When Balderton Capital opened its doors as Benchmark Europe back in 2000, people said that we were crazy to focus on European Series A. Even in 2008, when Bernard joined the firm, his colleagues in Silicon Valley were quick to tell him that venture investing in Europe just simply didn't work.
The doubters have been proven wrong. The ambition and ability of European entrepreneurs is astounding. Entrepreneurs in our continent do not want to sell out early, they don't want to retire with a fast car and a big house; they want to build global businesses that change the world. In our own portfolio, we know entrepreneurs who have bought-back shares in their own company when it reached a $1bn valuation - because they believe that they can build a $5bn+ business.
Brexit is a slap in the face for this new, exciting era of technology that we have all witnessed develop in Europe. We do not want to hide behind rhetoric and choice adjectives: Brexit was a very bad decision. But, it remains true that we are confident that talented entrepreneurs, and the technology ecosystem at large, will rise above this setback.
Over recent months and years, Europe has begun to give Silicon Valley a run for its money. The free movement of talent, capital and ideas throughout the continent has been pivotal in this. Therefore removing the UK from the EU is akin to a football team removing their best players in the middle of a cup final. It is an unthinkable error.
There are going to be substantial changes in European politics, trade agreements, and governance in the next few years. It is hard to predict what they are going to be.
But we must not lose our nerve, history has shown that great startups can be founded at any time, and hard terrain often inspires incredible innovation.
That’s why, as a firm, we have decided to take these positive steps:
-We have made the decision to increase the reserved cash in our current fund for more follow-ons. It goes without saying, we had ample funds in position to fulfill both current and future fundraises, but have taken steps to further safeguard this to ensure we can support our portfolio companies in uncertain times.
-We are monitoring the talent market, and looking for changes in regulation, and how these will evolve in the coming months. We will provide as much insight on this as we can to both our portfolio companies and the wider community.
-We have set up a free helpline on Brexit related topics with one of the leading international advisory firms that all of our portfolio companies will be able to access to offer answers to their questions.
-We will be working with our fellow VCs, and organizations like the BVCA, Tech City UK, and others, to lobby the UK Government to implement policies to continue the momentum of recent years.
Great startups thrive not on macro-economics, but on disruption of existing markets, and compelling innovations. And this is exactly what the best entrepreneurs in Europe are doing right now. They are disrupting existing markets, they are creating new ones, and constantly facing challenges while doing so. They are creating brave, resilient businesses that are attractive in all markets. We have full confidence in their ability to navigate through the level of uncertainty that the coming months will bring.
And, it goes without saying, Balderton is open for business. We are still on the ground in force, scouring the entire continent for the best technology businesses. As we speak: Lars, Suranga, Bernard, James and Daniel are all overseas searching for the next big thing. We look forward to toasting the continued success of the European technology sector with our colleagues and friends from across the continent.
Our message to European entrepreneurs is this: whatever happens in the future, we will have your back.
Bernard, Daniel, James, Jerome, Lars, Rob, Suranga, Tim, and the team at Balderton Capital.