A 24-year-old law school dropout from south-west London who as a teenager started a popular podcast about tech investing has raised $140m in new funds to back start-ups.
Harry Stebbings has secured investment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rothschild-backed RIT Capital Partners, as well as the founders and early backers of Spotify, Calm and Atlassian, for his 20VC fund.
Several of Stebbings’ investors have appeared on his podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, which has released hundreds of episodes since he started as an 18-year-old in 2015. He dropped out of law school the following year to focus on podcasting full-time, before moving into investing in 2017, aged 20.
“When you look at the next 10 years we are seeing this bifurcation, with media and venture colliding,” Stebbings said, as it becomes increasingly competitive for venture capitalists to get into the hottest start-ups.
He pointed to Silicon Valley investor Andreessen Horowitz as another example of how VCs are building their own content platforms, allowing them to bypass traditional media outlets and build a profile that can attract entrepreneurs.
After raising an initial $8.3m fund in April 2020, Stebbings has invested in start-ups including audio social network Clubhouse and virtual events service Hopin, both of which have achieved multibillion-dollar valuations. Hopin founder Johnny Boufarhat is also an investor in 20VC.
A string of social-media influencers are trying to use their online profiles to become investors, including YouTubers Jake Paul and Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, and TikTok star Josh Richards.
But few have raised as much capital as quickly as Stebbings, who grew up in Fulham, south-west London.
His father is a stockbroker and his mother has multiple sclerosis; the podcast was initially launched to help pay her medical fees, as well as build connections in the tech industry.
“The podcast is my shop sign,” Stebbings said. “It’s easier to create content than ever before, but it’s more difficult to create a brand than ever before . . . Distribution, at the end of the day, is everything.”
20VC is the latest example of the surge of capital flowing into European tech. In just the past week, Balderton launched a $680m growth fund, while Draper Esprit unveiled plans to raise another £111m from investors.
Venture capital funding into European tech companies reached €38.9bn last year, according to investment tracker Dealroom.co, but it has already exceeded that in 2021 with €48.1bn invested so far.
Stebbings admitted that he worried “a little bit” that the private tech market was “really heated”, but pointed to the trillion-dollar valuations of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet as evidence that the returns from a winning bet could be larger than ever.
“I’ve believed in Harry since his very first episodes of The Twenty Minute VC, recorded from his Mum’s kitchen six years ago,” said Khan, who is co-founder of Prima Materia, a €1bn investment company, alongside Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek.
20VC will operate two funds, with $33m focused on early-stage investing and $107m for deals in more established tech companies.
But Stebbing insists there is “total delineation” between the podcast and his investments.
“We can never muddy the waters in terms of the quality of content. Just because I invest in your company, it does not mean that we are featuring you” on the podcast, he said.