With 72 unicorns created since 2009 and $8.7 billion in venture funding last year, the UK is Europe’s leading startup hub.
Although it remains uncertain how Brexit will impact startups’ ease of recruiting and rapid scaling, initial pains are unlikely to displace London from its position as a global center for finance, media, retail, and technology.
As UK-based startups reach $1 billion (~£800 million) valuations at a rate of one per month, according to data from Dealroom, VC firms have raised $3.5 billion in new funds to fuel the next wave of investments.
Interested to learn where that capital could flow, I asked nine of London’s top consumer-focused VCs to find out which specific trends they’re using to identify startup investment opportunities:
- Julia Hawkins, Partner at LocalGlobe
- Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Partner at Balderton
- Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel Partners
- Christian Dorffer, Partner at Sweet Capital
- Danny Rimer, Partner at Index Ventures
- Reshma Sohoni, Managing Partner at Seedcamp
- Niall Wass, Partner at Atomico
- Paul Murphy, Partner at Northzone
- Nic Brisbourne, Partner at Forward Partners
Their responses highlighted the diversify of funding interests in the ecosystem, but also show that banking, consumer health, transport, direct-to-consumer brands, and social entertainment remain hot areas.
Julia Hawkins, Partner at LocalGlobe
“I’m very focused on the healthtech sector and within consumer health, I’m particularly interested in the potential for digital therapeutics to enable people to gain control over habits and treat certain chronic conditions such as mental health.
We’re thinking deeply about transportation, we’re already investors in Citymapper, Beryl and Voi and see the huge potential to improve how people move around cities and influence how urban centers are planned, all while reducing pollution.
On that topic, we’re watching the climate change debate closely and I’m heartened by the fact that people everywhere are becoming wholly committed to reducing waste. Companies that can produce truly circular products for our families, homes and places of work I think will do well.
It’s an incredibly interesting time in media with titanic worlds of video, gaming and music are shifting and I believe in the transformative power of games, music and immersive experiences — TikTok and Fortnite show just how powerful these can be and I believe new platforms such as Playdeo will make consuming media and entertainment much more active experiences in the future.”
Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Partner at Balderton
“We are excited about the disruption within the European transportation sector, where we’ve seen new types of vehicles, like e-scooters from VOI, and amazing advances in autonomous mobility solutions. Time is up for car ownership in many city centers and competition is fierce for environmentally-friendly alternatives. This creates an exciting opportunity to use tech to improve public transport options and to leverage the sharing economy which Citymapper offers, as well as overhaul the car hire sector as new players like Virtuo are aiming to do.
We are also impressed by the continued innovation in the financial sector. We are long-time investors in fintech and have backed Revolut and GoCardless, amongst others. Traditional banks and financial incumbents are battling fragmented and outdated technology stacks to adapt to rapidly changing consumer demands, which creates a huge opportunity for startups.”
Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel Partners
“We’re excited about three key trends in consumer tech. The first is fintech, for which the UK has created a very supportive environment. A few large businesses are being built from London, like Monzo, buoyed by new rules written around retail banking and next generation financial services as well as huge, unmet customer demand.
The second is healthtech. Healthcare is a large and untapped opportunity plagued by rising costs for providers and deteriorating patient experience. We are seeing a few platform companies that are finding ways to successfully solve these problems by providing digital healthcare to consumers, like Kry out of Sweden.
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