- VC fund Accel has launched the European iteration of its ‘Starters’ programme.
- Monzo and Snyk backer Accel is providing funding to 21 top founders and operators in Europe to uncover new entrepreneurs.
- Accel partner Luca Bocchio says Europe’s startup scene is at a “special tipping point”.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
VC fund Accel has launched a programme of startup scouts in Europe, called Starters, to find and nurture new entrepreneurs.
The programme brings together founders and operators from companies such as Google, Monzo, OnTruck, TIER, and Deliveroo to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Europe.
Each ‘Starter’ is allocated $200,000 and has the ability to invest and be the first money into the ideas of entrepreneurs who are just getting started. The initiative follows a similar scheme that the fund has run in the US since 2017. Currently there are 21 Starters on the programme, including e-scooter startup Tier’s CPO Georgina Smallwood, Spanish freight platform OnTruck’s COO Rika Christanto, and Munich-based HR startup Personio’s CEO Hanno Renner.
“Starters has been a core pillar of our early stage effort in US for a number of years now,” Andrei Brasoveanu, partner at Accel, told Insider. “The idea is to empower up-and-coming operators to become angel investors which helps to build a new generation of investors but also enables a new iteration of founders to have great operators as mentors.”
VC-backed scout programmes have occasionally been viewed warily by founders because representatives of big name funds entering startups sends a signal to the market that the main fund will one day invest. Inevitably, if this doesn’t come to fruition negativity abounds. In the case of Accel’s programme, there is no investment committee for starters to pitch, meaning each different individual can allocate funds as they see fit.
The growth of tech hubs in London, Paris, and Berlin, among other major European capitals can often leave smaller cities and regions with limited exposure to capital. Angel networks in particular, a key initial funding opportunity for entrepreneurs, tend to be centered in the continent’s metropolises. “Talent is not always concentrated in major cities but access to capital can be,” Brasoveanu added.
Diversity of talent, diversity of thought
The growth of Europe’s startup ecosystem in recent years hasn’t necessarily benefitted all parts of the tech world. VC investors notoriously invest predominantly in people that look and sound like them, effectively white, rich, male, and statistics tend to bear this out. VC funding to female founders in Europe was 1.7% in 2020, per Atomico’s State of European Tech report.
Unsurprisingly, investors will miss new and exciting ideas at the early stage unless founders have the means to develop their businesses. For Georgina Smallwood, formerly an executive at German fintech N26, the key is “inserting capital into places that wouldn’t have been possible previously.”
“Existing networks for many VCs are non-diverse and people can be unwilling to step outside of their comfort zone,” she told Insider. “I only invest in female founding teams because if only a small section of society is defining what the future looks like then we’re in trouble.”
Other starters will look to focus on other areas of specialism, across fintech, health, mobility, and remote work, among other things.
“We truly believe we are at a special tipping point for Europe and see this as a good way to nurture talent,” Accel partner Luca Bocchio told Insider in an interview. “We have a long term vision for programme, this is not just a one off, hopefully will last for a decade to come.”