The ENIF has been present in the Western Balkans (including Serbia) since September 2015
, and the strategy of this fund, run by South Central Ventures, is to invest in local extraordinary skill teams with ambition and potential to develop regionally or globally.
The investors in the ENIF are the European Commission, the European Investment Fund, a member of the European Investment Bank Group and the head of the COSME program, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the German development bank KfW, as well as the countries of the Western Balkans – Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and now Serbia, through ministries or agencies for SME, as well as several private investors.
– Eight technological companies, of which four from Serbia, have been supported in their early development through the ENIF so far. The first ENIF investment, in February 2016, the DryTools startup, which has become a part of the company Alchemy, headquartered in Novi Sad and San Francisco, through a merger in the meantime, has also attracted investors from the USA thanks to the successful export of its products, and the number of employees has increased from 3 to 17 – said Jan Kobler, a partner and one of the SCV managers in charge of the ENIF.
He said that the ENIF operated as a risk capital fund limited to 10 years, with the first five being dedicated to investments in innovative companies, whereas the other five are meant for their development and the exit or sale strategy, in order to make a certain profit for its investors.
SCV has so far invested 13% of its funds, agreements are about to be signed for around 8%, whereas 7% are being negotiated about at the moment. This means that roughly one fourth of the funds have been practically allocated.
In his interview for eKapija, Kobler says that Serbia's joining the ENIF is of formal nature and important in the sense of supporting innovative enterprises, that is, as an indicator of a stable and positive business climate.
– We have been active since September 2015 and we will continue to operate in the same manner. Nevertheless, Serbia's joining is a great sign of acknowledgment and support to the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem, as it means that there truly is a dedication to this sector. This is also a support to our activities and we can be more assured and comfortable as a fund. The ENIF continues to look for innovative enterprises to invest in and partners to cooperate with in Serbia and the region – Kobler pointed out.
According to Ivan Rakonjac, the acting director of the Innovation Fund, Serbia's joining the ENIF might act as an incentive for other private investors to get involved in the risk capital market.
– Serbia supports innovative entrepreneurship in several ways. One of them is through allocating grants through the Innovation Fund program. The ENIF entails the fund of the risk capital of the Western Balkans economies and it operates under market principles exclusively. In signing agreements with the companies it funds, the ENIF enters the ownership structure with the intention of selling its stake and making a certain profit for its investors after a certain period of time – Rakonjac clarified for eKapija.
Pillars of support to innovative enterprises