In 1996, Mike, Simon and Toby hiked the Yosemite backcountry together, camping out on North Dome’s peak. We were young, idealistic, in better shape than today and with more hair. At the right place and the right time, we were lucky to be beginning our careers at the birth of the Internet.
As a trio, we each have almost 20 year careers in tech, on both sides of the Atlantic. For two of us, this has been split equally between operations and investing. Partnering with great founders to build breakthrough early stage startups is what we absolutely love to do — we are blessed.
We are also fortunate to have learned the venture business working alongside some of the best practitioners in the industry, both as partners and co-investors. All of us are in our early 40s, with another 20 years investing and multiple funds ahead — it is the right time to start our own venture firm, with a culture based on our own personal values and beliefs.
At the same time as we begin this journey, the startup ecosystem in Europe is more exciting and vibrant than ever. We believe that, with a few exceptions, founders are broadly under-served by experienced venture capitalists focused on Series A.
All of us go through at least one or two inflection points in our lives, when we step back to consider which mountain we wish to climb. Over the past couple of years as we talked about our dreams for Mosaic, we realised:
- A true partnership is like a marriage and is based on trust, intellectual honesty, and integrity.
- Values drive our behaviour. We aim to “do the right thing” by each other, our investors, and the entrepreneurs we serve. We take a long term view.
- We are happiest in a small, equal partnership, making what can sometimes be complex decisions with limited information through Socratic discussion.
- We want to invest a significant element of our own capital in the firm.
- We play to win and like to take the associated risk. We have invested in global category leaders such as Alibaba, Criteo, Etsy and King – and our ambition is to invest in the next generation of breakthrough technologies and startups.
- To realise our vision, it is better to create our own firm rather than reshape the legacy of others.
Why Europe, now?
As investors, we believe the market opportunity is compelling:
- A Cambrian explosion of entrepreneurial activity is underway. We believe that technology is increasingly driving the structural transformation of society. In turn this is powered by a growing supply of talented founders.
- Like in Silicon Valley, much of this entrepreneurial talent is migrant or first generation. 37% of Londoners were born outside the UK; Stockholm is 27% non-Swede; Berlin is 15% non-German while also attracting a lot of intra-German migrants.
- The new model startup is much more capital efficient than in past cycles, making the Series A stage more attractive for investors.
- Thanks to the Internet and app stores, distribution is often one click away — it is no longer necessary for ambitious European entrepreneurs to relocate HQ to the US to win globally. In fact, only two of the twenty European tech “unicorns” worth $1 billion + (and privately held) moved HQ to the US.
- By our count, there are over 200 European-founded tech startups that have “exited” for over $100M in the last decade. Plus a further 150+ that are today valued at over $100M, but yet to exit. In other words, a genuine ecosystem of serial entrepreneurs and alumni networks from these successful companies is emerging.
- We now see plentiful sources of seed and angel capital (in part recycled from the above exits); but relative to the US, there is a lack of experienced early stage venture investors focused on Series A.
- Beyond Series A, alongside the few successful indigenous European “late venture” and “growth” funds, leading US venture funds are increasingly active overseas. Most of these US firms have 3–5 emerging European winners.
The time is right to launch Mosaic. We are fortunate to have a group of experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and fellow VCs who are supporting us on this journey.