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Europe’s top growth investors

Looking for an investor to scale your startup? You could do far worse than these VCs.

By Kai Nicol-Schwarz

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There has never been a better time to raise a growth round in Europe.

According to Dealroom, investors have written cheques to the tune of €71bn on growth rounds (Series B and above) across the continent this year. That’s more than double what they shelled out across the whole of 2020.

Galvanised by widespread digital acceleration, an abundance of cash in the ecosystem and a promising crop of second-generation founders who have already built and successfully exited businesses, Europe is cultivating a reputation as a place where you can build big companies.

“The barriers to building a global company are lower,” says Jambu Palaniappan, partner at OMERS Ventures. “Historically, European tech has been about whether or not you can succeed in the UK. Now the opportunity from day one is a global audience.”

But, as Europe enters a golden age of growth, which VCs should be at the top of scaleup founders’ pitch list? 

Using Dealroom’s “VC Prominence” rankings, Sifted has compiled the top 10.

Dealroom calculates this ranking based on the number of unicorns and future unicorns a firm has backed, and the level of deal activity over the past 12 months.

We also reached out to each firm to find out a little more about them — like their partner gender diversity, portfolio size, typical investment amount and sector focus.

Founders with eyes on a mega-valuation take note. These VCs are the ones who will get you there.

1/ 83North

With offices in London and Tel Aviv, the firm has $1.8bn in capital under management following the launch of its latest fund in May this year — its largest ever, with £550m in the pot. 83North says it will use the funds to invest in sectors such as healthcare and automation, alongside putting additional growth funds into its existing portfolio.

It’s been operating since 2006, initially affiliated with Silicon Valley-based Greylock Partners before rebranding as 83North in 2015. It has 13 unicorns in its portfolio including food delivery scaleup Wolt, data platform Celonis and marketplace SaaS Mirakl.

Size of European portfolio: 29 companies

Gender split of investment partners: 8 men, 1 woman

Deal count in 2020: 10

Deal count so far in 2021: 7

Geographical focus: Europe, Israel and North America

Sectors interested in: The majority of 83North’s investments are in SaaS, fintech, marketing, security and media

Investment size: Series A and above

Size of latest fund: $550m (May 2021) 

*83North did not respond to our request for company information, so these figures are taken from its website and Dealroom. 

2/ Molten Ventures (Formerly Draper Esprit)

The Molten Ventures team

The VC announced a brand makeover today, unveiling itself as Molten Ventures. In the past 12 months, it’s participated in deals totalling £1.2bn, and counts nine unicorns among its portfolio and exits. With offices in London and Dublin, the majority of the firm’s investments are UK-based, although it has also invested in a number of companies in the US and Germany.

Molten became the largest tech-only VC on the London Stock Exchange in July as the firm made the leap from London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) to the main market. Since first listing on AIM five years ago, Molten’s market valuation has grown almost 11 times, to £1.4bn. 

The move that points to the maturing European ecosystem and comes amid a boom in European tech VC, with mega-rounds galore throughout 2021.

Size of European portfolio: 72 companies, with a valuation of £1.3bn (as of March 31, 2021) 

Gender split of investment partners: 4 men, 2 women

Deal count in 2020:

Deal count in 2021: 14

Geographical focus: Europe

Sectors interested in: Consumer, digital health and wellness, AI, deeptech, hardware, cloud, enterprise and Saas

Investment size: Series A and beyond

3/ Dawn Capital

The Dawn Capital team

The London-based firm counts six unicorns in its portfolio, a number it will be looking to grow further via its latest £120m late-stage fund raised in June. The new fund will be used exclusively to invest in growth rounds for Dawn Capital’s best-performing portfolio companies, and is the second of its kind that the VC has raised.

Dawn’s late-stage specific funds means it has more scope to back a company along its whole journey from Series A to exit, and it has an impressive track record for scaling European tech companies. The VC has cashed in heavily over the past few years, exiting from portfolio fintechs iZettle and Tink, which have both been acquired in deals totalling €4bn.

