More changes of personnel in the London/European VC scene. Gil Dibner is moving from Index Ventures to join DFJ Esprit, the European VC firm that is also part of Silicon Valley’s DFJ Global Network. At Index Dibner held the position of Principal, while at DFJ Esprit he makes Partner, so chalk this up as a promotion for Dibner in the world of Venture Capital.
Interestingly, it follows two other changes at DFJ Esprit in June, which saw long-standing DFJ Esprit Partner Nic Brisbourne join Forward Investment Partners, the venture capital arm of Forward Internet Group, and Scott Sage promoted from Associate to full Partner. Including Dibner’s appointment, DFJ Esprit now boasts 10 Partners, making it one of Europe’s largest VC firms, based on Partner head-count.
At Index Ventures, Dibner is said to have helped lead the London VC firm’s seed and early stage investment strategy across Europe, Israel and the U.S. Prior to Index, he was a Principal at Israeli venture capital firm Gemini Israel Ventures. His investment experience includes LoyalBlocks, Innovid, JFrog, The Gifts Project (acquired by Ebay), Yedda (acquired by AOL), amongst others.
As Partner at DFJ Esprit, Dibner will lead new investments in “technology-driven companies of all stages”, according to a statement from the VC firm. In a email exchange this morning he elaborated on his new role, Europe’s startup ecosystem, how he sources deal-flow, and — crucially – how best to pitch him. Q&A follows.
Firstly, congratulations to making Partner at DFJ Esprit. Perhaps you can share with TechCrunch readers how the move came about, and what it feels like to now be a full VC partner?
I came to know DFJ Esprit through their activity in the European start-up scene over the past year. I discovered that the firm shared my Silicon Valley perspective and my passion for backing ambitious entrepreneurs and start-ups driven by deep technology. Our investment philosophies are so aligned that when they invited me to join them, it was a no-brainer.
I’ve been an active VC for around eight years now with eight investments, including exits to AOL and Ebay. I’ve had the benefit of some truly great mentors at Genesis Partners, Gemini, and – of course – Index Ventures. Being a partner is a humbling responsibility, but it’s something I feel very ready for.
Tell us more about your brief at DFJ Esprit, what will you be focusing on in terms of investments?
DFJ Esprit is committed to backing Europe’s best and most ambitious entrepreneurs, regardless of sector. Personally, I’m convinced there are huge opportunities in enterprise software, SaaS, and big data – all areas where I’ve invested in the past and areas where I’ve seen fantastic entrepreneurs across Europe.
You’ve been involved in the European startup scene for a while. How has it changed since you first entered VC? Which hubs excite you the most?
Amazing entrepreneurship is happening throughout Europe, from Berlin to Belgrade and from Shoreditch to Stockholm. I think in many ways, the European entrepreneurial community is way ahead of the investor community – particularly when it comes to enterprise software, big data, security, and other “deep tech” areas. There is quite a bit of seed capital in Europe for consumer-facing opportunities – but not that many global venture firms with deep pockets willing to take the kinds of technology risk that DFJ Esprit took when it backed companies such as CSR, Cambridge Semiconductor, Neul, or ZBD.
Where do you source deal-flow, and when is the right time in a startup’s journey to get in touch? i.e. in terms of traction etc.
It’s about having an ongoing dialogue with the entrepreneurial community and about being accessible for honest conversations about companies and market opportunities. My best source of interesting companies has been referrals from other entrepreneurs that met me in a pitch meeting or a conference. If I can provide enough value in those settings, especially to companies I haven’t invested in, I’m hopeful that it will translate into referrals. DFJ Esprit invests in all stages and sectors – so there is no wrong time, and it’s never too early to start a dialogue.
How do you like to be contacted? Any tips for things to avoid when pitching you?
Connect with me on twitter (@gdibner), Linkedin, or email. In any pitch with an investor, avoid telling them what you think a VC wants to hear, and just be yourself.