Budapest Letters #17

👋 Hi All! Great to have you back. This is Budapest Letters, my newsletter covering startup and small business stories from the CEE region, or interesting developments that might have something to do with this part of Europe. Hope you will enjoy it!

Before we jump into edition #17, big shout out to our new subscribers, good to have you here. And one more thing before we roll, if you like what you read, please subscribe 🙏

Cheers, Aron


Top stories this week: ✍️ Apple and Google gave in to Russian governmental pressure as both removed an app from their respective digital stores that could have helped opposition candidates in the upcoming federal elections ✍️ Cardiomatics, Turing College and Tatrym raised 💵 ✍️ Break Stuff aims to disrupt the sports card collectors market ✍️ Crowberry Capital, a women-lead VC firm from 🇮🇸, closed its new fund targeting seed/early-stage Nordic startups

🔥 Story of the Week

Human rights, along with an inclusive and democratic political system, seems to matter to Apple and Google in places where these kinds of rights are given, and in places where there will be no repercussions if a company speaks out against a government; because this is how democractic societies operate, thankfully.

But where the opposite is true, they tend to remain silent or complicit even to human rights violations, especially where there is money to loose.

Like in Russia and China, two pre-eminent human rights violators but at the same time huge markets for these companies. Well, in these cases, they tend give in to local governmental pressures. Just check what happened last week in 🇷🇺

In short, the Russian goverment is doing its upmost to make it close to impossible for opposition candidates, associated with jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny, to stand (or compete) in the upcoming federal elections. In this quest, they requested the two US tech giants to remove a popular app from their digital stores that supports tactical voting among the opposition camp. And so they did.

Key takeaway…

  • Reporter asking the CEOs of Apple and Google: “Human rights are clearly important to you in the US and Western Europe since you are very bullish on governments that fail to comply with certain values you hold dear. But are these universal values apply to big profitable markets that do not comply with them?”

  • CEOs of Apple and Google: (after a short pause)

Show Me Da 💶

👏 Cardiomatics, a healthtech startup from 🇵🇱, nabbed ca. €2.7 million, led by Kaya, a Prague-based VC firm that is already behind several CEE success stories, such as Rohlik (🇨🇿), DocPlanner (🇵🇱) and Booksy (🇵🇱). Fresh funding will be used for - as one would except - strenghtening tech stack and international expansion.

👏 Turing College, an edtech startup from 🇱🇹, received around $1 million, led by Iron Wolf Capital, a local VC fund with offices in Vilnius and London. According to the company the money will be used to enter the Netherlands and Estonia.

👏 Tatrym, a soon-to-be launched investment app from 🇨🇿 with 🇸🇰 founders, bagged ca. €500k, led by Bienville Capital, a US-based VC firm. The companies vision is to democratize investing in the CEE region by providing a simple, commision free investment app to locals á la Robinhood + no hidden fees.

🧐 Personal take: I love it. Cannot be impartial here folks, sorry. Investors and users also dig these. Investment apps, like Robinhood, Freetrade (shout out to Viktor Nebehaj, its 🇭🇺 co-founder), Trade Republic and Lightyear, just to name a handful, are cool, easy to use and really bring investing closer to people. And this is crucial, especially in CEE, where investing is less popular. Until now. Hopefully.

Big congrats to all teams!

🚨 Startup Alert

This week’s alert is on Break Stuff, a sport cards trading startup from 🇭🇷, that just raised funding to transform its popular but basic trading platform to a digital marketplace that can seriously take the international sport cards market by storm; which, by the way, is set to be worth ca. $100 billion by 2027. So not a small one.

According to the startup what it aims to pull off is to create a marketplace where collectors can upload, verify and sell or trade their sport cards without any friction. Not sure how this will be different to what Whatnot provides, for example. Nonetheless, the solution still seems interesting and since the market will be very big, there might be room for several specialized players.


🧠 Food

Crowberry Capital, a women-lead VC firm from Iceland, just launched its new, $90 million fund (Crowberry II), targeting seed / early-stage Nordic startups.

This is big news on two levels: Firstly, women barely make it to the upper echelons of finance, including in the venture cap industry; meaning that, in practice, you can rarely find female VC partners. So having a VC fund that is lead by three talented women is textbook trailblazer. Especially, when it is successful.

Secondly, internationally only ca. 2% of VC funding goes to female-founded startups. But this figure is 33% at Crowberry, despite the fact that the firm does not have an exclusive focus on such companies. They just do not overlook talent.

And precisely this is what Experior, a fellow women-lead VC firm does from Poland; with the added bonus that its founders are amongst the leading European voices in VC to make the industry more inclusive and welcoming for women.

Ambitious aim but one that is absolutely crucial for the success of Europe.