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Balkans.com: Serbian Private Equity Association, http://www.spea.rs, was formed in 2010, please tell our readers what SPEA’s mission is and what has been accomplished so far.
David Schoch: SPEA’s mission is to act as an advocate for private equity and venture capital, and be a forum for all the firms and professionals active in the Serbian private equity market. SPEA’s vision is to be the focal point for all companies and individuals in the Private Equity and Venture Capital landscape. SPEA strives to increase the awareness of the private equity industry in Serbia, by developing educational programs, delivering a series of professional networking events, conducting and publishing insightful research and by promoting best practice.
In terms of accomplishments to date:
Since the beginning of 2011 we have hosted, co-sponsored and participated in over 20 industry events. SPEA has been actively involved in providing speakers and mentors at key private equity events in the country and has hosted a number of high level events. A few selected highlights are:
• ‘Introduction to the Private Equity industry’, with the Serbian Association of Managers
• Hosted ‘How Funds are Structured and Why?’ with SBG Capital
• Sponsored ‘Private Equity – what it offers to business’ with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Mid Europa Partners & PWC
• Sponsored the ‘Elevator Pitch’ with CEED
• Presented at the CEED ‘How to Buy/Sell your Company’
• Hosted Summer Cocktail and Investment Evening with SBAN
• Presented at ‘Access to Finance’ in Sarajevo
• Sponsored ‘Investing in Distressed Assets’ with EMSA Capital and E&Y
• Sponsored Fundraise IT Conference with SBAN
• Presented to the BELEX Capital Markets Conference – ‘Early Stage Investment to IPO Exit’
• Corporate Governance presentation at Privrednik for the Serbian Association of Directors
• Released a research report on the Private Equity industry
• Sponsored Fundamentals of Angel Investing at Privrednik
• Helped form the Royal Council for Entrepreneurship with seven leading Serbian organizations focused on entrepreneurialism and innovation
Balkans.com: In your view, what will growing the private equity arena accomplish for Serbia and other countries in the region, for that matter?
David Schoch: There is a strong entrepreneurial culture in the region that needs to be nurtured, but there is a significant ‘equity gap’ in terms of financing available for companies requiring up to €2M. Further, the SME sector will be the most significant contributor to any economic recovery for the countries in the region. The expansion of private equity in the region will be a key contributor to economic expansion for these local economies.
Balkans.com: Where do you see the Serbian private equity market in the next five years?
David Schoch: As these economies head further toward EU expansion I expect to see more breadth of private equity available (early stage, expansion capital, mezzanine, buyouts…) and I also expect to see more depth especially in the area of expansion and buyout capital. The Serbian private equity market is capable of absorbing well over €1 billion over the next several years.
Balkans.com: SPEA recently held a conference for angel investing, can you tell us more about that conference and its importance?
David Schoch: That was really the first step toward educating local investors about the fundamentals and more importantly the benefits of angel investing. The vast majority of investment to date in Serbia has been focused on physical assets. For Serbia to start to create its own knowledge based economy it is important to have capital sources for early stage projects, especially for projects that foster the creation and development of intellectual property. Given Serbia’s significant position in the area of software development, it is important to leverage that position beyond low cost technical labor arbitrage.
Balkans.com: You personally are involved in many investments in the country including the successful and reputable Orion Telecom, http://www.oriontelekom.rs, what attracted you to invest in Serbia?
David Schoch: Ex-Yugoslavia is one of the ‘last bastions’ of new Europe (also known as EU expansion), which represents a significant opportunity for savvy investors. Serbia being the largest market in ex-Yu represents a great starting point. Further, when I looked at the fragmentation in the internet provider space, and the potential for high growth from impending telecoms liberalization it was a clear opportunity.
Balkans.com: Which industries in Serbia are the most promising to invest in?
David Schoch: From my perspective the most interesting industries are:
Telecoms and IT services
· Alternative energy
· Distressed real estate
· Food processing
… but I’m sure there are plenty of other areas for investors with the right experience.
Balkans.com: Our readers are companies, investors and business people, who have invested or are interested in doing business in the region. What advice could you give them?
David Schoch: Choose your partners well, come into the market for the long haul rather than a ‘quick hit’ and don’t bother if you don’t have a passion for the region!
Balkans.com: Thank you!
For more information. visit
Serbian Private Equity Association http://www.spea.rs
Orion Telekom http://www.oriontelekom.rs
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