Frontline launches $80m fund to help US firms expand in Europe

9 Mar 2020

From left: Stephen McIntyre and Will Prendergast. Image: Frontline Ventures

FrontlineX will be led by Stephen McIntyre and Brennan O’Donnell, who have a history of supporting US companies entering the European market.

Last week, Dublin and London-based VC firm Frontline Ventures announced a new $80m fund aimed at helping US software companies expand into Europe.

The fund, entitled FrontlineX, brings the total funds under the VC firm’s management to $200m. FrontlineX’s partners have been executives at Twitter, Google, SurveyMonkey, Airtable and Yammer, and have designed a tailored programme that offers US companies a “fast and frictionless” start in Europe.

Frontline said that it will invest up to $5m alongside lead investors in B2B companies raising funds for Series B, C or D rounds, while working with portfolio companies to implement tailored strategies for European expansion.

The firm said: “FrontlineX’s founding team is uniquely positioned to offer such support given their deep operating expertise and extensive networks on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The growth-stage fund

Since it was launched in 2012, Frontline Ventures has been an active investor in European B2B SaaS companies, helping European founders access the US market. Frontline was an early investor in Dublin tech start-up Pointy, which was recently acquired by Google.

With the FrontlineX fund, the firm wants to help US growth-stage companies expand into Europe. In addition to its experienced partners, FrontlineX counts active advisers and limited partners in executive roles at US companies such as Slack, Cloudflare, Dropbox, Indeed, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Workday and Irish-led Stripe.

With offices in London, Dublin and San Francisco, FrontlineX will be led by partners Stephen McIntyre and Brennan O’Donnell.

Prior to joining Frontline, McIntyre set up Twitter’s European headquarters as the vice-president of EMEA and built the presence to a $250m business in four and a half years. Before Twitter, he ran a substantial part of Google’s ads business.

O’Donnell, who has 20 years of experience in building technology businesses and scaling global teams, previously held multiple go-to-market leadership roles at Google in the US and Europe. He later held executive roles at Yammer, SurveyMonkey, Euclid and Airtable.

Avoiding common mistakes

McIntyre said FrontlineX is positioned to “bridge the gap” faced by US companies expanding into Europe.

“We’ve benchmarked the best of B2B software and seen that, by the time a company goes public, 30pc of its revenue should be coming from Europe. But even the biggest names in tech fail to get there because of avoidable mistakes when they land,” he said.

“We’ve learned about international expansion the hard way as operators. The good news is that most of these problems are known and solvable. But there’s no simple playbook, no one-size-fits-all solution. We take a hands-on approach with every company to ensure they make a fast start when they land and expand.”

So far, FrontlineX has already invested in a number of businesses that it wants to support in European expansion. These include TripActions, and Clearbanc.

Ariel Cohen, CEO of TripActions, said: “We’ve grown from zero to 150 people in Europe, built a world-class culture and scored a major strategic partner, all in 18 months. Such a fast start is only possible when you put strong foundations in place – and Frontline was instrumental in helping us do that.

“They were a crucial source of go-to-market advice, they introduced multiple quality candidates from their local network – from GMs to sales, to finance – and Stephen even coached one of my VPs for six months. Frontline’s operating experience in Europe made the advice pragmatic and actionable. Just what we needed to make Europe a growth engine for TripActions globally.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic