Who We Are

Playfair Capital is a technology venture capital firm founded in 2011 by Federico Pirzio-Biroli. From our London headquarters, we invest in tenacious entrepreneurs building technology that generates a quantum leap in the way people live, work, and play for the better. Fundamentally, we want to invest in companies that matter. A core tenet of our ethos is to invest and work on a level playing field with our entrepreneurs. We partner closely with our teams to provide the financial, operational, and strategic support required to bring their visionary technologies to the world. We’ve backed companies across the UK, Europe, the US, and Africa. Playfair also operates a co-working space in London, Warner Yard, which is home to a dozen early stage technology startups, the London outpost of the Techstars accelerator, and a collaborative Angel and institutional investor floor. 

Federico Pirzio-Biroli Profile Image

Federico Pirzio-Biroli

Founding Partner

Fede founded Playfair Capital from his first investment in December of 2010. The portfolio quickly grew to 20 investments by the end of 2012, during which time he was an angel in residence at White Bear Yard. After working closely with Passion Capital, he built the Playfair Capital team and moved into Warner Yard, our current home.
Joe Charlesworth Profile Image

Joe Charlesworth

Partner & Head of Finance

Joe joined Playfair in 2013 to help incorporate the fund. He specialises in B2B opportunities in SaaS and Enterprise software, business automation, marketplaces and machine learning.  Joe holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Warwick. He was previously at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Banking and Capital Markets division where he worked with many of the world’s leading private equity and hedge funds.
Georgia Taylor Foster Profile Image

Georgia Taylor Foster

Partner & Head of Legal

Georgia previously worked at White & Case in mergers & acquisitions and equity capital markets, where she worked on a variety of cross border, multi sector transactions including in the technology and telecoms sectors. Seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence she left the corporate world to focus her talents on working with startups, particularly in the fashion e-commerce space.
Nathan Benaich Profile Image

Nathan Benaich

Investor

Nathan joined Playfair in 2013 and focuses on deal sourcing, due diligence, and ongoing portfolio support, particularly for data- and user-experience driven companies. Prior to Playfair, Nathan earned a PhD in oncology as a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge and a BA in biology from Williams College, during which time he published research on technologies to halt the fatal spread of cancer around the body. Read Nathan’s blog here and website here.
Joe Thornton Profile Image

Joe Thornton

Head of Talent

Joe joined Playfair in early 2015 to lead our talent acquisition and engagement programme. He focuses on finding and hiring exceptional people for Playfair’s fast growing portfolio companies. Prior to Playfair, Joe was a Technical Recruiter at Facebook and Google and earned two Law degrees from NUI Galway. 

Our Focus

We support technically strong founding teams with an unstoppable resilience towards realising an ambitious idea underpinned by market leading or market creating technology. Our investment focus is not immutable; instead, we are continually evolving our thesis of finding and helping to build fundamental innovation that generates long term impact and outsized returns.  

 

Size

We write our first cheque between £150k-£250k, sometimes significantly more in special circumstances, and have the capacity to follow-on in subsequent financing rounds for companies that outperform.

Stage

The majority of our deals take place at the seed stage where we are often the first institutional money into the company. We like to take the lead in companies that we are particularly excited about and where we constitute the largest ticket size in the round. However, we are also happy to co-invest as part of a strong value-add syndicate where round sizes preclude us from leading. We take a long view on our investments and work alongside founding teams to reach the optimal outcome that makes the most sense for all parties involved.

Sectors

We seek to invest in markets that are ripe for disruption or in entirely new markets created as a result of novel technology. Our current portfolio ranges from core technologies empowering the creation of new products and services (e.g. AI and machine learning and cloud infrastructure) to engaging user experiences that facilitate the procurement of products, services or information (e.g. marketplaces, e-commerce and mobile applications).

Geography

We are not bound by any geographic restrictions and therefore will consider companies working anywhere in the world. By virtue of our London presence, the majority of our investments are in the UK and Europe, followed by the US, with the furthest afield being in Kenya.

Our Process

Here’s an outline of our investment process. We endeavour to make swift decisions, knowing full well that time is of the essence at the early stage. 

