Paris-based VC Serena, an early backer of French unicorn and data management platform Dataiku, has closed a new €100m early-stage fund to back startups developing the “invisible” tools, platforms and infrastructure needed to create the apps we use every day.
The fund is Serena’s second — its first closed at €70m in 2017 — and is backed largely by institutional LPs including Bpifrance and the European Investment Fund. More than 90% of the fund comes from LP re-ups, which occur when investors commit money to their existing GPs’ next fund.
It will back over 20 pre-seed and seed startups with tickets from €500k-3.5m. Up to 40% of the fund will be dedicated to follow-on investments.
The invisible infrastructure behind apps
The new fund will focus on what the VC describes as “infrastructure software” — the less visible technologies behind consumer-facing applications like ride-hailing apps, AI chatbots and crypto wallets.
For example, companies like Uber use data platforms such as Snowflake to store and process data — and wouldn’t exist without this infrastructure, says Bertrand Diard, partner at Serena.
“The real beauty of Uber is that it is able to infinitely scale its platform and deploy at a high pace, and that happened thanks to infrastructure software,” he says. “And the same can be said of Lyft, Airbnb and so on.”
“Everybody sees the tip of the iceberg — apps,” says Diard. “But the reality is that apps rely on technology. We want to invest in these technologies.”
Specifically, the VC will be looking at three verticals: AI models and data management, blockchain technologies and quantum computing software.
The fund has already backed companies like Koyeb — a platform that helps developers deploy apps globally — and Fipto, which provides blockchain-based treasury management services. It has also invested in Quandela, which builds quantum computing hardware and software.
Serena will invest three-quarters of the fund in European companies and the remaining quarter in the US.
But startups that are headquartered in Europe will have to show that they have plans to expand internationally, says Diard.
“A sine qua non for us is the ambition to become global. And in software, quite frankly, this means you either exist in the US or you don’t exist,” he says.
Up to 80% of the companies in Serena’s first fund portfolio currently have a presence in the US, according to the investor.