Rise of the European SuperAngel
Poor European entrepreneurs. They can only dreams of SuperAngels, salivate from afar about the land of Ron Conway, the cool shirts of Sacca and the awesome dollar power of Angellist, whilst they're stuck with old school business angels or fee-charging networks, whilst European VC's, never a risk taking breed as we know, have all retreated back to the safer havens of "venture growth". They can only wish there was a seed bubble. No wonder that governments feel there is an "equity gap" they need to fill, or that entrepreneurs feel compelled to leave for the promised land. Everyone wants to be Bart Decrem (with better glasses, like mine), move over there and make it happen !
The truth is, we've been seeing Euro SuperAngels emerge for a while now. When I came across Nic's question on the topic, and Fred Wilson's thoughts on London, I thought it would be worth writing them down. My question is: "are we Europeans guilty again of beating ourselves over the head with a stick instead of focusing on, leveraging and celebrating what's there ?"
Old School, New School, Same School
Of course Angel investing has always been out there, and there's more of them than you think. Angels come and go, those with longevity would include Stephen Bullock or the Blakey brothers at Avonmore. Angel groups have been along as long as angel investing, such as the powerful Cambridge Angels, with among their ranks the likes of Robert Samson or Sherry Coutu (an investor in Zoopla).
Now that's not quite what we are talking about though is it ? It helps (Sherry is an uber-connected person), but only to the extent it's part of a broader ecosystem where, to quote Ron Conway, "every entrepreneur should get funded". Robin Klein, in a shocking bid to divert money to those who might actually need it, even wrote an open letter on the topic asking for money for seed companies (instead of directing it at VC's, reflecting a a sentiment I echo violently).
Guess what, the market is more efficient than you think
What's been striking to me is how fast the market is reacting. The new incubators, co-working spaces with money, Super Angels fund we have seen emerge in the last year is amazing ! Let's take a quick look:
UK, I'm OK !
- TAG, Robin and Saul Klein's seed vehicle, now joined at the hip with Index Seed
- Atomico, another significant example of SuperAngel investing; even in their grown up, $165M institutional fund clothes, they keep doing early deals fast and with a global outlook
- ProFounders Capital: Birch, Hoberman and co's own Founders Fund
- Let's see if Notion Capital goes for SuperA goodness
- Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero's WhiteBearYard, a co-working space cum cash
- The Difference Engine in the Northeast
- Did I mention St John's Innovation Center in Cambrige ? :-) And how's this for old skool ?
The French just do it better
Being from the land of beer, fries and straight talking (no, not Holland), I do love to lambast the French for their nasty habits including endless board meetings. I do have to say they do certain things well, one of which is creating SuperAngel funds. Before they had their national Loic of course, but sadly he moved.
- Let's start with Kima Ventures, creation of a talented and rich recluse (Xavier Niel) and a talented and highly visible web native (Jeremie Berrebi). Net result: 100 startups in two years. OK, so Dave McClure still 5X's them on the objective, but how's that for getting some attention.
- Then we have ISAI, "the fund by and for internet entrepreneurs". The who's who of French internet entrepreneurs is invested, including Pierre from PriceMinister, Ouriel and others, and run by JD Chamboredon, who smokes a lot but is damn good.
- I thought I should add Dot Corp Asset Management, by the pixmania founders, although 4.8M into Deezer is really UberAngel territory, as well as YamInvest (and its VC outfit TIME) and Francois Veron's NewFund. Whether they behave like superangels, time will tell.
- Final mention to Jaina Capital by Marc Simoncini, founder of Meetic. I was pleasantly surprised to see MC Levet joined him and am looking forward to seeing how these guys invest and operate.
Like good SuperAngels, they collaborate too: Jaina is in Ouriel's company (Appsfire) whilst Jaina and Kima invested with Seedcamp in travel startup Kukunu (which launched recently; check it out)
- The Germans have been doing the mass startup incubation thing for a long time, with the Samwers being quasi legendary for their ability to roll companies off the press at speed. Ok, so it's not exactly creative, but their unmatched work ethic and dedication has generated pretty systematic results. Check out European Founders Fund to see the brothers' work.
- TeamEurope Ventures, brought to you by Lukasz Gadowski, Pawel Chudzinski and co, is an incubator cum funding at la Betaworks (kind of), which does not shy away from recycling capital early (brands4friends) and is starting to show track record.
- Hanse Ventures in Hamburg recently launched, founded by Jochen Maass and Sarik Weber.
- There are others doing similar things like pioneer Oliver Beste of FoundersLink or more classic angels like Oliver Jung.
- Very exciting is the recent addition of #hackfwd, the new brainchild of XING founder Lars Hinrichs and team. Geek enough for ya ?
Germany is happening again. I was recently at superfun betahaus.de. No money there but boy, Berlin feels as exciting as when Nick Cave was rocking its cellars.
And there's others:
- OpenOcean from Monty "MySQL" Widenius
- LifeLineVentures (Finland)
- Rainmaking and its Startupbootcamp (DK)
- SeedRocket (Spain)
- Mountain Super Angel (CH)
- let me know who else we're missing here.
The point is: SuperAngel-style money is coming, Paul Graham's vision (read the essay) is a touch closer than it was last year. It's all happening in a town near you, folks.
My examples, I am being told, are the exception rather than the rule. I recognise that. The reality of angel behaviour is something we need to deal with. Plenty of US angels are connected and fast. European angels are (generally) hard to find and slow. What we need to do is
(a) get them more visible and better connected (more on this this soon through Seedcamp), and too bad for their life work balance. The ecosystem demands it !
(b) force them all to spend a day a way at their local co-working space such as London's awesome TechHub or Aalto Venture Garage and hold Office Hours :-).
Oh, one more thing: I did not mention Seedcamp because I am on the board there. Seedcamp is the best seed funding vehicle for entrepreneurs I know. How's that for a falsely humble disclosure and full-on SEO power :-) ?
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