We are used to believing that success in the VC market depends on the fund scale. But recent research by Oliver Gottschalg, a professor of strategy at HEC Paris, found that small VC firms often achieve better results than venture giants. We’ve selected 5 relatively new individuals and companies worth keeping an eye on in the venture capital market in the new year.
Artem Sokolov and SKL.vc
Investor and serial entrepreneur, EY Entrepreneur Of the Year, Artem Sokolov has invested in 40+ tech companies for more than 10 years in the VC market. Among them are such successful exits as Asana, Coursera, Palantir, American Well, Lemonade, Digital Ocean, SoFi, and Auto1. His portfolio includes the following companies: Robinhood, Udemy, Payoneer, Docker, OpenWeb, NextDoor, CalciMedica, Kraken, StoreDot, and others.
In 2019 he founded a venture studio SKL.vc, which brings seed and pre-seed projects to the global market. The studio doesn’t just invest in projects: it manages and co-founds them “in every sense,” as they say on their website. They do marketing, testing ideas, team building, business model development, financing, and scaling. The studio focuses on generative AI, consumer APPs, BCI, and blockchain.
Now the company’s portfolio already includes 7 international startups working in generative AI: voice assistants, website builders, services for writing essays and scientific studies, virtual assistants, and others. SKL.vc team has strong expertise in the industries in which it invests and, in addition to a strong team, experienced advisors support startups. Given the growing popularity of the venture builder model, the studio has every chance of releasing its first unicorn soon.
Kevin Hartz and A* Capital
Kevin Hartz is a serial entrepreneur and investor who co-founded Xoom, an international money transfer company, in 2001. In 2012, Xoom went public with a valuation of half a billion dollars, and three years later was acquired by PayPal for $1.09 billion. Along with his work at Xoom, Hartz became co-founder of Eventbrite, the global ticketing and event technology platform, which went public in 2018 with a valuation of $1.8 billion. Now, he is the Chairman of Eventbrite.
As an investor, Kevin has invested in companies such as PayPal, Airbnb, Uber, SpaceX, Pinterest, Reddit, Trulia, and others, primarily at the seed/early stages.
In 2021, together with Gautam Gupta and Bennett Siegel, he founded A* Capital, a $300 million debut generalist fund. A* Capital invests in tech companies from the seed stage onward. Her latest investments were investments in Munch, an AI-powered automation platform for social media, which raised $7.2 million during the round, and EyeTell, an AI startup founded by YouTube co-founder Hurley.
Alana Goyal and Base Case Capital
Alana Goyal is first on the Forbes list 30 Under 30 in Venture Capital for 2024. She is a founder and managing partner of Base Case Capital, an early-stage VC firm focused on the next generation of enterprise software.
Alana founded Base Case Capital in 2020 as a product manager at truck software company Samsara. The first capital, $600k, came to her from well-known investor Elad Gil. In May 2021 she raised a $20 million fund from Sequoia, Gil, Greylock and Marc Andreessen, and quit her job in Samsara to devote herself to venture capital investments.
Now, more than 30 startups are in Alana’s company portfolio, including IT service Supabase and data warehouse company Census. Among the latest rounds are Orb — an invoicing system, Cycle App — software for collecting feedback and delivery management. In total, Base Case Capital has raised $90 million.
The specificity of Goyal’s work is that she doesn’t take pitch meetings. Instead, she looks for exceptional employees at tech companies who she believes can turn into great founders. She builds relationships and discusses startup ideas with them before they even open a company.
Planet A Ventures
Climate tech is one of the most resilient sectors amid the crisis, so it attracts so much VC interest. At the end of 2022, several new funds appeared simultaneously, aimed at Greentech startups.
One of them is Germany-based Planet A Ventures, founded by experts. Among them are Christoph Gras, a serial entrepreneur and startup investor for more than 12 years, and Lena Thiede, a former policy adviser to the German government. At the beginning of 2023, they closed their first fund at €160 million from such investors as BMW, one of the largest German retailers REWE, the Danish pension fund and the founders of HelloFresh and Zalando.
What is it about Planet A Ventures? This is the first European fund with an in-house science team that calculates life cycle assessments to quantify the environmental impact of a startup. In addition, their work with startups is not limited to investments: Planet A experts help founders develop their businesses, including with the help of their scientific expertise.
Planet A’s existing portfolio covers bio-based materials, e-bikes and an environmental metrics platform for businesses. The fund has recently invested in The Landbanking Group, which is developing methods to enable landowners to generate income from nature restoration, and Good Carbon, which is working on resource-based carbon credits.
Wiktor Namysł and Orbit Capital
In February 2023, there was news that a former McKinsey boss joined a fund Orbit Capital, intending to grow one of central eastern Europe’s most significant VC funds ever. This is one of the few funds focusing on regional development: the organization plans to invest in 12-14 companies with initial tickets coming in at between €6-15 million. Nowadays, most CEE’s late-stage startups have to seek funding in Western Europe and the USA since Central and Eastern European funds rarely allocate more than €100 million.
Orbit Capital’s focus is technology and software startups. The company has already invested in some of the region’s most successful startups, such as Ukrainian edtech Preply, Czech hotel management platform Mews, Czech grocery delivery service Rohlik and Polish booking system Booksy.
Now, the fund is managed by two GPs: Radovan Nesrsta, a co-founder of Enern, and Wiktor Namysł, who previously worked at McKinsey for 24 years, eventually becoming a managing partner in Poland. During this time, he also became one of the most active business angels in the country.