Interview with Ben Holmes of Index Ventures

    Ben Holmes has been a partner at Index Ventures since 2002, and has been heavily involved with Index’s investments in Europe. In the Nordic region he currently sits on the boards of Gray Area Labs, Just-Eat, Rebtel, and Stardoll, as well as Mind Candy, Netlog, Notonthehighstreet, Shapeways in the UK.

    He spoke with us to promote their newly announced €500 million growth fund, which will invest in emerging leaders with international ambitions. Below are the notes from the interview:

    ArcticStartup: So, what are the details of the new fund?

    Ben Holmes: We recently put together a new growth fund for €10-50 million investments in quickly growing companies. We actually have two funds vehicles: one is a venture fund for up to €10-15 million investments while the growth fund is for €10-50 million investments.

    Some examples of companies previously invested in in this range include RPX, a patent subscription company that helps startup companies protect themselves from patent trolls. They’re based in the U.S., but some other investments include Sonos audio equipment, and Etsy.

    In terms of areas or sectors to invest in, we’ve previously done similar investments in e-commerce, SAAS, and so on, but we’re not limited to any sort of area.

    ArcticStartup: We’ve seen reports from the U.S., that since 2008 Venture Capital firms have generally invested much more money than they’ve been able to raise. Are you seeing a similar gap in Europe or at Index?

    Ben Holmes: We’ve been a very active investor over  the past three years, and I believe the investors of our funds are quite pleased. We’ve got a committed team, and we find good teams to invest in. In Europe, only one or two firms have been not so successful, but we’ve seen 15 exits last year and over 40 new investments.

    Arctic Startup: And I hear you recently opened an office in San Francisco.

    Yes, our U.S. office will help us work with our U.S. based companies on-site, and it will help our U.S. companies attack Europe. Also our new office will help support our European companies when establishing presence in the U.S. We look for companies that can have a global presence– for example in the gaming sector we’ve invested in Songkick and Mind Candy who have seen traction in their home markets and are looking to expand to the U.S.

    ArcticStartup: What are some good potential sectors you’re seeing out of the Nordic and Baltic regions?

    Ben Holmes: Payments is one– we’ve recently done iZettle, Boku, Adyen, and Trialpay which are disrupting the banking system that has not met its customers needs.

    Another area is gaming. We’re an investor in Stardoll, Playfish,, Gray Area. Broadly speaking, mobile is generating exciting companies.

    And with other areas, the Nordic countries have proven to export themselves successfully. For example, Just-Eat out of Denmark who are doing take away food. They’re a global leader in that category including emerging markets such as Brazil.

    ArcticStartup: Aside from the recent funding of iZettle, are there any other investments in the Nordic or Baltic regions you can tell us about?

    Ben Holmes: We have a seed investment in the Nordic area in the process of closing, and we’ve had some earlier stage meetings in Finland while I was at Slush.


    You can read more of Ben’s thoughts on why solid companies are coming out of the Nordic and Baltic area in a new post published on his blog today: Investing Adventures at the Arctic Rim