Please enjoy an insightful VC-talk with our new fund member – Baltic Sandbox Ventures’ Erik Bhullar, the venture partner, about their journey as a company and into the crowd of our network.
Why did you decide to join EstBAN? Where did you hear about us?
I’ve known EstBAN since my time at Playtech. After leaving in 2017 and selling my shares in the company, I turned to angel investing with a focus on startups with a ‘fundamental scientific and advanced engineering edge’ – or as they’re today called ‘deeptech’. I’ve been ‘quietly active’ in the startup ecosystem, from consulting or advising entrepreneurs, to co-hosting LIFTOFF by LIFT99 before the pandemic – during that time I met EstBAN members who suggested to join.
However, the pitches at EstBAN and other local events didn’t quite capture my interest back then. But throughout the years I’ve seen a significant evolution in EstBAN. From collaborating across the Nordics and Baltics, to the calibre of the angels and entrepreneurs involved in the network – all impressive achievements. That, and Estonia in particular has risen in terms of deep tech talent quality.
At Baltic Sandbox Ventures, we’ve invested in various local and international startups based in Estonia and are eager to support more such teams. As a Partner at the fund, my goal is to strengthen our relationships with investors and entrepreneurs locally. I’m looking forward to connecting with fellow EstBAN investors and exchanging venture experiences, as well as finding talented teams to invest in.
What do you mostly focus on at Baltic Sandbox Ventures?
We focus on Deep Tech and Life Sciences, investing at both Pre-Seed and Seed stages. Unlike those that say ‘early stage’ but only do Seed or later, we actually invest at Pre-Seed. When it comes to investing, our approach is to focus on companies solving challenges in compelling problem domains we’ve developed a thesis around while being humble and learning from entrepreneurs who may challenge our thinking or make us aware of a domain we hadn’t previously considered. We stay open-minded, recognizing that we don’t have all the answers and focus on asking the right questions.
For startups with a solid scientific foundation, strong tech competencies, and a willingness to learn and grow, we’re here to help turn their vision into a scalable business reality. What we look for in a team is simple: a clear, well-thought-out business thesis (no deck needed to pitch us, but the ability to think and write), a capacity for high-level execution, and an unwavering focus on their customers.
What would you highlight from Baltic Sandbox Ventures’ achievements so far?
In 2023 we made 11+ Pre-Seed investments, including 3 in Estonian companies. We’re looking to an even more active 2024. Each team we’ve backed has massive potential, and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to back such innovative and talented people.
Beyond investing over 1.2M+ EUR in teams that came through our first acceleration programs, we also ran several incubation (pre-acceleration) programs in 2023 focused on scientists, engineers, researchers, and other talented individuals considering whether to turn their research into a commercial venture. With nearly 300 applications and about 100 graduates, we’re keenly watching a select few who will advance to acceleration and receive Pre-Seed investments – in fact, a handful of them already have and are making good progress. Our accelerator where we invest at pre-seed, also had around 500+ applications.
So what we do, in stages, would be as follows:
- Incubation (free program for innovators wanting to commercialise and get support to become fundable);
- Pre-Seed Investment (20K up to 125K tickets) with Acceleration for companies we invest in;
- Seed Investment (approx 1 in 3 from Pre Seed will receive this funding, those best performing teams will receive at least 70% of the capital in this fund).
It’s been less than a year since we started operating – we’re just getting started!
Welcome to EstBAN, Baltic Sandbox Ventures!
Became interested about EstBAN fund membership too? Please read more here.