Venture Capital/Analysis/

Top Series A investors in Europe

These are the top Series A investors in Europe, according to Dealroom. But what makes them stand out — and what do founders say about them?

By Connor Bilboe

Closed lock
Member
Credit: Creandum investment team.

Last year, many of Europe’s leading venture capital investors launched their biggest ever funds.

Atomico announced a mammoth $820m fund, Index Ventures swiftly followed with its giant $800m early-stage fund and Highland Europe outdid them all with a $859m fund launched in December. 

But size isn’t everything!

This year, to figure out which VC firms are top of the pack when it comes to Series A investments, data platform Dealroom has looked into how many deals firms closed in EMEA in 2020 — and the size of their unicorn herds. VC portfolios were split into “realised unicorns” (i.e. companies which were sold or went public at a valuation over $1bn), “unrealised unicorns” (i.e. private companies in their current portfolio which have a valuation of $1bn) or “future unicorns” (i.e. private companies in their current portfolio which are valued between $250m and $1bn and showing fast growth).

But there’s more to say about being a ‘top’ VC than having heaps of unicorns in your portfolio, so we’ve added some extra insight and found out what founders have said about them on Landscape, the ‘Glassdoor’ for VCs.

Here are Europe’s top Series A investors.

1/Accel

Sonali De Rycker, partner at Accel

Latest fund covering Europe: $575m (May 2019)

Focus: Europe and Israel, Series A ($5-15m)

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 32

Gender split of Europe-based investment team: Partners: 5 men, 1 woman

Number of EMEA unicorns: 30 (realised and unrealised); 25 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Payments fintech Lydia
  • Robotic process automation platform UiPath
  • HR management software Personio
  • Security software company Snyk

What we say:

It’s no surprise that Accel tops this year’s ranking with its impressive network and expert partners. Want to strengthen your management team? Accel can advise on the profiles to hire.  Thinking of expanding stateside? Accel has seen heaps of European companies do it already. Interested in learning more about how another company optimised sales? Accel probably has a contact there. 

Accel is thesis-driven, which means the team identifies specific trends it’s especially interested in — such as enterprise software — and then tracks down all the relevant companies in that area. Here, the European team’s colleagues in Asia and North America come in handy; they can compare notes on those markets too. 

Its partners are widely considered to be the best in the VC game, from Sonali De Rycker to Luca Bocchio. In 2020, Accel added Mor Chen, former managing director of Israeli startup accelerator 8200 EISP, to its investment team shortly after former partner Luciana Lixandru was snapped up by Sequoia Capital.

In December 2020, Accel announced a new $2.3bn fund to invest in growth-stage rounds globally.

What the founders say:

“Sonali De Rycker and Luca Bocchio are incredible board members and value driving sparring partners. Both are extremely responsive and always available. It is not only fun working with them but also a great learning opportunity for me as a first time founder.” (portfolio)

“Excellent partner providing great support and opening doors” (portfolio)

2/ Index Ventures

Index Ventures team.

Latest fund size: $800m (Apr 2020)

Focus: US and Europe; sector-agnostic; from seed to growth. Series A (€5-8m)

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 35

Gender split of Europe-based investment team: Partners: 9 men, 2 women; wider investment team: 9 men, 6 women (a less balanced picture than last year)

Number of unicorns in EMEA: 28 (realised and unrealised); 35 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Health insurance platform Alan
  • Digital bank Revolut
  • Direct-to-consumer florist Bloom & Wild

What we say:

Despite increasing competition, Index has been busy in the past year. The firm, which has teams in the US and in Europe, had a lot of fresh capital to deploy, raising a mammoth $800m fund to invest in early-stage startups across the globe and a further $1.2bn fund to invest in growth rounds, again globally.  

Two years ago, Index founded Not Optional, a pan-European initiative to change the laws surrounding employee stock options across the continent. Last year, its lobbying efforts started paying off: in January French president Emmanuel Macron announced changes to the French stock option scheme and in November, German finance minister Olaf Scholz announced plans to make it easier for companies to give employees stock options.. 

On diversity, Index has been a long-term member of Level 20, an organisation seeking to improve gender diversity in private equity, despite having a male-dominated partnership. It’s also an active participant in other initiatives like accelerateHER and runs various internship programmes.

Like most big funds, Index runs regular events for portfolio companies — and offers support on hiring, communications and business development. 

