Tech News Feb. 6: Poland’s SMOK Ventures closes $25M fund, Latvia’s BADideas bets on Ukrainian voice replication startup


🇵🇱 Poland’s SMOK Ventures Closes $25M Fund 

Poland’s SMOK Ventures, which has been profiled by Icebreaker last year, closed its second $25 million fund. It’s the latest sign that Polish startup space is one of the strongest in the region. The firm is looking to invest $100,000 to $1 million in early-stage startups in Central & Eastern Europe, primarily in the software and gaming sectors. Startup founders seeking funding to scale their vision can submit their pitch decks to for consideration. [Source: LinkedIn, TechCrunch]

🚀Applications Open for Immigrant Solo Founders

Immigrant solo founders can now apply for the second cohort of Residency by Unshackled Ventures, offering $150,000 in capital, full immigration support, and a supportive community of fellow immigrant founders. Applications are open until March 1, 2024, at 5:00 pm PST, and a virtual information session is scheduled for February 7. [Source: LinkedIn]

👀 Other VCs Raising Funds This Week

Several venture capital firms successfully raised funds this week, including Speedinvest with $378 million (€350 million) for its fourth European fund, Uncorrelated Ventures securing $315 million for infrastructure software and crypto investments, and Giant Ventures, raising $250 million across two new funds focusing on climate tech and healthtech. Other notable firms include Seroba closing its fourth fund at $132 million (€123 million) for life sciences investments, and Future Energy Ventures announcing the first close of $118 million (€110 million) for its $250 million (€250 million) climate fund investing in digital energy solutions. [Source: LinkedIn]


🔥Baltic Startup Funding Report Shows Busy H2 2023

The Baltic Startup Funding Report, conducted by Firstpick and Change Ventures, highlights that Baltic startups raised around $583 million (€540 million) in the latter half of 2023, with approximately $459.9 million (€425.65 million) allocated to nine growth companies, a FIVEFOLD increase compared to the first half of 2023. Estonia led in pre-seed, seed, and series A closures. At the same time, Lithuania surpassed Estonia in growth round closures, notably with two companies, PVCase and Nord Security, raising around $100 million (€100 million). [Source: BalticVC]

🎙️Latvian Fund BADideas Backs Ukraine’s Voice Replication Startup

Latvian fund BADideas and several other investors participated in a $1 million pre-seed round for Ukrainian Respeecher, known for its voice replication technology. The deal was finalized in December 2023. Founded in Kyiv in 2018, Respeecher uses AI to replicate voices for media projects, healthcare applications, and entertainment collaborations. With the new investment, the startup plans to expand ethically into healthcare and marketplace products. [Source: BalticVC]

⚡ Latvian Solution for Electricity Conservation Raised $54K

Peak Save, a Latvian startup founded in 2023, scored around $54,000 (€50,000) in convertible loans from Latvian accelerators Buildit and Commercialization Reactor after participating in Buildit’s 16th Batch accelerator program in 2023. Peak Save’s solution utilizes machine learning to optimize electricity consumption in various sectors, aiming to balance the grid and earn income from grid operators. It is seeking an additional $326,000 (€300,000) in its pre-seed round for further expansion. [Source: BalticVC]

🤝 Vienna-based VC Became a Limited Partner of Lithuanian Accelerator

Speedinvest, a Vienna-based VC, has become a Limited Partner of Lithuanian accelerator Firstpick, although the investment amount remains undisclosed. Speedinvest aims to expand its presence in the Baltic region and support diverse fund managers like Firstpick, which focuses on pre-seed startups and fintech companies and has around $21.7 million (€20 million) fund to support 45 startups over three years, with initial investments ranging from $54,000 to $217,000 (€50,000 to €200,000) per startup. [Source: BalticVC]

👥 Latvian Startup Association Selected Five New Board Members, a Latvian startup ecosystem organization, recently elected its new board members, including representatives from various sectors such as fintech, education, and healthtech, who will serve for the next two years. Established in 2016, focuses on fostering Latvia’s startup community, contributing to initiatives like the national startup visa program and supporting over 100 members while also being set to receive a portion of around $434,000  (€400,000) allocated by the Latvian Ministry of Economics to bolster local startups in 2024. [Source: BalticVC]

