European News Briefs, September 2011


Private Equity Duo Focus on Expert Photo

Belgian investor Gimv and Nordic firm CapMan have snapped up minority stakes in Russia’s Expert Photo.

Expert Photo will use the growth capital to build its share in Russia’s photo printing market, where it recorded sales of €10 million ($14 million) in 2010.

It becomes the second company to join CapMan’s €118 million ($169 million) Russia fund since the start of the year.

Both CapMan and Gimv took 19% holdings in Expert Photo.

Antwerp, Belgium-based Gimv has been involved in Russia since the 2006 launch of its Eagle Russia Fund. In 2008, the firm established Eagle Venture Partners with KBC Private Equity, promising to invest €10 million ($14 million) annually in Russia over the following three years.

It is Gimv’s first joint investment with the CapMan Russia fund, in which it has a €7.9 million ($11.3 million) investment.


Credo Believes in Beepl

Question-and-answer website ticked all the right boxes for Credo Ventures, which has provided a six-figure euro funding for the company.

Beepl employs semantic reasoning technology to connect users to the most relevant people or websites for a given question. The seed investment will support the launch of the site in the coming months

“People are eager to engage in conversations and respond to questions online. But in order for them to do that at scale, there’s a need to recognize the meaning of questions well enough,” said Esther Dyson, chairwoman of Credo’s Advisory board.

Though based in London, Beepl was founded by a team from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and United Kingdom.

Credo Ventures invests in early stage technology and health companies in Central and Eastern Europe.


Stage Set for Bioactor Launch

Dietary supplement producer Bioactor has gorged on €2 million ($2.9 million) of a Series A round from a trio of Dutch venture firms.

ICOS Capital, Nedermaas Ventures and Limburg Ventures provided backing for the United States launch of Bioactor’s first product, Bonolive, which is designed to improve bone health.

The funding will also support clinical trials and development of additional medical nutrition products.

Bioactor works in collaboration with Maastricht University and has forged alliances with several other nutrition research institutes, a model that particularly appealed to ICOS Capital.

The investment is ICOS’ first this year for its Cleantech Fund II, which makes early stage investments of up to €2.5 million ($3.6 million) in energy, food, water and recycling.

Nedermaas Ventures and Limburg Ventures are both connected to the Limburg Development and Investment Co., and both support biotech and life science companies present in the Limburg region, which straddles Belgium and the Netherlands.


False Lashes Whip Up LDC InterestLloyds Development Capital

has spotted a real deal for fake eyelash specialist Original Additions, backing a secondary MBO for the London company.

The transaction, for an undisclosed sum, saw London-based Barclays Ventures and Matrix Private Equity Partners exit their 2004 investment, when they took a majority stake in Original Additions as part of an MBO worth more than £10 million ($16.5 million)

“Original Additions … has traded exceptionally well through the downturn and is continuing its impressive growth story via entry into both the U.S. and Chinese markets,” Jeremy Morgan, joint head of Barclays Ventures, said in a statement.

Sales at Original Additions, which also sells artificial nails and nail care products, exceeded £30 million ($49 million) in 2010.


Imperial Augments Stanmore Implants

London-based Imperial Innovations has paid £4 million ($6.6 million) for a “substantial stake” in Stanmore Implants.

Stanmore will use the funding for a marketing push in the United Kingdom and United States for its implants to help with damaged limbs and joint replacement.

“This is an ideal opportunity for us to invest in a more developed business where we know and understand the value creation opportunities, particularly as some of the original IP emanated from two of the four universities on which we are focused,” Susan Searle, CEO of Imperial Innovations, said in a statement.

In 2010, Imperial raised £140 million ($230 million) to support the commercialization of technologies emanating from Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University College London.


Belgian Wafers Offer Tasty Opportunity

Three VC firms have chipped in to a €4 million ($5.7 million) first round for a Belgian manufacturer of power conversion electronics.

EpiGan will employ the capital to increase production of its Gallium nitride silicon wafers, which are used for power conversion in cleantech applications, such as solar inverters and hybrid vehicles.

Belgian firms Capricorn Venture Partners and LRM, which invests in the Limburg region of Belgium and the Netherlands, plus Robert Bosch Venture Capital, the investment arm of German technology company Bosch, participated in the round.

Capricorn invested through its €112 million ($160 million) Cleantech Fund, partnering with LRM for the second time since December 2010, when the firms invested €20 million ($29 million) in Belgian solar-glass start-up Ducatt.


MTI Backs Printable Solar Panels

University spin-off Oxford Photovoltaics (OPV) will graduate to the next stage of product manufacturing after raising a £650,000 ($1 million) round led by London-based MTI Partners.

OPV produces transparent solar energy cells that can be printed directly onto glass for windows or materials for building facades. It will now look to scale up its production processes.

The early stage round was also backed by angel investors, Parkwalk EIS Technology Fund 1 and the World Gold Council.

MTI invested through its UMIP Premier Fund, which primarily supports businesses emerging from the University of Manchester. The fund can provide follow-on investment of up to £3 million ($4.9 million).


T-Venture Backs Enterprise Mobility Specialist

Dutch company VeliQ has received several million euros from T-Venture, the venture capital arm of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.

VeliQ will use the money to accelerate the roll-out of its MobiDM Software-as-a-Service solution, which allows companies to manage their smartphones and tablets.

The company already partners with T-Systems, another Deutsche Telekom company, in providing a version of MobiDM in 10 European countries.

It is T-Venture’s third deal of 2011, following investments in fuel cell developer FutureE and mobile cloud software platform Netbiscuits.