Playfair Capital
Mar 7 · 5 min read

TL;DR Fund I was a boatload of fun, so we’re launching a second £25m fund to invest into pre-seed and seed stage entrepreneurs who we can work really hard for to help bring their visionary technologies to the masses.

Pitch us: www.playfaircapital.com


Playfair Capital Fund I

We were founded in 2013 by Federico Pirzio-Biroli. After graduating from uni, he spent some time in East Africa working with a few NGOs and building a couple of startups. He then moved to London where he became an angel investor. He really enjoyed supporting ambitious founders so he bought a building and hired a bunch of people to help him support even more:

We made some really good bets (and some really bad ones), had a few exits, and generally became a well respected seed fund. Here’s Fund I by the numbers:

  • We deployed £20m of capital;
  • We backed 54 startups in 11 countries;
  • Three of them have exited, including the recently announced acquisition of CryptoFacilities by Kraken;
  • One of them is a unicorn;
  • 21 are no more;
  • One has changed its name four times.

Here are some lessons we learned:

  • The only thing that matters for VC success is finding and backing the right founders. We invested in the right people and the returns took care of themselves;
  • Service to your founders is service to mankind. We started every workday by asking ourselves what we can do to help our founders realise their visions and then we got busy doing it;
  • As a VC, your money is your third most important commodity. #1 is your reputation and #2 is your network. The more value we created for the ecosystem (without asking for anything in return) and the more we hustled and built strong networks, the more we got into winning deals;
  • Exceptional talent is really hard to identify and sometimes your gut feeling about someone is the best data point you have. We learned that backing people simply because they look good on paper is one of the quicker routes to failure. Truly exceptional people have weird looking CVs;
  • Most founders aren’t great at building teams. We hired a head of talent early on and poured a lot of resources into helping our founders build their teams;
  • It takes a long time to realise returns. Stop clock-watching, keep your head down, work hard and if you’ve done everything else right, the exits will eventually come;
  • Being a VC is so much fun, especially when you have a great team around you. The culture at Playfair was and is magic. Work always felt like play.

Playfair Capital Fund II

And then, two years ago, as we were coming to the end of Fund I’s investment period, Fede relocated to Nairobi (partly for the weather, partly to support East Africa’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, but mostly because it was his plan all along). Given the success of Fund I, he asked the rest of the team if we’d like to stick around and keep the mission going, offering to commit another £25m to the cause.

It was the easiest decision we’ve ever made and so this week we announce the launch of Fund II. Here’s what we’re about:

Focus

We’re going to back early stage tech startups globally (with a focus on London). Although we’re sector agnostic, we have particular interests in deep tech (especially AI, machine learning and computer vision), B2B, SaaS and marketplaces.

Our initial cheque size will be circa. £400,000, but we’ll happily engage with founders at the earliest stages of their journey and are definitely open to investing smaller amounts into angel or pre-seed rounds.

We like to lead deals, but we’re equally comfortable following.

We’re ring-fencing 50% of our capital for follow-on investments, because when we back teams our default position is to support them all the way.

Mission & Values

Our mission remains to find and back ambitious entrepreneurs who want to build cool things that will create new markets or disrupt old ones, and our core values are:

Angel DNA

We were founded by an angel and we’ll never lose that Angel DNA. We’re on the founder’s side and that core philosophy runs through everything we do. We take the passion and excitement of angel investing and combine it with the benefits of a fund — a strong team, the ability to write larger cheques and to follow on.

Founder Focussed

Founders come to us for more than just capital. We share with them deep and broad experience of operating and scaling businesses, hiring talent and navigating to the next stage of their journey. We love getting hands on and our fund size is optimised to allow us to spend quality time with each founder. We invest because we share a founder’s passion for their business.

Collaborative Capital

Collaboration is a way of life at Playfair. While we are comfortable leading deals, we also see the value that multiple investors can bring to the table. We work hard to bring new and experienced angels into deals because we believe it creates bigger opportunities for companies. Our door is always open to discuss working in partnership and it’s never too soon to start talking to us.

Team

We’ve shuffled the team around a little bit for Fund II.

Chris Smith (LinkedIn, Twitter) joins us as partner. Chris previously built and exited a telecoms startup that operated in 12 countries and spent nearly a decade in the City as a transactional lawyer. More recently he was the 8th employee at plan.com where he helped grow revenue from £0 to £50m ARR. He’s also been an active angel investor over the past 10 years, with several notable exits, which makes him a perfect fit at Playfair given our aforementioned angel heritage.

Henrik Wetter-Sanchez (LinkedIn, Twitter) joins us as associate. He previously studied languages at Cambridge University and spent two years on the M&A team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. While at uni he led a number of entrepreneurial ventures, founding a meet-up & discovery app (RendezVu Technologies) and an access-led tutoring platform (The Oxbridge Initiative). He’s excited by all things startup; especially deep tech driven by AI + ML.

Joe Thornton (LinkedIn, Twitter) is sticking around to continue combining his investing and talent spotting experience to help find and back the best entrepreneurs in the World.

Georgia Taylor Foster leaves us for health reasons. We love you Georgia, thank you for all the good times, and wish you well in your recovery 💗

Fede remains our chairman and managing partner. Though not actively involved day-to-day, he still drops by from time to time to make sure we haven’t burned the building down.

Early Traction

We’ve already backed two startups from Fund II, so let’s give them a quick shout out to end this post:

SensorFlow

Smart, wireless IoT solution that monitors, analyses and automates commercial building environments to create massive energy savings.

Sightec

From today’s delivery and inspection drones, to the flying passenger taxis of tomorrow, Sightec is opening up our skies to safe, reliable and high-performance air mobility with pioneering computer vision and AI flight technologies.


** TechCrunch article **

Team Playfair ✌

Playfair Capital Blog

This publication features the articles written by the Playfair Capital team and friends.

Playfair Capital

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We invest in entrepreneurs building technology companies that rethink the way we live and work.

Playfair Capital Blog

This publication features the articles written by the Playfair Capital team and friends.

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