Atomico, the European VC fund founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennstrom, has recruited ex-Googler and previous co-founder of The Climate Corporation, Siraj Khaliq, as an investment partner.
That’s quite a coup and particularly noteworthy given that The Climate Corporation was an early ‘unicorn’ (that is a startup valued at $1 billion or more), after the agritech company sold to Biotech giant Monsanto for approximately $1.1 billion back in late 2013.
Khaliq, after returning from Silicon Valley in late 2013, is now based in Zurich, Switzerland but will also spread his time across the U.K. and Netherlands. He is already a prominent angel investor and startup advisor and says he became attracted to the idea of becoming a VC after witnessing first-hand the value his own company-building experience could bring to other fledgling startups. Joining a VC firm like Atomico will enable him to do this on a much larger scale.
The decision to join a European VC appears to be partly personal — Khaliq has family in Europe — but also based on what he says is “relative value and unsupported potential in Europe”, and that Atomico, specifically, has the “most founder friendly, egalitarian and culturally compatible approach” for the newly recruited VC.
“Though younger than other big firms, I found a great balance between structure but also room for the intuition and wisdom of crowds signals to come through in the investment process. In some ways it also reminds me of my time at early Google: innovative, longtermist, politics free and data driven,” he says in a Q&A to be published on the Atomico website.
As for the types of deals Khaliq will be on the look out for, he notes that the VC firm invests at multiple stages of a company’s life, from Series A to growth and later-stage rounds. “We’re also active across sectors, though avoid hardware only plays or pharma/biotech since we feel we can provide the best support to software-oriented firms,” he says.
“Given my background as a computer scientist and CTO, I’m most interested in pure software or infrastructure companies, including AI and machine learning based companies. And my Climate Corporation experience is also highly relevant to parts of fintech and agriculture. I expect to spend much of my primary deal sourcing time on the U.K., being from here originally and having ties to universities here (including Cambridge, where I did my undergrad)”, adds Khaliq.
Interestingly, the move comes shortly after Atomico announced a slew of new Entrepreneur Partners and EIRs. The former includes Ilkka Paananen and Mikko Kodisoja, co-founders of the Finnish games-maker Supercell; Alex Asseily, co-founder of gadget company Jawbone; and Brent Hoberman, co-founder of travel site Lastminute.com and e-commerce site Made.com.