Size of European portfolio: 30

Gender split of investment partners: 3 men, 2 women 

Deal count in 2020: 5

Deal count in 2021:

Geographical focus: Europe and Israel 

Sectors interested in: B2B SaaS, covering fintech, security, data and analytics and future of work 

Investment size: $5-30m through Dawn IV and up to $30m through Opportunities fund

Size of latest fund: $400m, flagship fund Dawn IV — investing Series A & B (September 2020) and $120m later-stage Opportunities II — investing Series C+ (July 2021)

4/ Baillie Gifford

With headquarters in Edinburgh and New York, the Scottish asset management firm is among the old guard of the venture world, and was founded in the first decade of the twentieth century. The firm has an impressive history of backing global winners in tech, including Amazon, Google and Tesla.

According to Dealroom, the firm has been involved in deals worth a whopping $19.7bn in the last 12 months. Unlike most investment managers, Baillie Gifford has no outside shareholders to report to, as the firm is a partnership, owned and run by its 47 partners. 

Size of European portfolio: 17 companies

Gender split of investment partners: Baillie Gifford declined to give Sifted a gender breakdown

Deal count in 2020: 19

Deal count in 2021: 28

Geographical focus: Global

Sectors interested in: Sector agnostic

Investment size: No typical investment size

Size of latest fund: $477m (March 2019)

*Baillie Gifford could only provide some of the information requested, so we’ve filled in the blanks with data from Dealroom.

5/ Kinnevik

Another of the European old guard, Kinnevik has been writing cheques since 1936 and is Europe’s largest listed investor. But in the last couple of years Kinnevik has been doubling down on its high-growth portfolio.

In 2019 the firm shifted its focus from stock market holdings to invest more in privately held startups — namely healthcare, consumer, food and financial services. As part of its pivot, the firm re-distributed its stake in marketplace Zalando among shareholders earlier this year, and its share of high-growth portfolio companies almost doubled to 67%.

It marks the third time the VC has changed its investing focus, starting out in paper and pulp, before moving to telecoms and media in the 1990s and then the digital companies in the 2010s.

The Stockholm-based VC invests in Europe — with a focus on the Nordics — and the US, and has been compared to SoftBank in the past (a comparison it’s not too keen on).

Size of European portfolio: 16, with a total valuation of $4.6bn

Gender split of investment partners: 8 men, 5 women

Deal count in 2020: 5

Deal count so far in 2021: 8

Geographical focus: Europe, with a particular focus on the Nordics, and the US

Sectors interested in: Healthcare, food, consumer services and financial services

Typical investment size: Range from $10-100m, but typically around $30-50m

Size of latest fund: Invests around $400m a year

6/ Highland Europe

The Geneva and London based VC firm has a good track record of backing consumer tech brands and software companies, counting GetYourGuide, MatchesFashion and WeTransfer among its portfolio. 

In December 2020, the fund launched a €700m investment fund — its fourth in eight years — taking just two months to raise the capital, largely from existing investors. The fund will be used to invest entirely in Europe, cofounder Fergal Mullen told Sifted, and is aiming to bridge the gap between late-stage funding in Europe and more mature markets like the US.

“We don’t predict which sectors will be hot, we want growing companies and compelling teams,” Mullen said. “We invest in both consumer facing tech, particularly ecommerce, and also B2B tech, particularly SaaS.”

Size of European portfolio: 38, €22bn combined value 

Gender split of investment partners: 7 men, 1 women

Deal count in 2020: 7

Deal count so far in 2021: 7

Geographical focus: Europe & Israel

Sectors interested in: B2B, SaaS and consumer internet

Typical investment size: €15m-75m, up to €200m with LPs

Size of latest fund: €700m (December 2020)

7/ Latitude

The Latitude team

Following its quiet launch at the end of a LocalGlobe party in the summer of 2019, Latitude has been busy.

