ESIL is empowering Business Angels in Eastern Europe ​

Business angels (BA) play a key role in the early-stage development of companies not only investing but also coaching them. One of the objectives of the new ESIL programme is to strengthen the Angel Ecosystems in key target countries where angel investment is less developed such as in widening countries. 

ESIL has been working on selecting six European countries with a strong potential to further strengthen their BA investment capacity to invest in technology champions. BA investment will enhance the selected countries’ innovation ecosystems, whilst increasing their connections and cross-border investment partnerships across Europe.  

ESIL is committed to enhancing Europe’s innovative ecosystems by fostering a vibrant, interconnected, and diverse angel investment community across all European countries, while also strengthening markets where angel investment may still be lagging behind. The initiative places particular emphasis on Eastern European ecosystems, recognising both the similarities and disparities that exist from country to country within this region.


A flourishing investment ecosystem  

Since joining the EU, Bulgaria’s startup ecosystem has significantly grown, marked by the rise of venture capital funds and the emergence of its first unicorn. It has also been selected as one of the best places to start your business. However, a lack of angel investors blocks private investment due to educational gaps and risk aversion among high-net-worth individuals. 

Czechia faces a similar situation. While the country has a strong track record in business angel investing and hosts one of the few formalised National Associations among widening countries, there is still room for improvement. Streamlining business startup processes and promoting female participation in the angel investor scene could help the country reach its full economic potential. 


Building strong foundations for emerging angel investment communities 

Building strong foundations for new angel investment communities is key for long-term success. They will be fundamental to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the markets, driving economic growth and job creation. These communities offer valuable networks and resources, empowering startups to overcome initial challenges and scale effectively. By supporting diverse and emerging businesses, angel investors contribute to a more dynamic and inclusive economy. This is the horizon that ESIL envisions for the burgeoning angel investor communities emerging in countries like Romania and Croatia.  

The Romanian example shows a startup ecosystem boasting a head start, with the first angel investor group forming in 2013. The scene is experiencing a surge in angel investors joining clubs, though many new and haven not made investments yet. Crowdfunding platforms are also gaining traction. 

In the other hand, the Croatian business angel scene is still somewhat informal but experiencing rapid growth, with new investors entering the market and the number doubling since 2019. However, the industry remains young with limited investment activity and a lack of official data on angel investors. 


Heads and tails of gender diversity in the angel investors scenes 

Gender diversity in angel investment is crucial for fostering innovation and economic growth. That’s why ESIL has a specific goal on diversity and gender equity. The initiative aims to boost a more diverse gender-focused investment ecosystem across Europe. Hungary and Poland evidence two contrasting examples of this in Eastern Europe.  

Hungary’s startup scene is a flourishing one with strong research institutes, skilled tech talent and increasing investments but it faces a challenge: integrating gender diversity. While women-focused networks exist, a cultural shift towards inclusivity across the ecosystem is crucial. Additionally, limited access to angel investment compared to other regions necessitates strong foundational support for Hungarian entrepreneurs. 

Conversely, Poland has a growing diversified business angel scene with important support schemes from the public sector, and already includes a notable 20% of female investors, highlighting a promising trend towards a more balanced and inclusive investment ecosystem. This diversity is essential not only for equity but also for driving robust and varied entrepreneurial success across Europe. 

In all the mentioned countries, ESIL team will be supported by a pool of experienced women and men Angel investors, acting as “Archangels”. They will partner with key investment leaders in the target countries, to achieve maximum impact and long-term sustainability. Archangels and Local Leaders will boost angel investment through educational training, syndication support, ecosystem mapping, and co-investment exploration. 

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