Well, that was quick: A little over two months since we reported that Mosaic Ventures was in the middle of raising a second fund, TechCrunch can reveal that fund two has in fact now closed, as the London-based venture capital firm looks to double down on backing “Europe’s most ambitious entrepreneurs”.
We began hearing from sources late last week that news was imminent, and in a call on Saturday morning Mosaic founding partners Simon Levene and Toby Coppel confirmed the details. Fund two totals $ 150 million, as per an earlier SEC filing, and will be used to continue the firm’s Series A remit, which will see it back 5-10 new companies each year, as lead or co-lead, typically with a $ 3-7 million first check.
Four years since launching, Mosaic has invested in over 20 startups, and in a range of sectors. These include blockchain/crypto startups Blockstream and Blockchain (the firm remains bullish with regards to the space), fintech startup Habito, open source drone company Auterion, period tracking app Clue, and data startup Infosum. The firm has also invested directly in deep tech company builder Entrepreneur First, alongside Reid Hofflan with Greylock, a deal Mosaic helped instigate.
“I think what we do is very unique,” says Coppel, when I ask how the VC differentiates itself from competing early-stage firms in London and Europe, especially since — only just on fund two — it is somewhat unproven. “What we do is focus very much at the early-stage, Series A, where founders have built an early product, they’re a long way ahead of themselves in terms of building out their team and their got-to-market. We roll up our sleeves and get stuck in with them in many of the foundational pieces of building a company. That’s our entire focus”.
He also argues that when Mosaic write a cheque, the firm’s interests are more aligned with the founders it backs than larger venture capital firms.
“Given our fund size and the cheques we write at Series A, we think working with us is a very strong choice because of our experience and because we are willing to take risk and because of our network and so forth. And we’ll give everything — we’re entrepreneurs ourselves. As you say, it is early for Mosaic and therefore whatever we do at this point we are going to give 150 percent.
“There are firms that are much bigger in terms of fund size and for them, often writing a $ 3 million cheque is not the same, it’s a very small part of their fund, you don’t necessarily get the same focus and effort and alignment. And I think that is what sets us apart”.
To that end, Levene and Coppel, who both built much of their career in Silicon Valley, most notably in senior positions at Yahoo, tell me that Mosaic will continue to invest thematically, specifically outlining five areas. They are: “blockchain, crypto and the decentralized web” (it’s the decentralised aspect of blockchain where no one vendor needs to own or have control over the platform, that the pair say is attractive), “computational health”, “machine intelligence”, “mobility and location services”, and “finance 2.0”.
Elaborating on how Mosaic views health tech, Coppel says that over the next five to ten years the cost of sensors that enable “continuous bio tracking” will continue to drop and therefore we’ll all be collecting huge amounts of data from our bodies, such as our metabolism or cardiovascular systems, so that we can monitor our own health. Combined with various “-omics data” and that the fact that sequencing the genome can be done for less than $ 100, we’ll be able to generate new drugs or help adapt personalised treatments based on that data. “When you’re collecting all that data it creates significant new things and opportunities in new areas. That’s the transformation that healthcare is going to go through,” he says.
Regards “finance 2.0,” Levene and Coppel don’t entirely disagree with my assertion that much of the low and mid-hanging fruit in fintech has already been picked (Coppel himself was an early investor in Transferwise), as the banks and financial services continue to be unbundled. However, they say there are still opportunities to build “best-of-breed services” both for consumers and businesses.
“Insurance is one of those,” says Coppel. “Today the experience is pretty poor because most insurance companies have gone through channels and therefore they’re not consumer-centric. But also the underlying insurance product itself hasn’t really been geared for trust where they’ve created these products that have suited their own internal risk models not necessarily what the customers need. So there is a whole series of opportunities to reinvent the core underlying… risk and protection product to tailor it to the customer’s needs”.
Pressed to be more specific, he says that today many people are overinsured in the wrong products, such as phone insurance, and underinsured in what really matters, such as life insurance or critical illness insurance.
Another area Mosaic is eyeing up is SME financing, where the “attack vector” could be building a great accounting or invoicing product, and then by using the data passed through those services, offering more flexible business financing.
A common thread throughout a number of Mosaic’s existing portfolio — and just about any VC firm these days — is machine learning, and the Mosaic founders says they remain firm in their belief that the impact of machine learning will be pervasive across all industries and businesses. “We’ve gone deep into machine learning and machine intelligence-based businesses,” adds Levene. “Obviously there’s the investment in EF… that, if you like, is an index of that whole sector. At least half a dozen of the portfolio have a strong machine learning vector as to how they are attacking a particular vertical”.
On that note — and given that AI is an area where Europe and the U.K. in particular excels — I turn the topic to Brexit and ask the pair what they make of the current Brexit mess (actually, I used a far less polite word).
“Entrepreneurs at this point still don’t understand what Brexit means,” says Coppel. “It hasn’t come to fruition and most entrepreneurs are focused on the next week, the next month, the next quarter, rather than what’s going to happen in a year and a half to the U.K. economy. That’s certainly true of the early-stage companies. [For] the later stage companies, there are some more significant decisions. It’s not easy to move hundreds of people around.
“We don’t really know what Brexit means yet and it obviously creates havoc for people who are trying to plan. But at this point we haven’t seen any evidence from entrepreneurs saying ‘I’m not going to start my company in London, I’m going to start my company in Barcelona or Berlin’ and we haven’t seen companies move from London to the continent because of Brexit. Could we see that in six months from now? Possibly”.
Adds Levene, less optimistically: “The biggest single risk that we foresee is… if it changes the hiring market. If you don’t have access to 300 million people you can bring on your books tomorrow. If you have to go through a visa process that is cumbersome, that would stymie startups being able to hire talent quickly and scale up. So the capital follows talent and if we put up the walls around immigration then that’s going to be a problem”.
I suggest that, given the current trajectory and the music coming from the U.K. government, whatever the immigration mechanism put in place post-Brexit, it won’t be as optimal for U.K. startups as the status quo. Levene doesn’t refute my logic. “It’s shooting ourselves in the foot,” he says, “and it’s not just in tech but I think it’s also going to be in other verticals… So I think the government is gonna have a reckoning if they create friction for hiring, not just in tech but in many other industries”.