Dragons’ Steven Bartlett on his new venture capital fund: ‘I’m a failure if we don’t support the next female-founded unicorn’

If you want to raise your own venture capital money someday, starting a podcast isn’t a bad way to start.

Stephen Bartlett, star of the British TV phenomenon Dragons’ Den and host of Europe’s most downloaded podcast, The Diary of a CEO, is raising $100 million in venture capital to support early-stage companies.

And just like the zeitgeist in Europe at the moment, his supporters are almost the same as current or former entrepreneurs.

“When I talk to friends who have built big companies here, the comments I hear over and over again is that there is some fatigue and pessimism about taking capital from investors who haven’t been there and done it,” says Bartlett. sieve.

Fortunately for him, who is the creator of the series himself, his many hours of podcasting have given him an “incredibly wide network” of European entrepreneurs — many of whom are now backing his new fund, Flight Story, he says. However, he wouldn’t give us many names, or confirm the size of the box that was sealed. His team insists he has “verbal and contractual obligations for the full amount”.

He will invest in some very noisy areas – biotech, blockchain, and Void – and the search for underrepresented founders in particular.

“If we don’t support the next female-founded unicorn in the next decade, I will consider myself a failure with this fund,” he told Sifted.

Scratch the VC itch

As Bartlett admits, raising and managing venture capital money “takes a lot of effort.”

Why then, given he’s already a millionaire, would he bother?

“At this point in my life, making a lot of money doesn’t seem like a big enough motivator to get through,” he says. “My passion in life is building companies, taking things from 0 to 100.

“It will enable me to use my network, my resources, to build bigger companies, and accelerate them in a way that I don’t think they would be able to accelerate otherwise.”

He’s now spent two years working on the fund — “It’s a lot easier to raise money when you’re taking huge pools of capital from institutions, and it’s much harder to raise when you’re getting small checks from great successful founders” — and he has three deals ready to sign, he says.

Bartlett, who apparently thinks managing a venture capital fund is a side business, believes it will take “about 30-40%” of his professional time. His brother, Jason Bartlett, an investor who previously worked at British pension fund Railpen, also works for the fund. The two brothers previously co-founded another investment vehicle, Katina Capital.

Trip Story Box

The fund will invest between $1 million and $10 million in up to 10 early-stage startups based in Europe each year. Very little of the fund will be set aside for subsequent investments.

Bartlett’s investors include alan barratt, CEO of sports nutrition brand grenade, and Christian Ingermeyer Billionaire tech investor and founder of biotech company Atai Life Sciences (a company Bartlett worked with for several years as an investor and “creative director,” according to LinkedIn). He will not share any other names.

All of his investors have agreed to support portfolio companies operating in their areas of expertise, he says.

They will also play a key role in conducting due diligence on potential investments. He says the fund has a board of “technicians” who have years of experience analyzing companies from a due diligence perspective. This board includes his brother and Andy Lake (CFO of Bartlett’s marketing company Flight Story).

“Once the company passes this forensic analysis, it will go to an investment committee consisting of me and four others, and then to the LP committee,” says Bartlett. Again, he won’t name who else is on the investment committee other than Angermayer.

On the LP committee there is one investor from each of the fund’s (fairly broad) target investment areas – biotech, health and wellness tech, blockchain, aerospace, commerce, and technology.

Dripping in the flow of deals

Deal flow will not be a problem from the sound of things. “We received nearly 1,000 internal inquiries from entrepreneurs last month for investment or support in some capacity,” says Bartlett.

He also believes he will be able to find the kinds of investments that imitative mainstream venture capitalists miss out on. “The founders we target are usually not looking for capital, but for other forms of support — for me to join their boards, for one of our LPs to support their business or open up their network.”

In the coming months, he says he would like to “move” deal flow up “several larger multiples.”

He also very much hopes to support a lot of underrepresented founders – and says the fund has set “some internal goals as to how diversified our allocation is in terms of founders”.

“We will be posting these stats on the Flight Story website as the fund begins making deals, and telling the diversification story of our investments through our social channels,” he says. “For us, we are on an adjoining but important crusade.”

Amy Lewin is the editor of Sifted and co-host of Startup Europe – The Sifted Podcastand writes So round, a weekly newsletter on VC. she tweets from @tweet

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