Caroline Brochado and Sophia Bendz on the boom in Europe’s early- and growth-stage startups

As part of Disrupt 2020 we wanted to look at the contrasting positions of both early and later-stage investing in Europe. Who better to unpack this subject than two highly experienced operators in these fields?

After a career at Spotify and then as a VC at Atomico, Sophia Bendz has rapidly gained a reputation in Europe as a keen early-stage investor. She recently left Atomico to pursue her early and seed-stage passion with Cherry Ventures. Bendz is a prolific angel investor, with a total of over 44 deals in the last 9 years. Her angel investments include as AidenAI, Tictail, Joints Academy, Omnius, LifeX, Eastnine, Manual, Headvig, Simple Feast, and Sana Labs. She is known for being a champion of the femtech space, and her angel investments in that space include Clue, Grace Health, Daye, O School, and Boost Thyroid.

Carolina Brochado, the former Atomico partner and most recently a partner at SoftBank Vision Fund’s London office, recently joined EQT Ventures to help launch EQT’s Growth fund, which is positioned between Ventures and Private Equity. Brochado led investments in a number of promising companies at Atomico,  including logistics company OnTruck, health tech company Hinge Health and restaurant supply chain app Rekki.

After establishing that these two knew each other while at Atomico, I asked Bendz why she headed back into the seed stage arena.

“I’m a trained marketeer and storyteller by heart… What makes me excited is new markets opportunities, people, culture, teams. So with that, in combination with my angel investing, I think I’m better suited to be in the earlier stages of investing. When I was investing before joining Atomico, I said to myself, I want to learn from the best, I want to see how it’s done how you structure the process and how you think about the bigger investments.”

Brochado says the European ‘cat is out of the bag’ as it were:

When I first moved to Europe in 2012 and first joined Atomico, after having been at a very small startup, there was still a massive gap in funding and Europe versus the US. I think you know the European secret is no longer a secret, and you have incredible funds being started at that early stage seed and series A, and because I was here in 2012, I’ve seen the amazing pipeline of growth companies that are coming up the curve, how the momentum of those companies is accelerating and how the market cap of those businesses are growing. And so I just became super excited about helping those businesses scale… I just you now felt like bridging that gap in between ass really exciting and.

One of the perennial topics that come up time and time again is whether or not founders should go with VC partners who have previously been operators, versus those with a finance background.

“Looking back, my years at Spotify, we had great investors, but there were not many of them that had the experience of scaling a big company,” Bendz said. “So, I’m happy to give [a startup] more than just the check in a way that I would have wished I had a sounding board when I was 25 and tackling that challenge at Spotify.”

Brochado concurred: “Having operators in the room is just is an incredible gift I think to a fund and at certain levels, having people that understand you know different forms of financing and different structures can also be incredibly helpful to founders who may not necessarily have that background. So I think that the funds that do it best have that diversity.”

Bendz is passionate about investing in female founders and femtech: “It’s such a massive business opportunity that is completely untapped. We’ve seen it many times when you have a female investment partner [that] the pipeline opens up and you get more deal flow from female founders…. So I think we have a lot of work to do. I think it’s definitely improved a lot in the last couple of years but not enough… That is one of the drivers for why I put my money where my mouth is and invest in lifting the founders, but also because there are incredibly interesting business opportunities… There are so many opportunities and products or services that we will see being developed. When we have a more equal society, and more women, both building their own companies, coding and also investing… I can’t wait to see what that world will look like.”

Brochado’s view is that “even beyond founders… the best managers today are putting a lot of focus on this and I think what’s exciting is, I think we’re past the point where you have to explain to people why diversity matters.”

Is there a post-Series A chasm?

Bendz thinks: “We have more big funds in Europe [now]. We have a really solid ground here in Europe of a, b and c investors.”

