The 32 star venture capital investors in Europe every tech founder needs to know

European venture capitalists 2x1

  • European venture capital investors have had a blockbuster year, thanks to successes such as Spotify, Dutch payment firm Adyen, fashion firm Farfetch, and many others that went public or sold.
  • Business Insider has listed some of the continent’s star VCs, who are well-respected by founders and peers and won big from smart early bets on firms that floated or were acquired.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

There is more money sloshing around Europe for tech startup founders than ever before — a sign of a strong and growing ecosystem (or a bubble, depending on your pessimism levels).

Navigating different investors can be a daunting task for founders. Business Insider has tried to make the job a little easier by putting together a list of some of the most interesting and well-regarded investors in Europe right now.

It isn’t totally comprehensive, but features people who have made obviously smart bets in the past 12 months and are name-checked by peers and founders as great people to work with. The list has a UK bias in part because some of the biggest pan-European funds or global funds are headquartered in London.

In no particular order, here are the VCs in Europe every tech founder needs to know:

Suzanne Ashman Blair, partner at one of the UK’s most prolific seed investors

Ashman Blair is a partner at LocalGlobe, the seed investor founded by legendary father-and-son investment duo Robin and Saul Klein.

The Kleins have been trying to step away as the sole “faces” of their fund and make way for new talent. Ashman Blair is popular with her peer investors, and has backed farming network WeFarm and security firm Tessian.

Like the Kleins, Ashman Blair has strong connections to the UK’s political establishment — her father-in-law is ex-prime minister Tony Blair.

Location: UK

Twitter: @SuzanneAshman

Christoph Janz, the angel VC

Christoph Janz is the managing partner at Berlin-based Point Nine Capital, the self-described “angel VC” which tries to be a little friendlier and more approachable to startups than the average investor.

Janz, a successful entrepreneur-turned-investor, has been trying to make the process of fundraising more transparent since Point Nine started, pushing simple term sheets and simpler due diligence checklists.

Location: Germany, but invests globally.

Twitter: @chrija

Luciana Lixandru, who spotted Deliveroo and UiPath for Accel

Lixandru is one of Accel’s newer senior stars, having been promoted to partner in 2017. She has made a number of smart bets both in enterprise and consumer software, leading the firm’s investments into UK food delivery startup Deliveroo, and Romanian robotics software company UiPath.

Location: UK, but invests across Europe

Twitter: @LucianaLix

Klaus Hommels, the instinctive investor who won big from Spotify

Hommels is one of the most successful individual venture capitalists in Europe, with an astonishing instinct for plucking out future consumer tech successes.

He made early bets on Spotify, Facebook, King.com, and Skype — some of the biggest and most successful tech firms ever produced by the continent.

Hommels has parlayed his success into a fund, Lakestar, although whether his fund partners can replicate his success remains to be seen.

Location: Switzerland, but invests globally

 

Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck, who are making entrepreneurship more accessible

Entrepreneur First is a startup accelerator that takes talented individuals (rather than companies) and lets them pair up to begin building their startup.

The model initially involved recruiting young university graduates, but has expanded out to allow a broader base of founders. Observers say the model is valuable since it creates a pipeline of promising, early-stage startups for bigger venture capital firms.

Location: Headquartered in the UK, has offices across Europe and Asia

Twitter: @Alicebentinck and @matthewclifford

Atomico partner and AI specialist Siraj Khaliq

Coder and former entrepreneur Siraj Khaliq is Atomico’s deep tech specialist, scouting out promising AI startups for the European fund. Atomico raised a whopping $765 million for its latest fund, meaning it has deep pockets for ambitious firms.

Location: UK, but invests globally

Twitter: @sirajkhaliq

 

Carolina Brochado, investor at SoftBank investment Advisers.

Brochado was formerly a partner at Atomico, the European venture capital firm founded by Skype billionaire Niklas Zennstrom.

Brochado left for SoftBank in November 2018, and marks the firm’s deepening interest both in hiring experienced venture capitalists and in the European tech scene.

Brochado’s expertise lies in marketplaces and, while at Atomico, she invested in fresh food startup Farmdrop, logistics firm OnTruck, and lending marketplace Fat Llama.

Location: UK, but invests globally

Twitter: @ctbrochado

Josh Bell, early investor in PayPal-acquired fintech iZettle.

Bell is a general partner at early-stage investor Dawn Capital, which focuses mostly on European enterprise startups and has made smart bets to date on iZettle, Mimecast, and Collibra. Bell led Dawn’s investment into iZettle, which sold to PayPal last year for $2.2 billion.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @joshbell

Toby Coppel, who once led Yahoo’s $1 billion investment into Alibaba

Coppel is a partner at Mosaic Ventures, a European fund that has made some unusual early bets into blockchain startups (an area where European investors have been cautious).

He has a number of excellent war stories from his time at Yahoo, including being instrumental in the firm’s lucrative investment in Alibaba.

