EQT Ventures, the Stockholm-headquartered venture capital firm that invests in Europe and the U.S., is losing founding partner Hjalmar Winbladh, TechCrunch has learned.
Rumours that he was leaving the “multistage, sector-agnostic” VC fund that he helped launch in 2016, begun circulating within the European startup ecosystem last week, with multiple sources telling TechCrunch that Winbladh has his heart set on starting something new.
A serial entrepreneur, in the real sense, Winbladh is a seven-time founder, having previously built and managed global technology companies such as Wrapp, Rebtel and Sendit. Described as the world’s first mobile internet company, Sendit was acquired by Microsoft in 1999.
He joined EQT a decade ago to help establish its venture arm, when Europe barely had a venture capital ecosystem and was dwarfed by the U.S. in terms of available capital. In late 2019, EQT Ventures raised its second fund, with commitments totaling €660 million, making it one of the largest VC funds in Europe.
One of the firm’s investments, Small Giant Games, was acquired by Zynga in 2018 in a deal valued at $700 million. Other portfolio companies include 3D Hubs, Varjo, Natural Cycles, Permutive, Codacy, Peakon and Tinyclues.
Confirming Winbladh’s departure, EQT’s Head of Communications, Nina Nornholm, provided the following statement:
Hjalmar has been with EQT for almost 10 years and has played an instrumental role on our digital transformation journey. Over the last five years, he has also built and led the Ventures team into a very successful business and with a strong portfolio and dedicated team. He is now longing to get back to his entrepreneurial roots and has decided to leave his role within EQT Ventures. He remains on the boards of EQT Ventures’ portfolio companies Banking Circle, Wolt and Peltarion so we are not separating ways entirely.
In a brief call with Winbladh — interrupting his vacation, no less — he said he was excited to take some time to figure out what’s next, although he stressed that it was too early to go into any detail and that he was leaving EQT Ventures in very good hands.
Painting broad brush strokes, Winbladh told me he wants to continue giving back to the European ecosystem but that the challenges it faces today are very different to 10 years ago. With the tech landscape more competitive than ever, he wants to create a way for seasoned entrepreneurs and investors like himself to better support the next generation of founders, hinting at something earlier stage than EQT Ventures’ Series A, B and C focus. However, he said he wasn’t currently raising a fund of his own.
As always, watch this space.