KAYA invests in Czech, Slovak, and Polish tech startups. They manage 300 million euros, have two unicorns, and are launching a fifth fund

KAYA are on the lookout for Czech, Slovak, and Polish entrepreneurs who see the future more clearly and are therefore primed to build successful companies.

They are seeking entrepreneurs whose teams have the potential to capture Central European and European markets, or offer their products and services directly to customers in the US and globally . The Central European fund, KAYA, invests in early-stage startups and is preparing to launch its fifth private investment fund, which will have 80 million Euros at its disposal. Over  its existence of more than a decade, the KAYA team has achieved a high and consistent capital appreciation, ranking among the top 25% of the most successful VC funds in the world (based on data from Alumni Ventures). Currently, it has more than forty companies in its portfolio, with the value of their shares reaching circa 300 million euros.

“We support big dreams and ambitious plans. We help create the best conditions possible for our entrepreneurs, enabling them to overcome challenges more easily. We connect them with other successful entrepreneurs for advice and back their belief that the Central European Region is a fertile ground for building global companies that can win in their respective markets,” says Tomáš Obrtáč, one of four equal partners in the fund. Prior to joining KAYA in 2013, Obrtáč worked in London at the investment banks Barclays Capital and Rothschild. “Even though Czechia, Slovakia, and Poland aren’t the largest markets, we see enormous potential and talent among local founders. Central European entrepreneurs can make a six-fold return per investment dollar compared to their American counterparts. Hence, we want to engage with every innovative organization that originates from these three countries,” adds Obrtáč.

KAYA’s portfolio includes two unicorns (companies with a valuation exceeding one billion USD): the Czech online grocer, Rohlík,  and the Polish Docplanner, a leading global platform managing healthcare practices and scheduling. Other promising companies include Supernova by Jiří Trečák and Oskar Kořistka, Better Stack founded by Veronika Koleják and Juraj Masár, SensibleBio created by Marián Kupčulák and Miroslav Gašpárek, and Upheal developed by Juraj Chrappa and Martin Horváth.

The fifth generation and a stable investor base

“Maintaining consistently high returns across funds and providing continuous monetization are two extremely important factors for us and the relationship we have with our investors. These investors include successful Central European entrepreneurs, founders of startups we’ve previously supported, international funds, well-known institutions, and regional banks. Although the life cycle of a VC fund typically exceeds ten years, we already anticipate that our first three funds will achieve attractive, above-average returns,” adds Tomáš Pačinda, another partner. He joined KAYA in 2015 following a sting at GE Capital.

KAYA expects their investor composition  for their fifth fund to be similar to the previous one, where the majority of finances came from institutional investors and about three-quarters of the capital originated from the private sector. The minimum investment to KAYA is one million EUR.

From the beginning, the fund has emphasized that it does not specialize in a specific segment, category, or mission of startups. “We don’t  turn a blind eye to opportunities. We didn’t want to be another fund that invests exclusively in software companies. So far, this has paid off, as we have managed to invest in companies like Rohlík and Woltair, which software investors didn’t understand for several years. We consider ourselves a “generalist” fund that is not exclusively focused in any particular field. Although we set a goal of investing in Czech, Slovak, and Polish companies, we don’t limit ourselves to those who have remained in their home countries, and we are searching globally,” says Martin Rajčan, who officially joined KAYA in 2020 after cooperating with the fund and investing with them since their inception. He started his investment career with the private equity giant KKR, later on becoming a prolific angel investor and helping the Berlin-based startup Priori Data to a successful exit in a senior operating role.

Three pillars: talent, capital, and a network of founders and advisors

Thirteen years of experience on the market has taught KAYA that startups need help in three main areas. First, they need to figure out how to access, attract, and develop top talent. The next step is to secure follow-on investment, which often requires founders to build relationships with overseas funds many months prior to considering another financing round. Lastly, they require a network of founders and advisors to provide them with advice and support.

“The success of startups in these three areas has the most significant influence on their future. We connect our Talent Partner with our portfolio companies, build targeted relationships, and co-invest opportunities with leading global funds. After many years of existence, we are surrounded by a wide range of highly successful founders and startup professionals,” explains Pavel Mucha, who helped found KAYA in 2011.

KAYA co-invests and has built strong relationships with funds like the British-American Index Ventures, European Creandum, EQT, and US-European Goldman Sachs. Their advisory network includes successful founders like Tomáš Čupr of Rohlík, as well as Juraj Masár and Veronika Koleják of Better Stack.

KAYA believes that its fundamental advantage lies in its team, which spans multiple generations, from “boomers” to Generation Z. “In the startup world, it is important to deeply understand the lifestyle and motivations of younger generations. Only then can you accurately assess the potential of young companies and offer them the support they need to thrive. Our senior team members have known each other for more than a decade, and we are also excited to be developing talented young investors to lead KAYA at some point in the future,” concludes Tomáš Pačinda.

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