What a year it has been for us at Black Pearls VC. We have seen an impressive three-digit growth across the board: in the number of companies in our portfolio, the total amount of investment, the number of co-investors, projects obtained as well as the number of contracts signed with the scientific world.
The biggest achievement was our LQT Fund (20 million PLN) established in January 2015 with a goal to invest in life-improving technologies (hence the name Life Quality Technology). What was then assumed a three-year investment plan was almost completely accomplished in a single year by attributing funds to nine companies as part of BRIdge Alfa scheme by the National Centre for Research and Development.
“We achieved this thanks to specialization,– something that other funds were lacking, combined with a very good, tailor-made investment process with R&D projects in mind. The great effort put into education of researchers and meeting at universities also proved very significant”, comments Marcin Kowalik, co-founder and managing partner in Black Pearls VC.
Expanding portfolio, creating jobs
The number of companies in our portfolio has increased by nearly three times. These 23 newcomers have provided for almost 200 new jobs created by companies altogether. The total investment for 2015 amounted to just over 25 million PLN.
2015 saw three exits during investment process. One of them was STEM Poland – a company offering innovative educational products for children, who can perform easy scientific experiments at home (IRR 19.85%). EveryTap – another example of an exit – is a mobile application that allows users to collect points in popular city spots and then exchange them for freebies (IRR – 48%). The company behind it delivers software solutions and marketing support for catering, sports and entertainment industries. TVN Ventures acquired 40% of its shares.
The Black Pearls VC management could barely catch some sleep last year as it was constantly on the move. We took part in almost one hundred conferences and events (99 to be precise) – four times more than the year before. And not just attending these meetings is what matters. They were much more than only networking possibilities. We had a unique opportunity to perform and talk about Black Pearls smart business ventures by taking the stage anywhere from the US through almost entire Europe to Israel and South Africa, not excluding Poland, of course.
Marcin Kowalik recollects: “All events turned out to be successful for Black Pearls VC. InfoShare and Galileo Masters closing gala both helped in putting Polish space sector in the spotlight. At the latter we signed a letter of intent about establishing a space project accelerator center in Gdańsk – Space3.ac. Our flagship event Startup Eve in December saw a number of special medals awarded by the President of Gdańsk to people that influenced the developed of the start-up ecosystem in our region. And there was the Central European Startup Awards of course, where we got the Best Investor 2015 award”.
Breaking the ice with the R&D world
In 2015 we quadrupled the number of our contracts with universities and research & development centers. Two of our LQT Fund companies evolved thanks to cooperation with the Medical University of Warsaw. A product of a company by the name of Pictorex addresses the problem of inappropriate dosage of medicines taken by the elderly. They tend to have problems remembering complicated directions of use or reading the attached instructions – usually written in microscopic print.
“The company came up with an idea of labels with pictograms that are easy to read and understand for seniors. Once placed on the medicine packaging, they improve safety and effectiveness of a medicine, thus limiting costs of ineffective treatment for the state”, describes Wojciech Drewczyński, research and development director at Black Pearls VC. The other project is a company involved in clinical tests of a new pain-reliever.
All of those R&D deals required much effort, involved many meetings and travelling a lot of miles, but it was worth it. We have established strong partnerships in the academic world, which now serves as a solid foundation for our current and future ventures.
We are hoping to be able to show you even better results around this time next year.