Rockaway Ventures launches a fund focused on ESG investment in startups and announces its first two acquisitions
The investment team behind the Rockaway Capital’s successful investments in start-ups like Productboard, Brand Embassy, Gjirafa, or Storyous is launching a new venture capital fund, the Rockaway Ventures Fund, with a target size of EUR 100 million (CZK 2.5 billion). It will focus primarily on start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe that are digitalizing traditional industries while following ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) principles. Its first two investments, where Rockaway Ventures Fund invests several million EUR, are Estonian start-up Lingvist and German Vivere platform.
Rockaway Ventures is one of the first venture capital funds in the Czech Republic, as well as in Central Europe, to assess investments in start-ups based both on their future revenues and whether they have a positive environmental and social impact and responsible and transparent corporate governance. It was one of the first venture capital investors to implement formal ESG rules in the CEE region and this year it will subscribe to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI).
“We pay great attention to economic, environmental, and social sustainability. We’re firmly convinced that an active ESG approach to investments is not only socially responsible but also increases value for investors in the long term. In Central and Eastern Europe we see many young innovative companies, and the role of our new fund is to help innovators grow,” says General Partner Andrea Lauren who together with Dušan Zábrodský heads the Rockaway Ventures Fund.
The fund’s ESG approach is also closely related to the theme of digitalization, which not only allows society to operate more efficiently, but also to grow sustainably. In selecting its investments, Rockaway Ventures focuses primarily on areas such as e-tailing, logistics, media, fintech, digital medicine and education, or cyber-security. “We’re looking for start-ups that disrupt the established order in traditional industries through digitalization, which in our opinion means speed, accuracy, efficiency, and finally progress. Its successful implementation is the key to success,” says Dušan Zábrodský.
The new fund follows in the track record of venture investing done by Rockaway Capital and its founder, Jakub Havrlant. Since 2014 Rockaway invested more than CZK 675 million in 22 venture capital investments, with 11 of them already fully exited and more than 100 % of invested capital returned. In mid-2021, the total worth of Rockaway’s venture portfolio was CZK 2.4 billion.
Building upon the foundation laid by previous investments, the Rockaway Ventures Fund will continue to focus much of its activities on Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltics and Balkans but also DACH, where the Rockaway Capital Group has a growing presence. “In recent years we have been watching the Central European start-up scene mature – venture capital investments in 2016-2019 recorded a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 65 %, which is double the European average. This facilitates larger investment rounds and exits, and the region is thus becoming more attractive for leading global VC investors as well,” says Lauren.
This is also underscored by the fund’s first two investments – the first is the fast-growing Estonian start-up Lingvist, which has developed a language learning platform that effectively reduces the time needed to learn a new language. The project, founded in 2013 by former CERN nuclear physicist Mait Müntel, allows the same technology to be used in other areas of education too. With its investment, Rockaway Ventures has participated in the Series A+ investment round alongside Dutch fund Rubio Impact Ventures and Metaplanet Holdings of Jaan Talinn, the co-founder of Skype.
The second investment is in Vivere, a German company that incubates, develops, produces and sells innovative FMCG products based on comprehensive demand and trend data analysis. Vivere currently markets roughly 200 products under ten brands. In Vivere’s latest investment round, Rockaway Ventures invested alongside prominent Swiss investor and tech entrepreneur Daniel Aegerter and leading Swiss VC fund Redalpine.
“With Lingvist and Vivere we are commencing investment by the Rockaway Ventures Fund, which will focus on slightly larger, European projects with an interesting product proposition and dynamically growing revenues. We’re glad that in both cases we can co-invest with renowned European VC investors,” says Andrea Lauren, General Partner of the Rockaway Ventures Fund.
The new fund has an active management style, offering founders assistance in creating and testing business strategies and building the teams that will help implement them. “We want to focus our investments primarily on start-ups that have already developed and launched their products and services to market and generate dynamically growing revenues,” adds Zábrodský. “We are prepared to invest up to EUR 15 million into each company. We want to build lasting partnerships with companies and their founders that are about more than just money, and actively help them manage growth and achieve their visions.”
About Rockaway Ventures Fund
A venture capital investment fund with a target value of EUR 100 million that focuses on investing in the digital economy according to ESG principles in Europe, especially the Central and Eastern European region. The fund is headed by its General Partners, Andrea Lauren and Dušan Zábrodský, and Rockaway Capital of Jakub Havrlant is one of the fund’s main investors.