Venture Capital/Analysis/

25 UK venture capital funds founders should know

Our take on some of the UK's top VCs: who they are, what they're looking for and why they're worth getting to know.

By Kim Darrah

The LocalGlobe team

There is more money in Europe for startup founders to tap into than ever before — but that doesn’t mean it’s all cash that they should take.

For early-stage founders in Europe (at seed and Series A) it’s often hard to know where to turn and how to tell a good venture capital firm from a less good venture capital firm.

So here’s our guide to the UK venture capital funds that we think you should get to know.

(P.S We love feedback and this list will be updated in a few weeks. Who’ve we missed? Who shouldn’t be on there? Email us at [email protected] and [email protected] or comment below)

Kindred Capital

Photo of The partners at Kindred Capital
Kindred Capital’s partners: Mark Evans, Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, Leila Rastegar Zegna, Russell Buckley

Founded in 2015, Kindred Capital is differentiating itself from the pack by pioneering “equitable investment” in Europe. Among other things, this means it gives carry in the fund to all the founders it invests in. The idea is that this incentivises portfolio companies to help one another out. 

The key person to look out for at Kindred is Russell Buckley, its founding partner. Buckley cofounded mobile ad company Admob in 2006, which later sold to Google for $750m, and is an angel investor when he’s not running Kindred.

Latest fund size: £80m (February 2018)

Focus: Invests in startups from seed to Series A. Generalist.

Notable investments: 

Index Ventures

Picture of Index Ventures Team
Mark Goldberg, Shardul Shah, Sarah Cannon, Danny Rimer and Mike Volpi in San Francisco

As one of the UK’s oldest venture capital funds, Index Ventures has the rare benefit of over two decades experience. It was cofounded by Neil Rimer in Geneva in 1996, back when ‘venture capital’ was still a new term outside the US. Today it’s global, based in London and San Francisco, and has raised a total of $7.25bn, while building a portfolio of 160 companies. It’s invested in unicorns such as BlaBlaCar, TransferWise, Deliveroo and Revolut.

As one of the heavyweights of Europe’s VC scene, Index gets involved in a lot of big, eye-catching deals, but it doesn’t shy away from seed and Series A rounds. And by most accounts, it is one of the best. This year Index invested seed rounds in Beautystack, a network for beauty professionals, as well as Daye, which makes pain-relieving CBD-infused tampons.

They have a few big names on their team, such as Martin Mignot, Jan Hammer and Danny Rimer, but it’s a top-quality team all round. Their website details who is who and what each investor specialises in.

Latest fund size: $1bn (July 2018)

Focus: Invests across the US and Europe in startups from seed to venture to growth. Focuses on tech sectors including financial services, software, mobility, retail and enterprise.

Notable investments: 

Passion Capital

Photo of Eileen Burbridge
Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital, at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015. Photo by John Phillips for TechCrunch.

Passion Capital has funded 70 early-stage tech startups, backing over 100 founders who have grown their teams to include over 1,000 team members.

It has made a virtue of openness, pushing initiatives like a ‘Plain English Term Sheet’ and making its investment terms public. Notably, it was an early investor in Monzo, the darling of the UK’s fintech scene, and has been identified by Dealroom as one of the venture capital funds with top-quartile conversion rates between seed and Series A.

Latest fund size: £45m (2015)

Focus: Early-stage tech.

Notable investments: 

Balderton Capital

Picture of Suranga Chandratillake, partner at Balderton.
Suranga Chandratillake, partner at Balderton.

Balderton may be one of the biggest names in European venture capital — but it has Californian roots. It was founded in 2000 by Benchmark, one of Silicon Valley’s top VC, under the name Benchmark Capital Europe, before launching as Balderton Capital in 2007. 

Balderton is now active across Europe, and its team has apparently met with 7,500 European founders over the past two years. It also has a massive presence in the UK. By certain measures, it is the most active fund of the lot. It recently came first place in Dealroom’s ranking of the most active UK-based venture capital funds at Series A, having led 17 rounds between 2014 and 2018. 

