Started in 2008 by three French entrepreneurs, Paris-based Serena invests in early stage startups across Europe — and it’s just secured €300m to launch a new fund.
The new fund will focus on Series A investments and write cheques from €5 to €15m. The fund comes from a mixture of existing and new investors, including BPIfrance and a number of other French banks and insurance companies.
The fund will be the firm’s third, and its biggest yet, following a €94m fund in 2008, and a €134m launched in 2013.
“Typically, we invest a lot in SaaS and online marketplace, which is something we’ll keep doing,” Xavier Lorphelin, cofounder of Serena, tells Sifted. “We are also interested in fintech, healthtech, AI and data.”
The fund’s made several fintech investments recently, including in IBANFirst, which runs a foreign exchange services for banks, and Libeo, a French fintech that aims to streamline payments between suppliers and SMEs.
Particular successes of Serena’s portfolio include early investment in Dataiku, a platform for AI and data science that’s now valued at over €1bn, and which is expected to IPO soon.
The firm also invested in Cheerz, a mobile printing startup that was acquired by Cewe in Germany, and Aramis Auto, a website selling new and used cars that was acquired by French manufacturing group PSA.
Serena has a strong focus on the French market, with two thirds of its investments falling within the country.
“This is because we invest at an early stage, so we want to be close to the companies in our portfolio,” explains Lorphelin.
“But it’s also because we believe the French market is quite interesting at the moment, it’s a mature market with a lot of opportunities — that’s different from what it was when we started, it was worth €1bn a year, now it’s €5bn.”
The French ecosystem is particularly strong in data and AI, as well as fintech and gaming, he says.
A primary goal of the fund is to push companies to be international, Lorphelin adds, so Serena often co-invests with other European or American VCs.
The firm has also aimed to replicate the level of operational support often seen from American VC firms.
“We wanted to provide hands on value to our portfolio companies,” says Lorphelin. “In the US, investors like OpenView are doing that but in Europe it’s normally just late stage VCs like Atomico, we are one of the few early stage VCs offering end to end operating support.”
Serena aims to give companies support in HR, sales and marketing strategy and product development, as well as advice on expanding to America.
There’s also the “Serena Squad” — a community of 500 investors and founders across the portfolio companies who can ask each other for support.
The firm has also brought on several new hires to increase the operational support it offers. These include Nicholas Maquaire, founder of Entropysoft, a content integration startup acquired by Salesforce; and Alex Winter, founder of LTU Technologies.
On the investment side, Serena’s also just brought in Bertrand Diard, the founder of French software publisher Talend, which is now worth $1.8bn.
Although the focus of Serena’s new fund will be on Series A investments, the new fund will also give the firm capacity to support its startups the whole way through.
“We want to have the capacity to finance companies through all the different stages, in Series B, C, D and so on,” Lorphelin says. “This fund gives us the fuel to support them all the way through.”
Freya Pratty is Sifted’s news reporter. She tweets from @FPratty