We already knew that veteran venture capitalist Fred Destin had teamed up with podcaster-turned-VC Harry Stebbings to raise a fund of their own, but now more details have emerged, including that the new VC firm has reportedly achieved its first closing.
According to my sources, Stride.VC — as the VC is to be called — has already closed £40 million, with a final target of £50 million or more. I’m told that LPs include a number of notable U.K. founders, although I’ve yet to peg who, along with the usual mix of institutional VC investors and family offices.
One name that has surfaced, however (via a Companies House regulatory filing) is Delin Capital, the investment vehicle of Russian-born entrepreneur Igor Linshits. He previously backed Mail.ru alongside Yuri Milner of DST fame, amongst many other investments spanning petrochemical, commodities trading, and tech. According to Wikipedia, he immigrated to the U.K. in 2009, where he became a British citizen and founded Delin Capital.
Delin’s core businesses are DCAM, one of Europe’s leading e-commerce logistics real estate players, and Delin Ventures, which supports emerging venture fund managers and makes direct investments in early-stage companies.
People with knowledge of Stride.VC’s strategy and investment remit say the new firm is targeting seed stage startups with a strong focus on the U.K., where both Destin and Stebbings are based. It will remain “sector agnostic,” however, and is looking to partner with “contrarian entrepreneurs” who are attempting to reshape various industries.
Destin has always maintained that at the earliest of stages it is less about a company’s strategy — which at seed is based on limited data and clearly subject to change — and more about a team’s conviction and determination. It is perhaps why a number of VCs and founders I talk to have always thought he was an odd fit at Accel in London, where he was most recently a Partner. Accel typically doesn’t invest in seed and is known to be extremely data-driven.
However, although it wouldn’t normally come as a surprise to see a VC with Destin’s experience and track record raise a fund of his own — having previously backed successful companies such as Zoopla, Secret Escapes, Carwow, Deliveroo, DailyMotion, Integral Ad Science, and Pillpack — it was reported by Bloomberg last July that Stride.VC’s fund-raising efforts were facing additional scrutiny after an accusation of inappropriate behaviour by Destin towards a female founder at a conference in 2013.
In a subsequent report in Business Insider, Destin issued a statement saying that he had “on occasion acted without awareness at parties and been flirty” and that if he had “offended anyone or made anyone feel uncomfortable in any way, I am truly sorry”. He also told BI that he had never used his position as a VC inappropriately.
Meanwhile, although only 21 years old, Stebbings has already packed a lot in for such a short career. He is best known as the founder and host of the popular “The Twenty Minute VC” podcast, which he still publishes. He was also most recently an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Atomico, the VC firm founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, and has no doubt built up an impressive network in the U.K. and across the pond.
As I previously reported, the two met when Destin was interviewed by Stebbings on one of the earlier episodes of “The Twenty Minute VC” and after the show had finished being recorded, the two continued to chat. This led to Destin agreeing to be Stebbings’ VC mentor. They have since become close friends, including getting to know each other and their respective families outside of work, and this eventually resulted in the idea of doing a fund together.
Lastly, Stride.VC may have already written its first cheque, backing a yet-to-launch London fintech startup. Who that is, I haven’t been able to confirm, although if my information is correct it broadly plays in the home financing space.