In the tech startup world, most businesses’ ability to survive hinges on investment. Being picked up by a successful venture capital firm is a major goal for many of these companies, and while investment can come from anywhere in the world, London-based firms understandably carry a premium. UK Venture capital may not be a match for our cousins across the pond, but as there are many different types of startups working at different levels of business maturity, the variety of investment is equally diverse. In this article, we look at some of the firms and individuals who invest in younger startups, typically coming in the form of a ‘seed investment’ and sometimes even a ‘Series A’ investment.
London Venture Partners
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or so the proverb goes. London Venture Partners, though their name might not suggest it, only invest in video games. As seed investors, they have put money into companies which have created $12.8bn in value. They specialise not in console games, but in the mobile, tablet and online markets. Who said you can’t play your way to a fortune?
Founded in 1999 and previously known as NewMediaSpark, SPARK Ventures invests primarily in growth technology, media and healthtech companies in the UK and Europe. Their portfolio currently includes Mind Candy, the creators of Moshi Monsters, and research powerhouse academia.edu. SPARK Ventures’ business has led to its founder, Tom Teichmann, being ranked as one of the top digital venture capitalists in the UK with previous success stories including lastminute.com, whose IPO raised £380 million.
As one of the UK government’s Enterprise Capital Funds, Episode1 invests in small, high-growth businesses at a very early stage, seeing them through to the ‘first episode’ of their journey. Formerly of heavyweight firm Octopus, Episode1 Founder Simon Murdoch has a strong technical background himself, and the fund looks to invest in companies which can disrupt their respective industries with technology. Betfair, Zoopla and Shazam are all high-profile ventures past.
As early backers of Deliveroo, Hoxton Ventures have a lot going for them. Their investments range from between $250k to $2m and they prefer to be the first venture investors on the scene. They have developed a reputation for backing a good horse early on in the race and with their many connections to Silicon Valley, they are well-poised to continue that habit. As a team of four investors with a background from technology’s elite firms, what Hoxton Ventures guarantees is attention and bespoke service.
This is the tech investment arm of advertising giant M&C Saatchi, with CEO David Kershaw beginning the venture in 2011. SAATCHiNVEST invests early on in technology brands which have legs, and can count CityMapper among their success stories. Investment Director Alex Dunsdon has also recently founded The Bakery London, an ad-tech startup accelerator which places innovation at the core of everything it does.
As names go, EC1 Capital’s does as good a job as any as making clear what they are looking for: London tech. EC1 Capital invests in web and mobile startups at an early stage, initially offering between £50k and £1m, while also entering into later rounds of funding. What they boast is an open approach to business, with a pretty unique feature in their startup drop in sessions, where every few weeks selected startups can go and have a chat with some industry stalwarts.
These founders of Innocent Smoothies, customer-friendly fruit juice sold to Coca-Cola for over $500 million, have a knack for a savvy food investment having turned their talents to venture capital. Graze, Deliveroo and Propercorn number among JamJar’s other food ventures, while the rest of their portfolio has diversified into all other sorts of industries too. They take an interest in companies which place the customer first, a strategy that has paid off very well so far.