If you plan to launch a new startup in France, Denmark or Sweden, there is a new seed fund looking for your pitch. Emblem said today that it has raised nearly $54 million (€50 million) for a new European seed fund. And this is only its first close: the firm expects to raise as much as $80 million (€75 million) by the end of the year.
Emblem was founded by Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan and Guillaume Durao. This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about de Raphélis Soissan, as she used to be an entrepreneur herself and I first covered her startup, Clustree, back in 2014.
Clustree was a talent management and HR platform that was acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand. Some business angels like Frédéric Montagnon and Florian Douetteau were quite instrumental in shaping Clustree’s trajectory, so de Raphélis Soissan started investing after exiting her startup.
Durao has been an investor for several years. He worked for Mangrove Capital Partners and Idinvest, which is now part of Eurazeo. While both partners are French natives, Durao has worked in Denmark and has been quite active in the Nordic tech ecosystem. He has also invested some of his own money as a business angel.
Durao and de Raphélis Soissan had built an interesting portfolio of angel investments before launching Emblem. They invested in crypto trading card game Sorare, pet insurance startup Dalma, and cultivated meat company Gourmey. In addition to those French startups, their investments include Growblocks and All Gravy in Denmark, and Ark Kapital and Goals in Sweden.
The next step is a proper seed fund with more capital. Emblem wants to lead or co-lead seed investments, targeting investments between €500,000 and €3 million. Overall, the firm wants to invest in 25 to 30 tech companies with its initial fund.
While the frim lists a few verticals such as AI, B2B SaaS, fintech, future of work, and digital health, it doesn’t have a specific focus on some industries; it’s a generalist tech seed fund.
As for its backers, Emblem managed to raise capital from the Danish sovereign fund Vaekstfonden, institutional investors like Edenred, several French and Nordic family offices, as well as tech entrepreneurs looking for investment opportunities. Entrepreneurs who invested in Emblem include the founders of 3shape, Dixa, Falcon, Kantox, Peakon, PeopleDoc, Planday, Pleo, Qonto, Silae, Spendesk, Swile and Zendesk.
Two things help Emblem stand out from other French VC firms. First, it focuses on Swedish and Danish startups in addition to startups founded in France. “Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm are the three of the most interesting startup hubs after London and Berlin,” de Raphélis Soissan told me.
Second, Emblem doesn’t want to become an early-stage fund that also invests in Series A rounds or later. Sure, the firm will allocate a portion of its fund for follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies, but that will be it.
“We are going to have an exclusive focus on seed. The idea is that we are not going to raise a bigger fund and start investing in Series A rounds,” de Raphélis Soissan said.
A new wave of micro funds in Europe
It’s hard to describe what a micro fund is. As many VC firms start raising ever larger funds, everything else starts to look like a micro fund.
Emblem is bigger than a micro fund, but there are now a handful of individuals raising new funds with only €5 million, €10 million or €15 million under management. Just like how the U.S. saw successful investors focusing on venture capital with their own micro funds a few years ago, Europe is now seeing a similar trend emerge as well.
During my discussion with de Raphélis Soissan, we talked about some of these new funds. For instance, Anthony Danon and Carmen Alfonso Rico have been pretty active with Cocoa, and Gloria Baeuerlein is behind a new fund called Beyond Capital; Pietro Invernizzi is currently raising his own fund.
Even though we’re now amidst a tech downturn, it’s interesting to see that there are more options for early-stage funding in Europe, and each fund has its own investment thesis. These emerging partners can also tap their own networks, which should create more opportunities for the tech ecosystem as a whole.