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Google Ventures’ In Europe And The Missing Fifth Man

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Google Ventures Opens London Office As A Base For Investing $100M Across Europe

Following our report that Google was creating a new European arm for Google Ventures, Google itself has now confirmed the move.

A number (although not all) of the partners involved match up with the lists that we or tech columnist Milo Yiannopoulos had predicted, which is heavy on folks who have been doing the rounds of the London tech scene for a while.

They are Eze Vidra, who set up Google Campus in London; entrepreneur and Angel investor Tom Hulme; long-time UK angel investor Peter Read; and Avid Larizadeh, previously co-founder of Bottica.com and a former associate with Accel Partners. One interesting curveball: former TechCrunch staff writer turned venture capitalist MG Siegler will be joining temporarily to serve as a bridge between London and the Silicon Valley mothership.

All of these names were called by us the other week, except for MG. I covered all this before, but just to re-emphasise: it is a serious coup that Google has got Read and Hulme onboard. We also hear that the whole hiring process thing has been a “drama start to finish” said one source, with a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between Google and potential hires.

Now, the wording of the announcement is significant. This is a “new venture fund, with initial funding of $100 million. Our goal is simple: we want to invest in the best ideas from the best European entrepreneurs, and help them bring those ideas to life.”

The words from Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures, indicate this fund will not be limited to $100 million. But it also does not specify the period that cash will be invested. Is it $100 million a year, or $100 million over five years? It’s not clear.

For instance, the new fund is smaller than the new $544m (€400m) million fund launched by Index Ventures, or the $475 million fund launched last year by Accel Partners, or the $305 million Series A fund raised by Balderton this year.

Our sources tell us that the $100 million fund will indeed be over a set period, possibly five years. Why is that important? Because in order to get the names on board that they did, the European partners needed to be reassured that they would eventually be able to realise their carry on the investments they made. Hence why this fund will not be fully ‘evergreen,’ as the fund is in the US.

The rest of the announcement shows that Google Ventures in Europe will operate as it does in the US: In a fairly non-traditional VC-like manner.

It will be a “a very different type of venture fund. Startups need more than just capital to succeed: they also benefit from engineering support, design expertise, and guidance with recruiting, marketing and product management.”

This is the new fashion in VC-land – building product and team support around startups rather than just money and advice.

In other words, their investments will really benefit from the team’s experience, such as Hulme’s heavy design experience. And when you have the kind of talent at Google to draw on, the sky’s the limit.

The wording is also very upbeat about Europe: “We believe Europe’s startup scene has enormous potential. We’ve seen compelling new companies emerge from places like London, Paris, Berlin, the Nordic region and beyond—SoundCloud, Spotify, Supercell and many others.”

This also betrays the fact that Google has missed out on many of the biggest startups coming out of Europe. It made a strategic mistake to move its investing to the U.S. a few years ago. It’s trying to rectify that now.

The FT reports the Google Ventures Europe team will be based in Clerkenwell. TechCrunch can exclusively reveal that their office will be in the former offices of Enterproid/Divide, and right next door to White Bear Yard, the home of Passion Capital, and a stone’s throw from Warner Yard, the home of TechStars London and Playfair Capital.

This is a fascinating move, and means that the mother-lode of Google just shifted a whole lot of power further towards the Eastern side of the city. This location is also a five-minute taxi ride from Google’s Campus in London and Shoreditch, the home to many of the new wave of UK startups colloquially known as Silicon Roundabout or Tech City by the UK government. (We understand other VCs are eyeing up similar moves to put people on the ground in this part of town.)

That said, these partners will be investing all over Europe, and will most likely be on a lot of planes over the next few weeks and months.

But it also means they will be ‘doing drinks’ with Passion Capital far more than they will with the VCs in Mayfair, the traditional home of the big investors in London. That’s not to be over-emphasised – but it is worth noting.

Finally, Google has gone to some lengths to say that there will be four partners, not five, in Europe.

Siegler will remain a full partner on the U.S. fund, as he is just coming over to London to help for a while as a temporary liaison. It’s emerged that he was in London only recently to begin this process.

However, our sources tell us there is a missing Fifth Man. They say there will be another partner added, once this first team is bedded in, and it could even be two more partners.

The first potential addition – though he has strongly denied it – is Rohan Silva, the EIR at Index Ventures and former adviser to the UK government. Silva is busy with the launch of Second Home, a new club for tech entrepreneurs. But that will not keep him busy forever, leaving the way open to join. Silva is known to be close to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

The second is rumored to be a well-known partner in the London office of a London growth capital fund. He could bring the late-stage institutional investment experience that this initial Google Ventures Europe team lacks. If it’s the person we think it is, then this would round to the team, as currently it is fairly “early stage heavy,” said one keen observer in the scene.

All that said, Google does not work in the same way as normal venture funds, so perhaps this is the final bench. Whatever the case, it’s exciting for European startups to see so many names that they have rubbed shoulders with at startup events now come into the game with some serious money to invest.