Irish State fund backs reignited Draper Esprit IPO

Venture capital firm seeking to raise €102 million before flotation

Venture capital firm Draper Esprit is lining up the State investment fund as an anchor investor as it reignites a plan to float on the junior Dublin and London stock markets.

UK investment companies Baillie Gifford and Woodford Investment Management are also preparing to become cornerstone investors, according to sources, as the company seeks to raise €102 million before the flotation.

Draper Esprit, which has a number of investments in Irish technology companies, was reportedly seeking to raise about £120 million (€156 million) late last year before postponing the initial public offering amid volatile equity markets.

The company expects to have a market capitalisation of €159 million at the time of its planned admission to trading on Ireland’s Enterprise Securities Market and London’s Alternative Investment Market on June 15th.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) will own almost 25 per cent of the business after the flotation, the sources said. Goodbody Stockbrokers and Numis Securities in London are advising Draper Esprit, which was previously known as DFJ Esprit, on the transaction.

Draper Esprit's Irish business is headed up by serial entrepreneur Brian Caulfield, a former partner with Trinity Venture Capital. His portfolio includes investments in companies such as Datahug, Mobile Travel Technologies, Getbulb and Movidius.

Mr Caulfield is also chairman of the Irish Venture Capital Association and is a non-executive director of The Irish Times Limited. At the time of admission to trading, Draper Esprit, headed by chief executive Simon Cook, will have minority stakes in a portfolio of 24 firms. It intends to invest in the companies comprising the initial portfolio, and to pursue new investment opportunities.

The company also manages four funds under the UK’s tax- friendly enterprise investment scheme and this is an area the directors intend to continue to grow, alongside the main investing business.

“The group will seek exposure to early-stage companies which combine technology and service provision, are able to generate strong margins through significant intellectual property or strong barriers to entry and are scalable and require relatively modest capital investment,” Draper Esprit said in a statement yesterday.

Its main focus will be sectors of the digital economy, including consumer technology, enterprise technology, hardware and healthcare. Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund invested €20 million in DFJ Esprit four years ago.

The ISIF emerged from the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2014. Spokesmen for Draper Esprit, ISIF and Baillie Gifford declined to comment, while representatives for Woodford didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times