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Enterprise Innovation Fund: a new EUR 40m equity fund for SMEs in the Western Balkans

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    Date: 21 October 2015

A new EUR 40 million venture capital equity fund has been launched in the Western Balkans[1] to provide crucial funding to start-ups and early to expansion stage SMEs in the region.

The European Investment Fund (EIF) has selected South Central Ventures (SCV) to manage ENIF via offices in Belgrade (Serbia), Zagreb (Croatia), and Skopje (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).  Investments will be made in SMEs ranging from seed to early growth stage, in innovative sectors which show a high potential for growth, with a particular focus on Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The fund contains a dedicated 'seed pocket' focusing exclusively on pre-seed and seed companies across the region. The average investment size will range from EUR 0.5m to EUR 1.5m, and is expected to fund approximately 45-55 companies (including smaller pre-seed and seed investments).

Commenting on the launch of ENIF, EIF’s Mandate Management Director Hubert Cottogni said:

“We are delighted to see the launch of the Enterprise Innovation Fund, which marks the third financial instrument pillar to be launched under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development & Innovation Facility (WBEDIF). ENIF is a unique example of a VC fund which centralises funding from institutional, private as well as local players in the Western Balkan region. Seed and start-up funding is a complex yet crucial necessity for local SMEs to develop and thrive in the local economy; our hope is that ENIF will also contribute to cultivating a more vibrant venture capital ecosystem across the Western Balkans and we look forward to seeing the first investments”

Mr Morten Jung, Head of Unit for Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes, Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (European Commission) said: "The investment into ENIF is indicative of the importance which the European Commission attributes to private sector development and innovation, which is a cornerstone of economic governance and enhanced competitiveness in the Western Balkan region. This early stage fund, together with the other financial instruments under WBEDIF, and notably the support services projects, provides important capacity building and exchange of know-how for increased entrepreneurship in the region."

Mr Claudio Viezzoli, Managing Director for SME Finance at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said:  “The launch of the Enterprise Innovation Fund is an important step to help address the critical lack of venture capital financing available for innovative early-stage companies in the Western Balkans. It is a milestone in the development of the Western Balkans Enterprise Development & Innovation Facility and highly complementary to the existing pillars. We very much look forward to working with South Central Ventures on the implementation going forward.”

The Fund Managers of the Enterprise Innovation Fund, South Central Venture (SCV) said: “We have been active in Western Balkans entrepreneurial and tech community for almost ten years. We see there are many innovative companies and talented people with great business ideas, while, on the other hand, sources of financing for these companies are limited. We are very excited to have the opportunity to change that with the support of ENIF partners and help the companies and entrepreneurs in the region to fully exploit their potential”.

With its first closing now established at EUR 25m, it is expected that a second closing in early 2016 will bring the fund to its full size of EUR 40m with additional public and private investments. ENIF pools funding not only from institutional investors such as the European Commission, EBRD and EIF but also directly from the Western Balkan economies – which commit to the fund via their respective ministries and/or SME agencies as Limited Partners (LPs).

Investors at first closing are the European Commission (EU funding), the European Investment Fund, The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD), the Croatian Agency for SMEs, Innovation and Investments (HAMAG-BICRO), the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and several institutional and individual private investors. At second closing it is expected that additional investors will enter the fund, alongside investing entities from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo[2], Montenegro and Serbia (and other private investors).

The Enterprise Innovation Fund (ENIF) forms one pillar of the umbrella structure - the Western Balkan Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) which provides a range of complementary financial instruments and support services to SMEs in the Western Balkans

Details of how to apply for funding are available on WBEDIF’s dedicated website: www.wbedif.eu.

About the EIF

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank group. Its central mission is to support Europe's micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. EIF’s total net commitments to private equity funds amounted to over EUR 8.8 billion at the end of 2014. With investments in over 500 funds, EIF is a leading player in European venture due to the scale and the scope of its investments, especially in high-tech and early-stage segments. EIF’s guarantees loan portfolio totalled over EUR 5.6 billion in over 350 operations at end 2014, positioning it as a major European SME guarantees actor and a leading micro-finance guarantor.

About WB EDIF

The Western Balkan Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) promotes the emergence and growth of innovative and high-potential companies, as well as the creation of a regional Venture Capital market. The EUR 145 million of capital pulled together under this Facility by the EU, international financial institutions (IFIs), beneficiaries and bilateral donors will effectively translate into over EUR 300 million of direct financing for SMEs in the region.

The Facility is coordinated by the European Investment Fund and implemented in close cooperation between the governments of the Western Balkans, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). IFIs, international organisations and bilateral donors active in the region, such as the World Bank, DEG, OECD and others participating in order to streamline the efforts to develop the private sector in the Western Balkans.

EIF Press Contact: David Yormesor, d.yormesor@eif.org

[1] Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ("FYROM"), Kosovo , Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia

[2] This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence


 
 

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