News – Benchmark Takes European Vacation

Following eight years of exclusive operations within the U.S., Benchmark Capital announced last week that it has decided to test its venture muscle overseas. Rather than simply investing in cross-border companies, however, the Silicon Valley-based firm is in the midst of marketing a separate fund dedicated exclusively to Western European companies.

Benchmark has set the new venture vehicle’s target at a hefty $500 million and expects to close out the pool in May. Although there is no specific investment on the imminent horizon, Steve Spurlock, operating partner at Benchmark, did say that the fund could possibly add a portfolio company or two within the next month thanks to initial seed capital.

“We think that there is a huge amount of opportunity in Europe right now,” Spurlock said. “They have real leadership in wireless, a lot of good Internet opportunities, the infrastructure in progressing, there’s more liquidity than before and, perhaps most importantly, there is a changing of social views in terms of the acceptability of going to work for a start-up company.”

Spurlock added that Benchmark’s European investments will mirror the activity of the U.S. funds in terms of most everything except for geographical location. Therefore, the new fund will be eyeing early-stage technology-related companies with investments ranging from about $2 million to $10 million per round.

Even though Benchmark plans to open a London office, none of Benchmark’s current California staff are slated to be relocated. Instead, the company is in talks to hire a pair of new partners and other assorted employees. Negotiations are currently ongoing with the new partners who Spurlock would only identify as “European nationals.”