Brochado said: “it’s definitely getting better. You don’t hear as many founders say that to do my Series B or my Series C I have to move to the Valley as you used to. But there’s a lot of room still for growth investors in Europe. I think Series B is the hardest round actually because, at seed or series A, you can raise on very early traction or the quality of the management team. At Series B the price goes up but the risk doesn’t necessarily go down as much. And so I think that’s where you really need investors who are sector or thematic focused, who can come with conviction and also some knowledge around the company to really propel that company forward.”

Did they both see European entrepreneurs still making silly mistakes, or has the ecosystem mastered?

Brochado thinks ten years ago was it was hard for European founders as a lot of the talent to scale companies was still in the US. “What you’ve seen is a lot of big companies grow up in Europe, a lot of people come back from the US, and so I think that pool of talent now is larger, which is very helpful. I don’t think it’s yet at the scale of where the US is. But it gives us, you know as investors, a great window of opportunity to help get some of that talent for our portfolio companies.”

The impact of COVID-19

Bendz thinks we will “see a much slower Spring, but… I think it has been overall a good exercise for some companies, and I have not seen a slower deal flow. I’ve actually done more Angel deals this Spring than I normally do… Some businesses have definitely accelerated their whole business concept because of COVID. Investments are being made even though we haven’t met the founders. We’re able to do everything remotely so I think the system is kind of adjusting.”

Brocado’s view is that at the growth stage “there’s been a flight to quality. So actually, the really great companies or the companies that are seeing great tailwinds or companies that will still be category-leading once [have] seen a lot of interest. It’s been a very busy summer, which usually it isn’t usually, particularly at the growth stage… I think a lot of money is still in the system, and has flown into technology. And so if you look at how tech in the public markets has performed it’s performed extremely well. And that includes European public companies and within tech.”

Watch the full panel below.

#angel-investor, #atomico, #carolina-brochado, #cherry-ventures, #economy, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #hinge-health, #o-school, #ontruck, #partner, #softbank-vision-fund, #sophia-bendz, #spotify, #startup-company, #tc, #united-states, #vc-partners, #venture-capitalists


#DealMonitor – Infarm sammelt 170 Millionen ein – Bayes bekommt 6 Millionen

Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 17. September werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.


+++ Jetzt offiziell: LGT Lighthouse, der Beteiligungsarm des Prinzenhauses Liechtenstein, Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel und Latitude sowie die bestehenden Investoren Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital und Astanor Ventures investieren 170 Millionen US-Dollar in das Berliner Unternehmen Infarm, einen Vertical Farming-Anbieter. “Das finale Closing der Runde soll sich auf 200 Millionen US-Dollar belaufen”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Die Financial Times hatte bereits Ende Juni über das Investment berichtet. “Das frische Kapital – eine Mischung aus Eigen- und Fremdkapital – erhöht die Gesamtfinanzierung von Infarm auf mehr als 300 Millionen US-Dollar”, teilt Infarm weiter mit. Infarm wurde 2013 in Berlin von Osnat Michaeli und den Brüdern Erez und Guy Galonska gegründet. Die Jungfirma entwickelt ein “intelligentes modulares Farming-System”. Edeka, Aldi Süd und Kaufland nutzen Infarm bereits.

+++ Die Familie Pohlad, Fertitta Capital und der Sony Innovation Fund investieren 6 Millionen UD-Dollar in Bayes, früher als Dojo Madness bekannt. Das Berliner Startup ist auf die Entwicklung von Software für den E-Sports-Bereich spezialisiert. “Den Kern der Unternehmensaktivitäten bilden Shadow.GG, Marktführer im Professional Esports Analytics Bereich, und Bayes Esports, 2019 gemeinsam mit Sportradar gegründet”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung. Gegründet wurde Dojo Madness von Christian Gruber, Mathias Kutzner, Markus Fuhrmann und Jens Hilgers.

+++ Mehrere Business Angels und ein “Institutioneller Investor”, die allerdings alle namentlich nicht genannt werden, investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in corefihub. Das Unternehmen aus Bruchsal kümmert sich um die “Digitalisierung der gewerblichen Immobilienfinanzierung”. corefihub möchte Banken, Vermittler, Immobilienunternehmen, Investoren und Projektentwickler unterstützen, ihre Finanzierungen schneller, einfacher und günstiger zu bearbeiten”. corefihub wurde von Daniel Rodriguez, Oliver Klemm und Sebastian Schefzcyk gegründet.

