Home Entrepreneurs Dragons’ Den’s Steven Bartlett on his new VC fund: ‘I’m a failure if we don’t back the next female-founded unicorn’

Dragons’ Den’s Steven Bartlett on his new VC fund: ‘I’m a failure if we don’t back the next female-founded unicorn’

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Dragons’ Den’s Steven Bartlett on his new VC fund: ‘I’m a failure if we don’t back the next female-founded unicorn’

If you want to raise your own venture capital fund one day, starting a podcast isn’t a bad way to start.

Steven Bartlett, star of British TV phenomenon Dragons’ Den and host of Europe’s most downloaded podcast, The Diary of a CEO, is now raising a $100 million venture capital fund to back early-stage companies.

And, as is the zeitgeist in Europe at the moment, its patrons are almost entirely current or former businessmen.

“When I talk to friends who have built big companies here, the answer I hear over and over again is that there is a certain weariness and pessimism toward raising capital from investors who haven’t been there and haven’t,” says Bartlett. sieved.

Fortunately for him, a serial founder, his many hours of podcasting have given him an “incredibly extensive network” of European entrepreneurs, many of whom now back his new fund, Flight Story, he says. However, he won’t actually give us many names or confirm how much of the fund has been closed. His team insists that he has “verbal and contractual commitments for the entire amount.”

You will be investing in some pretty crowded areas: biotech, blockchain, and space – and the hunt for underrepresented founders in particular.

“If we don’t back the next female-founded unicorn in the next decade, I would consider myself a failure with this fund,” he tells Sifted.

Scratching the VC itch

As Bartlett admits, raising and managing a venture capital fund is “a lot of work.”

Why, then, since he’s already a millionaire, is he bothering?

“At this stage of my life, making a lot of money doesn’t seem like a significant enough motivator to get through difficulties,” he says. “My passion in life is building companies, taking things from 0 to 100.

“It’s going to allow me to use my network, my resources, to build bigger companies, to speed them up in a way that I don’t think they can speed up any other way.”

He has now spent two years working on this fund: “funds are much easier to raise when you raise large amounts of capital from institutions, very difficult to raise when you receive small checks from big successful founders” and he has three deals ready to go. sign says

Bartlett, who apparently thinks running a venture capital fund is a side job, reckons it will take up “about 30-40%” of his professional time. His brother, Jason Bartlett, an investor who previously worked at the UK’s Railpen pension fund, also works for the fund. The two brothers previously co-founded another investment vehicle, Catena Capital.

flight history background

The fund will invest between $1 million and $10 million per year in up to 10 early-stage startups based in Europe. Very little of the fund will be set aside for follow-on investments.

Bartlett’s investors include Alan Barratt, CEO of sports nutrition brand Grenade, and Christian Angermayer, Billionaire technology investor and founder of biotech company Atai Life Sciences (a company Bartlett has worked with for several years as an investor and “creative director,” according to LinkedIn). He will not share any more names.

His investors have all agreed to support portfolio companies working in their fields of expertise, he says.

They will also play a key role in performing due diligence on potential investments. The fund, he says, has a board of “technicians” who have years of experience analyzing companies from a due diligence perspective. That board includes his brother and Andy Leck (CFO of Bartlett’s marketing company Flight Story).

“Once a company passes that forensics, it goes to an investment committee made up of me and four others, and then to an LP committee,” Bartlett says. Again, he won’t name who else is on the investment committee besides Angermayer.

There is one investor on the LP committee from each of the fund’s (fairly broad) target investment areas: biotech, health and wellness tech, blockchain, space, commerce, and technology.

dripping in dealflow

Dealflow won’t be a problem from the sound of things. “We got almost 1,000 incoming inquiries from entrepreneurs last month for investment or support in some capacity,” says Bartlett.

He also thinks he’ll be able to find the kinds of investments that conventional venture capital imitators miss. “The founders we turn to are generally not looking for capital, but other forms of support: for me to join their board of directors or for one of our LPs to endorse their business or open up their network.”

In the coming months, he says he would like to “increase” that deal flow “by several more multiples.”

He’s also very hopeful of backing many underrepresented founders, saying the fund has set “some internal targets for how diverse our allocation is in terms of founders.”

“We will post these statistics on the Flight Story website as the fund begins to do business and tell the story of our diversity of investments through our social channels,” he says. “For us, it’s an adjacent but important crusade that we’re in.”

Amy Lewin is the editor of Sifted and co-host of Startup Europe: the filtered podcastand writes round up, a weekly newsletter on VC. She tweets from @amyrlewin

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