Draper Esprit raises €115m to tap Brexit opportunities

Venture capital firm floated on Dublin and London markets 12 months ago

Draper Esprit, the Irish State Investment Fund-backed venture capital company that floated in Dublin and London last year, has raised £100 million (€115 million) in a share sale as it seeks to fund investment opportunities as the wider industry grapples with the impact of Brexit.

"Much has been written about the uncertain future that British VC fundraising faces in the wake of Brexit," Simon Cook, Draper Esprit's chief executive, said while announcing the conditional placing of 25.9 million shares to raise the funds. "At Draper Esprit we believe our industry can find investors and that the UK can continue to play a significant role in leading the wider European VC market."

Draper Esprit, whose Irish business is headed up by serial entrepreneur Brian Caulfield, raised about €100 million in an initial public offering (IPO) before listing on the junior Irish and London stock exchanges last year. Since then it has raised £42 million from sale of investments, including the disposal of its stake in Dublin-based chip design Movidius to US tech giant Intel.

The Irish State Investment Fund (ISIF), which owned a 26.7 per cent stake after the IPO, appears set to see its holding decline to about 21 per cent, having subscribed to just 12 per cent of the new shares.



ISIF’s support for the fresh fund raising was conditional upon Draper Esprit using “its reasonable endeavours” to invest at least £50 million in Irish companies between June 2016 and June 2022. That’s up from the £30 million that was agreed at the time of the IPO.

A spokesman for the State fund said: "ISIF is very pleased with Draper's progress on commercial returns and the progress to date against the economic impact commitments made at the time of the IPO. Draper is the only patient capital vehicle investing in early- and growth-stage technology companies in Ireland. "

Other existing major investors, including Woodford Investment Management and Baillie Gifford, have supported the equity raise, while the deal has also attracted new investors, including Invesco Perpetual and Hargreave Hale, the company said.

The main aim of the share sale, which was managed by Goodbody Stockbrokers and Numis, is to raise funds so that the company “can continue to develop on its successful strategy since IPO of investing and growth stage digital businesses”. The firm said in documents published on Friday that it has achieved a 20 per cent annual portfolio return over the past nine years.

Mr Caulfield, a former partner with Trinity Venture Capital, is a member of the board of The Irish Times.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times