A landmark time for White Star Capital
Today marks an important milestone in the history of White Star Capital (WSC), announcing WSC III, a $360m fund that was oversubscribed from our original $300m target. It’s a great time for us to reflect on our origin story and the people at the firm who have been instrumental in WSC’s development. We’ve come a long way — but we believe the best is yet to come. We’re excited to move forward as a team into this next phase of White Star’s journey.
Local and international: a formula that works
Through our local investment teams and unique international platform, we continue to be a leading partner for startups looking to take their businesses to the next level. We are committed to uplifting our portfolio companies and providing tailored support at every stage of their growth.
Our global approach to investing has proven to be a valuable differentiator. Our 2018 Series A investment in Dialogue, which recently went public, was motivated by insights in digital health from colleagues in Europe. Our Series A investment in TIER, which has since become the leader in the European scooter industry, raised at the end of last year a $250m Series C led by Softbank, driven by our understanding of European micro-mobility developed from WSC’s presence on the ground. Finally, our investment in Asia Innovation Group’s Series A in 2014 was an early bet on Asia’s live video streaming and media consumption growth.
Taking stock at this pivotal moment
We’ve hit on a successful formula, but we could not have done it without great origins and the talented people at the firm who have been instrumental in WSC’s development. White Star founders, Eric Martineau-Fortin and Jean-Francois Marcoux met as fellow ski instructors working at a small ski resort in suburban Canada. This initial connection developed into a friendship and working relationship that led Eric to angel-invest in JF’s mobile gaming startup, Ludia, in 2007. The venture was successfully acquired by FremantleMedia in 2010 and recently merged with Jam City.
The success of this angel investment coupled with experiences of other investments — Betaworks in New York, Science Media in Los Angeles, Brand Project in Toronto, Seedcamp in London, and The Family in Paris — unlocked three key insights. These became the founding principles of the firm that still drive our mission today:
- Entrepreneurs: There is huge potential in backing startups in core entrepreneurial hubs outside of Silicon Valley.
- Innovation: Innovation is no longer concentrated in one region. It is accelerating at a global level, with unicorns emerging out of the Northeast of North America, as well as across Europe and Asia.
- International Expertise: A global VC fund strategy is capable of uniting different innovation hubs through one team working closely to support founders across borders.
A promising start
The firm was started in 2014, aptly named White Star Capital after the first transatlantic cruise line that commercially connected Europe to North America in the mid-1800s. White Star Capital, which is headquartered in Guernsey, began operating with offices in New York, London, and Montreal, serving as a transatlantic bridge connecting entrepreneurial hubs and innovators across the pond. In 2015, Fund I final was a $70m fund backed by LPs such as the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Investissement Quebec, Arkea Banque, Clerville Asset Management, Teralys Capital, Lune Rouge, Swen Capital and, Isomer Capital and included notable investments such as Dollar Shave Club, Drop Loyalty, Freshly, The Guarantors, Klaxoon, KeyMe, Mnubo, Redsift and, Safello.
Nick joined WSC in late 2016 bringing his experience as an investment banker at UBS, corporate finance at Portugal Telecom and as Principal at Global Founders Capital. He joined as a Principal in the WSC London office and became General Partner in 2018, leading or co-leading investments in Clark, Butternut Box, Packhelp, Uncapped and finn.auto.
Sanjay joined in early 2017 from Rothschild & Co in London, worked on over 20 investments across North America, Europe, and Asia, completed an MBA at INSEAD supported by White Star Capital, and was promoted last year to Principal after opening White Star’s Toronto office.
2016 was a successful year for the budding firm, celebrating our first unicorn outcome with the sale of Dollar Shave Club to Unilever in a $1bn all-cash deal. With this achievement and the rest of the portfolio growing rapidly, our small team started to expand with plans of a second fund on the horizon. Nick Stocks joined WSC in late 2016, after two years at Global Founders Capital, where he worked on over 30 investments across four continents. His extensive investment experience and sector expertise in disruptive commerce and fintech, in addition to his international work experience, was well-aligned with WSC’s core pillars. Shortly after, Sanjay Zimmermann joined as an Associate in White Star’s Montreal office, after meeting Nick in London.
As White Star Capital continued to grow, we added valuable members of the team in New York, Paris and Montreal respectively — Sep Alavi joined as a venture partner late in 2016; Christophe Bourque, who joined as a Principal in late 2017; and Matthieu Lattes, who joined as a General Partner mid-2018. Sep now leads as a General Partner in our New York office and runs our Specialised Fund strategy, drawing on his personal investing experience in early-stage tech companies. Christophe’s background at a Toronto / Montreal-based late-stage VC firm and as CFO of Averna Technologies led him to be highly involved in investments such as Vention, Borrowell, Chord, and Dialogue Technologies. Matthieu, who was previously an entrepreneur and leading Rothschild’s venture-related advisory business in Paris, leveraged his experience in entrepreneurship and M&A advisory to lead WSC’s presence in France and the rest of Europe. Having been a personal close acquaintance of Eric for the last 15 years allowed him to follow the growth story of White Star closely and their views on France as an innovation hub for Continental Europe were highly aligned. Matthieu is leading or co-leading investments in firms such as Klaxoon, TIER Mobility, Meero, and 900.care.