Balderton is now led by Bernard Liautaud, who joined in 2008 just after the fund became fully independent from Benchmark. Liautaud previously cofounded the business intelligence software company Business Objects, which was subsequently acquired by SAP for $6.8bn in 2007. Another key name to know is Suranga Chandratillake, who has been a general partner since 2014. Before Balderton he was chief executive at search engine Blinkx, which was taken public in 2007, and which he founded and led for eight years.

Latest fund size: $400m (November 2019)

Focus: Invests in startups at Series A. Generalist.

Notable investments:

Read more: European VC firm Balderton’s heavy hitters

First Minute Capital

Photo of First Minute Capital co-founders, Spencer Crawley and Brent Hoberman
First Minute Capital cofounders, Spencer Crawley and Brent Hoberman.

First Minute Capital is one of the many startup-related ventures dreamt up by Brent Hoberman, one of the best-known figures in the world of UK startups. He first became known for cofounding lastminute.com, an online travel site that became a unicorn in the early noughties, back when unicorns were actually rare. He has since cofounded Founders Factory, the corporate-backed accelerator and Founders Forum, an invite-only global community of tech and startup insiders.

In 2017 Hoberman teamed up with Spencer Crawley, an early employee at DMC Partners, to launch First Minute Capital. After two years in operation, the fund has completed almost 50 angel deals and has accumulated a varied portfolio of flashy startups. 

Unsurprisingly given its team, the fund has attracted high-profile backers including Tencent, Henkel and Atomico, alongside a number of strategic chief executives.

Latest fund size: $100m (June 2018)

Focus: Invests in founders across Europe, the United States and Israel. Sector agnostic.

Notable investments:

Octopus Ventures

Photo of Alliott Cole, Octopus Ventures chief executive
Alliott Cole, chief executive at Octopus Ventures

Octopus Group was founded in 2000 as a fund management company, before later spawning a VC division — Octopus Ventures. The fund has since become one of the biggest and most active in Europe, with £1.2bn in assets and nearly 100 companies under its belt. It is headquartered in London and New York, with venture partners in San Francisco, Singapore and China.

The wider group’s self-declared raison d’être is to take on the world’s unrelenting problem of terrible customer service. In doing so, it focuses specifically on sectors where it thinks it can help achieve this.

The fund recently came second place in Dealroom’s ranking of the top most active UK-based VCs at Series A, after leading 11 rounds from 2014 to 2018.

Latest fund size: £230m for its ‘Titan’ fund (April 2018).

Focus: Three key areas: fintech, healthtech and industry 4.0. The team invests in startups at any stage of growth, typically investing upwards of £1m for seed, around £5m for Series A and following on with tickets of up to £25m.

Notable investments:

Accel

Accel team photo
Accel team photo. From left: Luca Bocchio, Luciana Lixandru, Harry Nelis, Seth Pierrepont, Sonali De Rycker, Andrei Brasoveanu, Philippe Botteri.

Accel is a huge name in venture capital. It’s based in the US, but has a global presence and runs its European operations from London. Its total funds under management in Europe now stand at $3bn.

The fund’s US history goes way back to 1983, when it was founded by Arthur Patterson and Jim Swartz, but it launched in Europe for the first time in 2000.

While some venture capital funds like Forward Partners and Daphni try to stand out from the pack by offering their companies access to various kinds of business consultants, Accel puts more emphasis on the value of its networks. Accel partner Philippe Botteri says this results in practical benefits when it comes to key moments like hiring senior leaders and expanding to new markets.

“Our perspective is more network-oriented; typically the partner on [a company’s] board acts as the door to the Accel network,” said Botteri. “If a founder says, ‘I want to optimise sales’, I put them in touch with the company in the portfolio that does that best,” he once told Sifted.

Latest fund size: $575m (May 2019) — Accel’s sixth fund for early-stage European companies.

Focus: Early-stage companies (typically at the Series A round). Seeks out founders in Europe and Israel who are building “market-defining” business in both the consumer and enterprise sectors.

Notable investments:

Notion Capital

Notion Capital team photo
The Notion Capital team.

