Thursday, March 23, 2023

Co-founder of early Deliveroo backer Hoxton Ventures is set to leave

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A Deliveroo rider near Victoria station on March 31, 2021 in London, England.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

European venture capital firm Hoxton Ventures, a backer of some of the U.K.’s best-known tech unicorns, is set to lose one of its founding partners.

Rob Kniaz, who co-founded Hoxton in 2013 with Hussein Kanji, is in talks with institutional investment firms about establishing a new venture capital fund focusing on deep tech investing, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Kniaz’s departure is not imminent and he will continue managing the $215 million fund the firm raised last year as he prepares to eventually exit to focus on his new VC firm, according to the two sources, who preferred to remain anonymous as the information has not yet been made public.

The timeline on Kniaz’s departure remains unclear at this stage, the sources added.

Kanji and Kniaz, two Americans who moved to the U.K. to invest in European startups, have backed some of the country’s most notable unicorns. They include food delivery app Deliveroo and cybersecurity firm Darktrace.

News of Kniaz’s plan to exit the firm arrives at a tumultuous time for the tech industry. Last year was a tough one for growth-stage startups, whose valuations declined in response to rising interest rates and softer consumer spending. Layoffs have also plagued the industry.

Some of Hoxton’s portfolio companies have seen their public market values sink as investors re-examined their exposure to tech.

Deliveroo has fallen 68% since it debuted in April 2021. Darktrace, which floated shortly after Deliveroo, is down 21% below its IPO price and is the subject of a short-seller attack over alleged flaws in its accounting. Babylon Health has lost 95% of its market value since going public via a combination with a special purpose acquisition company.

Nonetheless, Hoxton generated a hundredfold return on its early bets on Deliveroo and grew the value of its Darktrace position by fiftyfold since first investing in the company, according to one of the sources.

It did however lose money on its Babylon Health deal, the source added.

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