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The founder-led VC Plural raises $432M for European businesses.

European VC One of the few regional VCs run by and founded by company founders is Plural. Taavet Hinrikus from TransferWise/Wise, Sten Tamkivi, and Songkick creator Ian Hogarth, who just joined the U.K. government’s AI safety policy team, founded it. Plural is growing up with a €400 million fund to support “transformational” companies in the area, providing operational expertise to turn them into businesses.

He stated that Plural will continue to invest in early-stage firms rather than expansion rounds.

The startup venture industry was at its peak when Plural started in June 2022. Six months earlier, Atomico stated in its annual poll that European entrepreneurs raised a record $100 billion in 2021. That probably influenced Plural’s €250 million launch fund, which was supposed to be €150 million.

Today’s fund announcement is unusual.

A poor economy has slowed European venture capital over the past year. Startup investment fell to $45 billion in 2023. Omers and Coatue, two high-profile investors who arrived in the region, had to downgrade or close. Others have stayed but are calm. Values have plummeted due to missing growth objectives and bargaining investors. Hinrikus stated in an interview that Plural is still investing in its initial fund.

Hogarth said one LP, an undisclosed U.K. academic institution, helped Plural’s current fund exceed its objective. Also participating were institutions and family funds from the U.S. and Europe. It was not without challenges.

“It would be wrong to say it was easy,” Hinrikus told Eltrys.

Plural, which also collaborates with former Bigpoint CEO Khaled Helioui and health tech expert Carina Namih, has made 26 investments from the first fund. Several strong European categories have dominated activity so far.

Nearly one-third of its investments are in artificial intelligence, 16% in “frontier tech” (scientific breakthroughs with product potential), and 14% in climate and energy firms.

Robin AI, a London startup that raised $26 million earlier this month for a “legal copilot”; Isometric, another U.K. startup that raised $25 million last year for a new approach to building a carbon removal registry; Proxima Fusion, a German energy generation disruptor; and Unitary AI, a startup that reads visual, audio, and text-based cues to improve video content moderat

Plural will spend its latest fund in these sectors, but with a different partner strategy.

Hogarth chairs the U.K. government’s newly founded AI Safety Institute after leading the AI Foundation Model Taskforce and organizing the high-profile AI Safety Summit last year.

Hogarth has stopped investing in and benefiting economically from AI startups working on very big language models like OpenAI’s or Anthopic’s (the government’s AI safety effort focuses on frontier models).

Hogarth called the procedure “a series of mitigations” that included divestments and other activities that made “there’s no way that I can benefit economically from having taken this role.”

AI may be trendy, but it’s not the only game or opportunity. Hinrikus says the tighter market has offered investors greater clarity in the firm’s quest for “consequential businesses.”

While some believe the consumer ship has sailed, Plural wants to board it. Hogarth added, “We think there are some really special opportunities for consumers that will emerge in the next few years.

“What we really care about are founders going after a very singular vision, trying to do something highly differentiated,” he said. AI is causing a lot of individuals to launch firms that look like 500 other startups. So what’s more intriguing is when individuals follow a somewhat less common way and have a greater vision of how the world will grow.

Juliet P.
Author: Juliet P.

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