I’m thrilled to be announcing the $100m first close of our new fund this week. You can see the full press release here. Stephen Chandler, my partner at Notion, led the fundraising and really did a fantastic job of bringing it all together, especially given that we are in one of the most challenging fundraising environments that there’s ever been.
The full story of the fundraising is Stephen’s to tell and I’m sure he’ll do that now that he has a little more time on his hands! I’m also sure that it will make for some interesting reading for what’s really going on out there and how investors are viewing the European tech scene.
So I’m just going to put down some initial thoughts to mark the day that we are announcing the new fund.
I think we were able to differentiate our story to investors in two important ways. First, the Notion team are all proven entrepreneurs and operators having founded, built and sold three successful technology businesses, the largest one being MessageLabs. Second, we are laser focused on Cloud Computing and believe that this is a true megatrend in technology that will impact almost all parts of the market and is set for huge growth over the coming years.
This is in essence what Notion is all about – the combination of a proven track record with a huge and disruptive market opportunity. We believe that this gives us an ‘unfair’ advantage in both evaluating and supporting companies.
Some people warned us off trying to raise a fund in the current environment but, in some ways, this only made us more determined. The Notion team likes a challenge and we also like to be contrarian. In our view, the European technology market is a great place to invest right now. Thankfully, our investors feel the same way.
Many fear that the underperformance of the European venture capital market over the last ten years and is a sign of things to come. We disagree.
There was unquestionably an over-supply of money flowing into the market in the late 1990’s, spurred on by the Dot Com bubble and the great success seen in the US. But the less mature European eco-system wasn’t ready for it. The result was inexperienced managers doing too much indiscriminate investing and, ultimately, very poor performance from most of the funds around at that time. This led to investors leaving the market just as quickly as they had entered it.
Fast-forward a few years and the situation is very different. The funds that survived the clear out were the really strong ones who were able to maintain a reasonable level of performance even through the downturn. Plus, there have been a number of funds formed since, like Notion, who I would argue have learnt from the mistakes of the past. Specifically I think those mistakes included a lack of a clear investment strategy, the absence of proven entrepreneurs on the team and a failure to think big and put the people and funding in place to realize the full potential of a business.
At the same time the European tech scene has continued to mature and grow, with the start-up activity coalescing around the two main hubs of London and Berlin and pulling in talent and resources from across the region.
So we believe that there is now an under-supply of good quality funds serving an ever-increasing and ever-widening market opportunity within Europe. This imbalance will lead to a larger market share for the investors and also stronger and more experienced partners for the entrepreneurs. The results could mean a step change in the performance of European VC’s that will in turn lead to further growth and investment in the market. We are very excited to be investing in this opportunity.