“We are about to see the golden age of Eastern Europe,” says Tim Draper, the billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, who is today announcing the addition of Polish venture capital firm OTB Ventures to his Draper Venture Network.
“Now is the perfect time to look into investing in Poland. The region has always had great technology but now they are starting to connect it to the marketplace. Poland is a generation ahead of other countries in the region in understanding the market system,” Draper told Sifted.
Some 10,000 Eastern European startups that have raised first funding rounds in the last five years and are ready to go global.
The Draper Venture Network is an alliance of 22 venture capital firms across the world who share intelligence on deals and best practice, often co-investing on deals.
Partnering with OTB will give Draper a window into the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region where Marcin Hejka, managing partner and cofounder of OTB Ventures, estimates that there are some 10,000 startups that have raised first funding rounds in the last five years and are now reaching the stage of maturity where they can go global.
Draper, whose investments include Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter, is not the only US venture capitalist to recently shift focus to Europe, where startup valuations look comparatively much cheaper than in America. Silicon Valley legend Sequoia is increasingly active in the region, and US participation in European funding rounds is growing. In 2019 19% of funding rounds into European startups included an American investor, compared with just 7% a year earlier, according to Atomico’s State of European Tech report.
Draper, who founded DFJ and Draper Associates, already has experience of investing in Eastern Europe — DFJ was an early backer of Estonia’s Skype and owned 10% of the company when it was sold to eBay for $4.1bn.
He met the OTB team through co-investing in Iceye, the Finnish microsatellite company.
Draper told Sifted he preferred to partner with local investors over opening new offices.
“A lot of the other VCs are [coming into Europe] on an ownership model, but we are doing it in a decentralised way — that is a more powerful vehicle.”
Draper is, of course, famous for being a big believer in decentralisation in all things — one of the reasons he has moved to investing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
He’s expecting cryptocurrency, blockchain and artificial intelligence to bring a profound transformation to industries like healthcare, finance, insurance, real estate and government, in the same way that the internet fundamentally changed the media and entertainment sectors in the last two decades. And some of that transforming technology, clearly, will be coming from Eastern Europe.