Expanding into the Caucasus and Eastern Europe: 500 Global's Gateway through Tbilisi
Accelerators in Europe is currently going through an interesting period. Techstars Stockholm, for instance, was all set to launch before abruptly ceasing operations.
Accelerators in Europe is currently going through an interesting period. Techstars Stockholm, for instance, was all set to launch before abruptly ceasing operations. To put it diplomatically, I believe it is now generally acknowledged that the majority of accelerators other than Y Combinator can also frequently be "less than adequate." In my experience, Entrepreneur First, based in London/Europe but now also in Asia, may be an exception to this frequently used phrase. Even then, that organization is somewhat closer to a pre-accelerator in the manner in which it assembles talent prior to assembling startups (though it does also fund its startups).
Having said that, accelerators still have a place in the developing ecosystem in Europe. It is true that startups in Western Europe's "developed" nations generally benefit more from avoiding accelerators and raising funds directly from angel investors, high-net-worth individuals, and pre-seed funds. "Your mileage may vary," of course. However, I believe accelerators work best in Eastern Europe, particularly in markets where the tech startup ecosystem is sparse or absent.
A number of new venture capitalists have already recognized the talent coming from Central, South Eastern, and Eastern Europe (such as Inovo, Credo, LauncHub, Vitosha, VentureFriends, Marathon VC, and others). In addition, 500 Istanbul launched a €70 million early-stage fund last year to rebrand itself as 500 Emerging Europe. The latter has invested in Bulgaria (Cloudpipes), Greece (Plum), and Latvia (Printify).
So it's most certainly interesting that there's a newcomer in gas pedal land looking like 500 Worldwide's new program in Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state, for those at the back).
As part of this, they have acquired Pedro Santos Vieira, a former partner at Shilling VC in Lisbon. Fortunately, Georgia is not losing Shilling VC because he still serves as a non-executive on the Investment Committee. Shilling remains one of the Lisbon-based venture capitalists taking advantage of Lisbon's recent tech boom.
Fortunately, Vieira is no stranger to the region and has served as a mentor for 500 Global in that region, so this is not a “left field” move.
Vieira, a newly appointed 500 Global partner, will oversee the program, which is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and aims to accelerate more than 100 pre-seed to seed-stage companies from the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Baltics with pre-seed investments starting at $100,000.
The partnership 500 Global formed with the Georgia Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) and the Bank of Georgia to establish one of the nation's first startup accelerator programs continues with this program.
In fact, there have been three batches with 43 startups from the region since 2016, including Payze (Georgia), Cargon (Georgia), Finmap (Ukraine), and TASS Vision (Uzbekistan), many of which have gone on to raise significant additional rounds.
Vieira stated to me: Before Shilling, I was working with 500 Global to execute accelerators all over the world. Furthermore, one of them was Georgia. We had prepared 30 organizations here and the outcomes were great."
“We will train them with an accelerator out of Georgia and invest in more than 100 companies. However, it is extremely regional, spanning Eastern and Southern Europe, the Baltics, and the Caucasus, and not just Georgian businesses,” he informed me.
He stated that this is an extremely "interesting" time in Georgia: Here, Russians and Ukrainians live together! Of course, there are Armenians and Azerbaijanis as well. In the region, we are committed to building a substantial portfolio over the next few years.
This new 500 entity out of Georgia makes sense because it seems like a very interesting move and complements 500 Emerging Europe in Istanbul, which doesn't have an accelerator program and tends to invest in more established businesses with larger checks.
500 Global might have its "day in the sun" once more with Techstars' shaky European strategy and Y Combinator's exit from the international stage.