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Playfair Capital

Frequently Asked Questions

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We are an early-stage venture capital fund, investing in entrepreneurs building technology companies that rethink the way we live and work.

Playfair Capital was founded by angel investor Federico Pirzio-Biroli in 2013. Fede started his journey taking a desk as an angel in White Bear Yard, Clerkenwell before moving across the road to Warner Yard which has been our home ever since. You can listen to more of Fede's journey on The Twenty Minute VC here. Today, the team consists of Partners Chris Smith and Joe Thornton, Principal Henrik Wetter-Sanchez, Associate Jeevan Sunner and Analyst Andrew (Sheff) Sheffield. The Investment Committee is chaired by angel investor Simon Blakey.

Between us, we have over 40 years of experience in angel investing and have helped scale companies from pre-seed to exit.

Our corporate structure is different to most funds. Federico Pirzio-Biroli, our founder and chairman, is the single Limited Partner. This allows us to be extremely fast and flexible, while having more time to closely support our founders instead of attending LP meetings or fundraising.

We want to be more than just investors. We want to be a trusted advisor, ally and friend to our founders to support in all areas including:

  1. Hiring. If you have a technology or sales background, it's possible you've not run a hiring process previously. It's not easy - especially when you're running and scaling your business simultaneously. Our Partner and HR Guru, Joe has experience of hiring talent for Facebook and Google. He is often the most popular member of the team post-investment as he supports founders in their hiring strategy and execution. You can find some pearls of wisdom from Joe here and here.
  2. Strategy. We've seen some things in our 40 collective years of investing. We've experienced the highs of an exit to Facebook and the lows of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout it all, we're not afraid of getting our hands dirty. We have experience in guiding and advising our founders through rapid scaling and are only ever a WhatsApp away!
  3. Fundraising. It's taken you 3 months to close the round, you take a sigh of relief before realising that you'll have to do it all over again in a year. We keep our Series A contacts up-to-date with founders' journeys so that, once our founders are ready to raise again, we have a clear strategy and network to tap into.
  4. Founder's Studio. Our state-of-the-art co-working space on Floor 2 of our office was designed by Office Manager, Elise, and is open to all portfolio companies looking for a cost-effective way of getting the team together in one space. There's the added bonus of spending time with other portfolio companies and the Playfair team.

We've made it easy, fair and transparent for founders to get in front of Playfair. There's a Typeform application on our website, open to anyone and everyone, where founders can submit their deck. Our investment team filters each and every application and endeavours to get back within two weeks of submission.

From books to blogs, there's an array of resources available to help founders prepare for fundraising. We would specifically suggest thinking about:

- A stand-out pitch deck. You have one opportunity to capture the interest of the investor so keep it short, concise and to the point. The aim is to excite the investor enough to bag that 30 minute initial meeting. You can read more about what to include within your pitch deck here.

- A Data Room. Sending tit-bits of information to investors can get frustrating, especially when it clashes with a major client meeting or new hiring process. We suggest setting up a Data Room in advance of the process, which includes your financial model, market sizing, research papers and anything else that may be useful to the investor. This saves you time during the process as you can easily direct the investor to this repository of information.

- Coffee chats before you pitch. Try booking informal catch-ups with friendly investors, through your network or by reaching out directly, to get their thoughts on your business and fundraising strategy before you formally pitch to them. This gives you the opportunity to learn what the investor is looking for and to start building the relationship.

Founders pitching Playfair are often at the ideation or early productisation stage. This is the really exciting part because we can talk vision, purpose and mission, as well as getting into the nitty gritty such as:

  1. Team. We want to understand what drives and motivates you, what experience you have that will help scale your business, the competitive edge you have on other founders operating in the same market and ultimately, whether we can work together for the next 5-10 years.
  2. Market. We want to see that you've started thinking about product-market fit, the ideal target user/buyer of your product and perhaps started having conversations to get their feedback, as well as considering the size of the market opportunity and growth of your wider market.
  3. Product. We can get nerdy about technology so we want to hear all about your MVP, defensibility, product roadmap and how it addresses the key pain points of the buyer.
  4. Business model. We want to understand how you will monetise your technology, with the market's commercial norms in mind.

And most importantly - we want to get as excited about your company as you are!

As a pre-seed and seed stage fund, our initial ticket size can range between £100k - £600k in round sizes of up to £3m. Our founders can be pre-product or pre-revenue. No stage is too early; we love to hear why you think you're on the path to product-market fit.

If we invest in you, we believe that you and your business have the potential to change the world. And so, we always reserve significant funds to follow on in subsequent rounds to help you achieve your ongoing fundraising goals and to signal our support in your business to the market.

With a team full of diverse backgrounds - from finance to sales to recruitment - we can get excited about (almost) anything!

