Gen Z has become an indispensable market for numerous new industries—and founders and venture firms want to work with them.
Relatively, Helsinki-based Wave Ventures, one of the Europe’s largest student-led VC fund has recently launched its second fund at €2M. The new fund is backed by Finnish unicorn founders such as Ilkka Paananen (Supercell), Kristo Ovaska (Smartly) and Miki Kuusi (Wolt), among others. It looks to tap into exciting startups at the earliest stage.
Diverse Gen Z founders
The second fund Wave Ventures will invest in 20–25 diverse Gen Z founders and teams at the earliest possible stage. Investing in the so-called leap stage means that tickets can be written even before forming a founding team, validating the idea and, in extreme cases – an actual idea.
Wave’s focus on the leap stage is to see more diversity in the startup ecosystem, especially among young founders. They believe Nordics, Wave’s focus area, is quite a homogenous startup ecosystem.
The team sees many people outside the traditional startup networks (ie. Slush) interested in entrepreneurship but needing help reaching investors or validating their possibly world-changing idea. That’s where Wave’s new fund comes in.
As stated by their spokesperson, when contacted by TFN, “Wave’s team tries to break this barrier (and simultaneously build their dealflow) by going directly to schools and talking with students about entrepreneurship: a grass-root level activity to break founder stereotypes and give young people from all walks of life the tools to start their entrepreneurial journey.”
Also, the student-led VC’s latest investment is into Mona Ismail‘s Some Frogs. She is one of Finland’s only young female startup founders, building a next-gen social media platform.
Wave Ventures: The Gen Z VC
“We want to make the leap easier for promising aspiring founders by investing in them earlier than any European VC has done before,” says Erik Kymäläinen, the newly appointed CEO of Wave Ventures. “Currently, there are some so-called “super founders” who have proved themselves and can attract the attention of VCs and angel investors very early. The challenge is that there is no systematic approach to how to help, validate – and invest in people at the earliest stage.”
“Pre-seed investors often want to see validated ideas, but we believe that the most promising young founders should receive support much earlier – and this is where we step in as a VC – we offer encouragement and resources to build something big enough to have an impact”, says Kymäläinen.
After operating for six years in the heart of Nordic university ecosystems, Wave Ventures team consists of a unique combination of the brightest students in the Nordics, acting as the go-to resource for Gen Z founders.
“Finland has seen a lot of recent success in student-founders”, says Timo Ahopelto, Founding Partner at Lifeline Ventures. “As part of recent success stories, there is Wolt, Swappie, CarboCulture, Blok, Veri and Huuva, to name a few. We have identified that a lot of promising founders can get unnoticed as they can be unsure about their ideas. Wave will be crucial help for these leap stage founders.”
“The entrepreneurial student community is a significant factor supporting the development of the Finnish startup scene,” says Ilkka Paananen, Co-founder & CEO of Supercell. “Finland needs more great companies, and providing future founders with the right support early on is an integral part of the equation. Wave Ventures is in a great position to back aspiring entrepreneurs within the student community, who could otherwise be left unnoticed by later-stage investors.”