Venture Capital/Analysis/ The European founders who’ve set up funds Sifted tracks down dozens of investment companies launched by successful founders By Amy Lewin and Kai Nicol-Schwarz 24 February 2023 Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky \Venture Capital This group of 20 business school friends now have a fund in France By Selin Bucak 23 March 2023 Venture Capital/Analysis/ The European founders who’ve set up funds Sifted tracks down dozens of investment companies launched by successful founders By Amy Lewin and Kai Nicol-Schwarz 24 February 2023 There comes a time when dabbling in angel investing — or hanging out on a yacht — is no longer enough for successful founders. These are people who love running businesses, after all. So they set up their own investment companies. Some, like Skype and Atomico founder Niklas Zennström, go big — creating massive VC funds, deploying hundreds of millions of dollars and employing dozens of people. Others run smaller and more publicity-shy operations, like Checkout.com founder Guillaume Pousaz’s family office Zinal Growth (just look at its website). We’ve scouted out dozens of founder funds and profiled how much they’re deploying, who’s running them and what they’re looking to invest in. Are we missing any? Let us know. Prima Materia: Daniel Ek, Spotify Ek’s investment company Prima Materia is firmly in the press-shy bucket of founder funds. While Ek has pledged to put €1bn of his personal fortune into European “moonshots” over this decade, Prima Materia has so far announced just two investments. The first, a chunky €100m into AI defence company Helsing (almost the whole of its Series A), was announced in November 2021; Ek now sits on the company’s board. The second is a bit of a cheat: Prima Materia has backed Ek’s latest company, the body-scanning startup Neko Health, which he cofounded with Hjalmar Nilsonne. Prima Materia has so far deployed around €150m in startup investments, it tells Sifted. It’s also backed two VC funds; climate tech investor Pale Blue Dot and AI investor Air Street Capital. It’s run by a small team, led by Ek and his coinvestor Shakil Khan. Alongside them there’s Pia Michel, who works with technical founders and scientists to start new companies based on their research, and Brett Bivens as head of research. Pink Capital and Starstrike Ventures: Lea-Sophie Cramer, Amorelie The exited founder of online sex shop Amorelie has launched two Berlin-based investment firms. There’s Pink Capital, which Cramer launched in 2012. It’s backed startups like secondhand marketplace Catchys, beauty tech Eve and ecommerce startup iPrice. There’s also Starstrike Ventures — an investment vehicle she launched with Amorelie cofounder Sebastian Pollok — which often invests alongside Pink Capital. Illusian: Ilkka Paananen, Supercell Paananen, cofounder and CEO of games giant Supercell, set up his family office Illusian way back in 2014. According to its website, Helsinki-based Illusian backs both non-profit and for-profit initiatives all over the world. Its portfolio includes Wolt, Hopin and Swappie. In 2022, Niina Bergring, former chief investment officer of pension company Veritas, joined as the director of Illusian. Yellow Fund: Oscar Pierre, Glovo Glovo cofounder Pierre announced his intentions to launch a new VC firm at an event in Barcelona last year, as reported by Sifted. At the time, he said it would be a €50m fund, into which he would personally invest €10m-15m, raising the rest from other successful founders. After Sifted published its article on the fund launch, its website was taken down. Interface: Christian Reber, Pitch and Niklas Jansen, Blinkist Describing itself on Twitter as a “new kind of venture capital firm”, Interface was founded in 2022 by two seasoned Berlin-based entrepreneurs: Christian Reber, founder of Pitch, Superlist and Wunderlist, and Niklas Jansen, cofounder of Blinkist. Also on the team is David Höhl, chief of staff and an investor. Interface is currently raising a fund, targeting €15m-20m, towards which Reber and Jansen will contribute around 20%. It’s investing in pre-seed and seed-stage startups working on B2B software, AI and deeptech in particular, and has made 12 investments so far. Announced ones include spacetech startup The Exploration Company, modular robot maker Robco, business training platform Junto and crypto-as-a-service startup Pile. Zinal Growth: Guillaume Pousaz, Checkout.com London-based Zinal Growth, Pousaz’s family office, describes itself as a global-tech focused investment firm. It has two managing partners, according to LinkedIn; one of them, Luca Schmid, was previously a general partner at Coatue, where his investments include Checkout.com. Publicly announced investments include Irish revenue-based financing startup Wayflyer, Swiss company expenses management tool Yokoy, British carbon emissions platform Pledge, Irish no-code platform Noloco and San Francisco-based carbon credits marketplace Pachama. Diamond Hands Ventures: Eric Demuth, Paul Klanschek and Christian Trummer, Bitpanda Diamond Hands Ventures is an evergreen investment company set up in 2021 by the cofounders of Austrian crypto exchange Bitpanda. Reported investments include blockchain app developer Tatum, crypto custodian Copper and payments startup Payable. QuantumLight Capital and family office: Nik Storonsky, Revolut Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky Late in 2021 Storonsky opened a family office and seven months later launched VC fund QuantumLight Capital. But he’s been pretty coy about both since then. His family office has made no public investments since news broke 15 months ago. Companies’ House lists the director as Tommaso Pace — once a senior legal counsel at Revolut. QuantumLight has also been quiet since Storonsky publicly announced the fund in 2022. The VC says it uses a “proprietary quantitative decision engine” to select startups — and according to LinkedIn, has a team full of data analysts and engineers. Ilya Kondrashov, cofounder of London-based Fintech MarketFinance, was appointed CEO in September 2022. Foobar: David Helgason, Unity Iceland’s David Helagson, the founder of $16bn NYSE-listed game development platform Unity, launched a Reykjavik-based family office called Foobar in 2012. It’s run by Benjamin Ratz, who was previously an