We’re thrilled to announce Sasha Yatsenko joining SMOK Ventures. Sasha takes over the principal position to help us invest in top early stage startups in Ukraine and the Baltic states. First two investments have been finalized and will be announced shortly.
A bit over a year ago when we announced that we planned to hire an investment team in Ukraine we did not expect that Ukraine would shortly show up on all the news channels globally due to the Russian invasion on the country. Back then we wrote:
Why Ukraine? When we were deciding on the next countries, we took three things into account: engineering talent pool, startup founding experience, and proximity to Poland. Ukraine is an obvious choice. The country is as big as Poland in population and its engineers are famous worldwide and are already fueling the growth of Silicon Valley’s top companies as well as creating its own unicorns like GitLab, or Grammarly. We already have dozens of Ukrainian founders in the pipeline, so all this combined, the expansion east sounds like the natural move for SMOK.
Today we stand by the above even more firmly. Having seen the bravery of the Ukrainian nation on the front line and having observed the vibrant tech ecosystem adjust very quickly to the new conditions and keep building, we knew we wanted to build our presence in the country regardless of the politics.
Why the Baltic states?
Lithuania, Latvia and most of all, Estonia, are small European states with a disproportionate success in founding fast-growing startups, just to mention Pipedrive, Bolt, Wise, Vinted, Veriff or Prinful as some of the most prominent unicorn examples. We’ve already made two investments into Estonian entities (MX Labs and Bitskout) and we’ll be announcing our first investment in Latvia soon. We’re planning to double down on this geo by building a dedicated team to cover the Baltic region led by Sasha, so if you’re an early stage investor, angel or ecosystem builder from one of the Baltic countries, expect a call soon!
Who is Sasha?
Sasha has been one of the key figures in the Ukrainian early stage startup ecosystem for nearly a decade. He helped build BRISE, a boutique pre-seed venture firm as founding partner, where he invested in companies like Vochi (exit to Pinterest) and Finmap (1.2m funding raised from Presto, SID). He participated in the selection of startups for the Ukrainian Startup Fund. Sasha was also named the most friendly Ukrainian investor by local founders and Ukrainian ecosystem builders in 2021. Before becoming a VC, he had his own web studio, travel agency and worked as Chief Digital Officer at dentsu Ukraine.
At SMOK everything is about culture. Culture defines who we fund, who we work with and even who our investors are. We have a long-term plan to become the go-to fund for founders all across Central and Eastern Europe. We believe teaming up with Sasha will help us achieve this goal faster. We’re absolutely excited to have him onboard!
Are you raising for your Ukraine or Baltics-based startup?
Contact Sasha at firstname.lastname@example.org.