Romain Lavault Partech Ventures

Imagine a time without iPhones, iPads or MacBook Pros. It’s hard, isn’t it?

That’s exactly what the world was like when Partech Ventures, formerly Paribas Technologies, sprung into existence in 1982.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and Partech Ventures has established itself as one of the go-to venture capital firms for tech entrepreneurs across the world.

“We are one of the oldest VCs,” Romain Lavault, general partner at Partech, told Tech City News. “We started at a time when Microsoft was practically still in a garage,” he joked.

Although not specifically focused on UK-based technology companies, Partech has made significant investments in the space.

In May last year, it co-led Kantox’s €10m funding round. Two months later, it was announced that Partech Ventures was the lead investor in Made.com’s $60m financing deal. Other known UK deals include Brandwatch and Push Doctor.

“We meet 4,000 startups per year, of which probably a few hundred are from the UK. Last year we made five investments in the UK. That’s the typical ratio,” added Lavault, a former entrepreneur who was once funded by Partech.

Investment strategy

Partech Ventures is exclusively focused on all things digital. This, Lavault added, means the fund is looking to invest in anything from gaming trough to HealthTech.

“We’re stage agnostic. We go in from £100,000 through to £30m. From seed to venture growth,” noted Lavault, as he explained the firm’s investment strategy varies depending on the company being assessed for potential funding.

“If we invest in an early stage company, the people are always important when it comes to us making a decision. I always think, ‘if I was still part of the market, would I work with these people?’” he explained.

“You need to love the space they’re operating in. We need to have people we really want to work with. It’s a matter of combining good technical and commercial skills, which seems like a very natural thing to say, but you’d be surprised how rare this combination is to find,” added Lavault.

The criteria for investment may vary depending on each deal, but the one thing Partech is always looking for is potential and one which can be realised in a large market. Especially, Lavault said, when it comes to investing in early stage startups.

“The risk is so high that you want to make it work. If it works, you want the company to be very big and successful. We never look at [investing in] anything under $10bn in terms of market size,” he said.

Success stories

Partech’s investment strategy seems to have paid off so far. The firm was an early-investor in BusinessObjects, allegedly one of the 15 largest software companies in the world and believed to be the first European software IPO to have taken place on Nasdaq in 1994.

More recently, Partech also invested in InvenSense – whose motion sense tech is used in the Nintendo Wii – which raised $75m as a result of its IPO in 2011.

The firm’s investment in La Fourchette (or the Fork), a French online restaurant booking service acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014, is testament to the firm’s success, but also to the diversity found across its investment portfolio.

Looking ahead

Having announced the closure of a €400m growth fund to invest in UK, European and US tech at the beginning of this year, it looks as though Partech’s success is set to continue.

The fund, known as Partech Growth, will look to invest between €10m and €50m of capital in fast-growing tech firms with significant revenue.

As one of the oldest venture capital firms on the block, Partech Ventures certainly has the experience to know what sets a good investment apart from a bad one, but the extent to which external factors will affect its strategy remains to be seen.

With mounting uncertainty as a result of the Brexit referendum and recent reports highlighting that UK VC investment fell by more than 40% from Q1 2016, today’s climate could be considered challenging.

Lavault, however, does not seem fazed by this. “Because we are active across the board we don’t compete with the seed funds. The growth funds that we could compete with never do seed or venture. The fact that we are multi-stage creates all those opportunities to network,” he concluded.