Tuesday March 29, 2011, Martin Bryant
The partners behind London’s White Bear Yard are launching a major new investment fund aimed early stage European startups.
The $60m Passion Capital fund will invest in fifty startups over the next five years, providing seed funding of between £150 and £200k at a time. However, the partners say that they may go as low as £15,000 to £50,000 and higher than £200,000 depending on the situation.
Focusing on the UK and Europe, Stefan Glaenzer, Eileen Burbidge and Robert Dighero will be looking for ambitious entrepreneurs with potentially disruptive ideas in the Internet and mobile sectors. An Enterprise Capital Fund, it has been raised from a mixture of two-thirds public money and one-third private.
Worth £37.5m in Sterling, the fund consists of £25 million UK government funds and £12.5 million from private investors. The private funds consist of family funds, high net worth individuals and all three White Bear Yard partners.
With the current talk of a technology investment bubble, is this the right time for such a fund? Glaenzer and Dighero tell me that the fund has come along at the right time. They say that while the dotcom boom was based on theoretical projections of future profitability, the digital sector is now mainstream and investors have solid experience to base their activities on. They say that there are many opportunities to foster a strong European startup ecosystem that doesn’t look to ape Silicon Valley, instead taking its own path that benefits from the continent’s multiculturalism.
When appropriate, companies that the fund invests in will be invited to spend time based at White Bear Yard’s premises in London’s Clerkenwell district close to the ‘Silicon Roundabout’, famous for being a hub for the UK startup scene. The White Bear Yard offices have quite a casual atmosphere with startups often based there when they’re at a very early stage, benefitting from the co-working space and easy access to VCs and mentors.
Due to the UK government involvement, the fund will focus primarily on businesses that benefit the UK economy. “It’s easiest to meet this requirement if it’s a UK limited company,” explains Burbidge, “but otherwise if there’s service to the UK market and/or business development, sales or development in the UK, that will probably satisfy it as well.”
White Bear Yard was established in July 2009 by Glaenzer and Burbidge, both established angel investors putting their own money into early stage startups. Dighero joined as a third partner in early 2010 and between them, they have made over fifty investments in startups from around the world.
White Bear Yard’s current investments include online payment service Flattr; music app developer RJDJ; ’Last.fm for academia’ Mendeley; fashion retail startup StylistPick and sports betting game Picklive. Glaenzer is perhaps best known as an early investor in, and former chairman of, Last.fm; Burbidge’s background includes stints as Director of Product at Skype and Director of Communication Products at Yahoo Europe, while Dighero’s history includes a period as CFO of AOL Europe and Manager of M&A at Bertlesmann.
“We love early-stage investing,” says Burbidge. “We think this stage is the most challenging and exciting as it gets, and more crucially we’ve gone through it ourselves. If we were optimizing for income, we would raise a larger fund to live off of the management fees and frankly de-risk our activities, but we love the early stage sector.
“We want to carry-on and impact even more and greater exits; create more wealth, make more millionaires and continue to fuel the ecosystem here in Europe, with London as the epicenter”
Passion Capital will be happy to co-invest with angels and other funds and is expected to announce its first investments within weeks.