Early-stage venture capital firm Angular Ventures announced the close of its USD 80 million second fund on Thursday as it seeks to continue backing deep tech companies in Israel and Europe.
This second fund is almost double the previous USD 41 million sum, which invested in 21 companies and closed in November 2019.
Founded in 2019, Angular Ventures is one of the more unusual VC companies in the Israeli ecosystem. It specifically seeks out European and Israeli firms at the earliest—and usually riskiest—stages, sometimes before an organization even has a name.
NoCamels interviewed Gil Dibner, partner at Angular Ventures, and David Peterson, whose addition as a new partner, having moved from Airtable, has created something of a stir. The two talked openly about the company’s philosophy and how Peterson is expected to be a game-changer for the firm.
Angular’s remit covers enterprise software, nanotechnology, advanced healthcare infrastructure, space technology, agricultural software, and a wide range of advanced machine learning applications and tooling.
Dibner, who has extensive experience as a VC in the US and UK, said that his experience in Israel was invaluable to what he achieved and what he can now bring back. “If we tell people outside of Israel that we need a more Israeli-style VC, that is less of a radical statement now than may once have been the case,” he said. “Also, the fact that more people [throughout the world] now know what needs to be done, doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to do.”
Dibner found out that not only are Israeli VCs competing with tier-one US funds for opportunities to invest in the best and brightest companies around the world, those same American funds are aggressively looking to compete for Israeli companies too. “We are part of a whole world of opportunity—and our unique angle is exporting a more Israeli style,” he remarked.
Building from the ground up
Peterson joined Airtable—a software creation platform—as one of the company’s first 16 employees. In his four years as head of growth, the firm expanded to more than 500 employees and reached a valuation of more than USD 6 billion.
While Angular Ventures is a different kind of firm, he is drawn to “getting his hands dirty” and working with entrepreneurs at the earliest stages, believing that the initial phases are when it is possible to have the most influence and effect the most significant change.
“It’s clearer nearer to the outset what questions you need to answer. Perhaps the ultimate question that needs a solution is how do we find product-market fit, although how to get there is usually much more uncertain,” Peterson said.
Peterson could have chosen any of the other offers that were on the table for him. He bonded with Dibner—who introduced him to various companies—over the pandemic winter in London. The two got to know each other better, and then Dibner “popped the question,” recalled Peterson. He was confident that Angular’s commitment to a hands-on approach—through investment and mentoring—reflected his philosophy and experience within the ecosystem.
Dibner is magnanimous in his admiration for Peterson’s skills. “The demand for David’s time when interest was made public was insane. We’ve been working together under the radar for several months now, and the impact on our portfolio companies has already been amazing,” he said.
Intellectual honesty about the journey is paramount
The pair talked about the psychology of investing and the way that initial connections with founders are often via word-of-mouth recommendations. “We are deep tech investors,” Dibner explained. “We are investing in profoundly difficult deep technology, but it doesn’t mean that we understand the science behind it. What the founder needs from us is a sounding board, someone who at least understands that it is a crazy technological challenge. Our key input is asking the questions about how they can lower the risk. If you comprehend those initial risks and work to mitigate them—even though there will be mistakes along the way—it will almost certainly be less risky when a company goes to raise money again.”
“Trust—intellectual honesty about the journey is paramount. It isn’t just a question of analyzing the numbers. It is about sitting down with another human being and hearing them out, allowing them to explain something they may have had trouble communicating to others,” Dibner said.
Peterson concurred, maintaining that “the relationships with founders that have been the most exciting and rewarding is where you act almost as a co-conspirator. My role is not to advise on the technical aspects of quantum physics. Rather, it is simply believing in something and someone that nobody else believes.”
Building effective teams on a one-pizza basis
“Jeff Bezos advises that for a team to be effective you should be able to feed them with two pizzas,” Dibner said. “At Angular, we are working more on a one-pizza basis. We aspire to be part of that initial seed of a team. We want to provide founders with the freedom to run thousands of experiments if they need to, but we will discuss with them whether it makes sense. We start from the point of view of ‘we support you, we believe in you, it’s not crazy. However, perhaps you should look at the problem this way.'”
Angular Ventures has been the first investor in over 50 seed-stage companies from Europe or Israel, with a portfolio worth over USD 20 billion today. One of its investments went to Firebolt, which is on track to carry a valuation of several billion dollars.
The article was originally published by NoCamels, a leading news website covering breakthrough innovation from Israel for a global audience.