Skype Cofounders Aim to Raise $266M Venture Fund


Atomico Ventures is ready for blast-off, according to a new regulatory filing. The early-stage venture capital fund spearheaded by Skype cofounders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis is looking to raise the strangely precise amount of $266 million, with the help of San Francisco placement agent Probitas Partners.

The fund — incorporated in the tax-neutral jurisdiction of Grand Cayman island — has yet to secure any commitments, according to the filing. The team is apparently pretty confident about how quickly it will do so, though. The filing states that the offering to LPs, who are being asked for a minimum investment of $13.3 million, will be available for no longer than one year.

This morning I reached out to Zennström and Friis, as well as Probitas Partners. I haven’t heard back from Probitas, but I just received a note from the London-based public relations firm that’s addressing financial communications for Atomico; it says that “unfortunately the company is currently in a quiet period and is therefore unable to respond to media inquiries, beyond a ‘No Comment.'”

In the meantime, the filing and Atomico’s site offer some detail about what it plans to focus on, which will “primarily” be “consumer-facing” European startups.

The filing and site also shed light on who will be running things at Atomico. At the top of the hierarchical heap, naturally, are Zennström and Friis, who not only cofounded Skype together but also the (struggling) online video platform Joost, the controversial file-sharing program Kazaa (which later sold to Sharman Networks), and Joltid, a multi-product startup based on the same peer-to-peer technology in which Skype is rooted.

Other investing partners at the 15-person firm include Geoffrey Prentice, the first employee at Skype, where he was chief strategy officer, and Mattias Ljungman, formerly the head of venture capital investments at CLS Holdings, a listed company founded by a Swedish entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, handling Atomic’s back office will be Ronan Guilfoyle and Roger Hanson, both listed on the filing and both from dms Management, which calls itself “the largest management firm in the Cayman Islands focused on serving the hedge fund industry.” (Both are still listed at the Website of dms.)

According to Atomic’s site, the firm already counts 19 investments, mostly including those made before the firm was formed. Among the holdings listed are U.K-based Internet radio company Last.fm, which sold to CBS for $280 million in 2007; San Francisco-based Aliph, maker of the Jawbone headset, which has raised more than $42 million from Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Mayfield Fund and individual investors like Ben Horowitz; and San Francisco-based Xobni, an email management company that has attracted close to $15 million in venture capital, including from Khosla Ventures, Cisco Systems, and First Round Capital.

Not on the list: Skype. According to reports early last month, Zennström and Friis were hoping to buy back Skype from eBay with the help of several private equity firms. (eBay has famously done pretty much nothing with the Internet phone service since paying a fortune for it.) Perhaps because it was asking a price higher than the group was willing to pay, eBay has since said that it plans to spin-off the business in an IPO in the first half of 2010.