Emblem is the latest European seed fund in new wave of VC funds
If you plan to launch a new startup in France, Denmark or Sweden, there is a new seed fund looking for your pitch. Emblem is announcing today that it has raised nearly $54 million (€50 million) for a new European seed fund. And this is only the first close — the firm expects to raise as much as $80 million (€75 million) by the end of the year.
Emblem was founded by Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan and Guillaume Durao. This isn’t the first time Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan’s name appears on TechCrunch as she used to be an entrepreneur herself. I first covered her startup Clustree back in 2014.
Clustree was a talent management and HR platform that was acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand. Some business angels like Frédéric Montagnon and Florian Douetteau were quite instrumental in Clustree’s trajectory, so she started investing in startups herself after selling Clustree.
Guillaume Durao has been an investor for several years. He worked for Mangrove Capital Partners and Idinvest (the VC firm that is now part of Eurazeo). While both partners are French natives, Durao has worked in Denmark and has been quite active in the Nordic tech ecosystem. He has also invested some of his own money as a business angel as well.
Before launching Emblem, Durao and de Raphélis Soissan have already built an interesting portfolio of angel investments. They invested in crypto trading card game Sorare, pet insurance startup Dalma and cultivated meat company Gourmey. In addition to those French startups, they also invested in Growblocks and All Gravy in Denmark, Ark Kapital and Goals in Sweden, and more.
The next logical step is a proper seed fund with more capital. Emblem wants to lead or co-lead seed investments with a typical investment ranging between €500,000 and €3 million. Overall, the firm wants to invest in 25 to 30 tech companies with its initial fund.
While Emblem lists a few verticals, such as AI, B2B SaaS, fintech, future of work and digital health, the firm doesn’t have a specific focus on some industries. It’s a generalist tech seed fund.
As for the firm’s backers, Emblem managed to raise funds from the Danish sovereign fund Vaekstfonden, institutional investors like Edenred, several French and Nordic family offices, as well as tech entrepreneurs looking for investment opportunities. Some of the entrepreneurs who invested in Emblem include the founders of 3shape, Dixa, Falcon, Kantox, Peakon, PeopleDoc, Planday, Pleo, Qonto, Silae, Spendesk, Swile and Zendesk.
There are two things that make Emblem stand out from other French VC firms. First it focuses on French startups, but also Swedish and Danish startups. “Paris, Copenhaguen and Stockholm are the three most interesting startup hubs after London and Berlin,” Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan told me.
Second, Emblem doesn’t want to become an early stage fund that also invests in Series A rounds or even later. Sure, the firm will allocate a portion of its fund for follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies — but that’s it.
“We are going to have an exclusive focus on seed. The idea is that we are not going to raise a bigger fund and start investing in Series A rounds,” de Raphélis Soissan said.
A new wave of micro funds in Europe
It’s hard to describe what a micro fund is. As many VC firms start raising bigger and bigger funds, everything else starts to look like a micro fund.
Emblem is bigger than a micro fund. But there are a handful of individuals raising new funds with €5 million, €10 million or €15 million under management. Just like a lot of successful investors started VC investment with their own micro funds in the U.S. a few years ago, the same trend is now emerging in Europe as well.
During my discussion with Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan, we talked about some of these new funds. For instance, Anthony Danon and Carmen Alfonso Rico have been pretty active with Cocoa. Gloria Baeuerlein is behind a new fund called Beyond Capital. Pietro Invernizzi is currently raising his own fund.
I’ve also covered some bigger funds that have popped up over the past year or so, such as Resonance, Ovni Capital and Galion.exe. And then, there are also Teampact Ventures and Origins.
While we’re currently going through a tech downturn, it’s interesting to see that there are more options when it comes to early stage funding in Europe. And each fund has its own investment thesis. These emerging partners can also tap their own network, which should create more opportunities for the tech ecosystem as a whole.