Christian Hernandez, a long-time employee for Facebook in Europe, is leaving the company to go full-time at White Star Capital, an early-stage VC investment firm founded by Eric Martineau-Fortin. Hernandez was most recently Facebook’s director for EMEA, and before that had been head of platform partnerships for the region. White Star to date has backed some 20 companies both in the U.S. and Europe, including Betaworks, Science, Bloglovin’ in Sweden, Execution Labs in Canada and Dollar Shave Club. Two companies have exited: Summly, sold to Yahoo!; and Ludia, sold to Fremantle. It says it’s raised $70 million in follow-on financing. TechCrunch understands that White Star is currently raising money for a new fund of $100 million, with about 80 percent of that from institutions and family offices. So far $20 million has been committed.
TechCrunch also understands that White Star has not gone through the Financial Conduct Authority process yet, which means they are still at the early stages of the fund: most VCs defer that until the end, although you can’t fundraise in the U.K. until you’re registered with the FCA.
Hernandez has also been angel investing on the side, and those holdings will be combined with White Star’s portfolio. Both he and Martineau-Fortin will be managing partners, and at the same time the firm is announcing two principals: John Henderson (most recently of Summly) and David Szekely. The news was laid out in a Facebook post from Hernandez as well as an announcement from White Star.
Hernandez has had a long career to date that includes, before Facebook, several years at Google and, prior to that, Microsoft. Since September 2011, he’s also been on the board of advisors at Seedcamp, the European startup accelerator. Those two sides of his experience — first-hand with the heavy hitters and investing in and advising startups — gives him and White Star a shot at bringing in dealflow as well as helping portfolio companies partner and exit to bigger players.
White Star will focus primiarly on seed and A rounds, filling what some still see as a gap in the market for early-stage companies particularly in Europe. The other big focus will be to provide funding specifically for startups to scale internationally, playing on White Star’s existing U.S./European pedigree.
As for what kinds of companies White Star will pick, the focus sounds like it will be on homing in on niches rather than expansive platform plays: included are “affinity networks” — think more-targeted social networks around special interests — as well as niche e-commerce opportunities and social games. More generally, it will also put a strong emphasis on mobile-focused companies.
As for Facebook, the company officially confirmed Hernandez’s departure in June, at the same time that U.K. commercial director Stephen Haines left London to move to New York to work directly on Facebook’s network partnership with Omnicom. It doesn’t look like they’ve tapped a replacement for Hernandez yet. Nichola Mendelson, the company’s newly appointed VP for EMEA, will likely be addressing that as she settles into her new role, which she only took on at the beginning of this year.