Founded in 2009, Notion Capital says its guiding principle from day one has been to “have fun and make money”. During these past 10 years it has invested in and worked with over sixty software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies.

Managing partner Steven Chandler says a key benefit of Notion is an operator advantage: “Notion is the only post-seed VC in Europe started by B2B [business-to-business] founders. That means a culture of entrepreneurial empathy and investigating the whys and hows, instead of just cold KPIs [key performance indicators].”

Companies in its portfolio get access to the Notion Platform, which is a gateway to a number of resources including the team’s network, best-practice intelligence and hiring support.

Latest fund size: $150m (October 2019) — its fourth fund.

Focus: European Series A software-as-a-service and enterprise tech. With focus on fintech, machine-learning, marketplaces, cybersecurity, automation and supply chain.

Notable investments:

Atomico

Atomico team photo.
The Atomico team.

Atomico is European, but has a global presence — with people based in Europe, China, Japan, South America and the US. It is a big name in London, known as one of the “big four” early-stage VCs, alongside Balderton, Accel and Index Ventures — despite being a comparatively new kid on the block. 

Founded in 2006 by Mattias Ljungman and Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Atomico has made a name for itself through an impressive marketing strategy, publishing its landmark State of European Tech report annually, and has become known for being fairly innovative for a big fund. It has just launched the second version of its angel programme, run by partner and prominent angel investor Sophia Bendz (formerly of Spotify), which aims to improve the diversity of Atomico’s dealflow.

Aside from the fact it’s run by Zennström, who is as close as you can get to a tech celebrity, Atomico is known for its growth team, which is packed with heavy-hitters from companies including Facebook, Skype, Uber, Supercell, Spotify, Virgin and Google.

Latest fund size: $765m (2017) — its fourth fund.

Focus: European tech companies at Series A and beyond. Sector agnostic.

Notable investments:

  • Flying car startup Lilium
  • Semiconductor maker Graphcore
  • Vertical farming startup Infarm
  • “Buy now, pay later” fintech Klarna

Mosaic Ventures

Mosaic Team Photo
The Mosaic team

Mosaic Ventures is run by founding partners Simon Levene and Toby Coppel, who met at university in the US before pursuing careers in Silicon Valley at the dawn of the internet in the ’90s. They subsequently both held positions at Yahoo. 

They are now looking to bring the Silicon Valley mentality back to the UK, running Mosaic out of Soho-based offices from which they support portfolio companies with a distinctly “valley” approach.

Founded in 2014, Mosaic’s latest $150m fund is its second to date.

Latest fund size: $150m (2018)

Focus: European software companies at Series A across Europe. Within software, Mosaic targets five core themes: machine intelligence, consumer finance, new mobility, personalised medicine and crypto.

Notable investments:

Hoxton Ventures

Photo of partners at Hoxton Capital, Rob Kniaz and Hussein Kanji.
Partners at Hoxton Capital, Rob Kniaz and Hussein Kanji.

Hoxton Ventures takes pride in the fact that it does little-to-no PR, hasn’t announced its latest fund (raised a year ago) or its four most recent investments, and rarely attends conferences or demo days. Its pitch deck for limited partners (LPs) includes the fact that the team passed on investing in Monzo and UiPath. 

It’s run by Hussein Kanji and Rob Kniaz, who rely on founders and executives for deal flow.

Kanji is unimpressed with many other venture capital funds in Europe, preferring to work with US funds, and is known for his prolific tweeting.

Latest fund size: There will be a formal announcement on this soon.

Focus: Seed and Series A stage European companies, but “anything we think can become a $100bn+ outcome”. Its focus is generalist across tech including consumer, business-to-business, health and deep tech, including biology. Some of Hoxton’s key people have Californian backgrounds, and it’s worth noting that they put a particular emphasis on US market entry, with most of their companies entering the US quite early on.

