UNIQA Ventures Success Story
UNIQA Ventures Competes Against the Biggest Players with Deeper Intelligence
Dr. Andreas Nemeth
CEO, UNIQA Ventures
The world of venture capital can be cutthroat. You have to know where to turn to find the unicorns—privately held startups with a value of over $1 billion—and find them before anyone else does.
That’s the challenge for anyone in VC, but especially for smaller firms like UNIQA Ventures, where I am a Co-Founder and Managing Partner. Located in Vienna, Austria, UNIQA Ventures is the venture capital arm of UNIQA Insurance Group, one of the leading insurance companies in central and eastern Europe. UNIQA Insurance has been around for 200 years. In 2015, they made a bold move to invest in startups to propel themselves into the future and remain relevant to their 15 million customers. UNIQA Ventures was born.
We invest in four verticals: FinTech, InsurTech, Digital Health, and Mobility. We often invest at the very late seed stage, but our sweet spot is in the early growth stage, Series A and B, where the ticket size is $1–$5 million, with twice as much in follow-on investments. Seven years in, we have built a balanced portfolio that includes 39 companies in Europe.
Even though we’ve seen double-digit returns and are one of the most successful VC funds in Europe—ranked one of the best FinTech investors in 2019 by Atomico—we aren’t a powerhouse. We don’t have as many resources as larger firms that have been around longer. So to remain competitive in the race to find the next unicorn, we leverage CB Insights.
Identifying Targets Across Europe and Multiple Verticals
CB Insights is an intelligence platform that provides deep research and analysis on companies, allowing UNIQA Ventures to gain insight into trends among technology startups and hone in on investment targets. We have used CB Insights almost since its inception. At the time, we had made some seed-stage investments, and we needed to gain access to research data. We learned that CB Insights is one of the top research providers in this space, and their clients gain even more access to in-depth research.
Once we became clients, we never looked back. Our most-used feature today is Market Maps. Because we are a financial return-driven investor, we are less interested in local startups close to our core business than we are in the winners in the European arena. We orient our investments around themes and trends as we invest across the continent and across multiple industries. FinTech has so many sub-verticals that we are always challenged to identify the strongest propositions in each area, as well as their peers.
On the flip side, it’s great to see the startups in our portfolio positioned within Market Maps because we know that other investors also rely on this feature. For example, one of our startups—bsurance, a pioneer in the embedded insurance movement—appeared on many CB Insights Market Maps after we added them to our portfolio. As a result, bsurance has received a slew of inbound calls from other investors. Prominent positioning within CB Insights is so valuable to startups that it’s almost become a marketing asset.
CB Insights now provides valuation and revenue data points, which help us better understand the valuations of U.S. startups and how they compare to European ones. This feature has become increasingly crucial as valuations have changed over the past few years. With more money flowing into VC in Europe, rounds are getting more contested. We have to become even more informed of the accuracy of our valuations, and we do that with CB Insights.
The other feature that we use very frequently is the Mosaic Score. It allows us to better assess companies and save time researching potential targets. Pulling up a list of the InsurTechs operating in Europe and sorting them by their Mosaic Score and the size of funding received is an excellent way to see who other investors have already identified as a potential winner. The data in CB Insights surfaced something that wasn’t even on our radar, demonstrating the value of having deep insights into all the companies working within a space.
Expanding into Other Markets
Two of our successes that we’ve engaged with the help of CB Insights are Austrian crypto exchange Bitpanda and Wayflyer, which operates out of Dublin, Ireland, and is the leader in revenue-based financing in Europe. We took an indirect route to Wayflyer: we were doing our due diligence on another startup when we came across Wayflyer—and it proved to be an even more attractive case than our original prospect!
In our day-to-day research and scouting, we also lean on CB Insights’ breadth of coverage of the U.S. market. A European VC firm needs to understand what’s happening in the U.S., identify potential peers to our targets, and compare progress, funding, and models.
And while our primary focus is on Europe, we are also exploring emerging markets in Africa and Latin America. These are hot places for FinTech investment, but they’re new territory for us. We have some investments in European-based companies that are now doing business in these markets.
We want to double down on winning models that have worked in Europe and the U.S. that we can then apply to these underserved markets. Investing in these markets previously required getting someone on the ground to poke around and visit these hubs. Now, we can turn to CB Insights to get a sense of the landscape. It’s like a Lonely Planet for startup investments.
Staying Informed from Start to Finish
FinTech is a vast space, and most of the team members who join us are new to one or another of the specific verticals we cover. InsurTech in particular is a very narrow space that doesn’t compare easily to anything else. CB Insights is a great tool for onboarding new team members. The in-depth information and analysis help people new to a vertical gain a better understanding of the landscape.
When I co-founded UNIQA Ventures, our process of uncovering opportunities involved reading TechCrunch and other startup-specific media. Dealroom also reported on recent transactions, but not much beyond that. Nothing on the market provided the same insightful research we got from CB Insights. Now, I couldn’t think of a way to stay informed without it.
Going Head-to-Head with the Big Players
Our goal at UNIQA Ventures is to seek out the best startups in our target areas and identify the winning business models and themes within these verticals. That’s why data is a critical resource in our operations. We are a small fund making a very decent return, but we have to be selective in where we get our data because of our size. Whose research leads to the smartest investment? From CB Insights, we get the data we need to help my team uncover the best startups within each space in Europe and beyond.
CB Insights puts us head-to-head with the big firms that employ hundreds of people and likely have their own proprietary research. I consider CB Insights to be part of my team, filling in any knowledge gaps and helping us cover all our verticals just as well as any of the biggest VC firms.
Dr. Andreas Nemeth
CEO, UNIQA Ventures
Andreas is an entrepreneur, innovator, and the CEO & Managing Partner at UNIQA Venture GmbH, the venture capital fund backed by UNIQA Insurance Group AG, with a clear vision to pioneering corporate venture capital investing in CEE.
He invests in a wide range of technology companies including InsurTech, FinTech and Digital Health and is also on the board of Finabro and bsurance as well as a founding partner of Health Hub Vienna, a HealthTech Accelerator program focusing on digital health startups.
Andreas holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and a PhD from University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and received executive training from Harvard Business School.
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