Earlier this month rumours emerged that Google was planning to open a branch of its venture capital investment arm in London. Well, as they say, there’s no smoke without fire: Mountain View has now confirmed that Google Ventures has launched a London division, with an initial fund of $100 million to invest in “the best ideas from the best European entrepreneurs.”
“We believe Europe’s startup scene has enormous potential,” wrote Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures, in a Google blog post. “We’ve seen compelling new companies emerge from places like London, Paris, Berlin, the Nordic region and beyond — SoundCloud, Spotify, Supercell and many others.”
According to the FT, Google’s go-to media outlet in London, the new European branch of Google Ventures will have five general partners, reporting to Maris — namely: Eze Vidra, who set up Google Campus in London; serial entrepreneur Tom Hulme; UK angel investor and adviser Peter Read; Avid Larizadeh, the head of the UK arm of code.org and co-founder of Bottica.com; and former TechCrunch staff writer turned venture capitalist MG Siegler.
Siegler was of course already working for Google Ventures in the U.S., and is evidently not going to be a permanent fixture in London for GV — according to his tweets, he’s helping to “support” the new team for an initial period. So presumably the fund will be looking to add another full-time partner in London to take Siegler’s place in time.
Update: Google has told TechCrunch the London office will in fact only have four GPs, not five — emphasizing that Siegler’s role is to act as a liaison for an initial period. “There are four general partners for Google Ventures Europe, not five. MG Siegler, a Google Ventures general partner will move to London for short a period of time to serve as a liaison between the US and European operations, but keeps his current title,” said a spokesman.
The Google Ventures office will be located in Clerkenwell, a short distance from the local East London Tech City action. But the London location is merely a base for Google Ventures to survey Europe’s myriad startup ecosystems and cherry-pick startups from all over the region for investments.
Maris told the FT it’s not clear how many investments the fund will make in Europe, or the size or type at this point. It’s also not clear over what period the $100 million will be invested. “If you look at the US, we invest at all stages and in all sectors,” he told the paper. “It’s not about how many investments we do, but the impact those companies have.”
Of course this is big news for London’s tech ecosystem, and huge news for European startups generally, which still often struggle to raise a sizable post-seed or Series A funding injection locally — i.e. without taking a trip across the pond or even out east to Asia.
The size of Google’s London fund means it’s likely to be co-investing with Index, Accel and Balderton — albeit those three nonetheless currently have larger funds at their disposals. In June Index raised a new early-stage $550 million fund for investments in Europe and Israel; Accel closed a $475 million fund in March 2013 also mainly for the region; and Balderton closed a $305 million Series A fund this April, exclusively earmarked for Europe.
Albeit, it seems likely that the $100 million that Google Ventures has initially earmarked for Europe will be a moveable feast — given that Google’s U.S. investment fund has stepped up over time from an initial $50 million per year to circa $300 million.
Prior to opening an office in London, Google Ventures was entirely concentrated in and on the U.S., with headquarters in Mountain View, and offices in San Francisco, Boston and New York.