Benchmark Taps European Markets –

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Following eight years of exclusive operations within the United States, Benchmark Capital decided in March to test its venture muscle overseas. Rather than simply investing in cross-border companies, however, the firm is in the midst of marketing a separate fund dedicated exclusively to Western European companies.

Benchmark has set the new venture vehicle’s target at a hefty $500 million and expects to close out the pool in May. Although there is no specific investment on the imminent horizon, Steve Spurlock, operating partner at Benchmark, did say that the fund could possibly add a portfolio company or two within the next month, thanks to initial seed capital.

“We think that there is a huge amount of opportunity in Europe right now,” Spurlock said. “They have real leadership in wireless, a lot of good Internet opportunities, the infrastructure in progressing, there’s more liquidity than before and, perhaps most importantly, there is a changing of social views in terms of the acceptability of going to work for a start-up company.”

Spurlock added that Benchmark’s European investments will mirror the activity of the U.S. funds in every way except for geographical focus. Therefore, the new fund will eye early-stage technology-related companies, with investments ranging from about $2 million to $10 million per round.

Even though Benchmark plans to open a London office, none of Benchmark’s current California staff is slated for relocation. At press time, the firm had hired European entrepreneur & venture capitalist, Eric Archambeau, as a general partner. The firm has plans to add an additional partner and other assorted employees but would not release any further details.