Going East – The making of the Earlybird Digital East Fund

Posted on 21. Januar 2014 by Roland Manger

VC firms aren´t really interesting, the companies they invest in are. That´s why only few people noticed how profoundly Earlybird has changed. When you looked at the partner profiles on our website five years ago, you saw a bunch of Germans with a heavy Germanic focus. Yes, we helped our companies to grow and expand globally, and yes, we listed them on international stock exchanges or helped them be acquired by large US and even Asian corporates. But in most cases, this was based on German, Austrian or Swiss teams only and we felt very comfortable with that.

I must say I am very happy that we left our comfort zone and started to look at the VC opportunity in Europe in a different way.

For a number of reasons that many smart people have reported about, Berlin has become a uniquely attractive place for some of the most brilliant founders from all over Europe, sometimes even beyond to conceive great new products and build globally active companies around them. So rather than remaining a German VC supporting German companies, Earlybird became a Berlin based VC with an international team (check out the website now) working with exceptional founders from all over Europe.

Taking a different look at our world also made us realize that just East of Berlin, in CEE and Turkey, we could find a new world of smart and ambitious entrepreneurs that was largely untapped by the established VC community. A lot of preconceived notions still dominate the views even of European VCs about the opportunity in Turkey and the European East, much like the ones that US VCs had and often still have about Western Europe.

But if you aren´t a chauvinist, you have to admit that entrepreneurial talent is distributed evenly around the world. As VCs we are looking for the most exceptional of entrepreneurs regardless of where we are active, those that defy conventional wisdom and are used to dealing with difficult challenges independently of the predominant cultural bias of their home country. In most of the places we looked at, technology education traded at a premium, so the best and brightest were and still are seeking engineering degrees at home and abroad. Examining the cross-section of both really got us excited. We found ways to meet tech entrepreneurs (most of them in the making) from Turkey, the Balkans and North Eastern Europe, looked at now over 1300 investment opportunities and felt reassured by what we saw.

With the new Earlybird Digital East Fund, we are putting money where our mouth is. Three partners joined me in this quest: Cem Sertoglu and Evren Ucok have been both the most prolific and successful early tech investors in Turkey. Dan Lupu has covered large parts of CEE for Intel Capital. Several large international institutional investors and a number of successful entrepreneurs and family investors from all over the world share our view and have committed capital to the fund. Now is the time to prove them and us right.

EDEF team