Early stage investors in the Nordics - pre seed and seed options. A guide.
Early stage investment can be important in the further development of a company, if you're running a startup either in the Nordics or anywhere inthe world. It's not only the money but also the network access and open doors that presumably the investors can make available for you.
It should be noted from the beginning though that, in spite of a positive initial impression from the un-initiated, the Nordic investment ecosystem at early stages seems rather fragmented and unstructured, with the obligatory mix of egos, limited knowledge and/or lack of on-hands experience. Not that surprising though, after all, outside the local startup bubble, being an entrepreneur is still an exotic thing in the Nordics and this is strongly correllated with the level on the buying side aka investors.
With that being said, there are a number of interesting options of above average investors at pre seed and seed levels in Scandinavia, sharing a few of the following traits: active, smart, nice, with good record and easy approachable.
It's hard to find one combining all of them and add to that network access, which is not a differentiator any longer (it is a prerequisite), but we think the atitude and knowledgeable support for (international) scaling make the difference for choosing an early stage investor and having a future with them.
Please note that we don't refer to the angels but rather to companies backed by one or more LPs, even though most could be one or two person companies, or companies made of groups of angels etc.
[Now, at this stage, except for accelerators (see a comprehensive list of Startup accelerators in the Nordics) and the 3Fs (friends, family, fouls) you can also explore the angel investment option, which is a bit tricky as those guys are usually a heterogenous bunch working in closed circles, accessible usually via recommendations, or/and subject to their
moody subjective reaction of cold approaching them. We will follow up on this - you can also check a list of the most active angel investors from the Nordics in 2017]
So - we have looked in our databases for non-angel investors active in rounds with less than $1M investments. We included the ones w/ undisclosed financials.
Out of those, we made a selection of what we believe are good options to evaluate when looking for investors in early stages startups in the Nordic area.
Promentum Equity Partners
Promentum was founded in 2016, as a joint venture between Promentum Capital A/S and Secure Alternative Investments A/S, a multi-family office sitting on EUR 400 million in AuM. Managed by Amer Ramzan, made 16 investments in Denmark since 2016.
The Nordic Web Ventures
The Nordic Web Ventures was started in 2017 by Neil Murray, a journalist who initially covered the Nordic startup ecosystem via his blog. It is a one-man shop which made 9 investments across the entire Nordic region in about a year.
Futuristic VC is also part of the new wave, as Promentum and TNWV above, started by Christian Jantzen in 2017. Also quite active, we tracked 8 investments to date, also multi geographic.
North-East Venture was launched in 2013 as an international multi-stage fund, owned by the North-East Family Office, aka Winnie Liljeborg and Per Algot Enevoldsen, the founders of the Danish jewellery brand Pandora. We tracked 2 investments for 2018, and they seem to invest multi stage - as it is run by entrepreneurs, there is a good chance they get it from very early stages.
The Danish government:
The Danish government is available and active at early stages
Gorilla is an angel fund backed by 16 angel investors. They launched a new fund at the end of 2017 - Gorilla Capital, after having invested in 37 different Finnish companies in multiple rounds from Gorilla Ventures, closed now. The fund is managed by Petri Lehmuskoski and invests in pre-seed/seed stage together with local angel investors.
Icebreaker is part of the new wave investors from the Nordics and was launched at the end of 2016 as €14 million VC fund based in Helsinki looking for what they call pre-founders. Since then it increased the fund size to €20M and invested in 20 companies very early stage, operating with a community-based model.
Butterfly Ventures was founded in 2012, with offices in Oulu and Helsinki, invests at pre-seed and seed levels - they say they make about 10 commitments per year.
Sisu Game Ventures
Sisu is focused 100% on games and gaming companies in the Nordic region. Founded in 2014 and run by Paul Bragiel, Moaffak Ahmed and Samuli Syvähuoko, involved in multiple geographies and connected, we tracked their activity in 15 investments.
Wave Ventures is a €1.2M Finnish fund managed entirely by students from Aalto University and University of Helsinki in 2016. Fresh and open minded, looking for startups at pre-seed stage, with a portfolio of 11 deals and active in Finland and Sweden.
The Finnish government
Business Finland, formerly Tekes - probably one of the most active investor from Europe, both via investments or diverse schemes of grants and startup programs.
NSA Ventures invests at seed and early stage via an evergreen investment fund and with a portfolio of 25 companies.
