Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I'm happy to be a micro VC


Last week we announced the closing of our new fund, Point Nine Capital II. The most important information about the new fund is included in our official press release, but I wanted to write a brief blog post to give you some additional background and share some personal thoughts.

When we set out to create the new fund last year, the goal was to raise €30 million. Since we're quite new to the VC game and didn't have any relationships with institutional investors, raising the fund took us quite a while. We're all the more happy with the result – not only did we end up raising €40 million, we also managed to get leading private equity fund-of-funds like Horsley Bridge Partners on board. Ironically, while it took us quite some time to raise the first €15 million, in the end we could have raised more than what we did if we had wanted to. I'm sure this will sound very familiar to many startups.

While the fund size means we are a "micro VC", at least by US standards, we feel it's a pretty sizable fund for early-stage Internet investments in Europe. The fund size will allow us to invest in around 40 companies over the course of the next few years, while keeping significant reserves for follow-on investments into our portfolio companies. It will also allow us to hire some people to help us with administrative and other tasks so that Pawel, Nicolas and I (plus the new truffle pig that we're looking for at the moment) can focus most of our time on what we like best – finding new investments and helping our portfolio companies.

The importance of follow-on capacity is one of the things that I've learned as an angel investor. As an angel investor who invests his own money it's hard to keep a lot of reserves. That can be problematic not only for the angel investor (who sees himself getting diluted starting with the A round) but also for the portfolio company if it needs to go back to the market to raise more money from new investors too quickly. I wouldn't say that I've learned this the hard way, but having a fund is definitely a big plus in this respect.

While we have more firepower than private investors, we're still small enough to not have to deal with the challenges faced by large VC funds. If you have a €300-500 million fund it's really hard to find investments which can move the needle or "return the fund", in VC lingo. There just aren't many companies that can put something like €20 million to work and turn it into €200 million. And if you look as the market as a whole, there just aren't enough €1B+ exits to allow a bigger number of large funds to deliver great returns to their LPs. The micro VC fund size also works well with our "angel VC" approach (which means fast decisions, no big committees, founder-friendly terms, simple term sheets, hands-on support and generally a no-bullshit attitude). 

Don't get me wrong, I loved being an angel investor and if I didn't do Point Nine I'd still be one (and needless to say, angel investors fulfill an incredibly important role in the startup ecosystem). As for the other end of the spectrum, I genuinely admire VCs who manage to deliver great returns on large funds. But it's a different game, and not the one I want to play.

That is why I'm happy to be a micro VC.

3 comments:

Emakrl said...

Congratulations!the ecosystem need micro VC too.

Oliver Stark said...

Thank you for this personal post. Here, but also at pointninecap.com, you take the right words to talk to your audicence.
Communication on eye-level makes the whole VC game less scary. To me, a "mirco VC" feels much more attractive than the current wave of accelerators with gigant corporations in the back.

mike said...

you have something that can be sold anytime thereafter. With a tech startup, if you miss your window, you're done.Private Equity Australia

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