BUSINESS

Gaia Montelatici Breaks Barriers to Democratize Venture Capital in the Western Balkans

Venture capital often leans towards a specific demographic, which means that many potentially groundbreaking startups and businesses from underrepresented groups may not get the opportunities or funding they deserve. This imbalance in capital allocation not only perpetuates existing inequalities but also limits the range of ideas and solutions that come to market. By focusing predominantly on a narrow demographic, the venture capital industry risks missing out on innovative ideas that could disrupt markets, create value, and offer solutions to complex problems. 

Therefore, the democratization of venture capital, as pursued by visionaries like Gaia Montelatici, is both an ethical imperative and a strategic one – and it has the potential to unlock untapped talent and yield substantial economic benefits.

Montelatici is determined to transform what’s achievable when dedication meets innovation. With roots stretching from Florence, Italy, to her adopted home in Serbia, Montelatici is becoming an increasingly prominent figure in the Serbian entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her journey is filled with noteworthy initiatives that bring gender diversity into the venture capital sphere and reduce the capital-access gap for diverse founders in the Western Balkans.

A Pioneer and Co-Founder of Impact Hub Belgrade

Montelatici was born and raised in Florence, Italy – and as such, she might have seemed an unlikely candidate to become a linchpin in the Serbian entrepreneurial landscape. However, her U.S. academic background and MA degree in Cultural Anthropology from ASU Tempe prepared her to bridge cultural gaps. A trusted partner to USAID, Serbian government stakeholders, and major banks, Montelatici has used her talents and two decades of experience in Serbia to act as a transformative force for good.

Impact Hub Belgrade, which Montelatici co-founded, serves as the cornerstone of her influence. It provides a pipeline of founders and startups that nourish the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Serbia. In her role as the programming director, she has guided the hub to not just exist as a community but to serve as a powerful catalyst for change, particularly in the diversification of the venture capital scene.

WE Angels and Studio X

Perhaps one of Montelatici’s most influential initiatives is her establishment of the first business women angel group in Serbia—WE Angels. The angel group offers stand-alone, smart support to women-led companies. This is a significant step in a region where access to venture capital has typically been dictated by a rather narrow set of criteria that often marginalizes women entrepreneurs. Through WE Angels, Montelatici aims to democratize access to funding, enabling female founders to turn their business dreams into reality.

Montelatici is also the General Partner at Studio X Ventures, a boutique advisory and angel syndicate. What sets this venture apart is its unique strategy of hand-picking seed startups from the Western Balkans that show high potential for the U.S. market. This approach has led to successful syndication of both Serbian and international angel capital, including a $4.5 million investment into a cutting-edge audio technology startup—a Serbian-American company. The aim is clear: to elevate startups not just within the Western Balkans but on a global stage.

Bridging the Capital-Access Gap Holistically

One of Montelatici’s key areas of focus is democratizing venture capital by minimizing the capital-access gap for diverse founders. The very concept of “hand-picked seed startups” goes beyond mere selection; it’s about identifying startups that might otherwise be overlooked in traditional VC environments due to systemic barriers. Montelatici’s work is breaking down these barriers, offering these startups not just capital but a pathway to broader business ecosystems, notably the U.S. market.

While many might be content with such accomplishments, Montelatici takes it a step further by looking at venture capital holistically. As she puts it, “cybersecurity is not just about technology but also about people and processes.” She applies this philosophy to venture capital, integrating technology, people, and processes to provide tailor-made solutions. This reflects in her multiple roles as a founder, venture partner, and advisor, always driven by her passion for achieving gender equity and inclusivity.

Looking Forward

Five years down the line, Montelatici envisions herself as the leader from the Western Balkans bringing women-led companies to the U.S. market. She aims to achieve this through Impact Hub’s partnerships and her second company, Studio X Ventures, further solidifying her role as an “aggregator” of companies from the Western Balkans seeking to enter the U.S. market.

Gaia Montelatici has already left an indelible mark on the entrepreneurial landscape in the Western Balkans. Her multidimensional approach to venture capital has not only catalyzed the growth of startups but has also pioneered a more equitable environment for diverse founders and investors alike. In a world still grappling with the idea of diversified venture capital, Montelatici stands as a testament to what can be achieved through tenacity, innovation, and a commitment to making the entrepreneurial playing field a level one for all.