💰Lithuanian Practica Capital Closed its $86M Fund

PracticaCapital, based in Lithuania, has closed its latest $86 million (€80 million) fund, making Practica Capital III the most prominent seed investment fund in the Baltic region, supported by investors like European Investment Fund (EIF), EBRD, INVEGA, and SEB Investicijų Valdymas, with backing from cofounders of cyber unicorn Nord Security Newsroom and programs like InvestEU and the Baltic Innovation Fund 2. With over 80% institutional capital and a 70% return rate, the fund has already invested in six companies. It plans to allocate up to $3.2 million (€3 million) for initial investments in early-stage startups and up to $8.6 million (€8 million) for follow-on investments. [Source: BalticVC]


📱Mobile App Mamio Received $326K in Investment

Mamio, a Prague-based startup offering a mobile app connecting mothers, secured around $326,000 (€300,000) in a round led by Czech Founders VC, aiming to enhance its app with additional functionalities and expand globally. Founded in 2022, Mamio facilitates connections among mothers based on the baby’s age and location. It also plans to introduce a motherhood guide and personalized recommendation system for services and products, aiming to innovate the parenting forum sector while providing social value. [Source:]


💳 Price Optimization Platform Secured $3M 

Ukrainian-founded Competera raised a $3 million seed round from investors like STRATMINDS, Flyer One Ventures, and others to expand its intelligent price optimization platform into the US retail sector. The platform, launched in 2018, uses deep-learning techniques to offer retailers real-time market data and has optimized over $60 billion in revenue across 18 countries, recently introducing Competera X for individual sellers on platforms like Amazon and Shopify. [Source:]

🤖 Ministry of Digital Transformation Shares Its Innovation Vision for 2030

In collaboration with partners, the Ministry of Digital Transformation presented Ukraine’s Global Innovation Vision, outlining development priorities. Following public discussions involving stakeholders like IT companies and NGOs, proposals emphasized education strategy, blockchain for economic transparency, medtech advancements, human capital development, and space technology integration. The plan will undergo approval processes to accelerate economic growth and foster innovation before becoming an official state strategy. [Source: TechUkraine]

💻 Dataisland Raised $500K of Investment

Dataisland, a Ukrainian startup specializing in AI assistant development for CRM systems, secured $500,000 in funding from Apercon Consulting Group, aiming to expand its operations. The startup was founded in 2023 and integrates virtual AI assistants into organizations’ CRM systems. With this investment, the company plans to increase its capitalization, expand its client base, enter foreign markets, and develop a public version of its product. [Source: TechUkraine]

👠 Startup Ukraine Launches Program to Support Ukrainian Fashion Brands

Startup Ukraine, supported by the US Embassy in Kyiv, is launching a program to bolster Ukrainian fashion brands’ expansion into the US market, as shared in ELLE magazine. In collaboration with International Business Accelerator and FashionTech Works, the initiative offers selected brands training from American fashion experts, participation in LA Market’s showroom, and involvement in Los Angeles Fashion Week in March, heralding a promising opportunity for Ukrainian designers to shine globally. [Source: LinkedIn]


💸 Modular Control Station Raised $297K

modue, a Poland-based modular control station, has initiated its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, swiftly raising over $297,000 (€275,000, or PLN 1,200,000) within 24 hours, as reported by MamStartup. Founded in 2023, modue offers customizable modules like One Touch, Slide, Click, and Spin, aiming to revolutionize digital interactions by enhancing efficiency and creativity while seamlessly integrating into users’ digital lives. [Source:]

💲Polish VC Closed $25M in Second Fund for CEE Startups

Based in Warsaw, SMOK Ventures successfully closed its second fund at $25 million with support from PFR Ventures, aiming to invest in up to 35 startups from the CEE region and its diaspora, mainly focusing on software development, game development, and artificial intelligence. The fund has invested in 12 startups across various countries and plans to secure at least ten new projects in 2024, with Poland being its primary market. [Source:]

