LocalGlobe, Index Ventures and Passion Capital have topped a list of the best unicorn-spotting VCs in the UK.
The ranking, compiled by data platform Dealroom, measures investors based on the number of unicorns and ‘future unicorns’ (companies that are valued between $250-999m) they’ve backed. VCs earned higher scores if they invested into companies at earlier stages.
While the UK has long led the rest of Europe as a unicorn minting factory, there’s been a huge drop off in the number of new billion dollar companies across the region so far in 2023.
Just four companies have hit unicorn status this year, according to Dealroom — falling from the 69 and 45 unicorns created in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The last time the number of new billion dollar companies fell below 10 in a single year was 2017.
Here are the top 10 UK VCs with a nose for sniffing out unicorns.
*Investment figures for past 12 months confirmed with VCs unless otherwise stated.
The London-based VC — known officially as Phoenix Court Group — is one of the few European investors that can back startups pretty much throughout their entire lifecycle. It has four separate funds: LocalGlobe, which backs companies at pre-seed and seed, Latitude for Series B and C deals, Solar for Series D to IPO and Basecamp, which invests in other VCs.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 41 deals globally, 34 deals in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Wise, TravelPerk, Monzo and Zego.
2/ Index Ventures
A veteran of the European tech scene, Index has been backing startups since 1996. It launched its latest fund — a $300m seed-focused fund — in 2022, which it is investing alongside a $900m venture fund and $2bn growth fund.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 37 deals globally, 13 deals in the EMEA region (according to Dealroom).
Notable investments: Meta, Revolut, Adyen and Slack.
3/ Passion Capital
The early-stage investor is the only VC on this list that backed all of its unicorns — GoCardless, Monzo, Lendable and Marshmallow — at pre-seed stage. It’s currently investing from its third fund, a £45m investment vehicle, and writes tickets of £650-750k. The fund’s cofounder, Eileen Burbidge, was interviewed on the Sifted Podcast in July.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 24 deals, all of them in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: GoCardless, Monzo, Lendable and Marshmallow.
4/ Episode 1 Ventures
The B2B software investor backs companies from seed to Series A with tickets sizes between £250k-2m. Episode 1 is currently investing from its third fund, which it expects to close in the coming months.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 10 deals, all of them in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Shazam, Treecard, Huboo and Raft
Accel has three $650m early-stage funds — one covering Europe and Israel, one covering the US and one covering India — alongside one $4bn global growth fund. It is a generalist VC, with a focus on cloud software, fintech, security, consumer app, marketplaces and healthcare. Earlier this year, Accel topped a Sifted list of the VCs that had backed the most European unicorns.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 108 deals globally, 22 in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Meta, Spotify, MessageBird and Synthesia.
Seedcamp invests in any sector at pre-seed and seed, writing cheques of up to $1m. It led the first rounds in unicorns including Wise, UiPath, Revolut, Pleo and Sorare. Seedcamp raised a $180m fund, its sixth, in May this year.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 79 deals globally, 73 in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Revolut, wefox, Hopin and UiPath
7/ Octopus Ventures
Octopus backs startups in B2B software, climate tech, consumer tech, deeptech, fintech, biotech and health. It has invested in more than 180 businesses since launching in 2007, and predominantly writes tickets at seed and Series A. Octopus is also the UK’s largest operator of venture capital trusts (VCTs), which are listed vehicles that invest retail investors' money into startups.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 92 deals globally.
Notable investments: Depop, Cazoo, ManyPets and Elvie
8/ Balderton Capital
Balderton’s latest fund was a $600m vehicle for backing early-stage startups in Europe, which it closed in 2021. It has also got a late-stage fund, which it announced earlier that year. The VC typically backs startups at seed to Series C, with most of its deals coming in the SaaS and fintech sectors.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 33 deals, all of them in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Revolut, Lendable, Matillion and Darktrace.
9/ MMC Ventures
MMC is a deeptech VC that focuses on startups using AI and data across fintech, enterprise AI, healthtech and cloud infrastructure. It mostly invests at Series A, with cheques of up to £10m. MMC has an evergreen fund, which can invest up to £100m annually.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 29 deals, all of them in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Synthesia, Signal AI, Copper and Snowplow.
10/ Amadeus Capital Partners
Amadeus is one of the old hats of European VC, and since launching in 1997 it has invested more than $1.2bn in companies across 22 funds. The firm is looking to back startups in deeptech, AI and cybersecurity, quantum, healthtech and climate tech.
Number of investments in the past 12 months: 19 deals globally, 17 in the EMEA region.
Notable investments: Graphcore, Improbable, Oxford Nanopore Technologies and Ori Biotech.