By Helena Maio, Advisor for the Board of Portugal Ventures
The Azores Ventures VCF was established in 2011, initially under the name FIAIE – Investment Fund to Support Entrepreneurship in the Azores, with the aim of financing startups in what are considered strategic areas for the Autonomous Region of the Azores. The Fund’s main goal is to acquire shareholdings in businesses in the seed and startup stages that develop projects or initiatives in strategic areas for the Azores. A maximum of €200,000 is invested in each business. A temporary and minority interest is held in the share capital of the companies, focusing on: i) companies in the initial stage of their life cycle (with no turnover from its main business activity), which have high valuation potential through innovative projects; ii) companies with investment projects, preferably approved within the scope of the incentive schemes for investment in the Autonomous Region of the Azores; iii) projects aimed at the economic exploitation of innovative tradable goods in the Autonomous Region of the Azores; (iv) projects that increase the export capacity of the Autonomous Region of the Azores; and (v) innovative projects that are considered strategic for the Autonomous Region of the Azores, in particular in the space and digital sectors. It should be noted that, upon a successful exit, the Fund allocates 20% of the capital gains earned to the Founders. After an initial investment phase, Portugal Ventures accepted the challenge posed by SDEA to relaunch the FIAIE Fund, which was renamed Azores Ventures. It developed an investment approach adjusted to the specific conditions of the Azores ecosystem, and worked in close collaboration with the participants in the Fund and with regional Ignition partners, in particular SDEA, NONAGON, TERINOV and STARTUP ANGRA, which has led to new investments.
2019 was by far the most intense year in terms of investment, with the approval of three investments in startups led by Azorean entrepreneurs. Although based in the Autonomous Region of the Azores, these startups have their eyes set on the international market. Cereal Games was founded in 2014 by Lazarus Raposo. The company specialises mainly in the development of serious and educational games. It has developed several games using technologies such as Augmented Reality, mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) to meet the demand of local authorities, schools, museums and scientific observation centres in the region. Yara Pets, led by Dúnio Couto, is a business that develops and markets innovative and patentable products for sale in the pet sector. It is currently focused on an innovative and patented (Europe and USA) sand box for cats. Azores Touch, founded in 2016 by Sérgio Cota, aims at offering the best experience possible to those who visit Terceira and Graciosa islands, from the moment they arrive and until they leave. Its mission is to facilitate access to all services and activities available on the islands, providing unforgettable experiences for holidaymakers by offering contact with nature, culture, history and the locals.
Portugal Ventures today has several investment opportunities and is working in partnership with the Regional Government of the Azores, the Fund’s biggest and main investor and participant, represented by SDEA – Azorean Business Development Society, to ensure these investments are made this year. On our end, Portugal Ventures is open and committed to continue exploring this relationship to boost entrepreneurship and finance promising business initiatives (startups) in the Autonomous Region of the Azores.