👩💻 Software Creation Process Tool Secured $500K, a platform automating software creation, secured $500,000 from Sunfish Partners to bolster its position in the no-code market, focusing on front-end development by converting graphic designs into clean, ready-to-use code. The startup plans to accelerate product development, including integrating with Storybook and creating its interface for designing applications, with support from international angel investors like Fabian Q. Veit and Bartłomiej Roszkowski. [Source:]

🛍️ Retail Startup Received $488K

ZeroQs, a Warsaw-based startup, secured around $488,000 (€450,000) from Freya Capital to further develop its intelligent shopping cart technology and expand its market presence, aiming to optimize retail operations with its mobile self-checkout project. The solution, equipped with a weighing system, barcode reader, and touchscreen, aims to streamline shopping experiences by automating transactions. The startup plans for broader international adoption after local implementation. [Source:]

💳 Marketing Tech Startup Raised $5M in Round Led by INventures

edrone, a Polish e-commerce CRM developer, raised a $5 million (PLN 20 million) round led by INventures, with existing investors PortfoLion, Mueller Medien, and Atmos participating, aiming to expand its operations in Brazil after doubling revenue in 2023. Founded in 2016, edrone focuses on marketing automation and voice commerce solutions. edrone will use the funding to expand the Brazilian branch and hire more new employees. [Source:]


👼 B2B Sales Platform Closed $1.08M Seed Round

Bratislava-based CloseRocket closed a $1.08 million (€1 million) seed round led by Vision Ventures and Czech Jinej Fond and angel investors to support its B2B sales platform designed to help companies scale their sales efforts. Founded in 2023, the startup generates over $43,000 (€40,000) in monthly revenue, offering features like access to a global network of sales professionals and tools for sales strategy development and reporting. The company plans to expand into the US market with the new investment. [Source:]


Speedinvest Closed Fourth Flagship Find at $380M

Speedinvest, a Vienna-based VC with over 40 investment managers across the continents, closed its fourth fund at around $380 million (€350 million), exceeding its initial target by $54 million (€50 million), with additional capital raised for follow-on co-investments in portfolio companies. Notable investors include Aviva, PwC Germany, Bitburger, ODDO BHF, and Abeille Assurances Ventures, reflecting strong support for the pan-European investment platform to foster global success for startups. [Source:]

Multilingual Web App Raised $540K in Pre-seed Round

Proofcheck, a Vienna-based AI startup, raised around $540,000 (€500,000) in a pre-seed round led by 5502 Fund of BackBone Ventures, aiming to expand its multilingual web app for content producers. Founded in 2022, Proofcheck’s platform streamlines content workflows using custom-trained open-source models and proprietary algorithms. It serves publishers in North America and Europe. The funding will drive further development to enhance the platform’s capabilities across the entire corporate content creation lifecycle. [Source:]


📱 CodiPlay Enters the UK Market

CodiPlay, a Kazakh-based mobile application that allows you to learn the basics of programming using your smartphone and create IoT projects, showcased its innovative solutions at the Bett 2024 educational technology exhibition in London, leading to strategic partnerships with numerous UK schools, with 40 institutions planning to implement CodiPlay within a month. Google for Education expressed interest in CodiPlay’s developments and offered support. At the same time, the CodiPlay team received an invitation to visit the Meta office in London, marking a significant milestone in their global outreach efforts. [Source:]

👓 Binance to partner with

Binance Kazakhstan and Kazakh startup entered a collaboration during the Digital Almaty forum, allowing Binance users to undergo KYC verification using technology, eliminating the need for physical documents. The partnership’s focus is on advancing digital security and enhancing user experience. [Source:]

🏦 Store Automation Startup Valued at $4.8M

Beksar, a Kazakh startup specializing in in-store automation, secured $305,000 in investments at the Pre-Seed stage, with a valuation of $4.8 million. The investment was led by angel investor Murat Abdrakhmanov, followed by MOST Ventures and business angel Eldar Tolesh. Beksar’s solution targets small and medium-sized businesses in retail, offering tools like cash registers, warehouse accounting, and loyalty systems to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. With over 2,700 connected stores in Kazakhstan, the startup plans to scale its operations and explore adaptations for other sectors. [Source:]


