Open for business: Atlas Venture closes fund VIII

We have just announced our new fund, Atlas Venture VIII, with $283M.  No, let me rephrase that, we got leaked to the always incredibly well informed Dan Primack at PE Hub.  Techcrunch-UK (well done Mike) found out first but Primack clearly had the detailed lowdown (including team evolution).

The press calls followed with angles oscillating between “markets are tough, as evidenced by a good brand ending up below target” or “markets are tough but some funds are still managing to raise“.  I am yet to see how all this press pans out (try doing a last minute call with the FT on the Eurostar, it’s not exactly optimal :-)).  Me, I am a glass half-full kind of person.

Frankly, we don’t mind too much either way.  I have a simple view on this: we are in business, with a fund that has critical mass, a good group of people and our first investment, Cloudswitch (stealth-mode, baby).   Lean and hungry.

Clearly we had some tough decisions to make on how we operate as an organisation and we are sorry to see some of our good people (and friends) go.  But at the same time we feel momentum as a team, we feel determined to make our investors some serious returns and more importantly we are back in the market and ready to support our entrepreneur partners.  In a tough market, we manage ourselves as we expect our startups to manage themselves.

We are going to step up to the challenge and continue to build the most exciting tech portfolio out there with the best entrepreneurs.   I get asked often about my investment strategy; this is a moving target (as it should be) but here are some generic guidelines :

  • Glimmer of Greatness: Our core business is early stage venture; we look for world class entrepreneurs and we back them.  Stage of development is almost a secondary consideration to the quality of the team, but if you want to find out more about criteria just read the Sequoia website.  Companies like Seatwave or Zoopla fall into this category: first funding into kickass teams.  We don’t mind taking an occasional chance on a bunch of newbies, after all most great success stories were built by university dropouts in their twenties…
  • Momentum: In a world of low capital intensity, fluid digital behaviour, cheap dev tools and unadulterated product and entrepreneurial talent, I also look for sheer momentum in exciting segments, usually online.  DailyMotion was one example of this, getting to 3M UU on €200K, not bad.  You will need real traction, data on user behaviour and unending love from your users.
  • Acceleration: booking EUR5M+ or so and looking to internationalise and accelerate your business with investors who get tech and are used to scaling organisations?   NTR Global is one example, a super fast growing SaaS business making deep inroads into the US market right now.

It’s going to be tough, slow and ultimately rewarding, no matter what the size of your fund.  Onward.

Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese

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