Where to find money for a great idea and what is the best method of funding for an emerging company? What do investors take into consideration when assessing the projects to invest in? Why is it good to enter an international market and what are the challenges one can face there? How to turn a local company into a global one and how did some of the most successful businesses manage to do that?
These as well as many other questions faced by almost every emerging company will be discussed by some of the most significant international and local businessmen at the Belgrade Balkan Venture Forum (BkVF). The event that will be organized by Balkan Unlimited Serbia and Europe Unlimited at Metropol Palace Hotel on November 22-23 will for the first time ever gather entrepreneurs and representatives of venture capital funds at one place in Serbia.
More than 40 investors from all around the world, with the portfolio in excess of EUR 3 billion, will stay in Belgrade for two days. While here, they will meet the authors of innovative projects and get familiar with young emerging companies in the fields of information-communication technologies, "green" energy, "clean" technologies and natural sciences. Both sides will have enough time to present themselves and have a direct meeting with each other.
The venture capital that comes from specialized funds is oriented towards being invested in young enterprises with high growth potential, with the acceptance of a certain level of risk. Thus, investing through recapitalization does not burden the cash flow of a business. This alternative to classical sources of finance in Serbia is almost in infancy. That is why the significance of the Forum is even greater.
Investment and business development exports will offer Forum participants and visitors not only an opportunity for alternative funding of operations and business growth, but also their priceless experience and tips for doing business in aforementioned fields.
From start-up and seed funds to "business angels" and "heavy-weight" venture capital funds - all of them are coming to Belgrade in a search for best projects to invest in. They have money and the wish to invest it, and they also have the authority to decide what to do with it.
- One of the main reasons for us to start all this is the fact that we've been hearing for years that there are many good ideas and smart people in Serbia, but what is missing is money. We are "bringing money" to Serbia - Nenad Paunovic from Balkan Unlimited Serbia, who is the program director of the Forum, says in a talk with eKapija.
- Results of the Forum will depend on our companies, their readiness and presentations. After the 1st Balkan Venture Forum, which was held in Skopje in April, several companies have found investors for their ideas, which is an excellent sign. There is an independent international survey that shows that as many as 50 percent of companies participating in such events find an investor within two years - says our interlocutor.
The deadline to apply for the presentation of projects at the Forum was November 9th. Out of the total of 125 entries submitted, the organizers selected 40 they believe to be "the best, the fittest and the most competitive."
The organizers of the Forum will help companies present their idea in the best light possible, show what investors search for and efficiently use the time they have at their disposal.
- A so-called "venture academy," which will last for several hours, will be organized before the official start of the Forum. It will be an occasion for trainers from Europe Unlimited to help companies improve their presentations. No matter how interesting a project may be, it is important to know to present it in the right way. This training is very important because the authors of ideas are mainly engineers – they are fully focused on products, but they require assistance in presenting them.
What is it that investors search for?
The largest number of applications for the presentation of projects at the Forum came from Serbia, but there were also some from Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania.
Although the final decision depends on how investors see your idea, one of the ways to know whether what you offer is what investors search for is to check the criteria for selecting projects to be presented at Balkan Venture Forum.
First of all, there is business potential - demand for the products and services presented. Then there is the experience of your team (does your team have skills and enough experience to make your business grow, and whether your team is capable of acting in the commercial sphere and in the field of research), the significance of the product or technology (suggested solutions must be top solutions in their respective fields and more advanced than those of your rivals), and a competitive position (competence, intellectual property). There is also the interest in investing and creating a partnership (a request or an offer must be clearly defined and attractive to prospective partners) as well as the quality of the project profile - information must be complete, clear, balanced and reassuring.
At the central presentation event, which is also a contest, every company will be given 15 minutes - 7 minutes for presentation and 8 minutes to answer investors' questions.
- That is enough time to present the essence of the project and some basic parameters for initial presentation, as well as to get investors interested in your company.
The investment jury, which is selected by the partner organization Europe Unlimited, will choose ten best projects to participate in the final contest Europe Venture Forum in early December. They will get a chance to present themselves again to investors in Berlin, as well as to meet their prospective partners.
The aim of Balkan Venture Forum in Belgrade is to raise the level of knowledge and awareness of alternative approaches to funding the growth and development of a business. Organizers believe that there is a huge and hidden potential in Serbia and the Balkans for developing the venture capital market.
- Entrepreneurs from Serbia have so far participated in similar events in the West only individually, but these are exceptions and not a rule. Our wish is to have such forum organized every year in the future, so that our entrepreneurs could feel secured – says our interlocutor.
They will bring much more than just money
There will be more than 50 participants in panel discussions – investors, representatives of government and financial institutions, those who have travelled the path from a small company to a large one...
- What is important is that investors will bring not only their money, but also their network of contacts and know-how, which may be more significant than the capital itself. Maybe a company does not need money at the moment, but it needs to learn how to enter a global market and what steps to take - our interlocutor explains.
According to the website of the Forum, the event will be attended by the CEOs of Nordeus and Limundo, Branko Milutinovic and Vladimir Nikolic, representatives of the Innovation Fund, RSG Capital and Eleven...
Among the participants are also investment companies Intel Capital, Crimson Capital, international finance institutions (EBRD, EIB, World Bank), representatives of the government, Ministry of Economy...