Forestay, Europe's newest $220M growth-stage VC fund, will focus on AI

Forestay, an emerging VC based out of Geneva, Switzerland, has been busy. This week it closed its second fund, Forestay Capital II, at a hard cap of $220 million. The VC wasn’t well known in Europe until it started to lead rounds in enterprise startups a couple of years ago, notably scanning software startup Scandit -- which has raised $273 million to date -- out of Zurich.

The Forestay II fund will invest across Europe and Israel, with a "sweet spot" of leading growth rounds of $10 million to $15 million, at the inflection point of a company, it said.

To date, the VC has backed 13 companies, including K2view, Nexthink, Scandit and Wasabi; three of these have reached unicorn status and two were acquired. Most recently, the firm backed Neural Concept, a company spun out from EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, which raised $27 million in a Series B round to tackle fast manufacturing design with AI.

Forestay also led the Series A round for Portugal’s "predictive maintenance" startup Stratio with a $12 million Series A back in 2021.

The Forestay fund was founded as a fund of B-Flexion, the private investment vehicle created by the Bertarelli family that is best known for building Serono into the third-largest biotech business globally, before its merger with Merck KGaA.

Forestay is led by Frederic Wohlwend, the former Global Chief Digital Officer of Merck KGaA and Serono.

“As Chief Digital Officer in large corporations, mainly the biopharma clinical space, I had the chance to look at the entire value chain, from early research down to distribution, in fairly sizable enterprises," he told TechCrunch over a call. "So by knowing the enterprise inside out, that's why we decided to focus on enterprise and enterprise AI.”

While “it's a highly competitive market,” Wohlwend said the fund will be “extremely focused in the way we do venture, adding: "We only do enterprise AI and SaaS. We don't do any hardware, even sensors and stuff like this. We're super focused in terms of stage -- we mainly play in Series B. We can do A to C rounds, but our sweet spot is Series B at the inflection point. So we brand ourselves as a ‘nearly growth’ fund because we capture our targets as soon as they make some kind of revenue.”

He added that, besides Switzerland being “an interesting ecosystem,” Southern Europe is also coming up, as we recently reported.

Forestay's new fund is also backed by Anaïs Ventures, the investment vehicle for certain members of the Firmenich family, which created a perfume empire.

In a statement, Julien Firmenich said: “Forestay's focused investment strategy and operational acumen, honed through years of industry experience, align perfectly with our vision.”

Given its consumer markets are so fragmented by geography and language, Europe has carved out a very good market for SaaS and enterprise, and there are plenty of enterprise-focused VCs.

Indeed, an in-depth analysis of the top companies and trends in the SaaS market across Europe and Israel last year found the SaaS ecosystem market reset was being driven by the growth in generative AI. But Forestay's emergence can only be a good thing, adding to the choice of funds for growth-stage startups in Europe, where growth capital is often harder to acquire than in the U.S.