Federico Pirzio-Biroli, the founder of London VC fund Playfair Capital, is planning to move to Africa to become an angel investor there, and the fund is closing its coworking space at Warner Yard in Clerkenwell.
Playfair Capital specialises in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and has invested in well-known startups such as restaurant app Dojo, DueDil, Vinaya, Stripe, Streethub, Hassle, and Stratajet.
Pirzio-Biroli told Business Insider that he worked at NGOs in Africa before becoming a technology investor, so this is a logical move for him. He says that angel investing in Africa can make a big difference to economies there, whereas London is now flooded with early stage funding for technology startups.
The Playfair Capital fund isn’t going to close its doors completely — instead Pirzio-Biroli is handing over control to his remaining staff and preparing to become a limited, rather than general, partner.
Pirzio-Biroli provided this statement about his move to Africa:
My decision to move to East Africa was made in November. I am and have always been personally excited by frontier markets, and feel like there is a real opportunity to move the needle there for the better. The startup ecosystem in London has developed in leaps and bounds since I began investing in 2010. Playfair capital is well positioned and will continue going from strength to strength without my operational involvement. I will be anchoring Playfair (Fund II) as an LP and have every confidence in the team going forward. Our dealflow (especially in the AI/ML space) is strong and we have several new deals which will be announced in due course. Crucially for the future, these deals have been entirely sourced, diligenced and executed without my input.
Playfair Capital owns Warner Yard, the coworking space in East London that’s home to several technology startups. But Pirzio-Biroli says that the coworking market in London is just too competitive with the rise of companies like WeWork, so Warner Yard’s space for startups will be closed. The fund will keep the top floor, but the rest of the office will be let to a single tenant.
Here’s a statement from Playfair Capital about the closure of Warner Yard’s coworking space:
Our growth as a firm coincided with the growth of so many startups that have come through the doors of Warner Yard. It has been such an honour and a privilege to spend so much time with so many fantastic entrepreneurs on a daily basis. And so, it is with a heavy heart that we oversee the transition of Warner Yard away from co-working, but we are also excited by the opportunities which this change will bring, most notably allowing Playfair to fully concentrate on what it does best; investing in startups.