stages of a startup.

That being said, having a talented team surrounding me and trusting in the investment & platform process that we have has always carried us through the hurdles!

How is Maki.vc’s performance in Q1 2024: how many investments were closed?

During first 4 months of 2024, we closed a number of investments, adding bright founders and brilliant companies to our esteemed portfolio. While we’re unable to provide specific details at this time, our team excited about the potential these companies hold and look forward to sharing more information as appropriate.

Were there any successful exits yet?

Our portfolio company Ultimate.ai was acquired by Zendesk and Alvar Pet was successfully merged with Kivuton, also bringing aboard a new majority shareholder.

How can you describe the Nordic VC market now, in particular in Finland? 

The Nordic VC market, particularly in Finland, is vibrant and dynamic, with significant potential across various industries. We’re witnessing a diverse range of innovative startups and entrepreneurs emerging, fueled by a robust ecosystem of support and investment.

In Finland specifically, we see a wealth of opportunities across sectors such as technology, healthcare, sustainability, and beyond. The country’s strong tradition of innovation and world-class talent pool continue to attract attention from investors globally,

At Maki.vc, we’re particularly excited about the prospects within the Nordic VC market. We believe in the power of disruptive ideas and are committed to supporting the growth of promising startups that demonstrate potential for scalability, innovation, and impact.

Tell us more about Maki House. Does this community still exist and what is the focus of its activity? 

Yes, and it’s thriving! We strive to be an accessible and yielding powerhouse with a global foothold. Whether building from scratch, fine tuning a product or brand, or navigating new markets, our entire network of investors, LPs and brand partners works side by side with our companies to supercharge their growth. Monthly, we bring global industry pioneers to talk with our founders and executives about a range of topics:

  • People Management;
  • Product;
  • Financial modeling;
  • Branding.

Previous speakers have included founders of Wolt, Product lead of Uber/LinkedIn, VP People of Payhawk, and much more.

For a while now, our special emphasis has been ESG related topics. We believe that by keeping ESG at the core of our work, we are able to build truly resilient and remarkable companies that can thrive through the hurdles of reaching sustained business growth,

We integrate ESG practices throughout the investment lifecycle, all the way from due diligence to exit. Our emphasis lies in identifying risks related to our portfolio companies’ operations, as well as approaching ESG as an opportunity to create value in pre-seed and seed stages

Has anything changed in Maki.vc’s approach to investments recently? Did the average ticket size, focus, or geography change in any way?

We continuously evaluate and refine our investment strategy to adapt to evolving market conditions and seize emerging opportunities. While our core principles remain steadfast, we may make adjustments to our average ticket size, focus areas, or geographic scope to best align with our long-term objectives and maximize value for our portfolio companies and investors.

Does Maki.vc experience any effects due to the harsh geopolitical climate, war in Ukraine in particular?

Maki.vc remains vigilant and closely monitor the situation surrounding the war in Ukraine and its potential impact on our investments and the broader market. While geopolitical events can introduce uncertainties and challenges, our diversified portfolio and rigorous risk management practices help mitigate potential risks and ensure resilience in the face of adversity.

Among most recent rounds joined by Maki.vc were Norwegians Databutton and Strise. On a personal note, can you tell us about the specificity of the fintech and deep tech investments made by Maki?

Fintech and deep tech are two areas where we see tremendous potential for innovation and disruption. In fintech, we’re particularly drawn to startups that are leveraging technology to enhance financial services, drive efficiencies, and improve user experiences.

With deep tech, our focus is on companies that are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation across various industries, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to robotics and quantum computing.

In terms of industry trends, we’ve observed a steady increase in both the volume and number of deals within fintech and deep tech sectors. This growth reflects the expanding opportunities and heightened interest from investors in these areas.

What are your plans for the future growth and development of Maki.vc? 

Our plans for the future growth and development of Maki.vc revolve around positioning ourselves as the foremost Nordic seed VC investor and supercharging our platform offering to provide our founders with the best resources available.