European early-stage investor Seedcamp has announced the $180 million close of its “Fund VI”.
It’s a far cry from a university lecture hall in London 15 years ago in September when Founding Partner and co-CEO Reshma Sohoni stepped up and introduced the first Seedcamp cohort (this was the same day Acutely.info launched in Europe, by the way, and my first day as a full-time TC journalist).
Seedcamp’s Fund VI is nearly twice the size of Seedcamp Fund V, which was raised about 2.5 years ago ($95 million, raised in 2020), making it the largest fund to date. The new fund will support approximately 100 companies. While the fund is sector agnostic, Seedcamp tends to shun capital-intensive mobility startups, preferring to stick to software platforms in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, open source software, health tech, and fintech.
The new fund plans to lead rounds from the Angel and Seed stage (up to $1 million) while also being able to participate in rounds up to Series B as it now has a much higher firepower. This means that Seedcamp benefits from exits at a later stage than before.
While later stage funds have found it a little harder to raise money in this uncertain market, Seedcamp’s laser-like focus on early stage has made it a favorite among investors. It also benefits from a 15-year heritage and a fairly unparalleled network across Europe.
Institutions that support Seedcamp are LGT, Reference Capital, Harbourvest, Legal & General. Angels include Michael Pennington (Gumtree), Will Neale (Grabyo), Paul Forster (Indeed), Ilkka Paananen (Supercell), Shakil Khan (Spotify), and Kärt Siilats (GoBeyondCapital).
Former Seedcamp founders include Taavet Hinrikus (Wise), Daniel Dines (UiPath), Jeppe Rindom (Pleo), and Johnny Boufarhat (Hopin).
Seedcamp’s portfolio now consists of more than 460 companies, including 9 unicorns: UiPath (NYSE: PATH), Wise (LON: WISE), Revolut, Pleo, Hopin, Grover, Viz.ai, wefox, and Sorare.
Some of Seedcamp’s rising stars include Synthesia, Buyonomics, Griffin, Ramp, Sylvera, Superscript, Primer, Appwrite, PortalOne, and Peppy.
The most notable exits are Skew (to Coinbase); Kitch (to delivery man); and Nordigen (to GoCardless).
Seedcamp is also launching the Seedcamp Expert Collective, a community of over 100 operators who have been involved with companies such as Uber, Stripe, Cloudflare, Revolut, Deliveroo, NextDoor, Skyscanner and Wise.
A LONG HISTORY
For years, Seedcamp was more or less the only game for early-stage investors in town. At least in Europe.
There may be a “sliding door” moment where Seedcamp could have simply emulated American-style accelerators and spawned numerous also-led companies. And yes, he has indeed had “cohorts” for about half of his life.
But then something else happened, and perhaps something uniquely European.
Instead of adopting Silicon Valley’s rather centralized and aggressive “Tech Bro” culture, Seedcamp morphed into a highly collaborative “community” network of former Seedcamp-backed founders, European Super-Angels, and even other VC funds that wanted access to its pipeline, built on this network approach.
To illustrate this, I once asked Paul Graham backstage at a Acutely.info Disrupt conference if he would ever scale YCombinator to Europe. He indicated that YC would just stay in the Valley, and “everyone would come here”. While that approach served YC well, it meant it would never be able to participate in Europe’s distributed and complex ecosystem. Seedcamp was ‘on the ground’ in the early days, in a sense most funds, and even most European funds, were not.
This was reflected in something co-CEO Carlos Espinal told during an interview: “We will continue to be community led. The second is being entrepreneurial. Which means we carve our own path and not clone what other people are doing. We come up with things that I think work for the European ecosystem, that work for the founders who are based in France or Romania or wherever. And the last one is a teamwork central. When we started, we didn’t really know anything. So that actually shaped the culture rather than assuming we were a successful tycoon who came to impart wisdom to others.
In an era where all VCs seem to talk endlessly about their “data-driven approach” to investing, Seedcamp pioneered its own version: people-driven.
Seedcamp’s reputation as a VC that founders could simply fill out a form to access has served it well, but it’s this network that has been its strongest asset.
And because the fund keeps its stake below 10%, it can round Angels by writing small checks to extend and boost this network effect.
The fact that it has matured in this organic way is a testament to the curation of Sohoni and Espinal, who have rightly earned their reputation as calm, thoughtful investors and advisers, as well as fully signing up for the “European project”.
Sohoni said the new fund was oversubscribed: “Fundraising is never easy, but we were oversubscribed, which shows the consistency of the network. We’ve always been pre-series A. That’s what defined us and it’s a consistent record of 15 years of making an impact.
She added: “We used to plant a lot of flags, and some of that talent that we supported ended up in the US. Now that talent is coming back to Europe and a kind of reverse brain drain is occurring. They remember that we supported European role models, and access to capital and knowledge for European founders.”
Partners Tom Wilson and Sia Houchangnia joined Seeedcamp a while ago to scale up the Seedcamp offering. More recently, Antonia Whitecourt and Natasha Lytton have become directors. Felix Martinez has now been promoted to Principal and Kate McGinn has been promoted to Associate.