Investa is another Icelanding option for early stage investments, managed by business people with actual experience in the startup world.
Crowberry Capital is a new venture fund founded in 2017 by former NSA Ventures employees. They invests at seed and early stages and look also outside Iceland.
Bergen-based, Momentum Partners AS is owned by the W. Giertsen group of companies, a family-owned industrial group from Norway. They're active, with 10 deals in portfolio since 2015.
Norselab is a hybrid between an incubator and an early stage investor. The company was founded by entrepreneurs (Documaster founders) and just announced securing $10M for further investments.
Sagene Tech Ventures
Sagene Tech Ventures is a pre-seed venture fund established in Oslo in 2016 by seven business angels. Active in 4 companies since then.
Sarsia is a Seed Capital Fund, based in Bergen, claims to invest in early phase technology companies. They launched a new €33M fund in 2017, looking to fund startups within the energy/cleantech and biotechnology/life science sectors - we have tracked three investments made out of it.
NewMark Capital, based in Oslo, is an early stage investment company, part of a greater tech-community called Explorer HQ. They are interested in software, B2B startups, we tracked three of their 2018 investments.
Wiski Capital is an investment firm owned by Øystein R. Skiri and Gustav Magnar Witzøe. Not too much public info about it though we tracked 4 of their deals, the two aligned their interests as they're also active angel investors.
Goodbye Kansas Game Invest
Goodbye Kansas Game Invest is part of Goodbye Kansas Holding, together with Goodbye Kansas Studios and Infinite Entertainment. As the name suggests, they look for gaming teams and help them with resources and money for setting up shop and getting things off the ground. Made 9 investments in the last couple of years.
Coffee Stain Studios
Coffee Stain Studios is a gaming developer which is also an active investor, in a similar fashion to Goodbye Kansas, providing resources for gaming startups. Run by Anton Westbergh, we tracked 6 investments made in Sweden and Denmark.
Norrsken Foundation is the next level in the life of Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Adalberth, one of the founders of Klarna. In a short time, he setup a working space, an incubator and an investment team that acts on a thesis, quite rare in the Nordic investment ecosystem. The thesis is sustainability and "make the world a better place" and is supported by 13 early stages investments made so far.
Wellstreet is another team of fresh blood and good atitude in the Nordic investment ecosystem, founded by two entrepreneurs in 2016 - Mikael Wintzell and Simon Saneback. Since starting they have become one of the most active investors in the region, acting on a hybrid model of early investment and incubation, which traditional venture companies don't usually do.
Collector Ventures is the investment vehicle of Collector Bank but the key word here is founder Lena Apler, an active angel investor herself and very connected to the startup and investment world. Collector has made about 20 investments since founding a couple of years ago, especially at early stages in the financial vertical.
J12 Ventures is also part of the new wave of investors, with strong ties with STOAF. It invests early stage in Sweden, Finland and the Baltics, and has already 6 companies in its investment portfolio.
Soläng Invest is a one man investment company, one of the most active in the Nordics in the past 24 months or so. The company is owned by Anders Göransson who has a daily job as Chief Credit Sales Manager Green Bonds at Swedbank Markets.
Walerud Ventures is a family business - daughter, father, mother - built from the early investment work of Jane Walerud, one of the most respected angel investors in Sweden, and of very early Klarna investor fame. Their portfolio is diversified (listed and non listed companies) but they have a good instinct when it comes to interesting early stage technology startups.
Qalora is not an investment company per se but may be useful for finding early stage investment options. It was started in 2016 as Angelr by a group of students looking to connect startups with angel investors. They have grown up and, besides acting as middle men, have also taken equity positions in some of the startups they work with.
Almi Invest - also very active, with plenty of support for startups, under the form of equity, debt or grants.
Most active non-angels in Q1-Q3 2018 active in rounds with less than $1M or of undisclosed value:
Almi Invest: 27 investment rounds
Pre Seed Ventures: 21 investment rounds
Icebreaker VC: 9 investment rounds
Capnova: 7 investment rounds
Wave Ventures: 6 investment rounds
The Nordic Web Ventures: 6 investment rounds
Vækstfonden: 5 investment rounds
Maki VC: 5 investment rounds
Business Finland: 5 investment rounds
ByFounders: 4 investment rounds
Futuristic VC: 4 investment rounds
Soläng Invest: 4 investment rounds