‘Backing the next generation’: VC firm raises $12 million for early-stage startups

Investing

A two-year-old venture and advisory firm, Happenco, has closed its first fund, raising $12 million to invest into early-stage startups.
Happenco founders, Ben Cheyne (L), Gideon Gut-Silverman (M) and Omar Varts (R). Image source: Supplied

Happenco, which is led by ex-Deloitte Ventures exec Ben Cheyne, ex-Google exec Gideon Gut-Silverman and the former global sales manager of retail firm Deus Ex Machina, launched in 2021 with a view to go “all-in early”. The venture-capital-slash-advisory firm has so far backed 27 companies, and just closed its first fund, raising $12 million to invest into “earliest-stage” startups.

To date, 60% of the $12 million fund has been deployed across 16 companies, including an electric utility software firm, Neara, an online hub for managing ad specs, Spec Sheet, and a platform for schools to find their next excursion, EdTripper.

HappenCo has also so far worked with 11 startups across healthtech, retail and fintech in an advisory capacity – including sustainable luxury fashion and lifestyle brand, Nagnata, which also secured funding from the firm.

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The firm’s managing director, Cheyne, says it can be difficult for early founders to get ideas of the ground – and that’s where Happenco comes in.

“We see a gap in our market here in Australia at the earliest stages – we want creators to play their strengths and provide technology build, operational and financial capability where needed,” he says.

And Happenco executive director Gut-Silverman says Australia’s startup landscape is shifting, causing a chasm between ideation and funding for early-stage startups. And, the market’s tough.

“Success to us is creating the opportunity for ideas to become bold companies,” Gut-Silverman says. “It’s about backing the next generation of Australian startups, bringing them on the journey from an initial spark to a homegrown success story.”

Rise in micro VCs

The news follows a broader trend of rising micro VCs – venture capital funds that manage smaller pools of capital, and typically invest lower sums of money. According to Crunchbase, the number of micro VCs has increased 120% since 2021, and 70% of investments from micro VCs are channeled into seed and early-stage startups, according to data from the National Venture Capital Association.

According to MarkWideResearch, the rise in micro VC funds is being driven by the rise in entrepreneurship thanks to rapid advancements in tech, which have lowered the barrier to entry for many industries.

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