Fintech

Fintech-focused VC firm Anthemis Group lays off 28% of staff as part of restructuring

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Cutting a rope with scissors, representing layoffs
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Anthemis Group has completed restructuring that resulted in its letting go of 16 employees, or about 28% of its employees, earlier this year, the fintech-focused venture firm has confirmed to TechCrunch.

A spokesperson for London-based Anthemis said the move was an effort “to better reflect current market conditions and to set up the business for future growth” against its “strategic priorities.”

The firm declined to say which roles were impacted in the restructuring but a source who wished to remain anonymous pointed to Farhan Lalji, a former managing director of the firm, as being among the group that was laid off, in addition to early-stage investor Swarnali Mitra and an individual who served as both a content and editorial manager. TechCrunch reached out to all three employees but did not receive a response. However, their LinkedIn profiles indicate they are no longer with Anthemis as of January and February of this year. (Reporter’s note: It was called to our attention post-publication that former managing director Farhan Lalji confirmed in this February 1 blog post that he left Anthemis and then reveals he founded another venture firm, LTV Capital, in this February 2 post.)

Since the layoffs, Anthemis says it has made two new hires — an investment principal and head of intellectual capital — and currently has a team of 44 people across Europe and North America. In April 2021, Jillian Williams left her role as investment principal at Anthemis to join Cowboy Ventures as a partner. She initially joined Anthemis in July 2016 and helped open its U.S. office in New York.

Founded in 2010, Anthemis today has $1.5 billion in assets under management. The firm in late 2021 announced that it had raised $700 million in new funds in what the spokesperson described as “a collection of capital” it closed “across strategies” from its venture studio through to its venture growth fund.

“Our focus, now more than ever, is around deploying financial, intellectual and human capital in service of the financial system improvement and reinvention,” the spokesperson said this month. “And I will say that strategy continues to evolve.” She said Anthemis remains committed to backing diverse founders and that it continues to “explore complementary products” within its asset management business.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that a venture capital firm has let go of staff. Last June, Backstage Capital revealed it had downsized its staff from 12 to three people after pausing net new investments. Generally, though, it is quite unusual for a venture firm to lay off so many people at one time. 

Anthemis declined to provide further specifics around its strategy moving forward, instead pointing me to this blog post from co-founder Amy Nauiokas. In the post, Nauiokas writes that the firm aims to “translate 2022’s reckoning in private markets into enduring change in the structure and method of early-stage investing.” 

She added: “With interest rates rising across western economies, the ‘search for yield’ that has sustained an epoch of our business has officially come to a close.” 

So far this year, Anthemis has publicly announced a few new investments including: Flyby, Elevate (lead investor), Greenspark and Agreena. It also announced a follow-on investment in Flock. The firm has also seen a couple of exits, including Power being acquired by Marqeta and Goji getting picked up by Euroclear. Other companies in its portfolio include social investment app eToro, investing and savings app Betterment and insurtech Vouch.

But in the past year, Anthemis has also seen a couple of portfolio companies stumble. In November, controversy surrounding the sudden stepping down of three of Pipe’s co-founders, including its CEO, raised eyebrows. And more recently, LGBTQ+-focused digital bank Daylight was slammed with a lawsuit by three former employees “alleging age and wage discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and fraud.”

Meanwhile, Anthemis also is “actively fundraising,” the spokesperson confirmed, but said the firm could not comment on those efforts beyond that so as not to violate regulatory rules. It also declined to provide a comment in response to an allegation from one affected employee that the recent layoffs were related to challenges in getting capital commitments “due to less than top quartile returns.” The spokesperson said Anthemis could not comment on returns “as a matter of policy.”

One individual who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to TechCrunch that she was notified about one week before she was due to start a new position at the firm in January that the firm had “restructured” and that the role she was set to start “no longer exists.” However, she says she was “really OK with the way it was dealt with and how I was treated.”

The company’s restructuring is not the first time there has been a management shakeup. The firm also made headlines in 2018 when its then-CEO and co-founder Nadeem Shaikh resigned after reportedly being the target of a sexual harassment complaint by a female employee.

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Got a news tip or inside information about a topic we covered? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at maryann@techcrunch.com. Or you can drop us a note at tips@techcrunch.com. Happy to respect anonymity requests.

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