The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Tony Askew, REV Venture Partners
RELX Group has committed to a further fund for REV Venture Partners, formerly known as Reed Elsevier Ventures. The new fund will be managed by REV founder partners Tony Askew and Kevin Brown, who together are one of the corporate venture industry’s longest-serving partner groups, having both moved to REV at the end of 2000.
Since then, REV has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in big data, digital health, internet and enterprise technology companies. It was an early investor in Palantir, Healthline, Babbel and Netli. A recent deal was the $36m round for MemSQL, a US-based real-time data analytics provider.
Askew said for 2016’s Powerlist: “Our focus on data and analytics is much the same, as is our broad geographic waterfront – the US, Europe and Israel. We believe data and analytics is transforming every industry and we will continue to back exceptional, ambitious entrepreneurs that have the drive to disrupt and build new category leaders.”
However, Askew has his concerns. At the start of the year he said: “The single biggest factor propelling the investment landscape is the volume of capital now being deployed – $240bn in the past three years, of which more than a third came from non-traditional VC sources – sovereign wealth, mutual and pension funds and an expansion of corporate investment activity. This has led to expanded valuation expectations, particularly at early rounds from more intensive competition for deals.”
For his 2014 Powerlist profile, Askew said: “We found a welcoming home here, as RELX Group, formerly Reed Elsevier Group, wanted us to create a successful, long-term corporate venturing capability. We designed the fund as a financial VC but with a meaningful strategic angle. The financial focus means we take board seats and our compensation includes carried interest [a share of investment profit] like traditional VCs, which aligns us well with entrepreneurs and other investors. Our strategic angle comes from bringing to bear RELX Group’s superior access to domain knowledge and a highly relevant referral network”.
Askew first became a venture capitalist at SoftBank, a Japan-based internet company, after working as an entrepreneur. He said: “Back in the early days of the cauldron of the internet bubble, I was persuaded it would be far more interesting to apply what I had learnt in building digital businesses by becoming a VC and so I joined SoftBank. I graduated as a physicist, so I did what all physicists do in the UK and joined a management consultancy.”
Other past activities included running electronic publishing for Random House, which included co-investing in a Los Angeles-based new media company alongside filmmaker Stephen Spielberg. Later, at mobile operator Cellnet, now O2, he co-developed and launched the world’s first wireless internet service provider, Genie, which grew quickly to 4 million users across Europe.
He was the first chairman of the corporate venturing group of UK trade body the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, and now heads its VC committee.