Well it appeared to be signed and sealed when news leaked back in April that two icons of the UK’s tech startup world were joining forces to create a new fund to address the so-called ‘equity gap’ in Europe. But it gradually emerged that the actual name of the project would change and there were no real details, not even a web site to explain how it would work. But tonight at The Europas Awards in London, Brent Hoberman and Michael Birch announced the launch of the fund they’ve set up together: PROfounders Capital. It’s understood that Michael Birch, who exited from Bebo when it sold to AOL last year for $850m, is the prime investor, however, they hope to double the “founder-lead” £30m fund over the next few months.
Leading the fund will be Michael Birch, the founder of Bebo and BirthdayAlarm; Brent Hoberman, the founder of Lastminute and Mydeco; Peter Dubens, the founder of Oakley Capital and Freedom4 Group; and Jonathan Goodwin, the founder of LongAcre Partners.
The schtick of the fund is that it has been set up “by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs,” and, as Rogan Angelini-Hurll, general partner in the fund, puts it, this is “an unique collection of entrepreneurial capital and knowledge.” That’s a fair statement. There are very few enterpreneur-lead funds in Europe.
So what will they do? Well its sounds pretty much like the dream team from any startup’s perspective: they’ll be an “active participant” in early-stage ventures – in other words, they won’t just eat biscuits at board meetings, they’ll actually get their hands dirty, pulling in resources and their prodigious network.
The investments will aim to fill the gap between angel and traditional venture funding. The philosophy of PROfounders Capital also will focus on fostering and supporting entrepreneurism in Europe, and they intend to back non-profits that work in the area as well.
Sean Seton-Rogers joins as as General Partner, joining Angelini-Hurll. Seton-Rogers has ten years in VC, most recently at Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Capital Europe) where he worked with companies such as Bebo, Wonga.com, MoveMe, and TouchLocal.
Sean says: “We want the spirit of the fund to reflect our approach – we aim to make decisions from the point of view of the entrepreneur throughout our investment period.”
Michael Birch, puts it in pretty bold terms: “Our aim is to be a central force in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Europe.
Hoberman told me: “We’ve had a good reception for those who’ve heard about it. We’ve already had 200 deals sent to us so far, which demonstrates the desire of entrepreneurs out there for something like this.”
He said the whole idea is to be “more partnership, less a closed club”.
He also says the fund will “Not be adversarial to existing players” more a “catalyst to European entreprenurship” and is “going to be looking far and wide across Europe.”
One thing he stressed was that the fund “won’t do things like douple dip participating preferred” – in other words do the kind of thing some VCs do when entrepreneurs are new to the game, putting in the contract that the VC has an option on taking a bigger stake when the startup neeeds a second round of funding.
All in all I can say this is great news for the startup scene across Europe – it’s the kind of thing that’s been lacking across Europe, and it certainly follows the right trend. Last year Spreadshirt founder Lukasz Gadowski set up Team Europe in concert with a number of other German entrepreneurs, aiming to fund early stage startups. He was joined by Kolja Hebenstreit (early employee at Spreadshirt, and seed investor in StudiVZ).