Zoetermeer-based AI fund of € 50 million launched
On January 18 2022, the new VC-firm Curiosity officially launched its early-stage fund by announcing a €0.8 million investment in the Dutch ‘explainable AI’ startup Deeploy. The new investment fund focuses on early-stage AI-driven software startups in the fastest growing tech hubs of Northern-Europe to unlock the enormous growth potential.
Curiosity was founded by the experienced investors Herman Kienhuis, former managing director of KPN Ventures, and Maurice Beckand Verwee, founder of startup investor Crosspring, to carry out their mission to support European entrepreneurs in building the new generation of AI-driven software companies to serve the world. The investment fund specifically targets early-stage investments of tech companies in growing fields such as Enterprise software, Marketing/E-commerce, FinTech, Cyber Security, LegalTech, and PropTech. Thereby, focusing on Europe’s fastest-growing tech hubs: the Benelux, Scandinavia, and the Baltics. Curiosity has a unique community-driven approach and aims to grow towards a fund size of €50 million to invest in 20 software companies. By now, 35 investors – mostly entrepreneurs and family offices – have pronounced their commitment to the fund, including co-founders of BinckBank, Scoupy, Litebit, and SecurityMatters.
European technology sector and AI are booming, but seed funding is lacking
By focusing on the early-stage investments of AI startups located in the Benelux, Nordics, and Baltics, Curiosity aims to fill in the current gaps in the financial market. Europe, and especially Northern-Europe, has become one the fastest growing regions in the technology sector worldwide. However, this growth is entirely attributed to the financing of companies in later growth phases. In the Netherlands, the amount invested in the pre-seed and seed phases of startups has been hovering around €200 million for years now*. In 2021 this included merely 4% of the total investments, while market demand is growing rapidly. In addition, the AI software market shows enormous growth potential, with Europe leading the way in setting up regulations regarding responsible deployment of Artificial Intelligence. Curiosity focuses specifically on companies that align with these developments.
Software company Deeploy for AI transparency
Today, Curiosity officially launches its maiden fund by announcing the first investment of €0.8 million in Deeploy, a Dutch startup developing software for transparency, explainability, and traceable accountability for the use of AI. Together with the participation of the founders, a total of €1 million was raised. The funding will be used by Deeploy for further software development aimed at serving large enterprise customers, and building a professional sales organization to prepare for future international expansion. In the long term, Deeploy also aspires to further develop the current cloud-based software into a full SaaS solution. “More and more data is available and collected, combined with smarter technology and algorithms for data processing and machine learning. Therefore, AI is on the verge of its big breakthrough, and will soon be adding substantial value to countless industries. This also means there’s an increased focus on the transparency and accountability of the decisions made by algorithms, and The European Union is working on new regulations regarding the use of AI as we speak. Deeploy’s software fits in perfectly with these developments, and the four founders have the right expertise, execution power and to help companies with an effective product offering”, Herman Kienhuis, co-founder of Curiosity, states. “Besides the obvious fit with the fund’s focus areas, and two experienced investors in charge that combine practical and strategic expertise, for us the community focus of Curiosity adds enormous value. By making both entrepreneurs and advisors co-owners of the fund, a cross-fertilization of various expertise and knowledge is stimulated. This makes for a strong supporting network to create continuous growth for all companies in the portfolio”, says Bastiaan van de Rakt, co-founder of Deeploy.
A community-driven fund for growth
By targeting a portfolio size of 20 fast-growing startups, Curiosity offers investors an opportunity to seize the growth potential of this market while managing risk through diversification. Entrepreneurs that are backed by the fund, benefit from an active community of expert advisors, entrepreneurs, investors and service partners for support and knowledge sharing. Most distinctive about the investment fund is its community-driven approach. Entrepreneurs supported by Curiosity become co-owners of the fund, leading to an increased interest in portfolio growth, and encouragement of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. In addition, the founders have gathered a group of experienced advisors to join the community, including established names such as Daniel Gebler (Picnic), Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen (DAIN Studios), Patrick de Laive (TNW), Jan Kees de Jager (Easygenerator), Aik Deveneijns (Levelup), and Christina Caljé (Autheos). These advisors will also become co-owners of the fund and will invest their time and expertise to support the fund management and companies within its portfolio. Curiosity emphasizes the importance of corporate social responsibility. The fund specifically focuses on funding software companies that aim for the responsible deployment of AI, and will assist the entrepreneurs in developing a strong AI ethics policy, in line with European values and regulations. In addition, Curiosity has joined the #Fundright movement, and is therefore actively set on building a diverse team, community and portfolio, offering equal access to opportunity.