Draper Esprit hails Dublin listing as it looks to back more Irish tech firms

Tech-focused VC firm has been a strong source of financing for Irish companies

Simon Cook said now is a particularly good time to be investing in tech companies in Europe

Simon Cook said now is a particularly good time to be investing in tech companies in Europe

 

Dublin and London-listed venture capital group Draper Esprit is expecting to announce at least two investments in Irish technology companies in the coming months, its chief executive Simon Cook has said.

Speaking to The Irish Times after recently announcing plans to raise £176 million (€200 million) in long-term capital to invest in more tech companies, Mr Cook said Draper Esprit’s intent was to become one of the largest VC groups in Europe.

With an average deployment rate of £100 million a year, it is already one of most active VCs on the continent, with 31 companies in its portfolio. It has been particularly busy in recent months with investments in up-and-coming companies such as Ledger and Realeyes, as well as more established ones like Transferwise.

The company, which is led in Dublin by Irish tech veteran Brian Caulfield, who is a member of the board of The Irish Times, has also been a strong source of financing for scaling tech companies locally with Movidius and Clavis Insight among those to receive backing.

Draper Esprit floated in June 2016, and is backed by the Irish State Investment Fund. It has since funded more than 25 businesses, grown its gross portfolio value by 209 per cent, and realised more than £57 million in cash including amounts held in escrow for investors.

“We’ve always set out to scale to be a FTSE250 company with a £1 billion balance sheet so we can be one of the top three funds in Europe, investing at least £100 million a year,” Mr Cook said.

Interesting opportunities

“We have a couple of really interesting opportunities in terms of investment right now, including a couple in Ireland. We’ve at least two investments we will be closing there in the next couple of months.”

Mr Cook said about half of its deals are currently from the UK and Ireland and that having a listing here was helpful for them as a pan-European investor.

“Having a listing in Dublin works well for us and it has turned out to be a great move having a dual-listing given Brexit,” he said.

Mr Cook said this was a particularly good time to be investing in tech companies in Europe.

“The whole of Europe is erupting into this kind of new wave of entrepreneurialism and technology-driven disruption. We’re in the midst of a cultural shift of opportunity with amazing engineering talent and by tapping into the city we can raise more capital and write bigger cheques to give companies a much better chance of success.”