Biggest funders in 2006

29th July 2007

Desmond-backed venture firm tops funding league with €28.5m

Irish companies received more than €67 million from Enterprise Ireland-backed investors last year – and more than €250 million between 2001 and 2006. But which funders are investing the most?

According to Enterprise Ireland figures, 98 investments were made last year by venture capital firms supported by the state agency.  Atlantic Bridge Ventures, the Dublin venture firm backed by Dermot Desmond and other wealthy businessmen, was the biggest investor – it spent €28.5million last year, its first full year in existence.

The firm, which incorporates Mentor Capital, made a total of 13 investments last year, including follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies, according to Enterprise Ireland. The figures make Atlantic Bridge the biggest Irish investor in high-tech companies last year.

The young venture firm last year invested several million euro in Accuris, a Dublin telecoms software firm. It also led a €9.6 million investment in Firecomms, a Cork semiconductor equipment firm.  Atlantic Bridge also funded the spin-out of a division of chip design firm Ceva, which involved an investment of almost €12 million.

But which funders are investing the most?

The firm’s other portfolio companies include Cork companies Optical Metrology Innovations and NanoComms, and software firms OpenMind Networks, PolarLake and Nero. Earlier this year, Atlantic Bridge led the buyout of the telecoms software division of Logica CMG for stg£265 million (€395 million). It has been renamed Acision.

As well as Desmond, the investors in Atlantic Bridge include businessmen Denis O’Brien and Bill McCabe.  The firm is run by a team that includes Parthus Technologies founder Brian Long, former Parthus executive Elaine Coughlan, ex-Microsoft boss Kevin Dillon and Paul Harvey, who was previously a managing director at Goldman Sachs International.

Atlantic Bridge has a total fund of €98.5 million, according to the Enterprise Ireland figures. Of that, €67.5 million relates to the Enterprise Ireland supported Seed and Venture Capital Programme, which runs from 2007 to 2012. The remaining €31 million is from the historical Mentor fund.

The Enterprise Ireland figures show venture capital firms backed by the state agency invested more than €67 million last year. The figures do not include investments by ACT Venture Capital, which is one of most active investors in Irish firms.

After Atlantic Bridge, the second-biggest investor last year was Trinity Venture Capital, which invested €12.8 million in ten investments last year. Trinity recently floated on the junior markets in Dublin and London, raising €50 million in funds.

Delta Partners, another of the main Dublin funders, invested €11.4 million last year. However, it made a total of 27 investments, reflecting its policy of making smaller investments in companies at a very early stage.

By doing so, Delta can take larger stakes than funders who invest in companies in later funding rounds.

That policy paid off last year when software firm Similarity Systems was bought for $55 million in cash by Informatica, a Nasdaq-quoted firm. Delta was the first investor in Similarity and had a 26 per cent stake, despite investing just $2 million in the firm.

Funders based outside Dublin were also active last year. The Cork-based Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Partners fund made nine investments, putting a total of almost €4.2 million into companies.  Its portfolio of investments includes Limerick firm Stokes Bio, Cork storage firm MP Stor, and Cratlon in Co Clare which designs sensor chips.

Enterprise Equity, which invests in companies in the border, midlands and west regions, invested almost €3.6 million last year between its seed capital fund and investment fund. The funder made a total of 13 investments last year.

Biggest funders in 2006

Investor                       Amount             No. of deals

Atlantic Bridge                €28.5m              13

Trinity Ventrue               €12.8m              10

Delta Partners                 €11.4m              27

Kernel Capital                  €4.2m               9

Enterprise Equity             €3.6m               13


29th July 2007 – By Gavin Daly, Sunday Business Post