Back in the mists of 2014 we revealed how one of the UK’s most active venture investment funds operated. To this day Octopus Ventures continues to rub shoulders with the most active institutional VC funds at the early stage, even though it’s technically an evergreen fund attached to the stock market. It’s backed hits like LoveFilm, Zoopla through to IPO, Graze as well as Secret Escapes and SwiftKey which sold to Microsoft. Then there was Evi to Amazon, and Magic Pony to Twitter, and Rangespan (Google) and Vision Direct (Essilor). It’s even in that hipster music startup Sofar Sounds.
The twin combination of Alex Macpherson, who heads the Ventures team at Octopus, with George Whitehead running Venture Partners and chairing the AngelCo Fund has been pretty active. Macpherson says they’ve been “incredibly fortunate to back some truly outstanding entrepreneurs, many of whom come back to us time and time again with new ventures.”
It turns 10 this year and has ‘opened the kimono’ to put some more detailed figures about its business out there.
The current fund size is now £661m, with a portfolio of 55 companies. That’s not as much as the triumvirate of Index, Accel, Balderton (for instance) also out of the UK, but is highly significant. It tends to invest £100m a year. That translates into £250,000 to a potential £25 million in a first round of funding.
It’s now spread between London, New York and has Venture Partners based in San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore, who are designed to help and support the Octopus portfolio as they grow.
Octopus Ventures is backed by evergreen funds in VCT, EIS and traditional LP/GP funds. These Evergreen funds come from retail investors, listed on the London Stock exchange. That means it can continue to raise funds from the public markets. It’s not quite the same as VC funds backed by pension funds or family offices, but it’s still a contender. It also means it can invest early to decent later rounds.