OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage in finding that fit. Data shows that a lack of expertise and business acumen in founders contributes to failed VC investments.
The same principle applies somewhat to operator VCs (firms typically launched by former startup founders). While there’s no definitive proof that operator VCs make better investors, recent research does indicate that founders and operators who become VCs are significantly more successful at backing companies than traditional investor VCs.
Operator VCs have a long history in Silicon Valley. Still, their adoption is less widespread in Europe and Africa: Only 8% of VC firms in Europe and Africa are led by former operators, compared to nearly half in the U.S. OpenseedVC is applying the model in Africa and Europe with a new fund.
The firm, which plans to be the first check in startups launched by operators across both regions, has reached the first close of its $10 million angel-style early-stage fund. General partner Maria Rotilu said “the first close is well into the millions and fundraising is still in progress,” without specifying how much. OpenseedVC hopes to reach the final close within a year, she added.
Rotilu founded OpenseedVC with a clear vision: to invest early in experienced operators eager to launch their technology companies. In a statement, OpenseedVC said it would provide these founders with not only capital and conviction at the earliest stages but also the support of a community of seasoned operators, which currently comprises more than 50 individuals.
“If you’re supporting operators that have identified a problem and are making the leap into building their technology, you’ve likely recognized a common challenge: the need for capital and guidance from other experienced individuals. To address this, we focus on enhancing the operator network in four key areas,” said Rotilu in a conversation with TechCrunch.
“In the early stages, expertise in software engineering is crucial. You’d need someone who’s recruited technical talent, built teams and understands infrastructure design, offering invaluable firsthand experience. So if that’s the common thread, I would say firsthand experience is what we optimize for across software engineering, product, go-to-market and people and talent.”
Most of the individuals in OpenseedVC’s operator network are people Rotilu has either worked with or received referrals for. Some are also limited partners in the fund, though they don’t earn carry now. Rotilu also mentioned that other LPs include founders and professionals from traditional and tech businesses and high-net-worth individuals across Africa, Europe and the U.S.
London-based OpenseedVC is targeting at least 60 startups over the next five years. The early-stage fund, which says it operates with an open application process and allows founders to apply without needing an introduction, will provide checks of up to $150,000 to startups focusing on the future of commerce (including B2B software, AI and fintech), future of work (productivity) and digital health.
“We look at the earliest stages; that’s our sweet spot. Openseed is keen on making pre-seed investments, but the early stage of pre-seed because the later stage of pre-seed is more where you find the traditional VCs. We tend to move independently and quickly — and don’t necessarily need a founder to get a lead investor or anything like that before we invest,” remarked Rotilu. She added that the fund is interested in specific founder profiles within its broader operator-focused lens: domain experts (operators at high-growth tech companies, including first-time founders) and second-time founders who have built and exited a startup.
So far, the early-stage fund has made two investments: one in a stealth U.K.-based AI-enabled supplier dispute resolution software and another in Intron, a speech-to-text transcription model for underserved accents, starting with Africa. 
“We chose Africa and Europe to apply our thesis to work in these regions. Our thesis is that by backing experienced operators early in their journey with the right capital and support from peer operators, you can build a diversified portfolio that generates incredible returns for investors and provides crucial support for ambitious operators when they need it most,” said Rotilu, who prior to OpenseedVC invested across multiple regions with different funds.
Before launching her fund, Rotilu was an operator in various roles, including country manager at Uber and general manager at Branch in Nigeria, where she helped both tech companies scale to millions of users. She later pursued an MBA at Oxford, where she served as managing director at the Oxford Seed Fund, one of the largest student-led funds in Europe. 
During her MBA, the operator-turned-investor with a background in computer science interned at Hustle Fund, an early-stage fund in the U.S., where she gained experience investing in startups across the U.S., Latin America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. She then joined Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest funds, as a principal and fund manager of First Cheque Fund, the firm’s £10 million early-stage fund for European startups in B2B software, fintech and health sectors.
Rotilu said that at Octopus, she realized a need to focus more on Africa, a market where she had made several angel investments during her professional career. The London-based VC firm provided little avenue for that, and Rotilu, who also wanted clarity and autonomy to develop a strategy she thought suited her experience as an operator and investor across Africa and Europe, saw that as an opportunity to launch her VC firm. 
The increasing number of female-led VC firms globally is a positive trend (even though it’s still difficult for women, particularly those of color, to seek funding or raise a fund). As more women participate in venture investing and more LPs and firms support them, this trend will increase funding for female-led startups, setting the stage for every stakeholder’s success. Most female-led funds are conscious of this significance, so it’s no surprise that OpenseedVC will also actively look to support startups led by female operators.
“There are very few female-led funds globally, and we have a specific perspective on what a diversified portfolio should look like. We focus on diversification across geography, industry and gender,” Rotilu remarked. “A lot of work is being done around diversity, and as a fund, we apply a gender lens to our portfolio strategy. We aim for a truly diverse portfolio, striving for a 50/50 balance in co-founding teams,” she said.
Every weekday and Sunday, you can get the best of TechCrunch’s coverage.
Startups are the core of TechCrunch, so get our best coverage delivered weekly.
The latest Fintech news and analysis, delivered every Sunday.
TechCrunch Mobility is your destination for transportation news and insight.
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice.
Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…
“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”
A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…
The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”
Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.
Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…
When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…
The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…
When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…
Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…
Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.
The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.
The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…
ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…
SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”
Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…
TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…
Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.
Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…
The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.
Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…
CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 
Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…
A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.
The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 
Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…
Featured Article
Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.
Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…
Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…
Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…
Powered by WordPress VIP


Leave a Comment

Vélemény, hozzászólás?

Az e-mail címet nem tesszük közzé. A kötelező mezőket * karakterrel jelöltük