Key players: Tim Draper, Simon Cook, Stuart Chapman
Sectors: Semiconductors, Software, Hardware.
Funds raised: $97.93 million
Notable Investments: Graphcore, a revolutionary machine learning server system; Crowdcube, the crowd funding doyens; Lyst, the global fashion search engine.
Why they’re at the top: Draper Espirit, formerly DFJ Espirit, specialises in investing in disruptive tech companies at their early and growth stages. Headed up by Tim Draper, a veritable icon in the investment world (Tim has recently founded Draper University, essentially a school for entrepreneurs), the fund is one of the most active VC firms in Europe – there are over 50 active companies in their portfolio, which manages over $1 billion in assets.
Key players: Alan Wallace, Alex MacPherson, Alliott Cole
Sectors: Mobile, SaaS, Security, Enterprise Software, IT Infrastructure, Media, Healthcare, Consumer Innovation
Funds raised: $716.85 million
Notable Investments: Appear Here, the retail space marketplace; Stratajet, the real-time private jet booking platform; Secret Escapes, the luxury travel discount club.
Why they’re at the top: Octopus have a people-centric approach to their investment. And while that sounds like a nauseating platitude, it simply means they care about the entrepreneurs – about their background, their passion, their expertise, or their unusual talents – as much as the business. As such, a significant part of the Octopus portfolio comes from heartfelt referrals from teams they have already invested in, or from serial entrepreneurs who the team have backed before.
Key players: Bernard Liautaud, Jerome Misso
Sectors: Mobile, Software, Fintech, Curated Web, HealthTech, eCommerce, Games, Marketplaces.
Funds raised: $2.16 billion
Notable Investments: Revolut, the borderless banking alternative; Nutmeg, the personal online investment service; Thread, the bespoke digital stylist app.
Why they’re at the top: Balderton is a big fish with a small fish mentality – that is, they have the financial clout of a giant VC, but the humility, diligence, and long term thinking of a minnow. The numbers speak for themselves. Balderton is the largest Europe-focused venture fund, with a total pot of $2.16 billion. That means the money on the table is rarely small – the VC tends to put down between $1M to $20M into its companies, but only if they have truly disruptive potential in an established marketplace.
Key players: Rogan Angelini-Hurll, Brent Hoberman, Peter Dubens, Sean Seton-Rogers.
Sectors: EdTech, E-Commerce, Social Media, SaaS, Travel, Finance, Venture Capital, Enterprise Software, Gaming, Mobile
Funds raised: Undisclosed
Notable Investments: Syft, the recruitment software; Made.com, the furniture makers; OneFineStay, the high-end house-sharing app.
Why they’re at the top: The clue to PROfounders’ success is in the name, really. As a collection of founders and entrepreneurs themselves, these VCs are unique in that they’ve sat on both sides of the deals table/ (Founder Brent Hoberman, for example, was one of the entrepreneurs behind early tech start up LastMinute.com at the tail end of the Dot Com boom.)
“We have been there.” the directors pledge. “We understand what it takes to build a successful and sustainable business and we know the hardships and stresses as well.” To PROfounders, investment means more than simply capital: “We aim to be partners through the hard times as well as the good times.”
Key players: Eileen Burbidge, Stefan Glaenzer, Robert Dighero
Sectors: E-Commerce, Transaction Processing, Analytics
Funds raised: $129 million
Notable Investments: Monzo, the smart bank; Prowler.io, the machine learning start-up; DueDil, the due diligence software.
Why they’re at the top: The partners at Passion come from serious entrepreneurial stock. Between them, the team have been personally involved in the largest European tech exits of the past decade – Ricardo.de acquired by QXL, Skype purchased by Ebay, Last.fm acquired by CBS, and QXL/Tradus acquired by Naspers.
Needless to say, the partners believe that their sheer passion for such deals is the difference-maker in whether a company succeeds or not. As such, Burbbidge, Glaenzer and Dighero are determined to build Europe into a tech ecosystem that can rival California – and a noisy revolution is already taking place at White Bear Yard in Clerkenwell, their multi-start up offices that foster collaboration, ambition and success.
Key players: Alan Morgan, Bruce Macfarlane
Sectors: Enterprise Software, SaaS, AI, Fintech, E-Commerce, Marketplaces, Digital Media
Funds raised: $276.28 million
Notable Investments: Gousto, the home meal delivery app; Mubi, the curated online cinema; Appear Here, the retail space marketplace.
Why they’re at the top: MMC Ventures is a truly global player with a pleasingly local lean. The venture fund likes to back technology-based start ups that are launching in sectors where the UK is a world leader – financial and business services, digital media, eCommerce. As such, their constant and energetic investment bodes well for the nation as a whole. MMC invest more than £20 million+ per year, and the fund is consistently ranked among the most active early-stage investors in the UK.
Key players: Mattias Ljungman, Niklas Zennström
Sectors: Curated Web, Mobile, E-Commerce.
Funds raised: $1.41 billion
Notable Investments: Clutter, the smart storage company; Lilium Aviation, the European space agency start up; Habito, the digital mortgage lender.
Why they’re at the top: Atomico believe in entrepreneurs. So much so, in fact, that their website and headquarters are bedecked with a four point manifesto that begins “Now is the Age of the Entrepreneur”. Because the real power for behavioural change, Atomico believes, is no longer with governments or traditional big business – it’s with disruptive entrepreneurs who move at lightning speeds.
That’s why the firm has invested from Series A onwards throughout its 11 year lifespan – when they see an idea or an entrepreneur they believe in, they want to step in early and build it up in the long term. With all this talk of world domination and global superpowers, it’s reassuring that Atomico has turned its laser eye chiefly on this humble continent: “We believe many of the next truly transformative companies will come from Europe.”
Key players: Tellef Thorleifsson, Bjørn Stray
Sectors: Advertising, Software, Curated Web
Funds raised: $1.15B
Notable Investments: iZettle, the mobile, point-of-sale payments company: Spotify, the music streaming service.TrustPilot, the online reviews service.
Why they’re at the top: Put simply, Northzone back winners. Whether that’s to do with their eye for a brilliant market disrupter (Northzone helped bring Spotify to life at its launch with a big Series A investment and some serious international expertise), or their attitude of rolling up their sleeves and getting things done is up for grabs.
Known to be open, honest and friendly with the start ups they back, the firm’s manifesto pledges to help founders at every step of their rollercoaster journey. Perhaps that’s why their biggest winners come back for more – 7 years after their initial launch investment, Spotify and Northzone inked a $526 million Series G deal.