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Switzerland’s Wingman Ventures rebrands to Founderful, aims for a $120M fund

Wingman Ventures is seeking the best of Switzerland's startups, and its diverse portfolio already ranges from mobile commerce to robotics. The Zurich-based venture capital firm, which focuses on pre-seed startups, announced today it is rebranding as Founderful and has already raised $85 million for its new Fund II, with a target of closing $120 million in the next few months.

The fund’s backers include institutional investors, family offices and founders from unicorns like Duolingo, Climeworks, GetYourGuide, Delivery Hero and Scandit. So far it has had two exits: Insightness, a vision chip startup acquired by Sony, and Bring! Labs, a mobile commerce startup acquired by Swiss Post. There are two other exits in Founderful’s pipeline, both in the B2B software space, that are expected to be in the double-digit millions.

Founding partner Alex Stöckl tells TechCrunch that when Founderful finished raising its first $90 million fund in 2020, it was Switzerland’s first dedicated independent venture capital firm, investing only at the pre-seed stage.

“With this, from day one to the other we disrupted old-fashioned business angels, accelerator and incubator programs and family offices that would hand founders unfavorable terms, cause early over-dilution and tone down ambition levels to cater to their conservative risk-return profiles,” he says.

Founderful was launched in 2019 by Pascal Mathis, the co-founder of GetYourGuide, a local travel marketplace that hit unicorn status in 2023, and Eat.ch co-founder Lukas Weder.

Over the last four years, Founderful has made almost 50 investments, including eight Swiss investments in 2023. Its Fund I invested $60 million into 40 startups, encompassing 109 founders who created 1,093 jobs. In total, Fund I’s portfolio raised additional funding of over $350 million in three years.

Fund II's typical check size will be $1 million for pre-seed stage startups and up to $2 million for seed-stage ones.

Founderful looks for startups in the B2B software and industrial spaces, and invests in their first funding rounds. Its portfolio includes companies from sectors like robotics and industrial automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, computer vision technologies and material sciences like clean tech, climate tech and construction tech.

Many of its portfolio founders come from universities and research institutions like ETH Zurich, through the Founderful Campus program. It says about two-thirds of its entrepreneurs are graduates, doctorates or researchers from Switzerland’s top academic institutions and one-third are former founders or employees of successful startups.

Founderful has already started investing capital from Fund II, including alternative silicon chips maker Chiral Nano, ESG reporting platform Nala Earth, security robotics startup Ascento, manufacturing robotics company Saeki, workplace skills platform Anthropos, bimolecular analysis company Isospec Analytics, lithium-ion battery developer Eightinks and humanoid robotics creator Faive Robotics.

Some of Founderful’s other portfolio companies include survey drone startup Wingtra, with annual revenue of over $20 million, plastics recycling company DePoly and sustainable computing-focused Corintis, a sustainable computing that works with global big tech and enterprise businesses.

Stöckl says Founderful benefits startups because it invests over and over again in the country at the same stage and has optimized its support functions and processes “like Swiss clockwork, pun intended.” Because it has the same accounting standards, service providers and talent pool, it is able to standardize the value-add it gives to founders and their companies, helping them capture market lead. Founderful also connects the Swiss ecosystem and international venture capital community, introducing founder teams to next-round investors.

In the future, Stöckl says Founderful will continue to double down “on Switzerland, investing in the 10 most ambitious founder teams each year as their lead investor for their first financing round.”

In a quote about why he went into Founderful's Fund II as a limited partner, Duolingo CTO and co-founder Severin Hacker said, "Building Duolingo, I've seen my own fair share of VC firms and it is rare to collaborate with an investor who is as meticulous and relentless toward creating a value to the founders they backed, as the team at Founderful."