Launchpad Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital (VC) firm, has launched a new fund $35 million fund with a focus on Lithuanian fintech start-ups.
The early stage investor is led by Ryan Gilbert, who co-founded SmartBiz Loans – one of the fintech start-ups which helped borrowers left in the cold by AmEx’s acquisition of Kabbage.
Gilbert’s VC, which he founded in January, now wants to invest in Lithuanian start-ups targeting North America. As part of its new investment focus, Launchpad has appointed Dominykas Stankevičius as its lead investment associate in the Baltic region.
Stankevičius, based out of Vilnius, is also a senior technology investment advisor for fintech at Invest Lithuania.
According to 2021 Invest Lithuania data, 15% of Lithuanian-based fintech start-ups consider the US market as a “viable target”.
Gilbert therefore thinks Launchpad is “well-positioned” to open the US market up to “bold and ambitious” Baltic start-ups. The VC will focus on fintech start-ups at incubation, pre-seed, and seed stage.
It will aim to make five early-stage investments in the Baltic region, ranging from $100,000 to $2 million.
Finding Lithuania’s next fintech unicorn
In the long run, Gilbert wants his company to become “one of the most active VCs in the Baltic region”.
Launchpad plans to collaborate with local investors and stakeholders from Lithuania’s private and public sectors.
“When I visited in 2019, I knew that I’d be back to invest in Lithuania,” says Gilbert. “While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed many plans, it’s not going to hold us back any longer. We will create local jobs and help launch the next Lithuanian unicorn.”
The country’s prolific fintech start-ups include banking system provider Fininbox, peer-to-peer lending platform FinBee, digital banking challenger Mano Bankas, and electronic money institution firm Paysera.
Vilnius’ tourism board has calls the city “the G-spot of Europe”, a moniker in place since 2018. It states: “Nobody knows where it is but when you find it – it’s amazing”.
According to Startup Lithuania, the number of start-ups in the country had grown to 1,021 by April 2020, exceeding both Estonia (1,017) and Latvia (352).
The Baltic country already houses a start-up unicorn, but it’s not a fintech. In 2019, second-hand fashion online marketplace Vinted raised €128 million, valuing it at more than €1 billion.
Gilbert’s track record
Currently, Gilbert is one of the executives behind FTAC Olympus Acquisition Corp.
The special purpose acquisition company (Spac) recently bought Paynoneer, a New York-founded cross-border payments platform, in a $3.3 billion deal which saw the Spac’s stock jump 10%.
He also left Propel Venture Partners last month. The San Francisco-based VC which landed a $150 million BBVA investment in February.
Propel’s portfolio companies include Hippo, Coinbase, and DocuSign. Coinbase’s recent initial public offering (IPO) placed it at an $85 billion valuation.