Notable investments:

  • Surveillance software company Behavox

Seedcamp

Seedcamp team photo.
The Seedcamp team

London-based Seedcamp has been through a few iterations — it started life as an accelerator — and now invests at pre-seed and seed. It has some of Europe’s shiniest startups in its portfolio (TransferWise, UiPath, Revolut, Pleo, WeFox) and has backed 300+ companies to date.

Seedcamp is led by Reshma Sohoni and Carlos Espinal. It runs regular events and summits for its portfolio companies to share best practice and learn from its network of mentors, advisors and in-house “platform” team. 

Seedcamp’s limited partners include many other investors on this list — Draper Esprit, LocalGlobe, Notion, Index and Atomico, to name a few — along with angel investors such as Taavet Hinrikus and Azeem Azhar, and corporates such as Unilever Ventures and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. 

It was identified by Dealroom as one of the VCs with top-quartile conversion rates between seed and Series A.

Latest Fund size: £60m (May 2018) — its fourth fund.

Focus: Sector agnostic, pan-European pre-seed and seed-stage investors.

Notable investments:

LocalGlobe

LocalGlobe team photo
LocalGlobe team photo

In its current incarnation, LocalGlobe is a relatively new kid on the block. Founding partners (and father and son duo) Robin and Saul Klein institutionalised the fund in 2015, but it has swiftly become one of the early-stage investors founders want to impress.

Much of the fund’s reputation stems from the two founders’ entrepreneurial and investing track records; Saul Klein was a cofounder of LoveFilm, cofounder of Seedcamp and former partner at Index Ventures, and both have been involved with some of Europe’s hottest startups (Farfetch, Onefinestay, TransferWise, Moo, Mind Candy, Skype). 

But LocalGlobe is also becoming known for doing things a little differently. At its brightly-coloured HQ in London’s King’s Cross, it frequently holds community-focused events and invites a true spectrum of startup influencers and participants: from local, city and national government representatives to experienced entrepreneurs, fellow investors, policymakers, academics and scientists. It’s also designing a new course, known as the Newton Programme, to train up wannabe VCs and tech transfer officers.

In 2019, it launched a new $115m seed fund and a $180m ‘Series B and beyond’ fund (for backing “winners” in its portfolio — and winners in the portfolios of other VCs). Known as the ‘Latitude’ fund, its investments so far include Tessian, Citymapper, TravelPerk, Raisin and Monzo. 

Latest fund size: $115m (2019) 

Focus: Early stage and seed. Sector agnostic.

Notable investments:

Blossom Capital

Photo of Ophelia Brown, cofounder and partner at London-based VC Blossom Capital.
Ophelia Brown, cofounder and partner at London-based VC Blossom Capital.

Launching Blossom in 2017 was a bold move for still-young investor Ophelia Brown. But she had the pedigree — she previously worked at Index and LocalGlobe — and the ambition. 

The partners at Blossom (alongside Brown, there’s Imran Gohry, Louise Samet and Mike Hudack) work somewhat differently from partners at other funds on this list. All four partners work with every one of its small portfolio of companies, covering data, sales, people and product expertise. According to some of the founders they work with, they’re speedy at replying to requests on WhatsApp. “We really do roll up our sleeves,” Brown told Sifted. 

Blossom likes to be the first institutional investor in a company, but doesn’t bother taking board seats. Instead, it builds dashboards with portfolio startups to track key metrics, week-on-week. 

It’s also one of several European VCs that claims to be data-driven, using a combination of positive signals to scout out under-the-radar companies. It also boasts of its strong relationship with US VCs (several of which are investors in Blossom) which are key for growth-stage funding.

Latest fund size: $85m (2019) — with another soon to be announced

Focus: Series A across Europe. Sector agnostic, but especially interested in travel, fintech, security, developer tools and workflow automation. 

Notable investments:

Episode1 

Episode1 team photo.
The Episode1 team

Led by two serial entrepreneurs Simon Murdoch and Paul McNabb, Episode1 takes a hands-on approach to supporting businesses after it invests, and even shares an office with some of its portfolio companies.

Founded in 2013, it is backed partially by private backers and partially by government money via the British Business Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds (ECFs) programme, which provides extra cash to venture capital funds investing in fa

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