He’s deeply knowledgeable about the current startup and venture scene, and a good member of the community, helping newbie founders who are outside his portfolio.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @tcoppel

 

Harry Briggs, the British investor with masses of Canadian money

British investor Harry Briggs has landed a plum new role managing European venture investment for OMERS, a giant Canadian pension fund.

Briggs and his team have €300 million at their disposal, and are looking to invest in health, finance, property, and mobility.

Briggs has a strong track record from his time at Balderton and BGF, investing in Revolut, Magic Pony, and GoCardless. He’s also one of the politest people in venture capital.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @H4ryB

Jean de La Rochebrochard, the super-active French investor

Jean de La Rochebrochard is a partner at Kima Ventures, the venture capital fund set up by French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel. Pleasant and charismatic in person, he was named as a favorite European co-investor by several British investors on our list. Kima is one of the most active early-stage investors in Europe, investing in two startups a week.

Location: France

Twitter: @2lr

Seed investor and unicorn spotter Reshma Sohoni

There is a reason why entrepreneurs and later stage investors cite Seedcamp as a key part of the European tech ecosystem.

Seedcamp’s pan-European accelerator brought some cohesion to startups scattered all over the continent, and was a key route for first-time founders to get further funding.

As early investors in TransferWise, Sohoni and her investing partner, Carlos Espinall, clearly have an eye for talent.

The firm has moved away from its accelerator to focus on funding, and peers working with early-stage startups feel the gap. “We need more Reshmas,” one investor said to us recently — a high compliment.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @rsohoni

Hussain Kanji & Rob Kniaz, the well-connected early-stage duo.

Kanji and Kniaz are the energetic partners at Hoxton Ventures, an early-stage fund that made smart bets on Deliveroo and Darktrace long before either hit massive valuations. The pair have strong views on European tech, encyclopedic industry knowledge, and are extremely fun to talk to.

Location: UK, also invests in Asia and the US

Twitter: @hkanji and @RobK

 

Simon Cook, the innovative venture capitalist.

Cook is the CEO of Draper Esprit, a publicly listed venture capital firm that has taken an innovative approach to acquiring stakes in promising European startups.

Draper, for example, took stakes in two other European funds: Seedcamp and Germany’s Earlybird. Both gave the firm holdings in established unicorns TransferWise and UiPath. The firm has also recently invested in blockchain startup Ledger and cloud OS startup Hadean.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @venturejedi

Pär-Jörgen Pärson, who was Spotify’s first outside investor

Stockholm-based Pär-Jörgen Pärson is a partner at Northzone, and an early investor in Swedish successes iZettle and Spotify. According to Forbes, that Spotify bet returned more than $1 billion for his fund once the company went public via a direct listing in 2018.

Location: Sweden

Twitter: @pjparson

Ophelia Brown, the VC bringing Silicon Valley-style investing to Europe

Ophelia Brown is something of a venture capital prodigy, rising through the ranks at Index Ventures, then becoming a general partner at early-stage investor LocalGlobe. She’s now raised her own fund, Blossom Capital, which has already made interesting bets on marketplace startup Fat Llama, AI startup Spell, and travel startup Duffel.

Location: UK, invests globally

Twitter: @ophelia_brown

 

Martin Mignot, the Index investor with an eye for buzzy consumer startups

Martin Mignot is a French partner at Index Ventures with a good eye for buzzy, global consumer businesses.

He was an early investor in food delivery startup Deliveroo, and has also invested in scooter startup Bird. He doesn’t just back consumer startups though, putting money into French software firm Algolia.

A recent testimonial from Deliveroo CEO Will Shu: “Martin has the nicest hair in all of VC.”

Location: UK, but invests globally.

Twitter: @martinmignot

Spencer Crawley, part of Brent Hoberman’s investment empire

Spencer Crawley is the face of Firstminute Capital, a pan-European seed fund based in London and backed by FMCG giant Henkel, massive European fund Atomico, and a number of tech entrepreneurs.  Firstminute Capital is part of the empire of Brent Hoberman, one of the most well-connected investors and entrepreneurs in Europe.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @spencer_crawley

 

Alex Kayyal, one of the most active corporate investors in enterprise tech

Alex Kayyal is a partner at the European arm of Salesforce Ventures, one of the most active corporate investors in enterprise startups. Salesforce Ventures focuses predominantly on business-to-business and cloud startups. Any founder that wins funding has the advantage of getting access to Salesforce’s expertise, as well as its massive customer base.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @alexkayyal

Early Monzo backer and the UK government’s special envoy for fintech, Eileen Burbidge.

Eileen is the founder of Passion Capital and a staple of the British tech scene. She has invested in promising UK financial startups such as Monzo and GoCardless, but also acts as an adviser to the British government on fintech, can be seen regularly doing 5 a.m. media appearances, and was also an independent reviewer for Google’s AI firm DeepMind.

