France Telecom-Orange, Publicis, Iris create VC fund for digital economy

MUMBAI: France Télécom-Orange and Publicis Groupe will partner with Iris Capital Management (Iris) to create one of
Europe‘s premier venture capital investors in the digital economy. Orange and Publicis Groupe will together contribute 150 million euros to the initiative.

Added to Iris‘ pre-existing funding commitments from investors -- including the European Investment Fund and French public investor CDC Entreprises (Groupe Caisse des Dépôts) -- this will result in a total investment capacity in excess of 300 million euros.

Three funds will be created, to be organised as follows:

OP Ventures Growth will target established companies in France and Europe, providing up to 15 million euros per project.

OP Ventures Global will invest in start-ups outside Europe, also with funds of up to 15 million euros per project.
OP Ventures Early Stage will provide seed-capital and early-stage investment of up to three million euros to young companies in France and Europe.

Both OP Ventures Growth and OP Ventures Global will be immediately operational, while the third fund, OP Ventures Early Stage, will open for business in the course of the second quarter of 2012. All three funds will be dedicated exclusively to companies involved in creating value within the digital economy.

In practical terms, Orange and Publicis Groupe will each acquire a minority 24.5 per cent interest in Paris-based Iris. Iris‘ management will retain a controlling 51 per cent interest and the company will continue to be run by Pierre de Fouquet and Antoine Garrigues. The Supervisory Board will be chaired by Lévy with France Télécom-Orange deputy CEO Gervais Pellissier as Deputy Chairman. All investment and divestment decisions will be made by an independent Investment Committee.

Publicis Groupe chairman, CEO Maurice Lévy said, "We‘ve been keen to set up OP Ventures on strong foundations, and we‘ve decided to partner with Iris because of the depth of their knowledge and their successful track record. There are a lot of smart engineers and entrepreneurs in France and in Europe who are involved in projects that are innovative and exciting, and our plan is to get funds flowing to their businesses as fast as possible so they can flourish."

The tie-in with Iris brings the project, which Orange and Publicis Groupe first outlined in November 2011, an immediately operational team of investment professionals. Iris has invested some 870 million euros in more than 200 companies since its launch in 1986. Recent investments include French company Mediastay, an online games monetization platform; Berlin-based search-engine optimization company Searchmetrics; and Clear2Pay, a Belgian company specialized in payment technology solutions.

European Investment Fund (EIF) CEO Richard Pelly said, "This initiative illustrates a sweeping change in venture capital across Europe: renewed interest from the corporate world in sourcing innovation through venture capital investments. As the leading venture capital investor in Europe, the EIF is delighted to have helped to structure this new initiative, which is part of a wider strategy to bring together large and small companies who can share much more than funding."

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