Who’s the best Series A investor in Europe?

As we are Series A-focused ourselves, this question has been on our minds for quite some time. We all know the great brands like Accel, Northzone, Index, or Target Global, but how should one measure and compare their performance?

Kacper Zambrzycki
Dec 17, 2019 · 5 min read

I’ve decided to do a little research on it, first looking for the best approach. From the investor's point of view, it’d be nice to just compare the returns and IRRs of all these funds, but collecting such data for multiple firms across various European countries is almost impossible.
The other way would be to look at how well their investments perform over time, and this time gathering the data is still challenging, but seems more doable.

My first attempt to better understand it was to play with PitchBook’s advanced search and filters and see what happens. I started by looking at which European VC investor has the most investments in companies worth over €250m in the last 10 years, but that resulted in many later stage funds dominating the list and no easy way to exclude them. There is another catch — many firms have multiple offices around the world and PitchBook classifies them as “European”. And many other issues with many different searches.

Just as an example and some sort of proxy — this is the list of investors with at an HQ in Europe sorted by the # of deals with a valuation above €250m, as well as the # of such deals within the last 2 years:

It gives a great initial outlook, but it doesn’t differentiate for rounds entered — a few of these funds might enter later than Series A having much higher chances of landing a €250m+ company.

Another method I’ve tried is to simply collect or find a list of European unicorns and check which investor has participated in the most Series A rounds. Dealroom comes handy with a pleasing infographic covering both realized and unrealized list of European unicorns here:

source

Lovely to see that out of 50 unrealized unicorns, 24 joined the cohort recently! But since it’s from March recent hits like Grammarly are missing. However, again this is not perfect, as for example Polish game developer CD Projekt is included — although I love the company and it’s a huge success in Poland — it has no VC-backing history, thus shouldn’t on this list.

The above list shows the number of deals each of the funds has made intro the 160 companies from the Dealroom list above. It doesn’t mean that e.g. Index is an investor in 40 of those — in Deliveroo, for example, they’ve participated in 5 rounds (A,B,C,D,F), but again this is a great proxy to see which fund is choosing the winners early on and pushes them forward the entire way.

Finally, excluding repeated deals, below is the list of European funds with the # of startups-turned-unicorns that they’ve supported in the Series A round:

Note: some of these are not EU-headquartered, but do actively invest here

Index is clearly leading the way, but what’s the most striking is Hoxton Ventures — look at this success ratio! Taking that into consideration, you basically have 1/8 chance of becoming a unicorn if you land a Series A investment from this London-based VC fund. And they’ve launched in 2013!
There are also some seed funds here that made the follow-ons in the Series A, thus earning a place in the ranking.

To fully exhaust this, I’ve also decided to cross-check that with the other list, “The 50 European Unicorns” by CB Insights. The list is clearly shorter, but it only includes private companies, meaning those not yet sold or IPOed.

Doing the exercise again, this is the list derived from it:

Note: both lists include only those with 2+ such companies.

As a bonus, I also provide the analysis by the Sifted team about the most active Series A players in Europe. Fortunately, as you can see, most of the names are here again:

source

So who is the best European Series A investor? You have the data, the decision whom you’ll choose is yours!

UPDATE: so apparently Dealroom just released a very similar comparison on their own under this link, and again there are no surprises:

source

At Inovo Venture Partners we’re looking for exceptional founders building rapidly-growing tech businesses out of the Central and Eastern Europe Region — let me know if you’re looking to fundraise your Series A round — we have the relationship with many of the funds above and could intro you!

Also, you find this article helpful, please share it, as I’m thinking of doing the same research for Seed or Series B investors. Thanks!

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Comment: the analysis above might be prone to errors as it is based on multiple sources and quite a lot of manual data crunching
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Inside Inovo

VC & startups as seen by a top-tier Polish fund

Kacper Zambrzycki

Written by

Investment Analyst @ Inovo Venture Partners. Looking for exceptional startups at Series A stage.

Inside Inovo

VC & startups as seen by a top-tier Polish fund

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