Archive for March, 2019

Gjirafa raises a $6.7M Series B from Rockaway Capital to digitise the Balkans

There’s nothing like a niche language to create a sort of lock-in for a startup, and that’s exactly what’s happened with e case of Gjirafa. Focusing exclusively on Albanian-speaking countries, co-founder and CEO Mergim Cahani started out developing an Albanian language search engine and then literally digitizing the country’s information, from bus timetables to a database of local businesses and venues, and beyond. Investors were been attracted to this ’emerging-market approach’ and put in a $2 million Series A three years ago to “grow the Balkans’ internet economy” by digitizing and indexing information in Albania and Kosovo, thus making Gjirafa the regional leader in search, e-commerce, and online advertising. Today it claims 3 million monthly unique users across its services and has now raised a series B round of $6.7M from Rockaway Capital, which has been backing the company since 2016. The new funding is intended for scaling the current products regionally. The Series B will allow the company to double their current team (currently at 70 full time, and about 100 in total with part-time), scale with the existing products regionally, and deliver other digital services that aren’t available in the region. Dušan Zábrodský, investment partner at Rockaway, says: “Mergim Cahani and his team validated our trust and truly succeeded in building a centrepiece of innovation for the whole region. Thanks to this very positive experience we are committed to build up a digital economy in the region and we actively explore new investment opportunities where we can use our knowledge to digitalize traditional industries.” He says Rockaway group’s investment is long-term and strategic because they think Gjirafa could become and an entire platform/network of additional services that will be used throughout the region. Using the same strategy, Rockaway previously found success in the DACH region, where it built up an online travel group under the Invia Group brand, and in the field of e-commerce through Mall Group, which operates on seven markets in the CEE region. These groups have contributed significantly to Rockaway’s revenues, which crossed the threshold of EUR 2 billion in 2018. Gjirafa has become the largest e-commerce player in the region having a leading OTT product: GjirafaVideo and GjirafaStudio, equivalent to Hulu and Netflix; producing own content and currently has about 1 million minutes of video consumed a day (and growing double digits on monthly basis), and over 80 live channels online. Gjirafa, Inc., is the fastest growing company in the region, and the growth is impressive at 314% CAGR. To put it in perspective: when GDP indicators are normalized for the Balkans region vs the US, it has an equivalent revenue growth as Google had between 2001-2004 and continuing on the same path.

Omers Ventures outs €300M European fund — Q&A with Managing Partner Harry Briggs

Omers Ventures, the venture capital arm of Canadian pension fund Omers, is officially launching a new €300 million fund aimed at European technology startups. Headed up by Harry Briggs, who was previously at BGF Ventures, Omers Europe will back companies at Series A to B stage. The new fund will typically invest between €5m-€10m per round, while also having the capacity to follow on in future rounds for the most promising portfolio companies. Prior to his time at BGF — which ended rather abruptly due to “strategic changes” at the U.K. firm — Briggs was previously at Balderton Capital. His investments are said to include UK unicorn The Hut Group, Magic Pony (acquired by Twitter in 2016), GoCardless, Paddle, Touch Surgery, Appear Here and Revolut. He also has decent entrepreneur stripes, having founded and exited Firefly Tonics, a health drinks company, which he expanded to 35 countries, before selling to private equity firm Langholm Capital. Meanwhile, according to my sources, Briggs joined Omers some months ago and has been busy recruiting a small team for Omers in Europe. Joining him at launch is Tara Reeves, who was most recently a Partner at LocalGlobe and is said to have led investments in Bricklane, Cleo, Cuvva, Floodflash, Tide and Trussle, providing her with insurance tech and finntech expertise. Tara also co-founded Turo, a car-sharing marketplace that has raised over $200 million. Also joining Omers in Europe is Henry Gladwyn, who previously managed seed investments for the founders of DeepMind. Below follows an email Q&A with Omers Europe Managing Partner Harry Briggs where we discuss the new fund’s remit, why Omers is different to other funds in terms of how it is financed, the influx of U.S. capital into Europe, and Briggs’ advise for dealing with VC (and journalist) egos. TC: Omers Ventures in Europe plans to do Series A and B investments, typically writing cheques between €5m-€10m per round, as well as following on. Can you be more specific regarding the types of companies, technologies, business models or sectors you are focussing on? HB: I’d summarise it as “consequential companies that will have meaningful impact on society”: we’re unusual in that our funds don’t come from wealthy family trusts – they’re the retirement savings of 500,000 municipal workers – people who make Ontario society function. OMERS’ other assets follow a similar theme – OMERS builds and owns the airports, utilities, railways, hospitals and commercial and residential buildings that make up the fabric of major world cities. So in OMERS Ventures Europe we want to invest in the companies reshaping how we live and work: for example, Health-tech, FinTech, PropTech, Mobility – obviously because we think there will be huge European successes in those areas to make great commercial returns for the retirement plans of the OMERS members; but also because they’re areas we’re passionate about, that OMERS members care about, and where there are obvious synergies with the other parts of OMERS. TC: You’ve recruited Tara Reeves from LocalGlobe and Henry Gladwyn, […]