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Nic Brisbourne

Nic Brisbourne Leaves DFJ Esprit To Help Forward Investment Partners “Double-Down” On VC Activity

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There’s some interesting news coming out of London today in the form of VC musical chairs. DFJ Esprit, the European VC firm that is also part of Silicon Valley’s DFJ Global Network, has announced that Associate Scott Sage has been promoted to full VC Partner. However, that isn’t the big story. In events that seem somewhat related, TechCrunch has learned that long-standing DFJ Esprit Partner Nic Brisbourne, who has been at the London-based VC firm since 2006, is moving on to pastures new.

According to my sources, he’s joining Forward Investment Partners, the venture capital arm of Forward Internet Group, where I understand he’ll be helping Forward “double-down” in terms of the number of investments it plans to make, and in how it supports the startups in its portfolio and the ‘founders in residence’ coming through its startup foundry Forward Labs.

Confirming Brisbourne’s appointment, Paul Fisher, Director at Forward Internet Group, said in a statement issued to TechCrunch: “We’re humbled to have been able to recruit a high-calibre Partner like Nic and he is the ideal person to help build our portfolio while retaining the entrepreneurial essence of the Forward Group.”

It’s certainly true that the recruitment of Brisbourne by Forward does seem to be quite a coup. One of the higher profile VCs on the European tech scene (and regular blogger via The Equity Kicker), he’s been in the venture capital business since 2000, spending time based in both Silicon Valley and Europe. He’s also said to be personally responsible for over 25 investments including Buy.AT (acquired by AOL for $125m), Zeus Technology (acquired by Riverbed for $140m), WAYN, Tribold, Conversocial, StrikeAd and Lyst. A decent track record by any measure, not least in European VC.

Undoubtedly he’ll bring a wealth of experience to Forward’s venture arm, as well as his personal brand, network and deal-flow. As I was reminded in a conversation with a VC yesterday, investors have to court entrepreneurs too. It’s also worth noting that Forward Investment Partners invests its own money in the companies it backs — it doesn’t have shareholders or limited partners — so one might infer that Brisbourne has the opportunity to be even more nimble in terms of turning deal-flow into investments at speed when the opportunity strikes. The companies that Forward Investment Partners has backed to date include Hailo, Zopa, Appear Here, Hubbub and BlikBook.

A spokesperson for DFJ Esprit wouldn’t confirm Brisbourne’s departure — we appear to have blindsided any official announcement — although I understand that technically he is still a DFJ employee until the end of today and will start his new post as early as next Monday.

Meanwhile, Brisbourne himself is currently “off grid” traveling in India where, according to his blog, he’s staying at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas near Rishikesh “to study meditation and yoga, and to unwind.” It’s well-acknowledged how stressful startup life can be, but spare a thought for the VCs!

Finally, it would be remiss not to say congratulations to DFJ Esprit’s new Partner Scott Sage. It’s often said that when raising venture capital you don’t want to pitch an Associate, you want to pitch a full Partner at a VC firm, the person with the decision-making power. So this is a significant promotion for Sage, and in a call last night I could tell how excited he is. It’s something he says he’s been working really hard to achieve since he joined DFJ as an Associate in 2010. However, when he was offered the promotion it still came as a surprise. At the age of 30, he’s also likely one of the youngest to make full Partner at a major VC firm in Europe.