As such, we are sector-agnostic and this is reflective in our portfolio that spans Fintech (ThoughtMachine), Cybersecurity (Ravelin), Marketplaces (Trouva), Remote Working (Omnipresent), Artificial Intelligence (Sprout AI), Computer Vision (Recycleye & Orca AI), HealthTech (Vinehealth & uMed) and more.

We like to continuously expand our knowledge of specific areas by doing market deep dives - this helps with investment decision-making and to provide as much value as Board members as possible - but ultimately, we're generalist investors. We love the variety of looking at a HealthTech or Mobility startup one day, and a FinTech and Robotics startup the next.

Here is a short list of sectors that we do not look at:

  • AdTech/MarTech
  • Beauty
  • Crypto/Blockchain
  • Ecommerce
  • Fashion
  • Gambling
  • Gaming
  • Hardware
  • Lending
  • Medical Devices
  • SpaceTech

Most of our portfolio are based in the UK but that doesn't restrict us. We can back founders in almost any country, for example, travel insurance company Koala is based in France and Orca AI is located in Israel.

The aim of our investment process is to give founders and the Playfair team the opportunity to start building a relationship from day one. We are always looking for that chemistry, and aligned goals and values.

Our typical investment process looks a little like this:

1. Initial screening
The first step is usually a 30 minute call. This can be an informal chat or a formal pitch meeting - whichever the founder is most comfortable with. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions about Playfair and the process, whilst allowing the investor to get an initial understanding of the founders, their backgrounds and an overview of the business.

2. Subsequent meetings
Each meeting, we'll introduce a new team member to the founders so we can get a full-rounded view of the business whilst giving the founders insight to the different backgrounds, skills and experiences on our team. Each investor has their own style and area of interest but we will always catch up as a team in between meetings.

3. Due diligence
This can include anything from market sizing, financial analysis, technical deep dives, pipeline breakdowns and more. Anything that the founder has prepared in advance can help and we do our own research to help us understand your business as thoroughly as possible.

4. Investment Committee
The final stage is coming together as a team and consolidating our findings. Each investor will have met the founders at this point so will be able to contribute. We'll give founders the opportunity to answer any final questions and if it's a positive outcome, we'll let you know first!

You can read more about our investment process here.

Sometimes the news isn't what founders want to hear, in which case we strive to provide as much feedback as possible so that you're better prepared for future fundraising conversations and can take some value from our investment process.

The total timelines can vary from days to weeks however, we move as fast as founders require us to. We will keep you up to date throughout the process so you always know what to expect next!

Playfair can both lead and follow - depending on what is right for the founder and the company. We are happy to invest alongside other VCs and angels, and have previously co-invested with Ascension Ventures, Amadeus Capital, Balderton, IQ Capital, Index, LocalGlobe, Octopus Ventures and more.

Where we're leading the round, we like to take the Director seat to ensure we're adding as much value as possible and committing as much resource as is required.

Equally, we're happy to participate in a round and forgo the Board/Observer seat if this is best for the business.

Within Fund I, we've made 55 investments and are extremely proud of our four exits. These include:

- Mapillary acquired by Facebook (read more here)
- CryptoFacilities acquired by Kraken (read more here)
- Good&Co acquired by a US publicly listed company
- Hassle acquired by Helpling (read more here)

Other Fund I companies have been busy growing and fundraising such as Thought Machine, that recently raised a Series B, and Ravelin, that secured its Series C last year.

Our Fund II companies are in the early stages of their rapid expansion plans. We've already seen Omnipresent go from conception to Series A in 2 years, Sprout.AI raise a large Series A round this year and Orca AI raise a Series A to disrupt the maritime industry.

We recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion for us to perform to the best of our collective ability. And so, we are committed to making our portfolio, team and ecosystem as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Since 2019, we have actively committed to supporting female founders gain access to investors and improve their fundraising opportunities through our nation-wide Female Founder Office Hours event. Since then, we have organised and hosted five events alongside Tech Nation and in doing so, we have facilitated 2,800 pitching/mentoring sessions for 700 founders and 90+ investors. You can register your interest in the event here.

You can follow Playfair on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and on Medium.

You can also follow all the team members on Linkedin and Twitter.

Andrew (Sheff) Sheffield - Linkedin. Twitter.

Chris Smith - Linkedin. Twitter.

Elise Congram - Linkedin.

Federico Pirzio-Biroli. Linkedin. Twitter.

Henrik Wetter-Sanchez - Linkedin. Twitter.

Jeevan Sunner - Linkedin. Twitter.

Joe Thornton - Linkedin. Twitter.

Simon Blakey - Linkedin. Twitter.

Please follow Playfair and our team on social media to look out for regular updates on new job postings. You can also find our portfolio companies here; job posts are regularly posted to their websites.