Matthieu joined as a General Partner in mid-2018 and continues to lead the Paris office today. He has experience in investment banking at JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Rothschild & Co and previously co-founded an M&A boutique and Isograd.com, a French software firm.
Christophe joined as a Principal in 2017 and became a General Partner at WSC in 2019. His background spans from investment banking at BMO Capital Markets, Venture Capital at Tandem Expansion Fund, CFO of Averna Technologies, with investment expertise in the technology, media and telecom industry.
Sep joined in late 2016, bringing his extensive experience in personal angel investments in early-stage tech companies. He was previously a Managing Director at ICAP in New York and co-founder of Residence Partners (early-stage fintech investment fund) and ICON Partners (full-stack blockchain and crypto advisory firm).
In 2018, WSC II closed at $180m, with the fund and team more than doubling in size. We expanded into Europe with a new office led by Matthieu in Paris and entered Asia with Shun Nagao coming on as a Venture Partner based in Tokyo. Fund II was supported by existing and new investors such as Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec (CDPQ), Fonds de solidarité FTQ (FSTQ), BDC, Arkea Banque, Swen Capital, Mizuho Securities, Korea Venture Investment Corporation, Hanwha Insurance, La Capitale, Paris Airport, Veolia, Ubisoft, Clerville Asset Management and Rothschild & Cie — an international medley of investors that was highly aligned with White Star’s proven investment strategy. Some investments from Fund II included Butternut Box, Borrowell, Dialogue Technologies, Clark, Packhelp, Parsley Health, Pop Meals, Spatial, TIER Mobility, Unacast and Vention. In 2019, we continued our expansion in Asia welcoming Joe Quinn Wei to join us for the opening of our office in Hong Kong.
To support the growing team, Julie Plouffe and Patrick Recasens Morente were brought on to help as CFO and General Counsel, respectively in 2018 and early in 2019. Today, they have continued to be vital in our growth, with Julie as a General Partner and Chief People Officer in addition to her responsibilities as CFO and Patrick as a General Partner as well as Chief Sustainability Officer in addition to his responsibilities as General Counsel. White Star’s operational team has only continued to grow, with the addition of Tandis Azarbad in Toronto in late 2020, and most recently, in April 2021, Laura Havard in Guernsey.
Julie joined White Star in late 2018 with extensive experience in financial operations and risk management at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), having served there as deputy to the CFO. She is a Chartered Professional Accountant and started her career at KPMG, both in Montreal and Vancouver. She was promoted to GP and CPO in 2020, supporting our HR processes as we continue to scale globally.
Patrick, an experienced private practice and in-house counsel of public companies with general legal and cross functional expertise. He was promoted to General Partner and CSO in 2020, as part of WSC’s continued efforts to improve our ESG practices and standards.
Tandis joined WSC in 2020 as VP of Finance and is based in Toronto. She previously worked in San Francisco at Sequoia Heritage and qualified as a CPA at KPMG in Toronto.
Laura, qualified as a CPA at EY in Guernsey, joined in early 2021 and has over 10 years of accounting experience in industry and practice.
WSC’s growth trajectory from Fund I to Fund III has been similar to a seed-stage startup maturing to a Series B company. Such success would not have been possible without the incredible team across all levels that has grown with the firm along this journey. We welcomed Karolina Mrozkova to the team as an Analyst in 2017 — she is now a VP based in New York, having worked on investments such as Parsley Health, Chord, and One.Vet. Eddie Lee is a Principal in the New York office, having joined us originally as an MBA Associate in 2017 while he was at Columbia Business School. Eddie started his career with JP Morgan Asset Management in New York previous to his MBA and has served in the South Korean Armed Forces.
Alex Wilson joined as an Associate in late 2018, bringing his investment banking experience from Goldman Sachs in London where he advised insurance and fintech companies on M&A and capital markets transactions. Similar to Alex, Pauline Studer also joined in late 2018 as an Associate from Goldman Sachs London and they were both promoted to VP in 2020. Duc Nguyen, who is now an Associate in our Paris office, joined the team in early 2019 as an Analyst from Societe Generale, bringing his experiences working in e-commerce in the first African unicorn, Jumia.
Karolina joined in 2017, as an Analyst, and is now a VP in the New York office.
Eddie joined in 2018 as an MBA Associate and is a Principal in the New York office.
Duc joined in early 2019 and is now an Associate at the Paris office.
