Octopus Ventures Reading time: 5 mins

Octopus Ventures launches pre-seed team, led by Seedcamp and Uber alumni

23 Jun 2022
  • Kirsten Connell and Maria Rotilu lead a new £10 million fund designed to be the first investment in the next wave of high potential European businesses’
  • Created to fill a growing gap for very early-stage funding, which has declined nearly 50% since 2016[1]
  • Will make £100k investments, backed by full weight of Octopus Ventures support

Octopus Ventures, part of Octopus Group and one of the largest and most active VCs in Europe, is today launching its first pre-seed team, created to fill a growing gap in very early-stage funding for European founders.

The all-female investment team is made up of Seedcamp and Uber alumni, Kirsten Connell and Maria Rotilu, who bring a unique level of insight and experience in growing businesses from their earliest days. Maria is a former country manager of Uber Nigeria; GM of Branch, a neo-bank; MD of Oxford Seed Fund and investor for Hustle Fund. Kirsten is the former GM of Seedcamp, Europe’s most successful seed fund, and MD of CyLon, a deep tech accelerator programme investing and supporting over 60 start-ups. Combined, they have reviewed over 10,000 deals and made more than 75 investments, including in Immersive Labs, Tessian, and Habitual.

The pre-seed team will fill a growing gap in European venture funding. Despite growing European VC investment and the creation of 72 European unicorns in 2021, investment at the earliest stages has fallen, with pre-seed funding declining nearly 50% since 2016.

It will focus on three Octopus Ventures specialist sectors – B2B software, fintech and health – and is designed to provide the fast, agile process that founders need when pursuing their first funding, alongside the benefits of having a major venture capital firm in their corner. The team will make standard investments of £100k and founders will be supported by Octopus Ventures’ established sector experts, its leading people and talent team, and its network of founders and advisors.

Kirsten Connell comments:

“We built the pre-seed team to move fast while providing every benefit of a major venture capital partner. In our first wave of investments, we’ve moved from first meet to termsheet in two weeks and, as part of the portfolio, our founders are benefiting from access not just to sector experts from Octopus, but a network of more than 400 leaders who have walked in their shoes and are ready to help guide and advise new founders on the trials of building a business.”

The team launches with investments in ten businesses across the UK, Germany and Spain, reflecting the variety of people and ideas they are looking to back:

  • Bea Fertility – Béa Fertility is bringing clinical grade, at-home fertility treatment to the market by giving women and couples affordable ICI (Intracervical Insemination), supported by an expert-led reproductive care team.
  • Bloom Money – Bloom Money helps immigrants borrow and save money in a transparent and straightforward manner and uses a community-led approach to financial services. Bloom builds upon tried and tested methods of borrowing and saving money that are currently used worldwide. 
  • DudeChem – DudeChem is a chemical manufacturing outsourcing software that connects pharmaceutical companies with chemical manufacturers, providing critical chemical production data alongside evidenced-based green material substitutes (water-based chemistry instead of oil) for chemical components. 
  • Paua –PauaTech provides technology solutions for EV drivers to find the nearest charging stations and help fleet managers easily manage billing and payments all in one place.
  • Visible – Visible is a digital care platform for millions living with invisible illnesses like Long COVID
  • Volunteero – Volunteero is a B2B SaaS platform helping charities manage their volunteers more efficiently and improve their volunteer engagement.
  • StockRx – StockRx provides automated stock management for pharmacies and hospitals
  • Baselime – Baselime creates developer first observability for serverless architecture
  • Luna – Luna educates, empowers and supports female and non-binary teens on their journey to adulthood.
  • Flinco – Flinco has developed a software platform to make other tools smart with help of no code A.I.

Maria Rotilu comments:

“We want to invest early in founders building new technologies to solve the world’s toughest problems, and we believe those founders could come from anywhere, so we’re putting diversity at the heart of the fund. In our first wave, 40% of businesses have a female founder and 30% have at least one ethnic minority founder. All have revolutionary ideas. We know we can increase the diversity of where we invest further, and we want to hear from female and under-represented founders with the next $1 billion idea.”

Alliott Cole, Co-CEO, Octopus Ventures, adds:

“Falling investment at the earliest stages of business growth is a long-term challenge for European businesses but, more than that, it’s a missed opportunity. We see brilliant pre-seed businesses every day that could change the world. By establishing a team devoted to earliest stage businesses, with a devoted fund and two of Europe’s best pre-seed investors leading it, we’re seizing that opportunity to back the businesses that will change the world, from day one.”


This press release is issued by Octopus Investments Limited. Octopus Ventures is part of Octopus Investments, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The information contained within this press release does not constitute an offer or inducement to participate in a collective investment scheme, alternative investment fund or any other financial product and may not be treated as an offer or inducement in any jurisdiction where such an offer or inducement is against the law, or to anyone to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer or solicitation, or if the person making the offer or solicitation is not qualified to do so. Our investments place investors’ capital at risk and they may not get back the full amount invested. This promotion does not offer investment or tax advice and this product is not suitable for everyone. We recommend investors seek independent investment and tax advice before investing in our products. Octopus Investments Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT. Registered in England and Wales No. 3942880. We record our telephone calls. Issued: June 2022