Skype co-founders put out call for $266M

Atomico Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm spearheaded by Skype co-founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, is looking to raise $266 million, according to a regulatory filing.

The London-based firm has yet to raise any commitments, according to the filing, which also states that the offering will be available no longer than one year. Probitas Partners is acting as placement agent for the fund, which is named Atomico Ventures II. The minimum investment the fund will accept is $13.3 million, according to the filing.

Zennström and Friis declined to comment and directed questions to the Brunswick Group, a public relations firm representing Atomico. Brunswick Principal Tim Burt said that the firm “is currently in a quiet period and is therefore unable to respond to media inquiries, beyond. ‘No Comment.’”

But Tim Draper, managing partner of Skype investor Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said that Zennström and Friis are “brilliant” entrepreneurs who are well-equipped to evaluate other entrepreneurs.

“Anything they put their minds to they can do,” Draper said in an email to VCJ. “I am a big fan of anyone who is willing to risk his or her money on new startups.”

Atomico’s website states that the firm’s primary interest is investing in early stage “consumer-facing” European startups. Zennström, Friis and the rest of the investment team are “open-minded and more excited by great teams executing big ideas than in specific regions, sectors and markets,” according to the website.

The site also states that Atomico prefers to lead investments, but will consider partnering with other investors.

Zennström and Friis are best-known for co-founding Internet phone company Skype, which sold to eBay for roughly $2.6 billion in 2005. The two, however, have launched numerous startups together, including, most recently, the struggling online video platform Joost, the controversial file-sharing program Kazaa (which later sold to Sharman Networks), and Joltid, a multi-product startup based on the same peer-to-peer technology in which Skype is rooted.

Other investing partners at the 15-person firm include Geoffrey Prentice, the first employee at Skype, where he was chief strategy officer, and Mattias Ljungman, formerly the head of venture capital investments at CLS Holdings.

Mark Dyne, a managing director of the private equity firm Europlay Capital Advisors, is also named in the fund’s filing. Dyne, who has long worked in the gaming industry, including as the CEO of Sega Gaming, was a board member at Skype before it was sold to eBay.

Anything they put their minds to they can do. I am a big fan of anyone who is willing to risk his or her money on new startups.

Tim Draper

Although Atomico is raising its first institutional fund, the firm already counts 19 investments in its portfolio, according to its website. A majority of its investments were made before the firm was formed. Among the holdings listed are U.K-based Internet radio company, which sold to CBS for $280 million in 2007; San Francisco-based Aliph, maker of the Jawbone headset, which has raised more than $42 million from Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Mayfield Fund and individual investors, such as Ben Horowitz; and San Francisco-based Xobni, an email management company that has attracted close to $15 million in venture capital from Khosla Ventures, Cisco Systems and First Round Capital.

Not on the list is Skype. Zennström and Friis were reportedly hoping to buy back Skype from eBay with the help of several private equity firms, but eBay was reportedly asking a price higher than the group was willing to pay, according to several press accounts in early April. Since then, eBay has said that it plans to spin off the business in an IPO in the first half of next year. —Constance Loizos

DEALWATCH: Five investments by Atomico Ventures

Chemist Direct_Online pharmacy based in U.K.

Heysan!_Service to access IM networks via mobile phone

Seesmic_Enables people to record comments on video and post to social networks

WeatherBill_Sells derivatives to protect small businesses against adverse weather

WunderLOOP_Behavioral targeting for advertisements

Source: Atomico Ventures’ website