OpenOcean, a European VC which has tended to specialise in big data-oriented startups and deep tech, has reach the €92 million ($111.5 million) mark for its third main venture fund, and is aiming for a final close of €130 million by mid-way this year. LPs in the new fund include the European Investment Fund (EIF), Tesi, pension funds, major family offices and Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College.

Ekaterina Almasque — who has already led investments in IQM (superconducting quantum machines) and Sunrise.io (multi-cloud hyper-converged infrastructure) and is leading the London team and operations for the firm — has been appointed as general partner. Before joining, Almasque was a managing director at Samsung Catalyst Fund in Europe, led investments in Graphcore’s processor for Artificial Intelligence, Mapillary’s layer for rapid mapping and AIMotive’s autonomous driving stack.

The enormous wealth of data in the modern world means the next generation of software is being built at the infrastructure. Thus, the fund said it would invest primarily at the Series A level with initial investments of €3 million to €5 million, across OpenOcean’s principle areas of artificial intelligence, application-driven data infrastructure, intelligent automation and open source.

OpenOcean’s team includes Michael “Monty” Widenius, the “spiritual father” of MariaDB, and one of the original developers of MySQL, the predecessor to MariaDB; Tom Henriksson, who invested in MySQL and MariaDB; as well as Ralf Wahlsten and Patrik Backman.

Tom Henriksson, general partner at OpenOcean, commented: “Ekaterina… brings an immense amount of expertise to the team and exemplifies the way we want to support our founders. Fund 2020 is an important step for OpenOcean, with prestigious LPs trusting our approach and our knowledge, and believing in our ability to identify the very best data solutions and infrastructure technologies in Europe.”

Almasque said: “The next five years will be critical for digital infrastructure, as breakthrough technologies are currently being constrained by the capabilities of the stack. Enabling this next level of infrastructure innovation is crucial to realising digitisation projects across the economy and will determine what the internet of the future looks like. We’re excited by the potential of world-leading businesses being built across Europe and are looking forward to supporting the next generation of software leaders.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she added: “It’s very rare to find such a VC so deep in the stack which also invested in one of the first unicorns in Europe and really built the open source ecosystem globally. So for me, this was absolutely an interesting team to join. And what OpenOcean was doing since inception in 2011 was very unique among pioneering ecosystems, such as big data analytics… and it remains very pioneering, pushing the frontiers in artificial intelligence and now quantum computing. This is what really attracts me, and I think there is a very, very big future.”

In an interview Henriksson told me: “What we are seeing is that our economy is shifting more and more towards the digital, data-driven economy. It started with few industries, but now we see a larger shift, including new industries like healthcare, like manufacturing.”

Asked about the effects of the pandemic on the sector, he said: “Obviously we see a lot of startups who are plugging into things like the UiPath platform. This is very relevant for the pandemic. Because the companies that had started automating strongly before the pandemic hit… they’ve actually accelerated and they find benefits for their teams and organisations and actually the people are happier because they have better automation technologies in place. The ones that didn’t start before [the pandemic hit] they’re a little behind now.”

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