On 24 September, I was on the island of Corfu, Greece as the Vice President of EBAN to deliver a keynote speech on financing innovation at the Innovation Investment Forum, hosted by the European Regional Framework for Cooperation (ERFC). The forum hosted more than 100 participants from the Adriatic region’s early-stage investment and entrepreneurship market. Among the participants were the presidents and directors of business angel networks from Croatia, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. The Istanbul Stock Exchange’s Group Director of the Private Market for Start-ups & Angel Investors also made a presentation, during which he invited angel investors from the region to Borsa Istanbul to raise funds and create liquidity.
The Corfu Innovation Forum, organized by the ERFC under the auspices of the EU-funded SMART-INNO project, took place in the Conference Hall of the Corfu Port Authority on 24-25 September 2015. The main goal of the forum was to initiate an Ionian Adriatic BAN, an organization that would be formed and supported by relevant stakeholders (angel networks and individuals, innovation parks, incubators, chambers of commerce, universities, development agencies) of the 8 countries of the Ionian Adriatic macro region (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) and with the main function of supporting and financing the innovative SMEs of the region via business angel investment.
The event saw the participation of all consortium members of the SMART-INNO project, plus representatives of the following Business Angel Networks: Custodi di Successo (Italy), Italian Angels for Growth, CRANE (Croatia), Business Angels Slovenia, KOSBAN (Kosovo), BAN Veneto (Italy), and HeBAN (Greece).
Here are the main topics covered in the forum:
- Macro regional strategies and innovation
- Innovation policies and programmes in Europe
- Financing innovation
- Crowdfunding in Europe
- Investment readiness program to support innovative start-ups and SMEs
- Barriers and opportunities in the Adriatic region for entrepreneurs and angel investors
It was clear from the panels, round table and informal discussions that conditions are not currently suitable for initiating a functioning BAN that will invest in SMEs of the macro region — or alternatively, an association that can represent the early stage investment eco-system of this region. It is also important to note that the participants of the Forum had diverse opinions about what activities an eventual legal entity would carry out.
Nevertheless, the consortium members of the SMART-INNO project arrived at an agreement with the representatives of the BANs and EBAN that initiating a legal entity would require two phases:
- the creation of an informal association within the SMART-INNO Project, supported by the founding members of the proposed legal entity.
- the creation of a legal entity in the form of an Association of Business Angels or a BAN.
As proposed during the discussions, EBAN would incubate the proposed legal entity for one year and support its growth through the EBAN network, as it had done with ABAN – Africa Business Angels Network and MBAN – Middle East Business Angels Network.
It was decided that by 31 October (a) the SMART-INNO consortium partners would provide to EBAN a list of founding members of proposed Ionian Adriatic BAN/Association and (b) the articles of the association are to be submitted. The announcement of the foundation of the Ionian Adriatic association could be made at the EBAN Winter University in Copenhagen if these two conditions are satisfied.
The following organizations have expressed a willingness to become founding members:
Italian Angels for Growth, Custodi di Successo, Chambers of Commerce Veneto, EBANK Ethical Bank, and BAN Veneto.
EBAN’S Assistant Director Jacopo Losso will follow through on the initiative and lead the incubation process of the Ionian Adriatic BAN / Association.