What the founders say:

“We had a strong inbound interest in our Series A round, and chose Index over others. We’re delighted we did, they’ve been brilliant on the deal (Term Sheet signed in 23 hours!) and since then, including helping us with talent acquisition, industry data, strategic input and more. And they do great parties :-)” (portfolio)

“They’ve been very supportive in the best and worst moments of my venture, I highly recommend their integrity.” (portfolio)

3/ Bessemer Venture Partners (US)

Latest fund size: $2.4bn (Feb 2021)

Focus: Sector agnostic

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 21

Gender split of investment team: In US; 31 men, 9 women; outside US 6 men, 1 woman 

Number of EMEA unicorns: 17 (realised and unrealised); 16 (future)

Notable investments:

  • HR management software Hibob
  • Semiconductor startup Kandou
  • Digital bank Zopa
  • Food waste app Karma

What we say:

US-based Bessemer Venture Partners has stormed the European SaaS space in recent years, taking part in big funding rounds for startups like cargo booking platform Cargo One and lending app Mambu. It’s looking to get more stuck into European markets, with sources suggesting it plans to open a London office.

Bessemer recently raised two new mega funds — a $2.4bn fund for early-stage startups and an $825m fund designed for growth startups — so expect it to be closing even more deals this year. It also snapped Jeff Blackburn as a partner, who was previously senior vice president at Amazon. Blackburn’s role is to help customer-focused entrepreneurs from early-stage to growth.

4/ Idinvest Partners (Eurazeo Group)

Matthieu Baret, managing partner at Idinvest

Latest fund size: €350m (Oct 2019)

Focus: Europe; SaaS, marketplaces and consumer mobile; Series A ($5-15m) and Series B (up to $30m)

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 26

Gender split of investment team: 31% of its venture and growth investment teams are women

Number of EMEA unicorns: 13 (realised and unrealised); 41 (future)

Notable investments:

What we say:

Paris-based Idinvest Partners is the subsidiary of  global investment company Eurazeo (which acquired Idinvest last year). It has several funds, including one focused on smart cities — the latest of which recently launched its first close at $80m.

With these thematic funds, IdInvest leverages its investors — which include the likes of energy company EDF and French public transport firm RATP — to help portfolio companies with strategy and partnerships. 

It supports various initiatives, such as the Vivatech Female Founder Challenge which provides development programmes aimed at women.

5/ Balderton Capital

Balderton team.

Latest fund size: $400m (Nov 2019)

Focus: Sector-agnostic; Europe; Series A ($5-15m)

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 22

Gender split of European investment team: ⅔ male, ⅓ female. All of the partners are male, bar one.

Number of EMEA unicorns: 13 (realised and unrealised); 29 

Notable investments:

What we say:

Balderton is a big presence in London’s startup scene because it’s been consistently doing what it does best — investing in top Series A startups — for yonks. The firm first got going back in 2000 as Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark’s European offshoot, before launching independently as Balderton in 2007. It’s since backed over 220 startups.

Balderton is currently raising a new growth fund aiming to plug a financing gap in the European market and take early-stage startups through to public listings.

Balderton’s investments (mostly) fall into several themes: open finance, data-driven health, mobility, enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS), food and retail. It frequently holds events and runs open office hours for founders at its office in King’s Cross (more recently virtually), doesn’t require warm introductions and claims to read every single pitch that comes in (eventually). 

It has been a big supporter of Diversity VC and Level 20 — two organisations trying to improve diversity within the venture capital industry. It’s also been making noises about ESG recently and established its own Sustainable Future Goals, heavily influenced by the UN SDGs.

What the founders say:

“I think they are good people, but seem to be overwhelmed by the amount of inbound they get. It would be useful if they had a rough investment criteria listed somewhere.” (non-portfolio, via Landscape)

“Balderton is the best. Warm, smart and made up of quality operators who understand the challenges founders really face.” (non-portfolio, via Landscape)

“Great team, really genuinely interested in what they do. Suranga is brilliant.” (non-portfolio, via Landscape)

6/ Sequoia Capital 

Sequoia Europe team.

Latest fund covering Europe (and US): $2.15bn (July 2020)

Focus: Consumer, including healthcare, productivity, gaming; enterprise, including data, security and infrastructure

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 16

Gender split of European investment team: 3 men, 1 woman

Number of EMEA unicorns: 14 (realised and unrealised); 13 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Buy-now-pay-later startup Klarna
  • Travel search engine Skyscanner
  • Booking platform Tourlane

What we say:

Since plugging $150k into Apple back in 1978, US born VC firm Sequoia has become one of Silicon Valley’s best known VCs. It’s backed pretty much every big tech company under the sun — YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Airbnb, Google — and invested in some big European businesses too, like UiPath and Klarna. Recently, the VC giant formally crossed the Atlantic.

In September, Sequoia appointed former Accel partner Luciana Lixandru as its first European partner and announced plans to open a London office. It also snapped up Zoe Jervier Hewitt, formerly at EQT Ventures, as head of talent, and George Robson, formerly of Revolut, as a more junior investor.