 

1. Learning about your company – We’re not interested in reading a 30 page business plan, but we expect to learn the following via a deck and our conversations:

Who is the team and what have they worked on in the past?
What product or service does your business offer?
Why are you working on this and why is now the right time?
Where is the industry going and how big is the opportunity?
Who are the other players in the space and why are they inadequate?
How quickly can you scale this into a global operation and what are the financial requirements to achieve this?
What hypotheses have you tested so far and what were the results?

If we’re intrigued by what we learn as a result of these questions, we’ll move forward in the process. If, however, we don’t feel that we’re a good fit for your company, we’ll let you know very quickly.

2. Getting to know you and the team

If one thing is true, it’s that your business, its products, and the market on which you focus is likely to change and adapt over time. As a result, we focus heavily on learning about the team. We need to be sure that the entrepreneurs we support are able to remain nimble in their thought process and execution so as to quickly pursue new opportunities that make sense for the company as broader market currents evolve.

We will invite you in to meet members of our investment team to discuss your company and your team in more detail. We want to know what makes you tick and whether you have the capabilities to lead a team and execute strategies both on a local and global scale. We will talk to people in our network who know you and reach out to early or potential customers to ascertain whether your team is one that they’re excited to do business with.

We’ll dig deeper into the market, your technology architecture and stack, your competition, and your products to arrive at an investment decision. Making swift decisions is a key tenet of our founder friendly ethos. If we do decide to move forward, we will then send you a term sheet outlining the key commercial terms of our investment proposal. We’ll work with you to build a strong syndicate of investors who will add value to your business in key areas.

If we decide not to invest, we promise not to waste your time and will always provide you with constructive feedback that outlines our thought process.  We don’t string you along with “maybe” responses because it’s unproductive for all parties involved.

3. Due Diligence

After we signed the term sheet agreeing headline commercial terms, we will then carry out a more extensive due diligence process with your help before the deal can close. This process can take several weeks as it involves further reference calls, financial, legal, and technology diligence, and drafting of long form legal documents. This is a necessary evil not only for us but also to ensure that everything is in place for the company to raise future financing rounds.

Providing all boxes are ticked, investors and the company will sign all legal documents and cash will be unlocked. And the journey begins!

4. Our View on Ownership

We need the founders of companies we invest in to maintain majority control for as long as possible to ensure that they’re incentivised to build significant value into the future. For that reason, we acquire minority stakes at the seed stage.

5. Board Seats and Our Continued Involvement

When Playfair buys into a team with an idea, our commitment is for the long term. If we are the lead investor, we will typically require one of the members of our investment team to join the Board of Directors to represent the interests of seed investors and bring maximum value to the table. Writing a cheque is only the start of our relationship, and we only want to work with founding teams who value our involvement and are excited to bring us on board. Our involvement in the company ranges from daily interactions to more passive relationships. This largely depends on the founding team and their need/desire for help, the extent to which we can add value to the business, as well as the capital we have invested in the company. While we consider ourselves active investors, we are by no means micromanagers. To find out more, we recommend you reach out to the teams we have backed.


We Look For

We look for entrepreneurs with the perseverance and raw ability to build global companies that are key players in their market. These are the characteristics we are looking for:

 

1. Inspirational Entrepreneurs

Great companies are managed by outstanding leaders. While there’s no one-sized fits all model to follow, we look for teams with creativity, unstoppable resilience, an insatiable desire to succeed, and adaptability in uncertain times. Ingenuity and curiosity, as well as the potential for growth, are important to us too. We invest in founders of all backgrounds, technical or not.

2. A Great Idea

We look for companies that have components of proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding. Ideas that offer solutions to problems where the added value of the proposition is simply understood and unquestionable. While we prefer that entrepreneurs test their core hypotheses before we invest, we have invested pre-product where the opportunity is extremely compelling.

3. A Huge and Growing Market

We look for ideas that can be quickly scaled in global markets. Of course we look to invest in multi-billion dollar markets, but we also invest in markets that will grow by orders of magnitude as a result of the product or service built by the company we back.

4. Execution and Rollout

Having all the above is worthless without relentless execution. We look for entrepreneurs capable of identifying and delivering on set milestones and strategy to accelerate the company into a major global player.