BGF Ventures in flux as three partners are departing

Changes are afoot at BGF Ventures, the London-based early-stage venture fund of BGF, as three partners are departing, TechCrunch has learned.

Rumours that the VC firm’s future was in flux as parent BGF reviewed its current investment strategy began surfacing in late January, but multiple sources now tell me that BGF Ventures partners Harry Briggs, Rory Stirling, and Wendy Tan White are departing, though all three plan to remain in venture in some capacity.

One source says it is believed that the three BGF Ventures partners want to raise an early stage venture firm of their own, though it isn’t thought that this would necessarily be in tandem.

The news also comes as a surprise to the London VC and startup community, especially given that Tan White only joined BGF Ventures in late June, after leaving Entrepreneur First where she was a General Partner. Briggs and Stirling joined BGF much earlier, in June 2015, to help get the new £200 million early-stage fund off the ground. They were previously VCs at Balderton Capital and MMC Ventures, respectively.

I also understand BGF Ventures has made a number of recent investments, not all of which have been announced yet.

BGF responds

Confirming the departure of Briggs, Stirling, and Tan White, BGF Ventures have issued the following statement:

“Harry, Rory and Wendy will be leaving BGF full-time to continue their sector focus of investing solely in early stage technology companies. BGF respects their decisions whilst remaining fully committed to expanding its earlier-stage platform to provide investment for a wider sector of companies across the whole of the UK. Wendy will continue to work with BGF in an advisory capacity through 2019 while continuing to deepen her links with the AI and deeptech ecosystem.”

“We are thankful for their contributions in creating a great foundation in the technology ventures space and look forward to working collaboratively with them going forward.”

BGF says that BGF Ventures will continue to exist and will be led by Simon Calver. It also says its remit is expanding to include multiple sectors, such as knowledge-based businesses and “tech-enabled” companies, and in numerous regions across the U.K.

“The challenge for BGF Ventures now is to disrupt early stage investing in the way that BGF has disrupted growth investing since 2011,” says Calver in a statement. “We intend to do that by expanding what we offer to more sectors, particularly knowledge-based businesses and tech-enabled companies, and to use our national footprint of 12 offices across the U.K. and Ireland to invest in more companies based outside London.”

Meanwhile, Tan White tells me “strategic changes” were already in progress when she arrived at BGF Ventures, and that on the back of strong performance over the last few years BGF now has the opportunity to deploy significantly more capital and expand to more sectors “not just pure tech” and regionally across the U.K.

“Rory, Harry and I want to focus more specifically on ‘outlier tech’,” she tells me. “Simon will lead expanding BGF Ventures. I’ve agreed to carry on supporting BGF group strategically as an advisor but we are all leaving to explore being GPs in new/existing funds”.

Tan White also confirms she will stay involved in a number of BGF Ventures portfolio companies as an investment director on their respective boards, and that she is eyeing up starting a new VC fund dedicated to “deep tech”. She plans to continue to be in part based at BGF, but will also be spending time located at seed investment firm LocalGlobe.

“Both [are] supporting me in my exploration for building a deep tech fund,” she says. “I have 8 co-investments with LG. They are one of the best seed funds in Europe and true ecosystem players with Seedcamp, Zinc and Platoon. Robin and Saul are great sounding boards. Huge respect for both”.