It also discreetly kicked off its famous scout programme in Europe. Scouts — a select bunch of founders and startup operators — are each given $100,000 by Sequoia to invest in promising startups. European scouts include Station F director Roxanne Varza and angel investor Marc McCabe.

7/ Northzone 

Northzone team.

Latest fund size: $500m (Nov 2019)

Focus: Europe and the US; sector-agnostic; Series A (€1-15m) and B

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 14

Gender split of European investment team: Partners: 3 women, 6 men; wider investment team excluding partners: 50% female

Number of EMEA unicorns: 11 (realised and unrealised); 11 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Educational games maker Kahoot!
  • E-scooter operator Tier
  • Buy-now-pay-later startup Klarna

What we say:

Northzone is a VC firm run by founders, as well as bankers — and it’s proud of its partners’ operational expertise. Half of its investment team are former founders or operators, including Jessica Schultz, cofounder of HelloFresh — although it’s losing one of its partners, Paul Murphy, who has been poached by US VC firm Lightspeed.

Like many funds, Northzone prefers to invest around themes it’s looked into closely. At the moment, these include B2B, future of work, direct-to-consumer, modern payment stacks, developer tools. It’s also increasingly looking at earlier-stage deals, and at the beginning of 2020 hired Sarah Nöckel, founder of female founder and VC community Femstreet, to build out its seed strategy.

Recently Northzone received its Level 1 Diversity VC Standard — a certification for firms following diversity and inclusion best practice. “It is, of course, just the very beginning,” says general partner Michiel Kotting.

What the founders say:

“Smart, good process management.” (non-portfolio, via Landscape)

“Michiel Kotting really stands out — he is very hands-on, has a strong commercial mindset and very actively supports the growth of our company.” (portfolio, via Landscape)

8/ Atomico

Atomico team.

Latest fund size: $820m (Feb 2020)

Focus: Europe; sector-agnostic; Series A ($5-15m) onwards

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 12

Gender split of investment team: Partners: 6 men, 3 women; wider investment team: 4 men, 7 women 

Number of EMEA unicorns: 10 (realised and unrealised); 11 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Electric flying taxi company Lilium  
  • Cloud communications platform MessageBird
  • Food delivery company Wolt
  • Property lending platform LendInvest

What we say:

Atomico is one of the best-known European VC firms — thanks in no small part to its annual State of European Tech report — and its famous cofounder, Niklas Zennström, founder of Skype.

The firm has built a large operational support team to offer founders help on everything from talent to marketing and international expansion. It regularly runs workshops and events for portfolio companies. 

The London-based firm has also supported a lot of diversity in tech networks, holding events with communities such as YSYS, ColorinTech and TERN. It is now running the third iteration of its angel programme, a scheme to train up new angel investors from a range of backgrounds across the continent — and invest in a more diverse pool of founders. So far, it seems to be working: Bryce Keane, partner at Atomico tells Sifted that “67% of investments made by the first two angel cohorts had at least one founder from an underrepresented background.”

9/ HV Capital

HV Capital team.

Latest fund size: €535m (Oct 2020)

Focus: Europe; sector-agnostic; Seed and Series A (€0.5m-5m).

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 35 

Gender split of European investment team: 10% women in the investment team and 32% in the wider team.

Number of EMEA unicorns: 10 (realised and unrealised); 16 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Digital freight platform Sennder
  • Digital bank N26 
  • Second-hand clothes marketplace Depop
  • Car booking app Cabify 

What we say:

German venture capital fund HV Capital started life as the corporate venture arm of the publishing group Holtzbrinck, and spun out as an independent firm in 2010.

In its portfolio are many of the big names from Germany’s startup scene — such as Zalando (which it first invested in at seed), Flixbus and Outfittery. It has two offices, in Munich and Berlin, and invests primarily in Germany. 

It runs events for founders and supports several German universities, with the aim to strengthen the relationship between startups, venture capital and academia. On the diversity front, it’s been measuring the diversity of its “incoming business plans, pitches, investments and portfolio founders” and has found that the average share of women across all processes is just 14%. “We have high expectations to increase this number,” says Jan Miczaika, partner at HV.

10/ Creandum

Creandum investment team.

Latest fund size: €265m (Jun 2019)

Focus: Global (European founders); sector-agnostic (cheque size €2-8m)

Deal count EMEA in 2020 (all stages): 24

Gender split of investment team: 70% men, 30% women

Number of EMEA unicorns: 10 (realised and unrealised); 10 (future)

Notable investments:

  • Buy-now-pay-later startup Klarna
  • Ride hailing startup Bolt
  • Digital doctor platform Kry

What we say:

Since it launched in Stockholm in 2003, Creandum has raised five funds and backed over 100 companies. While it invests across all stages, 39% of its current €265m fund has gone towards Series A investments.

In 2018, Creandum began measur

Join the conversation

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of