US VC giant Sequoia has launched an accelerator programme in Europe for seed-stage companies. It’s yet another sign that VCs are trying to connect with companies earlier than ever as competition for the best deals heats up.
The roughly 15 seed-stage companies selected will go through an eight-week programme to learn the basics of company building from other founders and operators. They will also receive a $1m investment from Sequoia.
Applications for the first European cohort opened today and will close on April 8. The programme will start on May 23 and be led by partner Luciana Lixandru. The first US cohort will be selected later this year.
A seat at the table
The announcement comes as VCs across Europe try to find ways to build relationships with companies at earlier and earlier stages in the hope of getting a “seat at the cap table” later on. The trend has played out notably in the explosion of angel and scout programmes across Europe.
Sequoia has run a scout programme in Europe since 2020 — and enlisted an all-star squad, including Station F’s director Roxanne Varza, who are each given $100k to invest in pre-seed and seed-stage startups. Sequoia pioneered the scout approach in the US, so the announcement of this accelerator programme will likely make rival VCs pay attention.
There are other VCs in Europe that have accelerator programmes. Last year, SoftBank launched the European version of its accelerator programme for founders from underrepresented backgrounds. Participants in SoftBank’s programme have access to educational content and also receive investment. Accel, Atomico, Hedosophia and Lakestar are other prominent VCs with angel or scout programmes.
Visits to Klarna HQ
In response to questions from Sifted, Lixandru said that the Europe programme would be tailored to "the unique demands of company building in Europe" and that the firm was broadly "interested in companies in the fintech, enterprise or consumer space".
The Europe-specific curriculum will include a visit to Europe's most valuable private company, Klarna, and time with founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, chief expansion officer Camilla Giesecke, chief marketing officer David Sandstrom and chief product officer David Fock. Sequoia invested in Klarna in 2010.
Sequoia isn't committing to follow on investing after writing the initial $1m cheque — although the programme will involve introductions to the Sequoia network and "trusted seed investors". Lixandru said she hopes that the initial capital "gives [founders] the runway to focus on learning the techniques to start, build and scale an enduring company, rather than the distraction of fundraising".
Regarding the diversity of applicants and participants, Lixandru noted that "representation in the application screeners is one important way to ensure diversity in each cohort," citing the fact that two women — herself in Europe and Jess Lee in the US — would be leading the programme.
"It is important that we continue backing founders who have historically lacked access to capital. The open application is an opportunity for seed-stage founders from all walks of life to apply to participate in this programme. "