Ross Morrison, partner at Adams Street


February 1, 2024

Adams Street ‘doubling down’ on European venture

One of the world’s largest fund of funds likes what it sees in Europe

Amy Lewin

3 min read

Adams Street Partners, one of the world’s largest fund of funds, plans to increase its investments in European VC as many of the sector’s other biggest LPs turn away.

“We’re looking to do even more in venture,” Europe-focused partner Ross Morrison tells Sifted. 

“Other people are trying to move away from the asset class, but we’re trying to double down.” 

Adams Street Partners has invested over $1.5bn into European venture across 50 funds, although it remains tight-lipped on which ones. 

According to its website, Morrison sits on the advisory board of over 20 companies, including Index Ventures, Highland Capital, Keensight, Livingbridge and Vitruvian. 


“Europe is globally producing a third of all startups — it’s on par with the US,” says Morrison. 

“For so many years, Europe lacked deals, capital, knowhow… now it’s mushroomed in a positive way.” 

So what kind of VCs is Adams Street interested in?

Next-gen blue chip managers

“We’re very selective,” says Morrison. Adams Street primarily invests in well-established fund managers — but does back a handful of emerging managers each year too. 

“A lot of folks spin off of [well-known VC] platforms, and go and create their own firms. We’ve got relationships with those individuals, know their track records, get the inside line of whether they were a good leaver… We always get the phone call [from them], but we don’t always write the cheque,” Morrison says. 

The emerging managers that Adams Street backs are usually — but not exclusively — “graduates” from top-tier firms. “You don’t have to have worked at the Sequoias and what have you, but disproportionately they tend to,” says Morrison.

It’s such alumni that have seen the VC model played out best. 

“When we look at our returns, 10% of companies drive 100% of returns; and unless you’ve seen it first hand, unless you’ve worked at a VC that’s generated those kinds of returns, it’s difficult to understand that’s how it works…” 

“That mindset — that nothing else matters apart from that 10%, and that’s what world class looks like — once people know what that is, and have a route to get there, that gets us excited.” 

To date, Adams Street has invested in 30+ such “spinouts” in Europe, says Morrison, and has made new commitments this year already. 

Outlook for 2024

Morrison thinks it’s unlikely we’ll see any IPOs soon, but says the pipeline is looking healthy. 

“Our [IPO] expectations are low — but we just had five years of record liquidity,” he says. 

“Looking at the operating performance of some key value-driving companies that aren’t exiting yet… we’re still seeing 50%, 100% growth. You’ve got to be patient in these moments.” 

VCs that were smart enough to “get liquidity on the way up” will be pleased they did so now that their options are more limited, he adds.

“It’s hard within VC — it’s more structurally difficult than buyout — the best returns are driven by a receptive IPO market. A lot of it is predicated on being able to get out during the window, and being disciplined and realising liquidity in that window.” 

Meanwhile, some LPs that found themselves overallocated on private markets in 2023 when their public market holdings took a hit might struggle to reinvest in VC funds, says Morrison, stressing that Adams Street is not in that category. (“We’re always ready with capital.”)  


“Lots of top venture names are coming back [to the market] in 2024: it’s like London buses,” he says. “From an LP standpoint, some of the folks that suffer from that denominator effect [being over-allocated on private markets] are going to have to reckon with that this year.” 

“If the public markets come back, a lot of folks will get rescued. If it doesn’t… it’s hard to balance the books.” 

Amy Lewin

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor and cohost of Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast , and writes Up Round, a weekly newsletter on VC. Follow her on X and LinkedIn