+++ Der Münchner B2B-Company Builder Finconomy steigt bei MiFIDRecorder ein und sichert sich dabei 25,1 % am Unternehmen. Die Jungfirma bietet “Taping-Lösungen für Banken, Haftungsdächer, Maklerpools, Vermögensverwalter und Finanzvermittler” an. Zudem stellt MiFIDRecorder seit einigen Monaten auch eine Aufzeichnungssoftware für Video-Konferenzen bereit.


+++ Die So1-Gründer Raimund Bau und Sebastian Gabel kaufen die Überreste ihres insolventen Unternehmens – siehe FinanceFWD. Der tief gefallene Zahlungsdienstleister Wirecard übernahm den Berliner Big-Data-Dienst im Juni dieses Jahres. Der Kaufpreis soll im hohen einstelligen oder niedrigen zweistelligen Millionenbereich gelegen haben. Im Zuge der Wirecard-Insolvent schlitterte auch So1 in die Insolvenz. “Der Kaufpreis liegt im fünfstelligen Euro-Bereich und damit deutlich unter der Summe, die Wirecard im Frühjahr für die Firma überwiesen hat”, heißt es im Artikel.


Archimedes New Ventures
+++ Die familiengeführte Böllhoff Gruppe aus Bielefeld, ein Hersteller und Händler für Verbindungselemente und Montagesysteme, gründet mit Archimedes New Ventures einen Corporate-
Venture-Ableger. “Verantwortlich für eine neue digitale Innovationskultur liegt der Schwerpunkt der Gesellschaft auf der Entwicklung und Förderung neuer digitaler Geschäftsmodelle für die Böllhoff-Gruppe”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Mit Joinect, einer KI-basierten Cloud-Software, die Ingenieuren die Suche nach Verbindungslösungen erleichtert, schob Archimedes bereits das erste Startup an.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #archimedes-new-ventures, #astanor-ventures, #atomico, #bayes, #berlin, #bielefeld, #bollhoff-gruppe, #bonnier, #corefihub, #e-sports, #fertitta-capital, #finconomy, #food, #hanaco, #haniel, #infarm, #latitude, #lgt-lighthouse, #mifidrecorder, #mons-capital, #proptech, #so1, #sony-innovation-fund, #triplepoint-capital, #venture-capital, #wirecard


Industrial-grade VR company Varjo picks up ~$52M in Series C funding

Varjo, the Finnish startup that has developed a virtual and mixed reality headset capable of “human-eye resolution” for use in various enterprise applications, has closed a $51.7 million in Series C funding.

Backing the round is Tesi, NordicNinja, and Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank. Existing investors including Lifeline Ventures, Atomico, EQT Ventures and Volvo Cars Tech Fund have also followed on. It brings total raised by Varjo to around $100 million to date.

The company is also announcing the appointment of Timo Toikkanen, who was previously president and COO of Varjo, as its new CEO. Co-founder and previous CEO, Niko Eiden, becomes CXO where he’ll be tasked with continuing to drive the company’s technology innovations and, notably, remains a board member.

Varjo says the injection of capital will be used to accelerate its global expansion and development of industry-leading hardware and software products. Global enterprise clients using the company’s various headsets include Volvo Cars, Boeing, Audi and Siemens. Applications span immersive astronaut and pilot training, designing “cars of the future”, and streamlining product development.

“We are seeing tremendous demand for virtual and mixed reality use cases, particularly as much of the world continues to work remotely,” says Timo Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, in a statement. “When you combine the photorealistic resolution and accurate, integrated eye tracking found in our devices with the broad software compatibility we offer, the possibilities for creating, training and running research in immersive environments are endless. With support from our growing group of investors, we look forward to scaling our operations and delivering the cutting-edge technology our customers need to transform the way they work”.