So far, the fund has backed 28 companies, participated in deals totalling $1bn in the last 12 months and counts eight unicorns in its portfolio.

The idea behind the growth fund spinoff from one of London’s best-known seed investors was to begin to bridge the gulf between European and US VC.

“By the time you get to Series B and C, Europe is a country mile behind the US,” founder of LocalGlobe and Latitude Saul Klein told Sifted. “The total capital coming into the market is increasing, but we’re still massively underweight at B+.” 

Latitude means that LocalGlobe can back these breakout businesses at Series B and beyond without messing up the dynamics of its seed fund, but the two funds share many similarities. Most Latitude partners work with companies across both portfolios, and the two funds also share the same set of investors. 

Size of European portfolio: 37 

Gender split of investment partners: 7 men, 3 women

Deal count in 2020: 15

Deal count so far in 2021: 19

Geographical focus: 80% plus in Europe and Israel, alongside some investment in US and Africa

Sectors interested in: Generalist

Typical investment size: $5m to $15m

Size of latest fund: $220m (April 2020)

8/ GR Capital

The GR Capital team

The Ukrainian born pan-European VC opened an office in London in 2019 and has participated in deals totalling €786m in the last 12 months. Despite its Kiev roots, the fund only makes investments in western Europe and has backed some of the region’s most well-known startup successes. 

The UK’s Deliveroo, Berlin-based logistics company Sennder and Spanish delivery scaleup Glovo count themselves among GR Capital’s seven portfolio unicorns.

Size of European portfolio: 11 companies, $14.7B combined valuation

Gender split of investment partners: 3 men

Deal count in 2020: 2

Deal count so far in 2021: 3

Geographical focus: Western Europe

Sectors interested in: Health, wealth, mobility and housing

Typical investment size: $3-10m

Size of latest fund: $85M

9/ Iris Capital

The Iris Capital team

Since its launch in Paris in 1986, Iris Capital has opened offices across the globe, from San Francisco to Tokyo, and has invested over €1bn in 300 companies. 

The VC says it’s one of the oldest headquartered in both France and Germany, having set up shop in Berlin in 1993. It counts logistics SaaS Forto and AI insurtech plugin Shift Technology among its five portfolio unicorns.

Size of European portfolio: 43 companies

Gender split of investment partners: 2 men, 1 woman (late-stage growth team)

New deals count 2020: 4

New deals count 2021: 4

Geographical focus: Mainly France and Germany

Sectors interested in: Saas, AI, robotics, IT, architecture services, platforms, cloud based services and data management solutions

Typical investment size: €1-30m 

Size of latest fund: $300m (second close mid-2019)

10/ Forbion Capital Partners

Launched in 2000 as the private equity arm of Dutch bank ABN AMRO, the VC became Forbion in 2006. It has offices in the Netherlands, Germany and Singapore, and says it has invested €1.8bn in startups globally.

Forbion has raised five flagship funds, the most recent of which began investing in 2021, and more recently closed its first fund entirely focused on later-stage companies. It has €360m in the pot and will be used to invest in 10-12 European life sciences companies. 

Size of European portfolio: 21 companies

Gender split of investment partners: 26 men, 4 women

New deals count 2020: 5

New deals count 2021: 8

Geographical focus: Europe and North America

Sectors interested in: Life sciences

Investment size: Series A and beyond

Size of latest fund: €360m, Growth Opportunities Fund I (April 2021)

*Forbion did not respond to our request for company information, so these figures are taken from its website and Dealroom. 

*Dealroom’s prominence rankings are correct as of October 28 2021. We have not included Innovacom in this article — listed at No 9 on Dealroom’s prominence rankings — because the firm hasn’t backed any unicorns founded after 1998. Deal counts do not include follow-on deals or exits. 

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He tweets from @NicolSchwarzK

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