Early Spotify backer Creandum has raised its sixth fund — a $500m vehicle to back seed and early-stage startups in Europe.
Creandum, together with the European VC firm Northzone, was the first VC to invest in Daniel Ek’s music tech startup in 2008. It’s also known for its 2016 seed investment in Swedish telehealth startup Kry.
According to the company, one in eight of its 200 investments has reached unicorn status, including Danish fintech Pleo, Norwegian edtech Kahoot! and Swedish fintech Klarna.
“Since we raised our first fund for 20 years ago, all of our LPs have continually invested in all our subsequent funds,” says Creandum’s founder and partner Staffan Helgesson.
While many European venture capital firms have tended to start investing in later-stage startups, Creandum has maintained its early focus. 70% of the investments from its latest fund were at seed stage. It closed its first fund of €30m in 2003.
Where other VC companies talk of AI tools such as EQT Ventures’ Motherbrain to find the next big thing, at Creandum it’s about networking on a local level and using LinkedIn to the fullest.
“My last investment was for €1m. We got in touch with them on LinkedIn the same day as they posted ‘building something new’. They were really surprised that we would do such early-stage investments,” Helgesson says.
Although Creandum was founded in Sweden and most of its successes have been Scandinavia-based, it also has a San Francisco office to invest in European founders in the US. Six years ago it opened an office in Berlin and one in London two months ago.
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The gender gap
One area where Creandum has struggled is the diversity of its investment team. Last year, it appointed its first female partner, Sabina Wizander, who rejoined the firm after a few years at Kry, most recently as COO. Out of the VC’s eight partners, she is the only woman.
At Northzone, which is still seen as a Nordic VC even though it's headquartered in London, two out of six investment partners are women. Half of EQT Ventures’ investment partners are women.
“We can definitely do better and we have set the goals for ourselves to make our team 40/60 across all levels either way,” Helgesson says.
The firm now has a target of making the team gender-equal within two fund cycles. Creandum will also make sure that within this new fund, at least 10 out of 40 companies that they invest in will have at least 50% female cofounders or a female CEO.
“In our latest fund we had 19% gender-diverse teams but that is not a reflection of society so there is a lot more work to do. Looking back, perhaps we have been better at finding male founders through our networks,” Wizander says.
In 2018, only 10.5% of board seats and 21% of management roles across Creandum’s portfolio were held by women. The latest index published in late 2021 shows a small increase in both, 12% versus 25% of the 46 companies in the survey.
Investment focus: creator economy, Web3, metaverse and climate tech
For its latest fund, Creandum will focus on some new areas like the creator economy, Web3, the metaverse and sustainability areas such as energy and climate tech. The firm also says stellar user experience is a big part of what it looks for.
“What creates value is great products that make consumers or business or other extremely happy — a delighted user,” says Helgesson.
On climate tech, Wizander says that VCs need to look at investment opportunities with a critical eye, despite the hype.
“We are not going to disqualify any companies, but the issue with many companies in climate tech, for example, is that there are a lot of technological solutions out there but where scalability or a working business model is missing,” Wizander says.
“The companies that will become Spotify or Klarna within carbon or sustainability are the ones that will crack those problems.”