When Ophelia Brown started her VC firm, Blossom Capital, she was writing $8m cheques into startups at Series A.
Now, just four years later, she’s writing cheques of $20-25m at Series A — and that means she’s had to raise a much, much bigger fund.
Blossom, which is today announcing the raise of its third fund, of $432m, has become the largest investor focused solely on Series A in Europe. Since 2018, Brown has backed some standout European companies — including Checkout.com, Europe’s second-most valuable startup — and raised close to $1bn. She’s also lost three partners (Candice Lo, Louise Samet and Carmen Alfonso Rico) and recently gained a new one: Alex Lim, previously a partner at IVP in San Francisco where he invested in Hopin, UiPath and Discord.
What’s she got up her sleeves next?
Brown’s pitch has always been that there’s a big opportunity in Europe, especially at Series A — and that US investors better pay attention. 70% of Blossom’s LPs in the latest fund are based in the US, including “three of the world’s largest endowments” (she isn’t allowed to name names).
It helps that Blossom has been doing pretty well, with portfolio companies like Checkout.com seeing huge jumps in valuation. “We’re in the top 1% of venture funds globally in terms of performance measured by paper gains,” says Brown.
Aside from the cheque sizes, Blossom doesn’t plan to change much with how it runs this fund — the team will still aim to write just five or six cheques per year, and stay fairly hands-on with portfolio companies.
The opportunity is just so huge — across fintech, consumer [and] Web3
They will be getting deeper into crypto, however, following on from their investment into MoonPay, a startup building payments infrastructure for crypto which is already valued at $3.4bn.
“I bought my first bitcoin in 2012,” says Brown, who says she’s always wanted to take Blossom in this direction but didn’t have the “back office set-up” required before, and didn’t think the market timing was quite right.
Now, she thinks we’re sitting at the right point on the “adoption curve”, with several of Blossom’s portfolio companies also moving in this direction (Checkout.com, for example, provides payment solutions for crypto companies).
“The opportunity is just so huge — across fintech, consumer, Web3…” adds Brown, who plans to hire a new investment partner (to join her, Lim and their third partner, Imran Ghory) to focus solely on crypto.
Still, despite all the hype around Blossom’s focus areas — financial services, developer tooling, open source and enterprise SaaS — Brown and Lim say they’re not getting rushed into deals.
We’re either doing something very right or very wrong
“We hear it’s really competitive and that deals are being done quickly, but when we look at the companies we’ve invested in, none have really been competitive,” says Lim. “We’ve been fortunate to avoid the hype-y super competitive processes — I don’t think those are the best from a returns perspective.”
“We’re either doing something very right or very wrong,” adds Brown.
Blossom tends to get to know startups for, on average, eight months before investing, she says. “That’s the great thing about focusing on Series A — we can get to know them early in their journey, can see their execution pattern and get to know the team.”
Brown is known as a fairly hands-on — or intense, depending on your perspective — investor.
“Ophelia is a machine,” Chaz Englander, cofounder of "stuff" rental platform Fat Llama, told Sifted back in 2020. “She’s just so bullish, but also the kind of person who’ll casually send me a WhatsApp in the middle of the night — and then four hours later text me to say, ‘Did you read my message?’”
Brown’s still a big WhatsApper, by the sounds of things. “We have WhatsApp groups with all of our teams,” she says. “But I’m not sure how many midnight messages get sent.”
“Quite a lot,” adds Lim.
There are so many questions about what goes into building a world-class team. At its core, that’s what will determine a company’s success
The team also likes to meet their founders in-person — and hasn’t let Covid slow them down. Last week they were in Paris working on go-to-market strategy, hiring and product with one founder, and discussing US expansion and scaling up sales with another. This week they’re off to Berlin.
In March last year, Blossom hired Kim Goddard as a talent partner, formerly a recruiter for Atlassian, Bain and Nubank. “Founders speak to him a huge amount,” says Lim. “He’s teaching them how to hire, recruit and fill the funnel — critical skills for companies at Series A going to Series B.”
“He’s also helping them navigate remote, compensation, year-end reviews… there are so many questions about what goes into building a world-class team,” adds Brown. “At its core, that’s what will determine a company’s success.”