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As startup investors flee deals, this venture capital hotshot is launching a new angel network to fund early-stage companies during the downturn

Tech investors are fleeing deals and slashing startup valuations thanks to coronavirus uncertainty, but one European investing hotshot is running towards the fire.

Ophelia Brown, founder of venture firm Blossom Capital, has launched a new angel network called Cultivate to help fund promising European startups at the pre-seed and seed stage.

“Access to capital is going to be one of the biggest prohibitors of people starting a business,” Brown, formerly of Index Ventures and LocalGlobe, told Business Insider in an interview.

Cultivate will make up to 20 investments of $250,000 per startup in the next 12 months, a total of $5 million.

The program will initially focus on startup founders who have previously worked at successful unicorns, according to Brown. Founders can apply via an online form or an introduction from one of the angels. Investors who have already joined the program include founders and early employees of successful European unicorns such as Des Traynor (Intercom), Guillaume Pousaz (Checkout.com), Nilan Peiris (TransferWise), and Shakil Khan (Spotify).

Pre-seed and seed-stage startups are, investors have argued, highly likely to collapse during a prolonged downturn. Most are not profitable and have not raised sufficient cash to see them through a year or two years of reduced business.

“I lived through last crisis on the Goldman Sachs trading floor and know that so much of a successful business is the founder’s character,” Brown said. “It’s not about the specifics of markets but how people deal with uncertainty and unpredictability to build a common mission.”

Cultivate will grow to up to 30 angels in future, Brown said.

“As CEOs, we’re keen to find and develop the next generation of business leaders; to pay it forward, but we don’t have the time to search for and uncover these hidden gems,” said Guillaume Pousaz, CEO and founder of Checkout.com and an angel investor on the scheme.

Brown added that Blossom Capital, which raised a second $185 million fund in January, would continue to fund startups.

“We know what you need to see in a founding team [and] product to create a world changing business and while in-person interaction is very important for relationship building, it can be done online with virtual dinners, drinks, and back-channel referencing,” she said.

In 2019 Blossom invested in European tech startups including travel tech company Duffel, Irish cybersecurity company Tines, and payments processor Checkout.com.

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