Over the last twelve months, WSC has more than doubled in size reaching more than $750m in assets under management, managed by its close to thirty team members. We’re excited today to announce the close of Fund III, a $360m fund that was oversubscribed from our initial target of $300m. In anticipation of this newest fund, we have had the pleasure of adding new members this past year to the team, several of which have had longstanding relationships with the firm. Jonathan Brun, joining in 2020 as an Associate from Scotiabank, was promoted to VP in our Montreal office in 2021. New additions for 2021 include Blanche Ajarrista and Neil Harounian, who are joining our investment team as Associate respectively in London and New York, and Spencer Henry, who recently joined our New York office as an Analyst.
Thomas joined us in New York mid-2019 as a VP from ConsenSys, bringing his valuable experience in strategy and business development for crypto and blockchain companies from the equity research team of Barclays in London, and is now a Principal focused on WSC’s Digital Asset Fund.
Jonathan joined the Canadian team in mid 2020 as an Associate and was recently promoted to VP, having previously worked in investment banking at Scotiabank.
Blanche joined in early 2021 as an Associate based in London and was previously at Eight Roads.
Neil joined in June 2021 as an Associate and has a background in VC and investment banking, having worked at Exponential Ventures and RBC previously.
Spencer joined in September 2021, bringing his experience as an investment banker with the TMT team at JP Morgan in San Francisco.
Florent joined in September 2021 from Bank of America with a trading and quantitative background and is now a Principal focused on WSC’s Digital Yield Fund.
We are excited about our opportunities and look forward to building on our three founding principles to expand the WSC platform across geographies, sectors, and stages. As a sneak peek of what is in store for the future, here are the latest developments in White Star’s story:
- We are pleased to welcome Cristina Ventura as Venture Partner to lead our effort in South East Asia from our new Singapore-based office, complementing our existing Asia presence in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Cristina will also take on the newly created role of Chief Catalyst Officer whose role is to create value and opportunities by leveraging the strength and impact of White Star Capital’s global network of offices, investors, portfolio companies and from all participants in the different White Star Capital ecosystems.
- We are also diversifying across North America with Nicolas Zylberstein, a senior investment and strategy executive at ByteDance in San Francisco, joining us as Venture Partner and Alberto Lopez Toledo the technical founder of Freshly is joining our New York office as CTO and venture partner.
- Patricia Barbizet, who served as the first female Chief Executive Officer of Christie’s is joining us as Chairman of the Board in Paris.
Cristina, our new Venture Partner and Chief Catalyst Officer in Singapore, was previously Chief Catalyst Officer at Lane Crawford Joyce Group in Hong Kong and had previously senior managerial and operational roles with Apple, Prada, Gucci and LVMH in Asia and Europe.
Joe is a Venture Partner leading WSC’s Asia strategy with Shun, and brings extensive experience in finance and entrepreneurship from his 11 years at Deutsche Bank and then subsequently co-founding Frank Insurance, a Thai Insurtech startup (acquired by Boltech) and Paycelerate Group, a Hong Kong-based fintech startup.
Shun joined WSC in mid-2017 and concurrently manages Bower Group Asia’s Japan office and was previously leading the World Economic Forum Asian Chapter, an entrepreneur and former banker at Morgan Stanley.
Nicolas, our Venture Partner based in SF, currently works at ByteDance, where he focuses on investments and strategy globally; his prior experience includes corporate development at Pinterest, YouTube, and the Walt Disney Company, strategy consulting at McKinsey & investment banking at JPMorgan.
Stage and sector-wise, Fund III is focused on our eight global themes in Series A and B companies. Our goal is to continue expanding by raising another sector-specific fund after the success of our recently closed Digital Asset Fund. First announced in October 2020, the Digital Asset Fund or DAF was expected to close at $30m, but it closed oversubscribed at $50m in committed capital. Led by General Partner Sep Alavi, and Thomas Klocanas, who previously ran strategy at ConsenSys and Meridio (now ConsenSys CodeFi), works in partnership with Sep as a Principal for the Digital Asset Fund.
Through our local investment teams and unique international platform, we are well-positioned to become a leading partner for startups looking to take their businesses to the next level. We are committed to uplifting our portfolio companies and providing tailored support at every stage of their growth. Our global investing methodology has proven itself to be a valuable differentiator — our 2015 Series Seed and A investment in Freshly, which was successfully exited to Nestle late in 2020 for $1.5bn; our 2018 Series A investment in Dialogue, which recently IPO’d, was motivated through insights in digital health from colleagues in Europe; our Series A investment in TIER, which has since become the leader in the European micro-mobility industry, raised at the end of last year a $250m Series C led by Softbank, and today a $200m new Series D from the same investor group, driven by our understanding of European micro-mobility developed from WSC’s presence on the ground.
Over the last eight years, we have been immensely inspired by the growth and resilience shown by our portfolio companies and our own White Star team. Today’s announcement of the launch of Fund III is another opportunity to partner with and nurture talented founders, creating a platform for promising ventures to scale internationally. The entire White Star Capital team is extremely excited about what the future holds and thrilled to have the chance to continue working on our day one mission — to help local leaders become global champions!