Portuguese VC Faber has hit the first close of its Faber Tech II fund at €20.5 million ($24.3 million). The fund will focus on early-stage data-driven startups starting from Southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, with the aim of reaching a final close of €30 million in the coming months. The new fund targets pre-Series A and early-stage startups in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science.
The fund is backed by European Investment Fund (EIF) and the local Financial Development Institution (IFD), with a joint commitment of €15 million (backed by the Investment Plan for Europe — the Juncker Plan and through the Portugal Tech program), alongside other private institutional and individual investors.
Alexandre Barbosa, Faber’s managing partner, said, “The success of the first close of our new fund allows us to foresee a growth in the demand for this type of investment, as we believe digital transformation through artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science are increasingly relevant for companies and their businesses, and we think Southern Europe will be the launchpad of a growing number.”
Faber has already “warehoused” three initial investments. It co-financed a €15.6 million Series A for SWORD Health — Portuguese startup that created the first digital physiotherapy system combining artificial intelligence and clinical teams. It led the pre-seed round of YData, a startup with a data-centric development platform that provides data science professionals tools to deal with accessing high-quality and meaningful data while protecting its privacy. It also co-financed the pre-seed round of Emotai, a neuroscience-powered analytics and performance-boosting platform for virtual sports.
Faber was a first local investor in the first wave of Portugal’s most promising startups, such as Seedrs (co-founded by Carlos Silva, one of Faber’s partners), which recently announced its merger with CrowdCube); Unbabel; Codacy and Hole19, among others.
Faber’s main focus is deep-tech and data science startups and as such it’s assembled around 20 experts, researchers, data scientists, CTOs, founders and AI and machine learning professors as part of its investment strategy.
In particular, it’s created the new role of Professor-in-Residence, the first of whom is renowned professor Mário Figueiredo from Lisbon’s leading tech university Instituto Superior Técnico. His interests include signal processing, machine learning, AI and optimization, being a highly cited researcher in these fields.
Speaking to TechCrunch in an interview Barbosa added: “We’ve seen first-time, but also second and third-time entrepreneurs coming over to Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and experimenting with their next startup and considering starting-up from Iberia in the first place. But also successful entrepreneurs considering extending their engineering teams to Portugal and building engineering hubs in Portugal or Spain.”
“We’ve been historically countercyclical, so we found that startups came to, and appears in Iberia back in 2012 / 2013. This time around mid-2020, we’re very bullish on what’s we can do for the entrepreneurial engine of the economy. We see a lot happening — especially around our thesis — which is basically the data stack, all things data AI-driven, machine learning, data science, and we see that as a very relevant core. A lot of the transformation and digitization is happening right now, so we see a lot of promising stuff going on and a lot of promising talent establishing and setting up companies in Portugal and Spain — so that’s why we think this story is relevant for Europe as a whole.”