The Series C round follows a number of cited milestones, such as expansion of the company’s global operations and reseller network to over 40 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. This includes the launch of sales and direct shipping to “key markets” including Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Varjo has also signed a commercial partnership with MeetinVR to deliver photorealistic virtual collaboration, a much-needed solution for users to be able to collaborate remotely. Can we say the new normal? (sorry, ed.)

#atomico, #audi, #boeing, #emerging-technologies, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #immersion, #lifeline-ventures, #siemens, #tc, #varjo, #virtual-reality, #volvo-cars, #zurcher-kantonalbank


Digital mortgage company Habito completes £35M Series C

Habito, the London startup that has spent the last few years moving the mortgage process online, including offering its own mortgages beyond acting as a broker, has completed £35 million in Series C funding.

The newly disclosed round — comprising an earlier Series C equity raise and a more recent Series C extension in the form of a convertible loan note, was led by new investors Augmentum Fintech, SBI Group and, with participation from various existing investors including Ribbit Capital, Atomico and Mosaic Ventures.

The convertible loan was also matched by the U.K. taxpayer-funded Future Fund, set up by the government to help mitigate the coronavirus crisis’ affect on the country’s venture-backed startup ecosystem. It brings the total raised by Habito to just over £63 million since launching in 2016.

In a call, Habito founder Daniel Hegarty that the new investment will be used by the company to continue digitising aspects of home financing and buying which still remain a pain-point for homebuyers and sellers.

The fintech/proptech started out by offering a digital mortgage brokerage, promising to help you secure a new mortgage and monitor the competitiveness of your existing mortgage. The idea was to make applying for or switching mortgages as frictionless as possible.

In July 2019, Habito announced that it would begin direct lending via its own range of mortgages. Starting with ‘buy to let’ mortgages, the move saw the company expand beyond brokerage after it received regulatory approval to become a mortgage lender. By doing so, the aim was to cut the timeframe from mortgage application to offer in half, enabled in part by Habito’s integration with the conveyancing process to add more transparency for the homebuyer, while the number of documents needed was also significantly reduced.

In January this year, Habito launched “Habito Plus,” something getting closer to an end-to-end homebuying service. It brings together a buyer’s mortgage application, conveyancing needs and surveys “under one roof” — which feels less vitamin pill and more actual painkiller for anyone who has ever experienced having to deal with and coordinate all of the various stakeholders and parties involved in buying or selling a property.

Most recently, Habito launched its broker portal, providing more than 3,000 external brokers access to its own buy-to-let mortgage products and “Instant Decision” technology capabilities. Hegarty tells me the company intends to develop a suite of “innovative” residential mortgage products for all types of homeowners, not just ‘buy to let’.

Notably, Habito recently become a “B Corp” certified company, meaning it has made a legal commitment to put “people and planet on the same level as profit”. Resembling somewhat of a movement, there are more than 3,000 accredited B Corp companies globally, including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and WeTransfer.

#atomico, #b-corp, #broker, #finance, #habito, #london, #mosaic-ventures, #ribbit-capital, #tc


Former Spotify marketing exec-turned-VC Sophia Bendz on her love of early-stage investing

Earlier this month, venture capitalist and former Spotify global director of marketing Sophia Bendz announced that she was leaving London-based Atomico to join Berlin’s Cherry Ventures.

Her stated reason for leaving the London VC firm — which mainly does Series A and Series B rounds — is that, having made the difficult transition from seasoned operator to venture capitalist, she wants to focus on seed stage where she can do more deals and work closely with founders and their teams at a much earlier stage.

Bendz is already a prolific angel investor, with a total of 44 deals in the last nine years. However, although she was promoted to partner at Atomico in November 2018 and has helped source and carry out due diligence on a number of deals, she didn’t end up leading any during her time at the firm.

That will quickly change once she starts officially at Cherry, which does far more deals per year than Atomico, being that it is focused on an earlier stage of the startup funding funnel.

To find out more about her latest career move, I caught up with Bendz the day before her announcement. In the conversation that followed, we dug deeper into how she approaches angel investing, why the new focus on seed stage makes sense, and what it’s like to compete for deal flow.

