The all-female venture capital firm BackingMinds, founded in 2016 by Sara Wimmercranz and Susanne Najafi, is earning a 4x return on its portfolio of more than 15 startups according to the company. Since its founding, former Industrifonden investor Sara Resvik and former Tame co-founder Jasenko Hadzic have joined the founders as principal and CEO, respectively.
The extended investment team is completed by Niklas Thornestad (partner and former CFO of Klarna), Mattias Lundkvist (investment manager and former CFO of BackingMinds’ first portfolio business, TransferGalaxy), and Elsa Hyland (investment analytics and well-known angel investor).
With a proven track record, the BackingMinds team is already making investments from its second vintage, a €50 million raise that, according to the team, was fully subscribed in just a few short weeks.
With the help of the new fund, it is tackling deal-making in the Nordic region with long-term goals of expanding farther throughout Europe.
Operating out of its Stockholm headquarters, BackingMinds’ equity holdings include the upscale pet wear-and-care brand Denjo Dogs, Brainstimulation, a startup that offers neurotreatment and precise diagnostics in augmented reality, as well as the construction tech company Combify and the logistics emissions tracking and optimization startup Skrym.
BackingMinds takes pride in identifying startup opportunities that traditional VCs overlook, frequently as a result of investors “following the herd” and conventional business rationale.
It moves along steadily, with an average of 2 to 5 deals approved each year and a shareholding horizon of 5 to 10 years.
Although technically the first fund vintage can invest anywhere in Europe, it has so far primarily focused on Sweden, where 14 of its portfolio firms are situated (the other startup is in Finland.) The second fund raised €50 million, and it has only had one initial public offering (IPO), with about twelve shareholdings remaining in private hands.
“The talent mass in the Nordic ecosystem has never been stronger,” Sara Reskiv, BackingMinds’ CEO and partner, tells Tech.eu, “Each individual community is seeing a specialisation shaping up, typically created by a large exit in the region.
BackingMinds is riding a new wave of regional investment, following the inspiration highway out into regional Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway, as established Nordic VC giants like Creandum and EQT Ventures have built out global names.
In terms of European VC, the Nordic markets have long been seen as an up-and-coming leader. According to a 2018 statistics bulletin supported by all four Nordic VC trade groups, regional funds collected €3 billion between 2012 and 2017, of which €2.7 billion went to entrepreneurs.
The incapacity of the area to direct money into markets outside of its capital cities, into provincial regions where the Nordic innovation boom is increasingly respected, is a hindrance, according to data sources.
For instance, it states that 87% of venture capital funds in Denmark were allocated to firms in Copenhagen, the country’s capital. The similar proportion for Stockholm was 75%. (Sources: Tillväxtverket and The Danish Growth Fund.)
The landmass of the area may contribute to some of this trend. The Nordic region outperforms other regions in terms of GDP per capita, but its size (6 million+ square kilometers) is around ten times more than that of France and seventeen times greater than that of Germany.
Although it has a smaller overall population (27.4 million in 2019) than any of the two European countries mentioned above, uninhabited nature nonetheless makes up about half of its landscape.
As its premise spreads locally, BackingMinds thinks that its reputation for supporting unconventional founders will be appealing. It claims that 95% of its founders to date have been either women, immigrants to the Nordic countries, or executives of companies with locations outside of Stockholm and Helsinki.
The second fund’s LP contributions were entirely provided by non-institutional investors, including the family office of the creators of the apparel retailer H&M and the entrepreneurs behind Nordic unicorns like Spotify and Supercell. There is a strong founders’ relationship.
“In Finland we all know the thriving gaming scene created by Supercell/ Rovio, in Sweden there’s a strong B2C DNA, from companies such as Spotify, Klarna, King and Truecaller,” said Reskiv.
“Examples in Denmark can be made in cities outside of Copenhagen – the cities of Aarhus and Odense, where respectively a Fintech cluster is shaping up (in Aarhus).
“Secondly, despite the boom of new VCs in each local scene and entry of European/US-based funds, there’s still a huge problem in the blind spots of venture capital, which we see as a major opportunity to invest in fantastic female founders, minorities and startups outside of the capital cities.”