Last month WannaBiz, a startup incubator based in Odesa (Odessa) in southern Ukraine, announced its transformation into a venture fund, setting the goal of raising from $5 million to $10 million from individual investors.
“We’re not completely stopping incubation activity, but our main focus will be on investment,” WannaBiz Managing Partner Vadim Rogovsky said.
The fund will invest anything between $50,000 and $500,000 in each project, with a priority for startups from WannaBiz’s portfolio.
Beyond these startups, the fund will target “startups with Russian-speaking founders all over the world in the fields of advertising and financial technologies, enterprise software, mobile, social and hardware,” Rogovsky said.
Several Ukrainian and Russian venture funds have been following this strategy for several years: thus Kyiv-based AVentures Capital as well as Moscow-based Almaz Capital, Maxfield Capital and Runa Capital, to name just a few, have invested massively in US-based and other international startups which were founded by tech entrepreneurs from the former USSR.
WannaBiz was the last significant startup incubator still in activity in Ukraine. Two other ones, EastLabs and Happy Farm, stopped activity over the past year.
“Their investors didn’t support them with the required funding,” AVentures Capital Managing Partner Yevgen Sysoyev told Ukraine Digital News.
“For an incubator or accelerator investment to succeed, investors should take a 7 to 10 year-perspective and agree to fund a massive number of startups. Taking private money to focus on short-term returns is a receipt for failure in emerging ecosystems,” he believes.
In many countries, in contrast, incubators and accelerators are supported by impact-focused or even government related organisations, Sysoyev notes.