London-based early-stage European VC fund Backed is bolstering its position by adding €75 million to its seed fund, while adding another €75 million via a new follow-on fund vehicle. The Backed Core 2 fund will continue to invest in seed-stage startups, while the new Backed Encore 1 will do follow-on investments in later-stage rounds of existing portfolio companies.
Partner Alex Brunicki said in a statement: “We’ve pushed ourselves to be an entrepreneurial fund… I’d say we’ve made it to our ‘Series A’. We’re developing deeper edge in frontier markets like Biotech and Crypto; we’re bringing nascent communities together – such as Coin-Op – in a meaningful way; and we’ve built an exceptional team to support our founders at scale.”
Co-founded and launched in 2016 by partners Andre de Haes and Brunicki, Backed says it now has 67 companies with an aggregate value of €10.7 billionn. It’s also claiming three unicorns: SkyMavis owners of crypto game Axie Infinity; banking platform Thought Machine; and the Ethereum Layer 2 solution Immutable X. It also had exists such as mobile gaming studio Hutch Games, which sold to MTG for $375 million in November 2020.
LPs in the fund include firms such as Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (through their Sienna Capital vehicle) and private firms such as Wilshire Associates, alongside 20 family offices and more than 20 entrepreneurs.
The question is, with so many early-stage VC funds now playing across Europe, what sets Backed apart from the others?
Backed says it’s all about being “human-centric”. That translates into an 18-month founder support programme, with leadership training, workshops, in-house recruiter, mental health service providers and an in-house executive coach for founders and leadership teams.
In other words: a large swathe of training and events. Backed’s other “special sauce” — it says — is plenty of off-sites and founder retreats. Whether you want to describe those as “parties” or not is up to you, but it’s just as well that, in modern times, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johson has re-defined the meaning of the phrase “work events”.
This emphasis on hosting translates into 30 events annually, from founder dinners to a 1,000 person party at the Finnish tech conference Slush, and co-hosting conferences such as Coin-Op, a global blockchain-gaming summit held at the London Science Museum.
Backed also has 60 venture scouts in its network across Europe, such as Maximilian Bade, GP at Nucleus Capital; Abi Mohamed, programme lead at Tech Nation; Saloni Bhojwani, partner at Pink Salt Ventures; and Nalden, founder of WeTransfer and Adelee.
In an interview de Haes told me: “During the pandemic, we launched three different kinds of workshop or webinar series for founders, such as how do you survive a pandemic and how do you look after your people. Now that we’re moving back to an offline world… it’s ramping up again. So this year, for example, we’ve got two three-day retreats in Italy and Ibiza for founders, six crypto gaming events. So we’re going back to a much more in-person experience.”
The question, however, is how are all these events funded, given VCs aren’t usually in the events business? “We’re funding from management fee and from voluntary contributions that attendees make up the events,” de Haes told me. “And then from sponsors, so AWS, Pernod Ricard — these sorts of businesses want to be associated with this clan of people.”
What next, a Backed “Fyre Festival”?
BACKED’S INVESTMENT SECTORS (# OF INVESTMENTS)
• 21% web3 / Blockchain
• 15% Gaming & Entertainment
• 12% Biotech
• 10% Financial Services
• 10% Manufacturing
• 6% Beauty / Fashion
• 7% Food / Agtech
• 6% HR / Legal
• 4% Pharmaceuticals
• 4% Property
• 3% Utilities
• 2% Education
FOUNDER DEMOGRAPHICS (Observed)
• White male (71.2%); white female (6.3%)
• Black male (1.8%); Black female (4.5%)
• Asian/NBPOC male (13.5%); Asian/NBPOC female (2.7%)