Max Niederhofer Jumps From Accel To Sunstone As A Partner To Focus On The Series A Crunch

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In a widely rumored move, serial entrepreneur and investor Max Niederhofer has left his Vice President position at Accel Partners in Europe but not – as some thought – to create another startup, but to join another VC firm. This time, however, he will be a full venture partner with Sunstone Capital working out of Copenhagen. He will focus on early stage technology investments and support existing companies in Sunstone’s portfolio.

Niederhofer was barely a year at Accel and rumors about an impending departure – either to start his own fund or to join as a partner elsewhere – started circulating some weeks ago, though nothing was confirmed. When he joined in January he said he wanted to shake things up in traditional VC land. However, traditional VC land has no real succession path to become a full partner unless you bring an enormous pile of money to the table, of course. Last year Accel lost partner Adam Valkin to General Catalyst Partners in the US, though this was down to family reasons. We understand Accel is already in the process of recruiting a replacement for Niederhofer.

Sunstone Capital is an early stage venture capital investor with a latest fund of $110M. It has around €700 million in committed capital across seven funds. The technology portfolio includes companies such as Amen, Gidsy, Issuu, Layar, Neo Technology, Paymill, Podio (sold to Citrix Systems) and Prezi.

Niederhofer has spent the last 11 years working with early stage businesses in Europe and the United States as an investor and entrepreneur. Prior to joining Accel, he started and sold Qwerly, a data marketing business, and prior to that was a Principal at Atlas Venture, working with DailyMotion, Seatwave and Moo. His personal investments include OneFineStay, Skimlinks, Boticca, Fliptop, Sofar Sounds and he was an investor in Last.fm.

Jimmy Fussing Nielsen, managing partner at Sunstone Capital commented: “We are very excited to have Max join our team. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we are aggressively expanding Sunstone from our Nordic roots to all European markets. Max’s background and experience strengthen our strategy of supporting European entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of company building.”

“I am thrilled to be joining a partnership that allows me to be an investor as well as an entrepreneur,” said Niederhofer. He said Sunstone aimed to build a “West Coast-style” venture capital firm which will be “faster, more accessible.”

Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Niederhofer is a graduate of WHU and was recently named “Best Startup Advisor/Mentor 2012” at The Europas Tech Startup Awards in Berlin.

In an interview, Niederhofer told us he felt the “market opportunity is in Series A. In the next 3-5 years there will be some huge billion dollar exits, from Spotify, JustEat, Prezi, Rovio. From that ecosystem Angels will emerge. This will be Europe’s ‘PayPal Mafia’ moment.”

“The market opportunity for us is amazing as you have 2,000 comps being seed funded right now. The real problem is the Series A crunch – there are not enough of those VCs around. So we will have the pick of the litter.”

The move indicates that once again the tectonic plates of the VC world in Europe are shifting. We’ve already detailed how new funds are arising and others are re-aligning themselves towards a more fleet-of foot, US-style of venture investing.