Company-builder VC Antler says it can back startups to Series C, but what are its terms?

Emerging out of Singapore as primarily a “company builder” in 2017, Antler made its name as a runner of a global startup generator program and investing from a very early, pre-seed stage. It tended to throw teams together, mix in a tech stack and spit out startups at a prodigious rate. But things have progressed quickly from that base, and Antler is now aiming to invest all the way from early- to late-stage.

Last year it raised $75 million after an investment from Schroders and Ferd. It’s now saying it has raised a further $225 million more since last year.

A spokesman clarified: “The previous cumulative total was 75 million across the board and now this is 300 million, across the board as well. So since the last update there has been $225 million more [raised].”

He added that this figure hadn’t been previously disclosed: “Antler’s fund is not ‘sequential’ like a lot of funds. They’re not raising one main ‘fund after fund after fund’, nor are they doing one fund plus a ‘sidecar’ or something like that. They have multiple funds operational at any one time,” he added.

But, the devil is in the detail.

Because Antler has funding pots in all its various company-builder locations, that amount is spread fairly widely, and, if you wanted to be slightly skeptical, thinly. (It operates across Europe, Asia-Pacific [APAC], Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], Southeast Asia, Africa [Kenya] and has offices in London, New York, Singapore and Sydney, among others. After all, some VC spread £225 million across just one country like the U.K., not the whole planet.

So despite releasing today that it’s raised “$300 million to date”, that is only accurate up to a point, especially when you consider it was founded in 2017, so $300 million in five years is not quite so significant in VC terms.

Investors in the fund include Schroders, Vækstfonden and Phoenix Group.

Antler is still concentrating on the pre-seed stage, but given the extra $225 million, it says it can now offer its portfolio companies follow-on capital as they grow and scale, up to Series C.

In a statement, Magnus Grimeland, CEO and founder of Antler, said: “We continue to provide support for our founders from the earliest stages, and are thrilled to be able to continue investing in them as they grow. We look forward to backing even more entrepreneurs that are redefining industries in the future.”

The firm is also announcing the recruitment of new partners Naman Budhdeo, Erik Jonsson, Jiho Kang and Subir Lohani to lead its new Canada, Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia teams, respectively. Teddy Himler from SoftBank also joins as a partner of the later-stage investment team.

Antler has invested in more than 350 companies globally across over 30 different industries since 2018. It says that of these companies, 40% have at least one female co-founder, with 70 nationalities represented.

But back to those terms. Antler says it can back a startup all the way to Series C. This would depend, of course, on the terms of each deal and whether Antler had managed to follow on with funding all the way through the life cycle of a startup. That’s why the terms of its deals may come under scrutiny.

Antler’s growth has not come without cost. TechCrunch has heard from several sources that Antler’s terms for startups have been less than “founder-friendly”. I put that to CEO Grimeland to get his reaction. He admitted that this might have been the case “in the early days”.

He said: “I think in general we get very good feedback on our founder terms. Where we have gotten the feedback you refer to we actually made changes. We want to ensure that we are as founder-friendly as we can be, while at the same time having strong protection. I think we’re very competitive in all the markets that we’re in.”

Grimeland claims that because it operates in so many jurisdictions the legal framework can be quite different across territories: He told me one of the things they realized early on is that what might be common for founder terms in the U.S. might “feel absurd” when applied to a totally different country: “In which case we actually worked with the local angel community, to update our terms. They are very competitive and in line with what other early-stage VCs and angels would want to see in the contract.”

Whatever the case, but growing at such a fast pace and spreading itself so globally, Antler is positioning itself as a potential future challenger to the likes of Y Combinator and Entrepreneur First, which will make for an interesting story to watch in the years to come.