On the fast-changing Ukrainian high tech scene, one fund, Fison, is conducting a pioneering experiment to drive savers’ money to IT startups. It claims that more than 1,000 individual investors have contributed $2 million in total so far in exchange for an equity stake.
Launched in 2013 by Dmitry Tomchuk and Dmitry Vishnyov, two entrepreneurs from Dnipropetrovsk (Dnepropetrovsk) in the eastern part of Ukraine, Fison is the first and only Ukrainian crowdfunding fund thus far – even though the bulk of its capital, $20 million, was brought in by limited partners according to classic industry standards.
The average contribution amounts to less than $150, but some investors brought up to $300,000 individually, said Fison PR Director Elena Ryabova in an exchange with Ukraine Digital News.
Savers may thus take a stake in either the fund or a startup individually. In most cases, they do not choose any startup in particular, said Ryabova.
“Usually they are simply motivated by making money. People trust us because we manage their funds professionally, make them profits and they practically don’t have to do anything,” she explained.
Any Ukrainian or foreign citizen may become a shareholder. Fison already received contributions from Hong Kong and the USA, said Ryabova.
Fison intends to develop the experiment further – and farther.
Crowdfunding in times of war
“We continue to evolve in Ukraine. We have a very complex situation with banks in our country, with many closing down and people not having anywhere to store their money, or indeed even earn it. Whereas we have an investment model in a high-growth business, which is startups,” explains Ryabova.
According to 2014 results, Fison claims good results for its clients. “We have proven that money can be invested efficiently even in times of war,” she adds.
The Fison crowdfunded platform is now open to all foreign startups. “Ukrainian investors may wish to support an interesting startup that does not originate from Ukraine,” says Ryabova. “We also believe that the community of startups should communicate between themselves. This could make possible some new joint projects.”
No country is excluded. “We are patriots, but we are open to startups from all countries – even from Russia. The IT sector is very unique in that it can often be open to sympathy, far from politics,” says Ryabova.
Crowdfunding has developed significantly in Ukraine over the past few years in more standard ways. Many Ukrainian tech projects have raised funds via Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other international platforms – sometimes successfully, sometimes with scandal.
Some domestic crowfunding platforms have also appeared. Biggggidea.com is one of the most popular ones, but it does not target specifically high-tech projects.