A new fund advised by VI Partners made a first closing in April 2020 with CHF 75m (EUR 71m). It has been supported by its anchor investors Venture Incubator, an evergreen investment structure with corporate investors (ABB, Bühler, Crédit Suisse, ETH, Hilti, McKinsey, Nestlé, Schindler, Sulzer, Suva, ZKB), the European Investment Fund (EIF) – under the InnovFin Equity Facility for early stage backed by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation – and the Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund (Swiss Entrepreneurs KmGK). The final closing should take place in the course of 2021.
The new fund will target early stage innovative companies in Switzerland while also making investments in later stage companies in the country and abroad.
The VI Partners team has access to deep tech spin off companies through its relations with tech transfer offices of major Swiss universities. Three of VI Partners’ founding partners are leading the additional fund: Diego Braguglia, Arnd Kaltofen and Alain Nicod. The fourth founding partner, Daniel Gutenberg, will remain Venture Partner to the new fund. The team has expanded with two experienced investment professionals, Benedikt Luhmann and Cyrill Osterwalder.
Switzerland is a unique country with over 50% of students being educated in one of the top 100 universities worldwide. Research excellence and the small size of Swiss universities favour technology convergence, a true source of disruptive innovation.
The impact of Venture Capital in Switzerland is significant. Start-ups create many highly qualified jobs. They also contribute to boost the ambitions of the most entrepreneurial students to create their own companies. Funds advised by VI Partners have been significant contributors to the national ecosystem over the past two decades. The new fund will leverage this in an ever-evolving environment.
Remo Lütolf, chairman of the board of Venture Incubator: “The Venture Incubator shareholders are committed to a long term impact on the Swiss start-up scene. We are proud of being one of the anchor investors for this additional VI Partners advised fund. We trust it will finance promising and meaningful start-ups.”
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “Switzerland has some of the best universities and research institutes in the world. To achieve truly disruptive innovation and technology convergence that will benefit all of Europe we need the strongest possible co-operation internationally and particularly with our closest neighbours.”
“The EIF is proud to support the first closing of this fund that will play an important role in providing funding to highly innovative medical and deep tech innovations arising from one of the leading scientific research ecosystems in the world”, said Alain Godard, Chief Executive of the European Investment Fund. “We trust this will contribute to further strengthen interactions between the Swiss start-up ecosystem and the EU.”
Joël Mesot, President ETH Zurich: “ETH has been working with VI Partners for 20 years. They have been a strong contributor to the thriving start-up ecosystem at our university, financing ETH spin-offs like Kuros Biosciences (sold), Inositec and Araris Biotech (still in portfolio). This new fund will contribute to fostering company creation across Switzerland when Venture Capital might become scarce during this exceptional time.”
Martin Vetterli, President EPFL Lausanne: “The dedication of VI Partners for the start-ups of EPFL since nearly 20 years is enormously appreciated. Their team has been instrumental to the success of some of our star companies like Nexthink and EndoArt or our promising start-ups Gamaya and Senbiosys. Our young entrepreneurs value the experience of the investment team a lot, and we also appreciate VI Partners contribution to numerous organizations promoting the Swiss Venture Capital scene.”
Alain Nicod (Managing Partner VI Partners): “Venture investing has been our passion for decades. The new fund is a great opportunity to reinforce our presence in Switzerland and follow promising cases abroad. We are glad to be able to deploy capital during the coming years since the world needs innovation to compensate for the drastic economic downturn caused by SARS-CoV-2 over the last quarter. New business models will emerge.”
About Venture Incubator
Venture Incubator has been active since 2002 in Switzerland. Until today, Venture Incubator invested more than CHF 210m in 53 start-ups over its lifetime. Half of the portfolio has been sold, which allowed to finance its existing portfolio and create cash reserves. Venture Incubator will continue to finance its existing 22 portfolio companies (and will not invest any more in new companies). VI Partners remains advisor to Venture Incubator.
About European Investment Fund
The European Investment Fund is part of the European Investment Bank group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment.
About InnovFin Equity
This investment is supported by InnovFin Equity with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020, the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014–2020). Through or alongside selected Venture Capital (VC), Business Angels (BA), Technology Transfer funds and funds-of-funds, the EU provides risk capital financing to enterprises, research organisations, universities in their proof-of-concept, pre-seed, seed, start-up and other earlystage phases allowing them to set up or reach their next stage of development.
InnovFin Equity investments, deployed by the European Investment Fund (EIF), can represent up to 50% of the total commitment made by the financial intermediary, who shall demonstrate a high policy fit by targeting in its investment strategy sectors covered by Horizon 2020 including ICT, medical technologies, biotechnologies, green technologies, nanotechnologies, etc. In addition, the facility has been designed to support Horizon 2020 objectives addressing societal challenges such as those related to resource efficiency, bio-economy, health and demographics, and climate
About Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund
Swiss start-ups and innovative SMEs need capital to achieve growth. The fund, created jointly by Mobiliar, UBS and Credit Suisse, a Limited Partnership for Collective Investment Schemes (KMgK), provides capital to promising start-ups and growing companies. In doing so, Credit Suisse and UBS have created a bridge between the capital-seeking Swiss innovation hub and institutional and qualified private investors as well as family firms, who are looking for attractive investment solutions in times of challenging capital markets.
The Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund invests predominantly in Swiss companies (50-66%), and the remainder primarily in companies from neighbouring countries. 65% are invested in third-party funds. Direct investment amounts to at least 20%. Up to 15% are parallel direct investments. They are invested into selected companies, which are provided from the investment universe of the third-party funds. The funds are balanced across growth companies in different stages of development: 20-40% venture capital, 20-45% growth capital (minority stakes in fast growing companies) and 25-40% small to mid-size buyouts. Direct investments are made in companies that already have products on the market and have a customer base. The focus is on investments in the amount between CHF 5 and 15 million.
About VI Partners
VI Partners is an investment advisor. Its partners have been working together since the first days of the company. VI Partners has been advising Venture Incubator since 2002. The partners have also been active contributors to the entrepreneurial scene in Switzerland since the 90s. VI Partners invested CHF 210m in 53 companies since inception.