Ten highlights from 2021

TL;DR What an extraordinary year! Still not exactly back to normal, but it’s been brilliant to spend more time together in the office with the team and to see founders face-to-face far more often. It’s tricky to sum up the past 12 months into just ten highlights, but here they are!

#1 Growing the team

To continue finding and backing the best founders in the world, we bolstered our team with the hire of a full-time analyst who joined us in September.

Andrew (Sheff) Sheffield

Sheff has only been with us for four months, but has had a tremendous impact in that time, supporting the whole team with dealflow as well as diligencing companies and contributing to investment memos and IC discussions — it’s like he has been here for years, which is the highest compliment I can give 🔥

I also want to mention our Off-Cycle Analysts who made an enormous contribution this year. Jeremy Luzinda landed a full time role at Haatch where he leads investment strategy and portfolio construction (👏). And Khushi Shelat returned to Wharton to continue her undergraduate studies (📖).

#2 Seeing the team thrive

I couldn’t be prouder of the team this year:

#3 Closing deals

Since my highlights post in 2020, we have closed a further 9 deals, taking us to a total of 23 out of Fund II. We’re extremely proud and excited to be working with such a talented group of world class founders:

❤️ #playfairfamily ❤️

#4 Closing follow-on rounds

We were delighted to support:

Omnipresent in their $15.8m Series A with Episode 1, Truesight Ventures and other investors.

Orca AI in their $13m Series A with OCV Partners and MizMaa Ventures.

Recycleye in their £3.5m seed round with Promus Ventures, MMC Ventures, Atypical Ventures & Creator Fund.

Sprout.ai in their $11m Series A with Octopus Ventures, Amadeus & Techstars.

Vinehealth in their $5.5m seed round with Talis Capital and Ascension.

We also saw our portfolio companies close some significant rounds:

  • Thought Machine raised a $200m Series C led by Nyca Partners with participation from new investors ING Ventures, JPMorgan Chase Strategic Investments and Standard Chartered Ventures, and existing investors Lloyds Banking Group, British Patient Capital, Eurazeo, SEB, Molten Ventures (formerly Draper Esprit), Backed and IQ Capital valuing the company at over $1bn
  • Andela raised a $200m Series E led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from new investor Whale Rock and existing investors Generation Investment Management, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Spark Capital valuing the company at $1.5bn
  • Starship raised a $17m round which included investors TDK Ventures and Goodyear Ventures
  • Stripe raised a $600m round from primary investors including Allianz X, Axa, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Sequoia Capital and Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) valuing the company at $95bn
  • Learnerbly raised a $10m Series A round led by Beringea with participation from Digital Horizon VC, BY Venture Partners, Go Ventures, Frontline Ventures, Triple Point, Funding London & Ufi Ventures

#5 First seed company to hit unicorn valuation 🦄

From the moment Paul declared that he was going to build the world’s best cloud native core banking software company in Warner Yard back in 2014, it has been an amazing journey. Our former partner Georgia dealt with many of the most challenging situations that faced the company, whilst I’ve had the privilege of watching incredible momentum build over the past 2.5 years.

Paul and the team at Thought Machine are only just getting started, but it’s nevertheless a significant milestone for both the company and Playfair.

#6 Bringing back our Founders’ Dinners

Our six monthly Founders’ Dinners were a highlight of the year before a pandemic induced hiatus. In September they were back…with a bang…

It was wonderful to see all our founders and to see them enjoying each other’s company too. We’re planning plenty more of these in 2022.

#7 Taking FFOH Europe-wide

From the early days in Warner Yard back in 2019, I never could have imagined the scale of our sixth event in November:

🙋‍♀️ 240 female founders

💸 110 investors

🤝 1,020 meetings

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 1,200 connections made

😁 90% successful meeting feedback

A huge thank you again to all the investors and founders who attended, and to Google for Startups EU and Tech Nation for their ongoing support.

Next stop Edition VII in spring…

#8 Launching our FFOH workshops series

Our twice yearly office hours have become one of the biggest events in Europe. To run alongside them, we introduced our new FFOH workshops, covering key areas that founders need to know about with an AMA format.

We believe it is particularly important, especially in times of market exuberance, to ensure that founders have the information they need to make the best decisions for the long-term health of their businesses.

#9 Launching our Founders’ Studio

We do whatever it takes to support our founders and the Founders’ Studio is a natural extension of that commitment. I’m delighted to see that it has been fully booked since the first day it opened, generating a real buzz in the yard.

A huge thank you to Elise for always making everything run smoothly 🙏

#10 Receiving industry recognition

We were thrilled to win the UKBAA’s Seed Fund of the Year Award back in April. This follows winning the Europa’s Hottest Seed Fund in 2020 and is testament to the incredible hard work and commitment of the team over the past year.

And whilst we appreciate the recognition of industry judges, we are also delighted to see that founders highly rate their interactions with us through review site Landscape.vc

Whilst 2021 has been our busiest and most productive year yet, we also found some time to have fun, including a mid-year strategy review and a brilliant offsite where we started laying foundations for the next chapter (aka FIII) 🤫

Team strategy day, summer 2021
Team offsite in Ibiza, autumn 2021

A huge thank you to my team, all our founders, fellow investors, and everybody that has supported us, in whatever way, through the past 12 months — I’m enormously grateful that I get to work here every day 🙏

Happy Holidays 🎄

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium.

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Chris Smith

Chris Smith

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Managing Partner @PlayfairCapital | Class 25 @KauffmanFellows | Contributor @Forbes