CEE Unlimited: Striving for a True Cross-border Ecosystem

CEE Unlimited – Zagreb, Croatia

  8 events in 8 different European countries: CEE Unlimited, initiated by the Austrian Angel Investors Association, is more than an event series – it’s the first step towards a powerful ecosystem.
With 3 events already organised in Bucharest, Sofia, and Zagreb, the initiative serves to connect angel investors, VC funds, corporate venture capital funds & the most promising startups in Central Eastern Europe, creating a true cross-border market and releasing the full potential of the CEE region. Each event consists of capacity building sessions and a pitch competition, with participation from a diverse pool of local startups.

 EBAN got in touch with EBAN CEE Coordinator and AAIA Managing Director Lisa Fassl, who is heading up CEE Unlimited to learn more about the initiative:

  – What is the CEE Unlimited project about?
The aim of CEE Unlimited is twofold: Firstly, it’s about creating value for the people in the region by connecting angel investors, VC funds, corporate venture capital funds & the most promising startups – and therefore helping to boost local communities. The big vision: creating a true cross-border ecosystem – with stakeholders who know and trust each other and that will eventually start to invest across borders. Secondly, it’s also about raising awareness for CEE itself, as a promising but most of the time overlooked part of Europe with great talent and hungry founders.
For 2019 we set up an event series consisting of eight countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania & Slovenia) in which we’ll host local events for investors and ecosystem stakeholders. Each event consists of a capacity building session related to the topic on how to be a successful investor and a pitch session featuring local startups. The winners of the local competitions are invited to join us for Investors Day 19 on November 14th in Vienna – where the overall winner will get 10,000€ cash, 50,000 € in media volume by IP Austria to be used for TV advertisement on the channels of the Media Group RTL, and a two-month stay in Vienna by the Vienna Business Agency.

  – How will it help develop entrepreneurship and angel investing in the CEE?
We need to be realistic: Establishing a cross-border ecosystem doesn’t work overnight. CEE Unlimited is a good start to kick-off something bigger and we’re currently setting the base: getting to know people, figuring out who to work with and creating trust among the players. Therefore, it’ll probably take some time until we’ll eventually see big outcomes. Nevertheless, we already see an impact on a smaller scale:
– Angels already actively connecting and working with VCs: bridging these worlds was pretty important to us, as we are all aware of the issue of raising bigger funding rounds. This is also one of the reasons why we asked Speedinvest to join CEE Unlimited and to “translate” between different types of investors.
– CEE startups entering the German-speaking market: We’ve seen that Austria can be a great bridge between CEE and Western Europe, as it’s a good test market for new products. Some of the first startups are already in touch with Austrian angels and government organisations that support their market entry.
Seeing these small success stories is great and a good motivation to reach the next goal: The first cross-border deal coming out of CEE Unlimited.

  – What is the most promising thing about the early stage ecosystem in the CEE region?
It’s definitely the people. We see many creative, well-educated and extremely passionate founders that are creating products that solve real-world problems. Many of them already gained a lot of professional experience both in their home countries and abroad, their products are often in the science, health or fintech area. They really understand the need to think big and they take opportunities very seriously – which is why we have seen pitches that are way above average.
In addition, we also see the potential on the investors’ side: Angel investing is becoming a thing and the awareness is definitely on the rise – which is why it’s essential to connect early with these future angels and to support them in the early days of their careers.

  – How can EBAN members get involved in CEE Unlimited?
Some EBAN members are already heavily involved in CEE Unlimited, as they are our main partners for the local events and therefore official co-hosts (big thanks!). Other than that, we’re happy to see many EBAN members at those events, because the vision of creating a true cross-border ecosystem can only become reality when being supported by as many people as possible.
In addition, we also invite everyone to join us for the final showdown of CEE Unlimited: The Investors Day 2019 on November 14 in Vienna where we’ll discuss and hopefully shape the future of Europe – not only in terms of angel investing. More info: www.investorsday.at
Find out more about CEE Unlimited here.