Before he became one of the few Black fund managers in the EU, Fabrice do Rego had quite a long career in finance. He started off with Lehman Brothers, before moving to stints at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, and eventually founding M&A advisory firm Valmeon Corporate Finance.
But during all his years analyzing M&A deals and corporations, do Rego rarely saw people who looked like him in that industry. That realization, he tells me, inspired him to start The Blueprint VC with Ibrahim Ouassari to back founders from under-represented backgrounds in France and Belgium.
For do Rego, the logic behind launching The Blueprint is simple: Mixed teams with diverse backgrounds are known to perform well, yet capital allocation to such teams is still low. “There’s a lot of money being left on the table,” he said. So, he decided, literally, to go get that money.
Launched in December 2021, The Blueprint started raising a €25 million fund last January, which the founders hope to invest in 30 companies within the next four years. They’ve already backed two.
The firm likes to invest in mixed teams of diverse origins, mostly focused on gender and ethnicity. The Blueprint focuses on seed and pre-seed rounds, writes checks ranging from €100,000 to €400,000, and has a reserve for follow-on investments. It’s sector-agnostic but does not invest in deep tech or biotech at the moment.
I recently caught up with do Rego to talk about his work with The Blueprint, surviving the venture downturn, and the best way to cultivate the next generation of talent in the EU.
(Note: The following interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.)
TC: You’ve been raising this €25 million fund for about a year, with a diversity-focused investment thesis on a continent with noted issues regarding equity and inclusion for marginalized groups. What has the process of approaching limited partners been like?
Fabrice do Rego: It has been much more difficult than what I expected.
We have a great team, and I thought with such a team, it would be easy. But we faced some odd times raising the fund, especially with institutions. Their first question was the “pipeline problem” [asking if there was enough diverse talent to fund in France and Belgium].
Another thing that was difficult is the difference between continental Europe and the U.S. or maybe even the U.K. — we don’t yet have a super strong and wealthy community of Black people who are connected to each other. That is something we lack, and when you want to raise the first fund [for something like The Blueprint], that’s the type of LP you need to have for your first millions.
The minimum target size of our fund is €25 million. Anything below that threshold, it’s super hard to have a professional fund. We wanted our first close to be €12 million, and we will probably reduce it to €10 million because we want to deploy as much as possible, fast.