European accelerators are having an interesting time at the moment. For example, TechStars Stockholm was set to launch and suddenly closed. And diplomatically speaking, I think it’s now accepted that most accelerators outside of YCombinator may be less than adequate. Perhaps an exception to this oft-repeated phrase, in my experience, an entrepreneur is originally from London/Europe (but now also in Asia), and even then that entity is a little closer to a pre-accelerator in the way it used to recruit talent. It collects startups (although it funds the startups).
Having said that, accelerators still have a role to play in Europe’s emerging ecosystem. It’s true, startups in the ‘developed’ countries of Western Europe are generally better off skipping accelerators and raising direct from angels, HNWs and pre-seed funds. Of course, “your mileage may vary. However, it’s in Eastern Europe that – I think, at least – markets that don’t have a fast-paced tech startup ecosystem will have the best results, if at all.
Central, Southeast and Eastern Europe have seen a number of new VCs recognizing the talent coming out of the regions (see Inovo, Credo, Launchhub, Vitosha, Venture Friends, Marathon VC etc.). In addition, 500 Istanbul launched istelf as 500 Emerging Europe last year with a 70 million euro seed fund. The latter has investments in Greece (Plum), Latvia (Print) and Bulgaria (Cloudpipe).
So having a new kid on the ground with the 500 Global program in Georgia (the country, not the US state, for those in the background) is definitely interesting.
Likewise, a former partner in Lisbon, Pedro Santos Vieira, held a schilling VC. Fortunately, Georgia’s profit is not the loss of Shilling VC, because he will not leave Shilling completely, stay in the investment committee as an Exec. Schilling continues to be among the Lisbon-based VCs enjoying the tech boom happening in Lisbon over the past few years.
Fortunately, this is not a ‘left field’ move for Vieira, who is no stranger to the region, having previously served as a consultant for 500 Global in that part of the world.
A newly appointed partner for 500 Global, Viera will oversee the program, which plans to accelerate 100 pre-seed to seed stage companies from Tbilisi, Georgia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Central Asia. Baltics, pre-seed investments starting at USD 100,000.
The program continues 500 Global’s partnership with Georgia Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) and Bank of Georgia to bring one of the first startup accelerator programs to the country.
Indeed, since 2016 there have been three batches of a total of 43 startups from the region, such as Payze (Georgia), Cargo (Georgia), Finmap (Ukraine) and TASS Vision (Uzbekistan), many of which have raised significant additional rounds.
Vieira told me: “Three years ago, before Schilling, I was working with 500 Global for their acceleration around the world. And one of them was Georgia. We trained 30 companies here and the results were excellent.
“We invest in 100+ companies and train them at the fastest pace out of Georgia. “But it’s not only for Georgian companies, it’s a very big regional one, in Eastern and Southern Europe, the Baltics and the Caucus,” he said.
He said it was a very ‘exciting’ time in Georgia: “You have Ukrainians and Russians living here! You also have Azerbaijanis and Armenians. We are committed to building a large portfolio in the region over the next few years.
It seems like a very interesting move for 500 emerging Europe in Istanbul, which does not have an acceleration program and tends to invest in more mature companies with large checks, so why does this new 500 body from Georgia make sense.
With TechStars European strategy shaking and YCombinator exiting the international stage, maybe 500 global ‘day in the sun’, once?