In this month’s VC Under The Spotlight series we had a chat with Ben Tompkins, who is a Partner at Singular Ventures – an early stage European tech VC firm. Ben who will be taking part in Startupbootcamp’s Tea With a VC event, has been working with European tech entrepreneurs and their investors for 25 years.
Tell us about yourself and your journey.
I started off as a technology investment banker in the UK and US, ending up at Jefferies Broadview where I was a Managing Director for seven years over the boom-bust-recovery of the dot-com era. I worked on a number of well-known European unicorn transactions of the time.
In 2006, I left Jefferies wanting to double-down in early stage tech and joined Eden Ventures, an early stage VC firm, as a General Partner. At Eden, we invested in over 40 early stage European software companies. Whilst, I am still at Eden as Managing Partner, I am now working on a new fund with a new team called Singular Ventures.
Tell us the story of Singular Ventures. How did the fund get started?
Singular Ventures is a new VC fund focused on supporting entrepreneurs as they look at addressing the US market. My co-founders are European entrepreneurs/operators who know what it is like to build early stage tech companies and compete on an international stage. Between them, they have founded six companies, been in the senior management teams of billion dollar revenue companies and have been active seed investors. All this together with my VC and M&A background, we think we make a great team.
We are a new fund, our fund size is €100m, our target is for a mid-2017 close.
So, does your fund focus on any specific industries or geographies?
We are interested in software, typically B2B and B2B2C. We are not interested in hardware, biotech, as we have little domain knowledge of these areas. However, we think it is very important if the team that has been assembled is amazing.
We focus on Europe, especially the UK. Nevertheless, we also have offices and networks in London and San Francisco. We are proud to currently be working with teams across Europe that we believe will be the next industrial revolution.
Personally, I focus on SaaS, enterprise and SME, e-commerce enabling tech and games tech.
Does your fund have a business model or type focuses?
At Singular Ventures our business model is mainly looking at B2B, enabling technologies, and B2B2C where tech is a strong differentiator.
We like most revenue models particularly SaaS. But we tend to stay away from advertising-supported revenues.
What is Singular Ventures’ typical investment?
We have an average round check size starting at €500k up to €2m. We are looking for pre-seed, seed, bridge, and series A. We typically lead rounds but we also like to co-invest with like-minded VC’s and seed investors who share our ambition for the company.
We don’t have a minimum traction threshold. Don’t get me wrong, we like traction. We are just more focused on ambitious founders with real vision. Founders who are building a great team around them and where we can help them figure out their international go-to-market strategy.
What attracts you to investing in a new startup?
Ever heard the saying it’s the journey, not the destination? I like working on the journey with the founder/entrepreneur. Building a successful business takes many things; belief, dedication, and tenacity being high on the list. It’s incredibly hard work but ultimately very rewarding as you pull it off, so it’s the journey that attracts me.
One of my golden rules is to, invest in nice people! Life’s too short to do otherwise.
What would you say are the current ‘hot-trends’ in the startup scene?
There are lots, all well-documented. As an early stage investor, I want to be slightly ahead of the curve. I want to follow entrepreneurs who have deep domain exposure and knowledge and have a real vision of what’s to come. In my mind, it’s the entrepreneur who I am relying on to make the call on what’s hot. I see my job to focus more on the different elements that are needed to make the journey.
What advice would you give to a founder fundraising for the first time and what common pitfalls should they be aware of?
Know your space, inside out. Seek out those people who know the space you are targeting and get them on board; as advisers, supporters, investors, customers. Don’t compromise on talent build a great team and incentivise them with equity.
There are 3 most common pitfalls that come to mind. Firstly, underestimating the importance of product-market fit. Secondly, not defining honest, realistic proof-points and finally, being laser-like focused on delivering them.
Do you have typical questions you ask founders pitching to you?
- Why this, why now, why you?
- How big is the market opportunity, really?
- How would you segment and address your target market?
- Give me a SWOT analysis on your team
Think you could impress Ben with your startup? We’re looking for 10 amazing early-stage founders raising between €500k up to €2m for an exclusive 1:1 feedback meetings. Apply by 17th February for your chance to secure a spot!