Vienna-based Speedinvest closes $10m fund to bridge the EU/Valley divide

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Slowly, but surely, Vienna is building its own reputation as a startup hotspot and eventually there might be a fight between Berlin, London, Copenhagen and Vienna, although London and Berlin are ahead at the moment. There have been a number of large exits driven by Austrian-born founders (exits from UCP, Jahjah, 3united and last.fm exceed 1 billion USD). Companies such as Wikitude, Runtastic and Lookk. However the growing startup community, especially with founders emerging from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries, faces a lack of adequate investors. Now Speedinvest, an early stage Super Angel fund, has just announced that they’ve closed their first $10 million dollar fund targeted towards early stage mobile and web startups coming out of CEE.

They staff their portfolio companies with part- or full-time entrepreneurs from their own executive team and thereby fill gaps that almost all startups have, especially in a region with a smaller talent ecosystem than the US. Oliver Holle, founder of SpeedInvest, argues that the unstructured guidance and contacts provided by a traditional VC, or the 3-month boot camp at an incubator will not move the needle for a small team from Vienna, Ljubljana or Prague. What they need is experience: a successful startup veteran who works for the company day-in-day-out.

Apart from a cash investment, which is up to $500,000 per company, startups are also able to actually work out of the fund’s valley office in San Francisco, which is run by Erik Bovee. The US market has, of course, different requirements, and the ecosystem is highly competitive. The typical CEE start-up approach – CEO receives grant money and moves to Sunnyvale for 12 weeks to acquire customers/Google partnership/Kleiner Perkins A round – often holds some nasty surprises, and is rarely successful without well-connected, experienced friends on the ground. Speedinvest hopes to close this gap by enabling european entrepreneurs to enter the Valley and potentially receive further funding.

SpeedInvest is operational from July 2011, and is about to close their first round of undiclosed investments. The fund will announce their first moves at the upcoming Startup Week.