Skype Co-Founder Zennstrom Searches for First China Investment
Skype Technologies SA co-founder Niklas Zennstrom said his $200 million venture capital firm is in talks with companies in China to begin investing in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Atomico will “make a few investments here over time,” Zennstrom said in an interview in Beijing yesterday. The London- based fund will collaborate with local partners in China, he said, without providing a timeframe.
Zennstrom, after giving up his management role at the world’s biggest provider of international calls, has focused on Europe and the U.S., where most of Atomico’s more than 40 investments are based. The Swedish entrepreneur said he’s interested in investing in Chinese technology companies seeking to expand overseas with original business ideas.
“I am encouraged by the spirit of entrepreneurship here,” said Zennstrom, who is in Beijing to attend the Global Mobile Internet conference. “A lot of people are working very hard to be successful.”
Still, the surge in value of Chinese technology companies has raised concerns for some investors. Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google Inc.’s China operations, who now runs his own venture capital fund, said this month that some of the nation’s Internet stocks have “high valuation risks” that should make investors cautious.
Zennstrom declined to comment on whether valuations for Chinese technology companies are excessive.
Ebay Inc. (EBAY), the world’s biggest online marketplace, bought Skype in 2005 and two years later Zennstrom left as chief executive officer. EBay sold most of its stake in the Internet telephony company to investors led by Silver Lake for $2 billion in November 2009 and retained a 30 percent holding.
Zennstrom, a member of Skype’s board, and co-founder Janus Friis took a 14 percent stake.
About half of Atomico’s investment portfolio are companies in Europe, including Espoo, Finland-based Rovio Mobile Oy, maker of the hit mobile-phone game “Angry Birds.” U.S. companies make up more than 30 percent, Zennstrom said.
--Mark Lee. Editors: Vipin V. Nair, Anand Krishnamoorthy.
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