Startup Spotlight: Chase Episode I

The fund, said to be the UK's largest for Net startups, has $100m from Chase Capital Partners to create new Internet companies

Chase Episode I, launching Wednesday, claims to have the largest Internet startup fund in the UK. The group has $100m (about £61m) of backing from Chase Capital Partners, plus private funds from the co-founders, to plough into creating new companies.

But perhaps more valuable than any amount of cash are the group's founders, who bring to the table years of experience with two of the UK's biggest Internet and computing firms: Simon Murdoch, former UK managing director and Europe Vice President for e-commerce giant Amazon.com; Richard Tahta, former strategic development director for Amazon.com in Europe; and Perry Blacher, former business development manager for Microsoft UK.

Simon Murdoch let techTrader in on his plans for the next few months.

What will you be looking for particularly in the startups you fund?

The key thing we bring to the party is that we're Internet entrepreneur experts. We can find the companies and the people that will be able to build businesses that will be able to scale. There are lots of challenges to growing 100s of percent a year, and coming out the other side still providing a good service for the customer.

How do you hope your experience will help your startups out?

The tendency is not to be aware of some of the things that can go wrong. For example, it's difficult to predict the amount of business you'll have, so you have to set it up so you can cope with the amount you get on day one. There are tricks to handle that in how you hire people, and in marketing. The key is to be able to carry on providing good service even as you're growing quickly.

What ongoing involvement will you have with the startups?

We're looking to invest $1m-$10m in these companies in the first round. And then having invested, you work with the management over a long period to help build the business, with an observer or a director on the board.

You've chosen to focus on UK startups. Is that because you see the UK in a leading role for Net startups in Europe?

The adoption of the Internet is certainly very strong here, there's a real focus on Net businesses, and a strong push here for the Internet. As individuals, if we're going to add value to the businesses we invest in, it's best if we're close to [them]. It's also an advantage to have these companies all in one place where they can exchange ideas and contacts. There's a lot happening in California because [high-tech companies] are all close to each other.

Why did you choose to leave one of the biggest e-commerce companies around to start off on your own?

We enjoyed working at Amazon.com. But we're entrepreneurial type people, and Amazon is moving into a mature stage stage, if you like. This will give us an opportunity to help 10, 15, 20 companies get moving in the early stages, which for us is more fun.

Do you think the fragmentation of Europe will cause the Internet market to develop differently here to the way it has in the US?

We believe business to business is going to be huge here, despite the fragmentation. We can build business is in the b-to-b area right now, and it will be huge. There's another issue as well: because of the fragmentation here, the Internet can have huge benefits for the European market, in bringing it together. Everybody talks about being European, especially on the continent, but more has to be done to make us European. The Internet can help that happen.

Many see high-tech startups as a driving force for national economies going forward. Is that realistic?

There's a potential market of 360 million people here. I do believe Internet companies will drive the economies here, it's very exciting. The opportunity is there for the taking.

Startup Spotlight is a new weekly feature on ZDNet UK News and ZDNet techTrader, featuring the bright sparks of the UK's high-tech startup industry. For more of the faces behind the news see the Startup Spotlight archive.

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