Location: UK

Twitter: @eileentso

Fredrik Cassel, general partner at Creandum

Cassel is a general partner at Creandum, the European venture capital firm with offices in Stockholm, Berlin, and San Francisco.

Cassel can take credit for one of Creandum’s biggest successes to date, thanks to leading its investment in Spotify.

His other bets include doctor app KRY and fashion marketplace Depop. One founder in Cassel’s portfolio describes him as a calm, measured investor.

Location: Sweden, invests globally

Twitter: @_fredrik

Ciaran O’Leary, the left-field investor at BlueYard

Like several others on this list, O’Leary and his fund BlueYard don’t make too much noise publicly but are respected by founders and fellow investors.

It isn’t easy to pin down BlueYard’s specialisms, although it’s clear the firm looks for more radical ideas. The company says it’s interested in decentralisation, fintech, and enterprise startups.

This has translated into investments into clean meat startup Meatable, PowerPoint competitor Pitch, and open source network Oscoin.

Location: Germany, invests across Europe

Twitter: @ciaranoleary

Laurel Bowden, the 83North partner with an eye for multibillion-dollar European businesses

Bowden is a founding partner at 83North, and is known as one of six partners at the firm who aim to seal just one deal each year. As with several other investors on this list, she won big with an investment into Swedish startup iZettle, which sold to PayPal for $2.2 billion.

She has previously led investments in food delivery service Just Eat, QlikTech, a Swedish-American software firm that listed on the NASDAQ in 2010; and Hybris, a German CMS software provider acquired for $1.5 billion in 2013. Bowden was also an angel investor in Wix, the web development platform.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Rainer Maerkle, the German investor who backed HelloFresh

Maerkle has been a general partner at German investor Holtzbrinck Ventures for the past 10 years. He led investments in Spanish fashion marketplace Zalando, which went public in 2014, as well as meal kit provider HelloFresh, which went public in 2017.

Location: Germany

Twitter: @rmaerkle

Marie Ekeland, the face of French startups

Ekeland is the cofounder of investment company Daphni and a rare senior female figure in the still male-dominated French startup scene.

She’s held board seats at some of the country’s most successful companies, including ad firm Criteo, and video ads firm Teads. As the cofounder of lobbying organisation France Digitale, she has been instrumental in boosting France’s tech reputation in the last few years.

Location: France

Twitter: @bibicheri

Jan Hammer, fintech specialist at Index Ventures

Jan Hammer is a longtime partner at Index Ventures, long considered to be one of Europe’s most successful venture capital firms. As a specialist in fintech, he’s had a good year with Dutch payment startup Adyen’s float in 2018, and TransferWise’s secondary share sale earlier this year.

Location: UK, invests globally

Lateral thinker Nicolas Debock

Venture capitalists tend to be brainy types, but a meeting with Debock might evolve from the state of European tech funding to string theory in a manner of minutes. Debock was formerly Balderton’s man in France, but is now managing director at French investing giant Idinvest.

Location: France

Twitter: @ndebock

Former French minister Fleur Pellerin

Fleur Pellerin is the founder of Korelya Capital and a former French government minister. She is credited with pushing France to become a startup nation, before current president Emmanuel Macron adopted the term, and has backed businesses including speaker startup Devialet, Uber rival Taxify, and German travel startup GetYourGuide.

Location: France, invests across Europe

Twitter: @fleurpellerin

Dan Lupu, an early investor in robotics software startup UiPath

Lupu is a Romanian partner at German venture capital Earlybird, and was an early investor in robotics software startup UiPath.

The firm is now worth $7 billion after its most recent funding round, an indictment of Earlybird’s strategy of setting up a dedicated Digital East Fund for startups in the Balkans.

Location: Romania, invests across eastern Europe

 

Leila Rastegar Zegna, the investor who gives founders shares in her fund

Zegna, a founding partner at newer VC firm Kindred Capital, is trying to pioneer a new, “equitable” way of investing.

Venture capital, she argues, hasn’t changed much over the last decade, and the process of fundraising can leave founders floundering.

To that end, Kindred gives founders “carry” (a share) in its fund, meaning they’re invested in each other’s success. The model means founders share 20% of the profit from Kindred’s fund.

Location: UK, invests across Europe

Twitter: @lrastegar

Pawel Chudzinski, managing partner at Point Nine Capital

Chudzinski is cofounder and managing partner at Berlin-based Point Nine Capital. He appears on this list along with his colleague Christoph Janz.

Like fellow investors Earlybird, Point Nine was among the first early-stage investors in Berlin and the pair were consistently namechecked by peers as great investment options for founders.

Location: Germany, invests across Europe

Twitter: @pawell

Balderton Capital’s Bernard Liautaud

Quiet and considered in person, Liautaud is the managing partner of Balderton Capital. He’s a comparatively rare beast on the European venture scene as a successful entrepreneur-turned-investor. He led the firm’s investment into security startup Recorded Future, which sold to Insight Partners for $780 million.

Location: UK, but invests across Europe

Twitter: @Bliautaud