investor at Israeli fund Lool Ventures. Its website says it “supports startups, invests in technology, and develops processes to accelerate global decarbonisation and sustainability”. Its portfolio includes Ukrainian app Reface, Helsinki-based VR startup Varjo and US lab grown leather startup VitroLabs. It’s also backed VC funds, including Sequoia and Crowberry Capital. Kima Ventures: Xavier Niel, Iliad Xavier Niel, a successful entrepreneur, long-time investor and one of France’s richest people, founded Paris-based Kima Ventures in 2010. It’s one of the most active early-stage investors in Europe, doing around two to three deals per week into startups run by French founders, and is these days run by Jean de La Rochebrochard. Niel is the sole LP. AENU: Fabian and Ferry Heilemann, Forto The millionaire Heilemann brothers last year transformed their family office, known as Pirate Impact, into an evergreen impact fund called AENU with €100m to invest in companies solving the climate crisis and advancing social equality. The brothers have committed a “substantial part of their net worth” to the fund, and raised from other successful founder-investors like Tier’s Lawrence Leuschner and Skype’s Niklas Zennström. Berlin-based AENU invests at all stages, with first cheques ranging from €500k to €5m, and plans to do around 10 new investments per year. The investment team includes Siobhan Brewster and Melina Sánchez. Norrsken Foundation: Niklas Adalberth, Klarna Adalberth launched social impact non-profit Norrsken Foundation in June 2016 after departing Klarna eight months earlier. It launched the first coworking space solely for impact startups in Sweden in 2017, and has since become one of the pillars of Stockholm’s impact community. In the last few years it’s also set up impact startup communities in Kigali and Barcelona. Norrsken closed its first investment fund in 2021, with €123m in the pot, and followed that up with a $200m fund for African impact startups in 2022. It’s backed startups like gigafactory giant Northvolt, electric freight company Einride and food sharing platform Olio. Flat Capital: Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Klarna Founded in 2013 by Klarna cofounder Sebastian Siemiatkowski and his wife Nina, Flat Capital has backed 21 startups. Its focus is on making long-term investments into unlisted growth-stage companies, according to its website. Its portfolio include unicorns like job marketplace Remote, SaaS scaleup Figma and AI translation company Deepl. Flat Capital listed on Nasdaq Stockholm in October 2021. Its CEO is Hanna Wachtmeister, who previously worked for the SEB bank’s equity capital markets department. Dig Ventures: Ross Mason, Mulesoft Mason set up family office Dig Ventures after exiting from US-based business automation scaleup Mulesoft for a whopping $6.5bn in 2018. London-based Dig’s first fund was around $30m, and has backed 30 startups in the B2B SaaS and cloud infrastructure space — including unicorns People.ai and Karat. It invests 70% in Europe and 30% in the US and Israel, and all four of its partners are ex-operators. It’s currently raising its second fund — which will be its first LP-backed vehicle — targeting $100m. Spacetime: Adriaan Mol, Mollie and Messagebird Few entrepreneurs have a track record like Mol’s. Over the past two decades he’s founded Dutch unicorns fintech Mollie and SaaS startup Messagebird. During that time, Mol’s also been plying his trade as an investor with Spacetime. It’s made just one publicly announced investment — backing restaurant digitisation platform Formitable with €8m in September 2022 — but investment manager Tim Dolman tells Sifted it’s invested in more than 20 companies in total. It also counts Dutch supermarket app Crisp, sustainable fashion startup Otrium and US-based spacetech Hadrian among its portfolio. Dolman started working for Spacetime in 2022, and tells Sifted while he and Mol run the fund, it’s Mol who is responsible for final decision-making. Spacetime also invests in a “wide-range of PE/VC funds”, but declined to say which exactly they were. Family office: Paul Forster, Indeed The cofounder of jobs search engine Indeed is one of the UK’s most prolific fintech angel investors, backing startups including Personio, Nested, MarketFinance and Monzo. In 2022 he told Sifted he made a total of 19 new investments and 17 follow-on investments through his family office. Taavet + Sten, Plural: Taavet Hinrikus, Wise and Sten Tamkivi, Teleport The Estonian duo of Hinrikus and Tamkivi have been super-active angel investors for years. In 2021, they pooled their capital into an investment company, Taavet+Sten, which backed both early-stage startups and non-profit initiatives including a free coding school, museum and education fund. As of last year, their tech investments are now done from their new €250m VC fund, Plural, which was announced in June. Their partners in that fund are Ian Hogarth and Khaled Helioui. Atomico: Niklas Zennström, Skype VC firm Atomico, founded way back in 2006, is one of the best known names in European tech. It runs angel programmes, publishes that report every year and is currently investing a massive $820m fund, Atomico V. The firm has had several sizable exits, including food delivery company Wolt and Nasdaq-listed electric jet manufacturer Lilium. But a number of its portfolio companies have also been impacted by the downturn. Klarna saw a massive valuation cut, Zapp pulled out of markets and Infarm announced sweeping layoffs. It’s also currently fundraising for two new funds totalling over $1bn. Rinkelberg Capital: Corinne Vigreux and Harold Goddijn, TomTom Vigreux and her husband Goddijn, cofounders of Dutch consumer electronics giant TomTom, have a family office called Rinkelberg Capital. It makes private equity and real estate investments. Its website lists current and past investments including Spotify, Facebook and Takeaway.com, along with medical software startup Rhythm AI and eyewear brand Ace and Tate. Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor and cohost of Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast, and writes Up Round, a weekly newsletter on VC. She tweets from @amyrlewin. Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He tweets from @NicolSchwarzK. 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