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InvestHorizon, a European Commission-funded initiative that assists European startups and SMEs in becoming investment-ready, has brought together different stakeholders, from startups and SMEs to investors and policymakers, to develop a better environment for SMEs across Europe.
The programme, which ran from December 2014 to May 2017, provided key business development and investment training, both online and offline, for SMEs with the aid of 10 partners: Tech Tour, ASTP Proton, Baden-Württemberg: Connected, European Business Angels Network, EBN Innovation Network, F6S, Eurochambres, European Crowdfunding Network, L'Interface Entreprises-Université, and Tilburg University.
The consortium has supported more than 2,100 SMEs over the last two years with training programmes, networking and support events in 18 countries, and €2.3 million in funding from the European Commission.
More than 2,100 SMEs initially registered with InvestHorizon with 1,768 taking part in online courses on becoming investment-ready and getting familiar with the investment process. This was followed by an online review stage where companies were assessed by three reviewers. Eventually 501 businesses were pitched to investors to find who was investment-ready.
InvestHorizon’s main goal was putting SMEs in front of investors of different backgrounds. It welcomed all forms of investment in European SMEs, whether it’s VC, private equity, corporate, crowdfunding, angel investors, or accelerators. To date, more than 30 companies have raised funding, from seed to Series C, with the support of InvestHorizon and $120 million from private funds.
A few examples: Paris-based medical device firm Corwave Technologies, which makes mechanical blood pumps, raised a Series B round of €15.5 million in November led by new investors Novo Seed and Ysios Capital as well as existing shareholders.
Movvo, a marketing analytics startup founded in Portugal, raised €5.5 million in its Series A round last year and is using the funds to expand into new markets in North America and Asia.
Several companies raised smaller seed rounds to help get their innovations off the ground.
Smart Sensor Technology from Spain, which develops internet of things sensors for detecting leaks in fuel tanks, raised €200,000. It deploys its sensor technology in petrol stations, oil refineries, and fuel storage systems. Bulgaria’s B.GUARD secured €105,000 in seed capital for its anti-theft alert hardware for bicycles.
As a result of the work of the last three years, InvestHorizon has made a number of key recommendations to help SMES and investors alike to identify the biggest challenges for their growth, such as access to the right markets, matchmaking with suitable investors, and networking events.
The programme found that SMEs in Europe can struggle with financing and preparing for the fundraising process and lack mentorship and access to investors. Scale-ups can also meet hurdles with effective leadership during growth, highlighting the need for better communication and strategy.
Likewise, for investors, InvestHorizon identified that investors need more training and awareness on investing across borders, and managing portfolio risk. It recommends creating investment syndicates to better manage the process from startup pitches to investment. This can help with facilitating smoother cross-border investments. For relatively newer funding options, like crowdfunding, the organisation recommends greater transparency on the data they collect, and funding amounts raised.
For more information please visit InvestHorizon. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 643619.