Google Ventures has announced it is shutting down its $125 million (£82.9 million) European venture capital fund, just over a year after it launched in Europe.
It’s a quiet end to a project that launched with much hype, but the closure comes after disagreements between team members and the departure of a key partner.
Google Ventures will retain a presence in Europe, but any investments will now come from a global fund, not a dedicated European fund.
The dedicated investment fund only made a handful of small investments, with none taking place outside the UK.
Tech.eu points out that Google Ventures’ recent investment in Swedish virtual reality gaming company Resolution Games came from Google Ventures’ head office in the US, not its dedicated European team.
The launch of a separate VC fund in Europe in 2014 was a huge endorsement of the European startup ecosystem. Sure, investors like Peter Thiel and Andreessen Horowitz had backed startups here, but this was a giant US company launching an all-star lineup of investors who promised to find the startups in Europe that had potential to change the world.
Here’s the lineup of investors who launched the European fund:
- Angel investor Tom Hulme, who founded OpenIDEO and was previously managing director of British sports car company Marcos.
- Angel investor Peter Read, who previously invested in companies such as Citymapper, EyeEm, Farfetch, GetYourGuide, LoveFil, ROLI, Skype, and YPlan.
- Eze Vidra, who was the head of Google Campus in London, which is home to lots of small startups and tech companies.
- Avid Larizadeh Duggan, who was the cofounder of online fashion retailer Boticca.
- MG Siegler, the former TechCrunch writer who joined Google Ventures back in 2013 and moved to London to help the firm’s European wing get started.
MG Siegler said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014 that “Europe is the next logical step. This is Google Ventures as an entire team, we all just spent the past couple of weeks in the US getting to know the rest of the team.”
However, only three of the original investors remain: Hulme, Vidra, and Larizadeh Duggan.
Peter Read left Google Ventures in July and gave no reason for his departure. Google Ventures only confirmed that Read had left the team and never provided a statement or any further details.
And MG Siegler has fulfilled his duty in setting up Google Ventures in Europe and has now returned to San Francisco. That leaves a skeleton team in London.
Business Insider reported in August that there were disagreements within the Google Ventures team in London. That may have been the cause of a year of silence in which the fund only invested in music publishing company Kobalt. Other investors in London were left baffled by Google Ventures’ inactivity.
Another problem for Google Ventures in London has been a reliance on the Google investment algorithm that uses a computer system to indicate to partners whether they should invest in a company or not. Some investors told Business Insider that Google Ventures has encouraged its European partners to rely heavily on the algorithm, and that may have caused the team to invest in such a small number of startups.
To make its picks, the company has built computer algorithms using data from past venture investments and academic literature. For example, for individual companies, Google enters data about how long the founders worked on start-ups before raising money and whether the founders successfully started companies in the past.
It runs similar information about potential investments through the algorithms to get a red, yellow or green light.
Google Ventures’ European team was always going to be an experiment. $125 million was a relatively small amount in the grand scheme of things. Competing firms like Index Ventures have many times that amount ($706 million in total) to spend, and so Google’s European team was left to invest in early stage companies. Some European investors expressed disbelief in the $125 million figure, and they had assumed that it was a yearly figure.
Bill Maris, Google Ventures CEO, told The Wall Street Journal that Google Ventures has “moved away from seed-stage investing.” It looks like Google Ventures is now moving onto larger investments and is looking more closely at science and medical companies, and so the separate European fund no longer makes sense. It’s a quiet end to a much-hyped venture that seemed in 2014 to be a big endorsement of European startups.
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