🖥️ IT Park Uzbekistan Establishes International Center for Digital Technologies

Uzbekistan’s president decreed the creation of ENTERPRISE UZBEKISTAN, an International Digital Technology Center within the IT Park, aiming to transform the nation’s digital sector and enhance its global competitiveness. The initiative, part of the “Uzbekistan – 2030” strategy, introduces a unique legal regime to attract foreign investments and accelerate technological advancements, including a “regulatory sandbox” for innovation testing. [Source:]

🦄 Unicorn Pitches Accelerate Central Asian Startup Ecosystem

The Silkroad Innovation Hub in Silicon Valley facilitates Central Eurasian startups’ entry into the U.S. market through initiatives like Unicorn Pitches, held in collaboration with Network.VC, offering exposure to top VCs and corporate leaders. Through strategic partnerships and initiatives like the 5-month immersion program and participation in TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, the hub nurtures emerging businesses and attracts attention from global leaders in Silicon Valley. [Source:]

🛒 Russian Startup Sellty Expands to Uzbekistan

Sellty, a Russian B2B online store platform developer, has expanded its operations to Uzbekistan, targeting local businesses eager to adopt modern technological solutions for wholesale sales automation. This move could increase revenue by 20%, according to Sellty’s founder. Sellty’s platform offers features like automatic product loading, product group management, individual price agreements, multi-warehouse functionality, and integration with 1C, tailored to meet the needs of Uzbekistan’s business landscape, including the ability for mutual settlements in the national currency. [Source:]

📈 IT Park Uzbekistan’s Service Exports Amount to $344 in 2023

In 2023, Uzbekistan’s IT Park witnessed a substantial surge in service exports, reaching $344 million, with the majority of services utilized by customers from the US, UK, EU, and CIS countries, as reported by Kursiv. By the end of 2023, IT Park accommodated 1,652 resident companies, contributing significantly to the country’s economy and highlighting the growing demand for IT professionals in roles such as programmers, developers, designers, and technical support staff. [Source:]

🔎 Uzbekistan’s Capital Market Faces Challenges  

Spot delved into the venture capital market of Uzbekistan, interviewing key figures like the Chairman of the Venture Capital Association and representatives from AloqaVentures. Despite impressive growth rates, the market still faces multiple growth challenges. It requires balancing public and private investments, regulatory reforms, and a shift towards nurturing more high-quality startups to catalyze its evolution. [Source:]

🤑 FinTech Trainings To Be Held in Uzbek Cities

The Fintech Association of Uzbekistan launches WE FinTech trainings aimed at women entrepreneurs in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, offering e-commerce and business skills courses. Organizers will grant the most active participants micro-grants, facilitating further business development, marketing research, or material purchases. [Source:]

🤖 AloqaVentures Recognized by IT Park as Venture Catalyst

AloqaVentures, a venture capital firm investing in technology startups, was recognized at the IT Park 2024 Achievements & Vision event with the title Venture Catalyst, affirming their commitment to enriching the regional startup ecosystem. [Source: LinkedIn]


🇸🇦 Opportunities in Saudi Arabia Tailored for Russian-Speaking Entrepreneurs 

Arabists Business Solution announced its second business mission to Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, tailored for Russian-speaking entrepreneurs and businesses aiming to explore opportunities in a Saudi market. The program offers engagement in pre-scheduled visits to government offices, business accelerators, and private Saudi companies, participation in B2B and B2G Matchmaking Day, and exploration of partnership opportunities while getting answers to FAQs about conducting business in Saudi Arabia. It will take place between February 26 and 29. [Source: LinkedIn]

🤓 Russian-founded EdTech Startup Grows its Team

Novakid, a San Francisco-based education platform, is expanding its team. The founder, Max Azarov, says the company is keen on understanding candidates’ personalities and attitudes towards work during job interviews. This analysis helps gauge their risk appetite and teamwork preferences, informing the hiring process. [Source: LinkedIn]


🚗 inDrive is Hiring in Cyprus

In Cyprus, inDrive offers exciting job opportunities within its rapidly growing and innovative team. Ranked as the world’s 2nd most downloaded ride-hailing app and the number 4 travel app globally, inDrive boasts a unique culture and a vision to positively impact the lives of 1 billion people by 2030, making it an engaging and purpose-driven workplace. [Source: LinkedIn]

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