Established in 2008, InfraVia currently manages 4 infrastructure funds totaling €4bn of assets under management. InfraVia is also a key member of LTIIA since the beginning with its CEO and founder having just been elected as a LTIIA Board member.
InfraVia just announced the launch of a new fund dedicated to invest in tech companies at scale-up stage. Why diversifying in the tech markets after more than ten years in the infrastructure sector?
Digital is transforming infrastructure business models and usage, and that is true across infrastructure sectors – energy, transportations, telecommunications, healthcare, utilities – where start-ups emerge to develop digital tools that will help operators to improve productivity, boost revenues, reduce risks but also increase capacity and quality of services to users. These new technologies will lead to unprecedented opportunities in terms of growth and performance for infrastructures. We started to approach this opportunity through our portfolio companies but soon realized that the scale of it was so big that we could launch a stand-alone strategy to properly address it. This is why we launched InfraVia Growth Fund – in order to invest in the fast-growing start-ups that will contribute to transform our sector. This is by many aspects an extension of what we have done over the last 10 years.
InfraVia will not be the only fund to support tech companies. Is there room for new actors and how will InfraVia distinguish itself from the others?
At the macro level, it is fair to say that there is a solid VC ecosystem in Europe, which includes strong universities and appropriate quantum of capital available for early stage start-ups. What we found however is that there is an “equity gap” in the late stage funding to support successful start-ups in their pre-IPO/LBO acceleration and corporatization. This deficit has also been identified in the recent report by Philippe Tibi to the French Minister of Economy, which identified as well that only few French tech companies have grown enough to be ready for a successful IPO or for a traditional LBO transaction. As French President Emmanuel Macron stated recently, institutional investors must take their part to bring capital from start-ups to scale-up.
In that context, I believe that InfraVia has the ability to identify and accelerate the successful start-ups that operate in our sectors and our ecosystem. We will achieve this not only through funding, but also thanks to our deep industry knowledge, our networks and the quality of our ecosystem at large. InfraVia Growth Fund will focus on profitable start-ups with efficient business models and highly skilled teams to support their development, corporatization and institutionalization.
Investing in tech societies is, by nature, significantly riskier than investing in mature infrastructure. How will you convince your investors to follow you?
InfraVia has been a pioneer investor in digital infrastructure, a sector that is now very much mainstream. Over the years, we have built a strong track-record in data centers, fiber networks or smart meters. Thanks to this experience, we have developed deep knowledge of the digital ecosystem which we want to bring now to the next level.
InfraVia Growth Fund will focus on leading tech companies that are operating in sectors adjacent to our ecosystem where we believe we can leverage our skills and financial resources to accelerate the growth of the business. We believe that in this late-stage B2B tech sector we will be able to assess the quality and profitability of business models, while keeping an acceptable risk profile. Our investors know that InfraVia has a disciplined approach to underwriting and risk management and we will keep the same philosophy for this new fund.
Would that be with the same team?
We are building a dedicated team of seasoned professionals with solid backgrounds in technology, investment and the industrial sector. This 10-strong team will be led by 3 very experienced partners. This team is crucial as we intend to support the tech companies, not only with funding but also through long-term operational support.
As you mentioned it, President Emmanuel Macron called for French institutional investors to pledge significant capital to start-ups for their scale-up development. What is your ambition?
Our first InfraVia Growth Fund targets a size of EUR 300m with capital expected to come from our investors base. We are convinced that this strategy will grow significantly in the next years. It is also a very synergetic development for InfraVia, as we expect that, through cross-fertilization, it will drive returns improvement on our main infrastructure strategy.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was a vibrant entrepreneurial continent : many blue chips companies were born in this period. Today, it is crucial that European tech companies find the required capital, ideally in Europe, to scale up and ensure Europe remains a key actor on the world economic stage.