TL;DR I am incredibly honoured to announce that Eric, JF, and Lylan have entrusted me as the newest addition to the Partnership at White Star Capital to lead our London office and work alongside our new Partner Matthieu and our co-founder Eric on European opportunities.
Over the past decade I have been fortunate enough to be on both sides of the table, having been involved in M&A transactions worth over €15bn as a banker, experiencing the growth from idea to 45 employees and Series B as an early member of the team at a European startup, being the first person on the ground in Brazil for the international expansion of a Telecom scale-up, and having deployed over $55m into over 30 companies across 10 countries from London to Sydney, Ramallah and Argentina as a VC. It was with this background that I joined White Star Capital in 2016 and I am truly excited and grateful for this next stage of the firm and my role within it.
I first met the team at White Star in Q1 2016. In one of my first discussions with the team, Eric described White Star as a the equivalent of a “seed stage company” as it was about to go into Fund II. In retrospect, that couldn’t have been a more accurate description. For a first time fund launched in 2014 and a team of six team members across three offices, I was impressed by what they had already accomplished: an emerging fund manager on their first fund yet with a very strong portfolio and cross-Atlantic brand recognition. I was also impressed by their level of ambition to build a true international platform.
I am a firm believer in the increasing importance of internationalisation for startups, and that outside of the US and China, there are fewer single-market billion-dollar opportunities. Additionally, it is no secret that more and more unicorns are coming from outside of San Francisco . VCs must be able to invest in startups globally, and assist their portfolio on scaling internationally in order to maximise outcomes. White Star Capital was a perfect fit for me to execute on this thesis.
Fund II: White Star’s Series A
Fast forward to today, we have recently announced our second fund of $180m, and the team size has grown to 15 with some great additions. We now have offices in five locations internationally. These now include Japan — a notoriously difficult market for Western startups to penetrate, where we’ve already had success in market-entry with companies such as Mnubo and AdGlow -, and France, one of the most exciting and fast-growing ecosystems anywhere in the world. And back to the Series A analogy, just as we always push our Series A and B companies to professionalise their finance function, we’ve just hired a CFO, Julie Plouffe.
Ultimately, our portfolio construction strategy has also evolved. We do not think that a strong focus on internationalisation and seed investing are compatible, and we’ve adjusted to this. Our focus is squarely at Series A and B now with an initial check size mostly in the $3m to $6m range, when we can work with companies in laying the groundwork for international expansion.
Christian Hernandez, who has a clear preference for earlier stage investments, discussing vision and product with seed stage entrepreneurs, becomes a Venture Partner. He will remain involved with his existing portfolio and a part of the White Star Capital family. He has done a phenomenal job, and I’ve been fortunate to have him as a mentor and will always be grateful to him.
Doubling down on Europe
Meanwhile, White Star Capital will be doubling down on Europe. We’ve recently set up an office in Paris, to be led by Matthieu Lattes. Our Managing Partner Eric Martineau-Fortin has also relocated from New York to Europe over the summer, and together the three of us will lead White Star Capital’s efforts on the continent focusing on investments in France, the UK and Germany and looking for further opportunities across the region.
We’ve already built the foundations of a strong European portfolio for Fund II, with companies such as Meero in France and three companies I have been very involved with: Echo, which has the potential to become the infrastructure that powers the consumerisation of healthcare revolution, Butternut Box, our latest DTC investment that is rethinking pet wellness, and Clark, bringing what was an archaic and famously low NPS insurance broker experience into the 21st Century.
There’s never been a better time to be a VC in Europe. Most people tend to focus on the availability of funding when discussing the changing European landscape. But as an ecosystem fueled by exits — not only for VCs but for the creation of angel investors and serial entrepreneurs, essential to every ecosystem — we are far more excited about the surge in exits in Europe. As tech penetrates every industry, the landscape of potential acquirers has shifted fundamentally, and here is where the “old-world” industry of Europe has a considerable advantage. The numbers speak for themselves, with European based acquirers now accounting for 65% of European exits, at 128 acquisitions of VC-backed companies in 2017 versus 51 acquisitions in 2013 according to CBInsights data.
Onwards and upwards!
P.S. — we are now looking to expand the team in the UK, and are focused on finding the right individuals rather than hiring for a specific level. You can read more about the role here, and please apply through this link.