Young Ukrainian startups are often looking for investments abroad. They apply to various acceleration programs and sometimes move abroad to find those willing to support them. It turns out that there is a local alternative to fundraising in Ukraine. For almost a year now Lviv Tech Angels have been connecting angel investors in the Lviv region with Ukrainian startups in order to evaluate them for funding suitability. In this article you will learn more about this small but expanding band of angels, how to join them as an angel, and how to pitch them as a startup.
Outgoing CEO: Orest Furhala
President : Michael Puzrakov
Location: Lviv, Ukraine
Founded in 2020
Number of Angel Investors: 6
Lviv Tech Angels is a small group of founders and top managers of IT outsourcing companies from the Lviv region who decided to form a club to coordinate their startup investments. Its interim CEO Orest Furhala adds: “We are not a regular VC fund and each investor makes their own decision whether they want to invest in a startup. But we collect applications from startups, organize pitches, and do due diligence together.”
At his other job as the Partnerships Lead at N-iX, one of Ukraine’s largest IT outsourcers, one of Orest’s first projects was to support Garage48 hackathons worldwide. Orest was impressed with what he saw: “After doing five hackathons year after year, I saw the quality of participating startups growing each time.” After the hackathons the startups expanded very fast, from idea stage to having a product, to finding their first clients. When the Lviv IT Cluster had their strategic session, someone raised the topic of creating a group of angel investors, and Orest naturally agreed to help running it.
“Our members rarely invest in companies from abroad. They focus on Ukrainian projects or the ones that have Ukrainian founders. We want to support Ukrainian startups”– Orest Furhala
Each of the investors in the club has done earlier startup investments, however, Lviv Tech Angels became a platform for sharing information between them, a place for discovering new Ukrainian startups, and doing joint due diligence. The platform also helps startups reach out to Lviv investors, ask them for advice, support, and introductions.
The Lviv Tech Angels group was formally formed in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic slowed down its initial efforts, but even during the lockdowns It screened over 300 startups and selected 20 for pitches to its members. Several of these companies managed to receive investments from the group.
How Lviv Tech Angels operates
The first step is, of course, to find startups. Startup founders can fill out an online form to reach out directly. The group also monitors startup competitions, pitch days and other programs and reaches out to startups when there is an initial match. After the first round of due diligence, the group organizes pitch sessions with angel investors. Usually, there are five startups per session. So far these sessions have been done quarterly, but the group wants to increase the frequency in the future.
As for the members of the club, there are currently six angel investors, but there are plans to expand to 15 by the end of this year: “We are ready to accept new members, who are passionate about investing and helping Ukrainian tech startups as much as we do.” In order to join the team of investors, you need to have two recommendation letters either from existing members or from the Lviv IT Cluster.
At first, it was challenging to figure out specific investment criteria because each investor had their own approach to investing. Eventually, all six members agreed on the minimal standards for investable startups. They needed to be at Pre-Seed or Seed stages, and be based in Ukraine or have Ukrainian founders. The companies should also be oriented at the global market and demonstrate good traction. The checks start at $10k and go up to $200k.
Currently, Lviv Tech Angels is improving its website to make the connections between startups and investors even simpler: “Registering the trademark and obtaining a .ua domain took us almost a year, and now we are almost done with the formalities.”
Besides providing startups with funds, most LTA investors are also interested in helping them grow, provide strategic advice, and regularly meet with founders. Investors can help startups figure out their next steps and get introductions to potential partners or customers. Orest Furhala is convinced that it is all about finding a perfect match between the startup and the investor. “In Ukraine, there are a lot of smart minds who can quite possibly found a future Unicorn. For investors it is important to discover such startups, invest in them and help them grow.”