#atomico, #cherry-ventures, #energy, #europe, #london, #sophia-bendz, #spotify, #tc, #venture-capital


In conversation with Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico’s new consumer-focused investment partner

European VC firm Atomico announced this week that it has hired Sasha Astafyeva as a new investment partner.

Astafyeva previously spent three years as a principal at Felix Capital . In her new role, she’ll lead “sourcing, due diligence, and management” of consumer tech companies, according to a company statement.

Originally from Ukraine, Astafyeva was previously head of business intelligence and strategy at Lyst, a London-based online fashion marketplace. She has also worked at online real estate marketplace VivaReal as the company’s VP of finance and business intelligence and did a stint at Dafiti, a Latin American online fashion company.

We caught up with Astafyeva for a conversation that spanned the coronavirus crisis’ impact on her area of interest, new trends during and potentially after lockdown and how it feels to be a consumer-focused investor in turbulent times.

TechCrunch: Congratulations on joining Atomico as a partner. However, isn’t this a terrible time to be a consumer-focused VC, given that we are facing the worst downturn in many of our lifetimes?

Sasha Astafyeva: Thank you for the congratulations, first of all! I’m very excited to join the team and help lead our consumer-focused efforts. It is absolutely an interesting time to join as we find ourselves in a world with highly elevated levels of uncertainty, tremendous economic hardships across the world and varying, and often fast-changing, responses of countries to this new reality. I think that we are only seeing the beginning of this and time will tell what our new reality will look like.

However, I would respectfully challenge the idea that it’s a terrible time to be a consumer-focused investor today. There are sectors of the consumer space that have been resilient and have even thrived, in the current environment, and speaking in a more macro way, I do think that there will be a trickle-down impact to other sectors of the economy beyond consumer as we continue to see the full effects of the current crisis. The task becomes for all of us, not only consumer investors but investors in general, to think about long-term impacts of the current situation we find ourselves in and adjust accordingly.

#atomico, #consumer-products, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #education, #entertainment, #europe, #extra-crunch, #felix-capital, #health, #lyst, #market-analysis, #online-food-delivery, #physical-retail, #sasha-astafyeva, #startups, #streaming-services, #tc, #ukraine, #venture-capital


Atomico recruits Sasha Astafyeva as consumer-focused partner, and ex-Googler Terese Hougaard as principal

More personnel moves at Atomico. The European VC firm, founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, has recruited Sasha Astafyeva as its new consumer-focused partner, and former-Googler Terese Hougaard as principal.

Sasha Astafyeva (pictured left) previously spent three years as a principal at Felix Capital. In her new role as partner, she’ll be leading “sourcing, due diligence, and management” of Atomico -backed consumer tech companies.

Prior to VC, Astafyeva, who is originally from Ukraine, held the role of Head of Business Intelligence and Strategy at Lyst, the London-based online fashion marketplace. She has also worked at VivaReal, an online real estate marketplace in Brazil, as the company’s VP of Finance and Business Intelligence. In addition, the newly recruited Atomico partner did a stint at Dafiti, the Latin American online fashion company.

“I’m very excited to join the team and help lead our consumer-focused efforts,” Astafyeva tells TechCrunch. “It is absolutely an interesting time to join as we find ourselves in a world with highly elevated levels of uncertainty, tremendous economic hardships across the world and varying, and often fast-changing, responses of countries to this new reality. I think that we are only seeing the beginning of this and time will tell what our new reality will look like”.

Meanwhile, new Atomico principal Terese Hougaard (pictured right) joins from CapitalG, Alphabet’s growth equity investment fund based in Mountain View. Originally from Denmark, Terese spent five years at Alphabet and partnered with companies like Stripe, Robinhood, Gusto, and UiPath.

Prior to that, she worked in London in Google’s SMB marketing organisation, in addition to holding roles in internal strategy and e-commerce business development at the London and New York offices of American Express.

#atomico, #europe, #tc