Lifeline, The Early-Stage Finnish VC Firm That Backed Supercell, Closes Another Fund

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Lifeline Ventures has never ceased to surprise me.

There’s their annual benchpress and dead-lifting contest every November to find the world’s strongest investor and founder.

Or, I mean, just look at their portfolio:

Trash-sorting robotic systems.

Ear-plugs that shine light on the surface of your brain to treat seasonal affective disorder.

They even backed the Finnish rock band, the Leningrad Cowboys, to make a game and a feature film about a half-Siberian, half-Mexican dog.

They’ve also had some serious wins. They were the first investors in Supercell, the Helsinki-based game developer and maker of Clash of Clans, which eventually sold slightly more than half of itself to Softbank and Gung-Ho Entertainment for $1.53 billion.

It was a 4,000X return, says Petteri Koponen, who is the firm’s founding partner (pictured above).

Now the firm, which is one of the best-connected in all of Finland, is pulling together a second fund. Counterintuitively, it’s smaller than their first fund at roughly $20 million compared to $30 million.

“We had a lot of external pressure to go bigger,” Koponen said. “Quite a few people said that they should be room for a growth-stage fund here, which would have meant we could have raised $100 to 150 million. But we just thought that we would actually maximize our impact if went even earlier stage.”

The new fund also doesn’t have a standard lifespan of 10 years. It’s indefinite.

“Instead, we could hold companies for 20 years or as long as it takes,” said Lifeline’s other founding partner Timo Ahopelto. “We’d never be in a hurry to sell.”

It’s all very Finnish — pragmatic, long-term and maybe a little eccentric.

Oh, and with this fund, they’re not planning on focusing too much on games, which might be surprising considering the Renaissance that’s happened over the last five years in the local gaming industry with successes like Angry Birds-maker Rovio and Supercell.

“We think the chances of category leadership are pretty slim,” Koponen said. “If we discover the right kinds of games company, we would be super happy to invest. But while game companies can be really attractive and I can understand why the money is flowing there, it’s not our cup of tea.”

They’re also excited about a few of their more recent investments like Oncos Therapeutics, which works on targeted cancer therapies and Smartly.io, which is a Facebook ads optimization tool.