In honor of the one-year anniversary of our London office's reopening, we are highlighting three Europe-based managers with whom we have the distinct privilege of partnering. To kick off the series, we sat down (virtually) with Sonali De Rycker, Partner at Accel, to discuss the investment landscape in the UK and Europe, trends she is seeing among her portfolio companies, how venture capital can contribute to our collective path forward in a post-COVID world, and more. 

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We are bullish about the UK market. The fundamentals are incredibly robust and, despite the very real human tragedy that it is, the pandemic has only further fueled the next generation of entrepreneurs determined to solve global problems.

Most importantly, we have never seen so many high-quality entrepreneurs – both first time and repeat - founding companies in the UK. And this trend continues to be fueled by successful role models across a range of sectors, which in turn creates the conditions and impetus that encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs. Startup ecosystems can only flourish when they become self-sustaining virtuous circles, and we have definitively reached that tipping point in Europe and especially the UK.

Secondly, supply of capital is here to stay. UK companies have access to more capital than ever before for every stage of their lifecycle. Institutional capital is available at the seed stage through to growth equity and pre-IPO. Alongside the equity we have several debt providers in the UK who remain exceptionally active and recognize the increase in the UK opportunity set. We no longer see equity gaps, particularly where we used to at the pre-Series A stage, and good companies have never had such a broad choice of venture firms that they can work with.

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It’s true that for some sectors, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and underpinned rapid growth across our portfolio on both the enterprise and consumer sides.

One of those areas is enterprise automation, where we have an investment in a company called UiPath. UiPath is focused on back office processes such as HR onboarding, insurance claims handling and invoice processing and has become the clear category leader in robotic process automation. It has benefitted from companies continuing to look for ways to streamline their businesses and the current cost-focused environment has made the need to automate even more pressing for them.

Another would be in the sphere of process improvement. Celonis, our Munich-based portfolio company, began as a process mining software company but has now expanded to tackle broader automation use cases where the TAM continues to increase. The primary product acts as a digital consultant by connecting to a company’s core systems, mapping out all business processes and then visualizes their effectiveness, bottlenecks and areas of non-compliance.

In today’s remote-first world, online collaboration tools have become increasingly important to organizations. Collaboration is a sector where we have always had a strong thesis which led to us being very early in Slack, Dropbox, and Invision. We have an investment in Miro, an online whiteboarding platform that enables distributed teams to work effectively together, from brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning and managing agile workflows. It provides a full set of collaboration capabilities, including videochatpresentation and sharing, to make cross-functional teamwork effortless and collaboration easier.

We continue to spend a lot of time looking at digital healthcare solutions as patients continue to demand faster and more accessible healthcare, and the public payors urgently need new platforms to help them streamline cost and work more productively. Most European governments have opened up to digitization and reimbursement of digital channels to some extent but of course the pandemic has meaningfully accelerated the adoption curve. We have two companies in this space, Doctolib and Kry, and both have seen demand for their services increase dramatically over the course of 2020.

And also on the consumer side, Deliveroo, a food delivery company that many will be familiar with, has seen demand increase substantially over the past few months. A London originated start up, the company is active in 13 countries in more than 200 locations.

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Venture capital will continue to invest in entrepreneurs that are enabling fundamental transformation. Either through platform shifts that will create new opportunities or changes to consumer and enterprise behavior as a result of what we are seeing in the world today. We also expect to see no let up in the growth of automation and digitization, the importance of security, continued disruption in the financial services sector and fundamental changes to healthcare. The depth of venture capital in the UK will mean that many of these companies will become well funded and well positioned to be global leaders in the coming years. What is most exciting is the increasing focus on purpose and mission. These founders are creating companies that are addressing not just some of the compelling commercial opportunities but also some of the most pressing societal issues. As a result we see a generation of startups attempting to solve diverse problems from climate change to the circular economy to universal healthcare.

Sonali De Rycker joined Accel in 2008 and invests in consumer internet, software and fintech businesses.

Sonali led Accel’s investments in Avito (acquired by Naspers), Lyst, Spotify (NYSE: SPOT), Wallapop, Calastone, Monzo, Shift Technology, Letgo (acquired by Naspers), Kry/Livi, Soldo, Hopin, and Sennder. Prior to Accel, Sonali was with Atlas Venture (now Accomplice). She also previously served on the board of Match.com (NASDAQ:MTCH).

Sonali is from Mumbai and graduated from Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Business School.

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Accel is a global venture capital firm that is the first partner to exceptional teams everywhere, from inception through all phases of private company growth. Arista, Atlassian, Braintree, Celonis, CrowdStrike, Deliveroo, DJI, Dropbox, Etsy, Facebook, Flipkart, Freshworks, Jet, Kayak, Lynda.com, Qualtrics, Rovio, Slack, Spotify, Supercell, Swiggy, Tenable, UiPath and Venmo are among the companies the firm has backed over the past 35+ years. Accel helps ambitious entrepreneurs build iconic global businesses. For more, visit www.accel.com or www.twitter.com/accel. 

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