Investing Beyond Borders: Where Trust, Cultures, and Networks Collide

The Engaged Investments Conference recently hosted a panel discussion featuring industry experts, each offering unique perspectives on "How to Cross-Borders: Fostering Cooperation and Investment across the CEE Region." The speakers shared valuable insights on the challenges and strategies associated with investing in the Region.

Investing Beyond Borders: Where Trust, Cultures, and Networks Collide

Balancing Global and Local Perspectives 

One of the central themes revolved around striking a balance between a global outlook and the reality of local founders hesitant to venture abroad. Mary McKenna, an Angel Investor and Entrepreneur, passionately advocated for global investments, stating, "Ireland is a small country; if I only invested in Irish companies, I wouldn't be tackling the best ones." Marcin Hejka, General Partner at OTB Ventures, on the other hand, reinforced the importance of being perceived as a top player to attract premier deals. He underlined that establishing oneself as a key player is crucial, citing “No founder wants to talk to 50 investors”, and reminding that, similarly, no VC wants to listen to a founder who does. He recalls that first fund at OTB Ventures was exclusively focused on the CEE region, building relationships with local founders for successful collaborations. 



Trust, Communities, and Networks 

Alex Felman, General Partner at Felman Family Office, emphasized the significance of trust within communities, surpassing the importance of geographical boundaries. Petr Šíma, Managing Partner at DEPO Ventures, added a layer to the discussion, noting that Business Angels typically invest in people they know personally, with whom they can have a beer. Even though some of them have started to invest remotely due to COVID, the majority still prefer the old, traditional way. 



Face-to-Face Dynamics in a Digital World 

The debate on face-to-face interactions in a post-COVID era took center stage. Marcin Hejka argued for the indispensability of in-person meetings for successful investments. However, Mary McKenna challenged this notion, sharing her post-panedemics shift in perspective. ,,Before 2020 I wouldn’t have invested in people I haven’t met, this year I invested in 6”, she reflected. On the other hand, Adam Kočík, Managing Partner at J&T Ventures, advocated for in-person meetings, emphasizing that certain information is not easily conveyed through video conferences. He also stressed that a physical meeting demonstrates respect from both sides. Petr Šíma added his experience from DEPO Ventures, highlighting the increase in their remote investments. He noted that nowadays, the pitch decks often omit information about founders' origins, deemed unnecessary.  Alex Felman provided an alternative viewpoint, mentioning ,,After COVID, we moved the meeting to a later stage. But if we can’t meet, it’s not a deal-braker ”.  


Cultural Considerations and Adaptability 

Adam Kočík noted ,,I see more similarities than differences in Easter Europe”. Yet, he underlined the importance of understanding and adapting to diverse cultures. Founders, he suggested, should be equipped to navigate cultural nuances when presenting to varied regions. Mary McKenna agreed, saying ,,Many founders don’t consider the different cultures they’re pitching to”. 



The Role of Networks and References 

The panel unanimously agreed on the pivotal role of networks and references in the venture capital landscape. They highlighted the significance of these factors in shaping the decision-making process for investors. 




In navigating the multifaceted nature of cross-border investments, the key takeaways from this panel discussion underscore the challenges and opportunities present in the CEE region. One resounding conclusion seems to be emerging from the discussion – success is intricately woven into the art of cultivating robust networks in our interconnected world.