Last night we had a little party in the London Planetarium to celebrate our fifth birthday. In typical DFJ Esprit style the event was a little different to the norm with a super-hero theme, a 4D film (and I mean 4D), and drinking well into the night. As part of the show we had actors circulating in the room talking with guests, but believe it or not Captain America in the picture was not one of them, but rather our very own Simon Cook.
We came into existence five years ago today when we span our team and fund out of Cazenove and merged with Prelude Ventures which at that time was a listed investment trust and there were a number of things we *had* to get done after that to get ourselves on a stable footing. Thinking back, it wasn’t always obvious that we would pull it off and life got a little hairy at a couple of points and like many young companies we had to take some hard decisions and change course a little.
Fortunately we have been on a good run for a while now though, and all that history is fast becoming a distant memory. We have made half a dozen investments since the second close on our new €100m fund last autumn and over the last twelve months or so we have exited companies with an aggregate enterprise value of $2bn (more detail here). Moreover, the new investments are all pretty exciting, e.g. Conversocial is bringing customer service out of the call centre and onto social media, Neul is building the chips and networks for the internet of things, and Horizon Discovery has a platform for developing personalised cancer treatments.
Next up is a short list of our major accomplishments over the last five years:
- spinning the fund and team out of Cazenove
- merging with Prelude
- taking the Prelude Investment Trust private
- joining the DFJ Network
- acquiring a substantial part of 3i’s venture portfolio
- raising our new fund
None of these were easy, and for each of them there were moments when you would have wanted long odds before betting on us to prevail. But we got there in the end, and without the complete set we would look very different and be in a weaker position than we are today. The fact that we did get there is due in no small part to vision, energy and deal making skills of Simon Cook who is the driving force behind DFJ Esprit (again, pictured to the right, although I should say his normal attire is business casual…) .
The other key to our success over the last five years has been the great companies we have been lucky enough to get involved with. It feels almost corny to ‘thank our entrepreneurs’ but we are nothing without them and this post would be incomplete if I didn’t.
Finally, on a personal level, the last five years have been a lot of fun. I love talking with smart people to identify market opportunities (including on this blog), I love the process of getting to know companies and entrepreneurs in the run up to an investment, I REALLY love it when they are successful afterwards, and last but not least I enjoy the feeling of contributing to the startup ecosystem we are all building here in Europe. I’m not pretending it is all strawberries and ice-cream, there is of course a tough side to business that isn’t always fun and I’ve seen quite a lot of that in the last couple of months. Overall though there is no doubt in my mind that the good stuff outweighs the bad, and by quite some margin.