Amsterdam-based Rockstart is a global accelerator-VC that supports purpose-driven founders across three domains, including Energy, AgriFood and Emerging Tech. The VC recently celebrated its decade-long presence in the market.
“It seems like yesterday when we set out to build, what we referred to at the time, the world’s greatest startup machine. Back then we were driven by creating new, innovative technologies which enhanced the growth of companies and their people. We were focused on building scalable businesses, international companies which one day would be leaders of their industries,” says the company in a blog post.
According to Theill, their first office on Rokin 75, in Amsterdam, was just 20㎡ and served more like an ideation office with posters and print-outs on the walls. “These were very humble beginnings,” he remarks. “From there we went from 300m2 to 900m2 back to 150m2 to 2000m2 and ended with a space of 2700m2 on Rigakade 10. In 2020 we went fully remote-first as we learned that the value is not in the bricks, but in the ecosystem.”
Raising two new funds in Emerging Technologies
Earlier this month, the company announced that Dutch energy company Eneco has invested €3.75M in its Energy fund. The Rockstart Energy fund was launched in 2020 to help the startups that drive the energy transition forward.
Rockstart’s €22M+ Energy VC fund was backed by institutional investors, European family offices, informal investors, and the government.
After setting up in the last quarter of 2020, the Energy Fund has already invested in 12 startups. These include Klimate, Technology Catalogue, Fibersail, Advanced Infrastructure, Bia, eDRV, Helio, Okto, Soolutions, Starke, Lanterne, and Sympheny.
Earlier this year, in May, Rockstart announced the closing of its AgriFood fund at €22m with the participation of Vaekstfonden’s Green Future Fund, alongside new informal investors such as Joke Pronk and longtime Rockstart investors, Marcel Beemsterboer, Jasper de Rooij, Hans Maltha and, new investor global dairy cooperative Arla Foods.
Rockstart has also recently announced that it is raising two new funds in Emerging Technologies. “Emerging technologies is a well-known theme to Rockstart as this was our focus when we first started out. We looked for superstar founding teams building proprietary and game-changing technology products. At that very beginning, we found companies like Wercker, iClinic, Hubs, Peerby and Gibbon- just to mention a few. Today, we will look for the next generation of technology businesses which will have an impact in five to ten years from now,” says Theill.
“10 years in, we are only 1 per cent there”
Talking about the company’s plan for next year, Theill says Rockstart will reach €100m under management in 2022.
“Together with hundreds of investors and mentors we have set out to empower founders to build value of $100bn as only then we know that our positive impact has truly made a difference on a global scale. Today we are 1 per cent of the way.”
When asked about their deadline for reaching 100 per cent by hitting the $100B mark, Theill response was, “It’s far-fetched to talk about a specific deadline. What we can say is that the ambition is bigger than ever and that we are committed to partaking in funding the transformation to a regenerative and sustainable future. Although it seems far away, we believe that we are perfectly positioned to make this happen at a much faster pace than we did during the first ten years.”
Milestones & memories
Sharing some of his most memorable memories during Rockstart’s journey, Theill says, “From a business perspective probably the acquisition of Wercker to Oracle in 2016 – this was our first major exit and therefore a turning point for people to trust in the business. The second moment was the acquisition of Hubs.com to Proto Labs for $330M at the beginning of this year.”
“Beyond business, I think most of us remember Rockstart from the many great events and demo days with a real rock and roll vibe and our five years anniversary with the concept “be your inner rockstar ” which took place in our beautiful building on Herengracht 182, located in the centre of Amsterdam.”
Here are the key milestones achieved by Rockstart during its decade-long journey:
Rockstart was founded by Oscar Kneppers, Koen Wagemakers, Rune Theill and Don Ritzen
First accelerator launches in the TomTom building at Rembrandtplein, AmsterdamFirst
First Rockstart Demo Day at Undercurrent in the north of Amsterdam
Rockstart wins the prize as best investor at The Next Web awards
First Impact Demo Day in Kathmandu and Amsterdam
Rockstart wins the prize as the best investor for the second year
Smart Energy Accelerator launches
First Smart Energy Demo Day
Rockstart Impact Accelerator launches in Nepal
Digital Health Accelerator launches
Postcron gets acquired by Socialtool.me (first)
First Digital Health Summit.
Stichting DOEN joins as a strategic shareholder
Rune Theill becomes group CEO
Rockstart 5 year anniversary
Imgazine acquired by Ortec
Gibbon acquired by Degreed
Opened office in Bogota
AI Accelerator launches
Rockstart Colombia launches
Wercker Acquired by Oracle
Launched Shell New Energy Challenge
Opened its office in Copenhagen
Transition to dedicated domain funds
Launched Foodtrack by Maersk
First close of the AgriFood Fund of €15 million
First AgriFood Demo Day in Copenhagen
Launch Feed the Future & Finture Solutions
Rockstart goes Remote first
First close of the Energy Fund at €22 million
Ran its first fully remote program and demo day
Invested in more than 200 startups
3D Hubs acquired for $330 million
iClinic acquired for €29 million
Brincr acquired by Visma for an undisclosed amount
Final close of the AgriFood of €22 million
Invested in more than 260 startups
Ten years anniversary