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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Celebrating 10 years of Startup Wise Guys

Europe’s most prolific accelerator fund Startup Wise Guys is today celebrating its 10th birthday in business. Startup Wise Guys provides services to back the early-stage B2B SaaS, Fintech, cyber, and sustainability startups with the help of its large team which represents diversity and gender equality. The services include not just seed capital, but also office space and mentors as helping hands for the walkthrough of the first stages of their portfolio startups.

The company has done over 275 investment deals so far. It closed 2021 with 70 deals and this year’s expectation is to finish the year with at least 100 investments. The Estonia-founded company has also offices in Italy as well as in the other Baltic countries. Plus, it reaches many other countries through programs and partnerships.

Here are 10 things you should know about Startup Wise Guys

Startup Wise Guys

1. Startup Wise Guys is the most prolific accelerator fund in Europe

Excluding the UK, and looking at the total number of investments made, nobody beats SWG. Since its inception in 2012, SWG has made more than 275 investment deals. The numbers started growing exponentially a few years ago and keep rising. In 2020, and despite the initial uncertainties arising out of the pandemic, more than 40 deals were made. And in 2021, Startup Wise Guys had a whopping 70 deals. In 2022, the hopes are to reach a milestone of 100 investments.

2. SWG is the most international accelerator in Europe – there is no other accelerator with a stronger multi-country presence on the ground

SWG has offices in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Italy. They are also represented with partners and programs in Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Denmark and in numerous countries in Africa. In fact Wise Guys have the only B2B, digital SaaS accelerator in Africa right now.

These locations don’t mean SWG is limited to those geographies. Startups from all over can join their programs, and SWG has invested in startups from more than 45 countries. This is also reflected by the DNA of the team. There are 22 nationalities in the SWG team, which grew from three people in 2012, doubling in size to six people in 2016, and now counting 50+ people in 2022. Fun fact: since the beginning, SWG has been led by non-Estonian CEOs.

3. SWG’s home advantage is in Central and Eastern Europe

SWG is one of the most important players in the CEE startup investment scene. In the last year, it was the most active venture investor in Ukraine, beating 500 Startups and other, bigger regional and local funds. SWG was also recognized recently by Tech Philomaths as the most active investor in Lithuania in 2021. Their philanthropic arm, Startup Wise Guys Foundation, is also busy with the Jump for CEE program, a free startup education program sponsored by Google.org for people in CEE that were negatively impacted by the pandemic.

4. They are passionate first believers but also savvy investors

The first SWG fund, investing until 2017, now has a valuation of 9.4x, placing SWG within a select group of top-tier investment firms in terms of performance. Their secret is the ability to identify diamonds in the rough and teach them the fundamentals of sustainable business growth, in line with their mantra of turning techy founders into savvy business people. Beyond accelerating and investing in startups, SWG is passionate about supporting these founders to become business leaders, putting them in the best place to be first believers in passionate founders.

Startup Wise Guys

5. SWG is on the verge of reaching 10 exits

Startup Wise Guys invests at the earliest of stages, which makes it even more remarkable that such a high number of their portfolio companies have made it to the exit stage already. Eight of these exits were notable, attracting big names in tech to acquire these startups. StepShot, from Ukraine, was acquired by UiPath. And Vochi, from Belarus, sold to none other than Pinterest. The average exit multiplier of these last exits is 22x. SWG highlights that more startups are reaching the stage in the cycle where they are exiting. In 2021 alone, there were four exits and more are expected in 2022.

6. SWG has made sustainability a meaningful focus

From the beginning, SWG was focused on impact entrepreneurialism, which means positive change in the communities where startups operate. In the last year, while keeping a focus on impact, SWG is also bringing sustainability into the foreground. Now in its second decade of operations, there was an important pivot which saw sustainability becoming its own “vertical” tackled in acceleration – but also baked into everything they do as an accelerator and investor. This definition of sustainability is multi-pronged and encompasses the concepts of the “sustainable founder,” i.e. promoting business profits in support of human health rather than vice versa. SWG also reports they are currently undergoing an internal audit, incorporating SDGs and accountability processes into all of its activities.

7. Don’t be fooled by the “Guys” in the name – SWG is very much a female-driven team

The entire leadership team, other than their CEO, Cristobal, is comprised of women, and SWG has five female fund partners. There are six female general partners out of the total sixteen. Although the portfolio is focused on traditionally male-dominated industries like fintech and cyber security, SWG works hard to build ways to promote diversity in the selection processes.

Startup Wise Guys

8. Going through Startup Wise Guys gives startups a higher chance of surviving (and thriving!)

The Startup Wise Guys portfolio survival rate is more than 80%. Despite the increase in the number of startup investments, the survival rate has only gone up. Of 275 investments, SWG hasn’t lost more than 40 companies. In fact, out of their first 56 investments, 37 are still alive and thriving. This is remarkable when considering that the overwhelming majority of all startups will fail. SWG also has a 50% follow-on rate, above other accelerator peers, including from the US.

9. SWG is an accelerator, an investor and… a family

SWG is very proud of the extended and thriving network that it has built from their portfolio founders. Startups that go through their programs have one of the best “after-care” programs of any accelerator world wide, and an internal survey revealed that program participants valued the “human aspect” more than anything else. Meaning the personal attention to hearing them out and personalised advice to help them with traction. SWG staff and leadership often travel to meet portfolio founders to help resolve crises and other problem-solving.

10. Enter the metaverse – SWG just launched an XR acceleration program

SWG is starting a new program focusing exclusively on augmented reality, extended reality, and virtual reality software startups. Applications opened only this week for the program in Malaga, co-invested with Fores Ventures. The program will be a 20-week hybrid accelerator with six to eight weeks of in-person events as well as online meetings. Or shall we say, metaverse gatherings.

ArcticStartup wishes Startup Wise Guys Happy Birthday and looking forward to covering more good news during the next ten years! Congratulations!!

Click here to read more.

Jan Ameri
Jan Ameri
Entrepreneur-by-heart – and by actions since 1998. Being an expert in spotting new opportunities and creating new concepts, Jan has been a partner or co-founder in seven different companies in various industries. In the early 2000’s he was pioneering some of the very first WAP, SMS, and interactive TV based wireless games and fantasy sports games in the Nordic countries. Jan loves to watch Shark Tank and The Profit in his free time. And he is an FC Barcelona fan.

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