The next chapter…
It’s with a real mixture of sadness, pride and excitement that I’ll be leaving MMC at the end of June. Sadness because of the team and portfolio I leave behind, pride in what I’ve helped create, and excitement for the challenge that lies ahead.
Like many in our broader industry I consider myself truly lucky to love what I do for a living and also to have a deep trust and respect for those I do it with. Leaving MMC was never going to be an easy decision and there was never going to be a good time. I am, however, really proud of what I’ve been part of creating and deeply grateful for the opportunity it has given me in return. When I joined MMC I honestly had no idea about the venture industry and I owe everything to the experience and learning I’ve shared with my team over the past 6 years. I’m hugely grateful for all of the support I’ve had, particularly from my partners, Bruce, Alan and Jon, and I will sorely miss their counsel, their challenge and most of all their company.
When I started in venture capital (a subject for another day) I didn’t know that there wasn’t a clear or typical career path in the industry. Most funds have an associate program for 2 years and there’s no expectation of being retained or promoted, let alone becoming partner. MMC has always done this differently. Bruce Macfarlane, MMC co-founder and managing partner, is not just an investor he’s also a business builder. He was an active angel investor in the early 2000s and founded the firm on the basis that there must be a better way to invest his own capital in startups. Bruce, and co-founder Alan Morgan (MMC Chairman), have always believed in building a team of “bright young talent” (their words not mine) and giving them the training and resources to be successful in venture capital in the long term. All the people who have been part of the MMC investment team over the past 15 years have been through a training program and several years experience at a top investment bank or management consultancy. Once at MMC there is a flat and open team structure with a culture of learning quickly on the job. We’ve promoted quickly on the basis of merit rather than age or internal politics (I was made partner at the age of 29); we’ve created a huge amount of autonomy (I was part of finding and leading deals almost from day 1) and we’ve incentivised with a carried interest structure so that everyone in the team benefits from our success (and I mean everyone!).
Building a venture capital business is not easy but MMC’s approach has clearly resonated. In the early days Bruce and Alan moved quickly from investing their own capital to investing significant capital on behalf of other angel investors. An early ‘syndicate’ was born. Like all entrepreneurs Bruce has used every available resource to build and extend MMC’s capabilities. We were one of the first firms to create a formal fund structure around EIS tax reliefs. We also raised one of the first Enterprise Capital Funds and created the MMC London Fund after successfully winning the mandate as part of a competitive tender process.
All of this has enabled our team to do what we love best which is to invest in, and work with, some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs in the country.
Before I joined MMC, c.£35m had been invested in 17 companies. Today we have more than £130m under management and we’ve invested in a further 30 companies. Our 11 person team has more years of venture experience than ever before and as a partner of the firm it has been incredibly rewarding to carry on the tradition of hiring bright(er) and young(er) talent than ourselves. We continue to invest c.£20m per year in early stage technology companies which has consistently positioned MMC as one of most active venture funds in the UK. Venture is a long and patient game so it’s also been great to win awards and get some recognition for our success along the way.
Above all else, I am most proud of the teams we have backed. It has allowed me to develop relationships with some truly amazing entrepreneurs, management teams, co-investors and board members. It’s a real gut wrench that I won’t stay part of their journey, but I have never been more excited by the MMC portfolio and I’m lucky to have a vested interest in its continued success.
As difficult as it is to leave MMC I am more convinced than ever that I’m doing it for the right reasons. I am passionate about building a bigger and better startup industry in Europe, and this requires more (and better) capital at every stage of the funding landscape. Change takes time in our industry (venture fund raising is not easy) and it also requires new teams to come together. I feel incredibly fortunate to be starting a new fund with significant capital (£200m), the support of a successful platform (thank you BGF), and two awesome partners (Harry and Simon) who bring a unique mix of proven venture and entrepreneurial experience.
So on to the next chapter… I can’t wait to get started!