While Europe has traditionally been very good at creating new companies, it hasn’t been as apt at growing them, according to Draper Esprit CEO Simon Cook. He thinks this will change. “One trend we have been tracking closely is the proportion of companies which raise early-stage money and which then go on to raise growth money,” he said. “We think this is key to building a sustainable entrepreneurship in Europe. In the US, almost 85% of all businesses that raise seed go on to raise growth capital ($5 million to $75 million). In Europe, it has previously been much less. We expect the gap between the US and Europe to close this year, and to see far more growth deals in Europe.”
Green is a go
Among Europe’s new companies, there’s one sector in particular that Matt Bradley, investment partner at Forward Partners, believes will take off in 2019.
“You’ve probably noticed—in stores, restaurants and conversations—an embrace of all things not meat,” he said. “Vegetarianism, veganism and the curiously defined flexitarianism are on the rise. Whether it’s due to animal welfare concerns, the environment or health and diet-related interest, there’s been a huge shift in public appetites and taste. The trend shows little sign of abating. That means the market size that entrepreneurs can go after is large and increasing rapidly; a great foundation from which to start a business.”
These types of companies have already seen success in 2018 with investments including vegan meal delivery business AllPlants’ £7.5 million funding round from Octopus Ventures. But, Bradley said there’s still plenty of room for innovation:
“In the offline world, I’d expect more and more vertical-focused restaurant concepts to pop up. There’s clearly appetite for more plant-based products for those entrepreneurs willing to take on food formulation and creation. In the online world, all those businesses and business models that we’ve seen prosper relating to food—marketplaces in all parts of the supply chain, on-demand, subscriptions, et cetera—are increasingly attractive. As the market grows more and more, investors are likely to want a piece of the action too.”
Impact’s breakthrough year
It’s not just the food industry that’s going green, according to Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman for the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment. He expects that 2019 will be a “breakthrough year” for impact investing, which he believes will develop into a multitrillion-dollar market.
According to Cohen, impact investing not only more than matches returns generated by more traditional investment strategies, but is also the answer to some of society’s biggest challenges.
“On a global level, I am concerned by the tensions that are building in societies around the world,” he said. “Migration, inequality, the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the resulting erosion of some of our most trusted institutions are all causes for great concern. If we want to maintain a market-based system, we have to face these challenges head-on.
“I believe impact investing can contribute to a solution in a meaningful way, not by fixing issues at the edges, but by putting us on the path to systemic change. Impact investment moves us away from the doctrine of maximizing profit alone to a new paradigm. It brings impact to the center of our consciousness, measures it, and shifts us to optimize risk-return-impact when making business and investment decisions.”
Business as usual
While societal challenges and political events such as Brexit have created a fair amount of uncertainty, Andres Saenz (pictured), EY global private equity leader, expects European activity to remain robust.
“2018’s fundraising market was notable for closings by a number of large European funds and one of the best years on record,” he said. “We expect continued strength in 2019, while recognizing that there are fewer such vehicles currently in the pipeline.”
Saenz anticipates the coming 12 months will keep up the pace after a busy 2018: “We expect continued momentum heading into 2019, given record levels of dry powder and an overall accommodative financing environment. Tech, healthcare and consumer products remain powerful trends and platforms for growth, and we expect continued appetite for deals in these spaces.”
The end of an era
However, not everyone shares an optimistic view for the year ahead. Richard Clarke-Jervoise, partner and head of the Stonehage Fleming Private Capital, claims that private equity has reached the end of its “Golden Age.”
“I think we, like many people, have been preparing for a downturn for a number of years,” he said. “We’ve been very conscious that it has been a good sellers’ market and a tougher buyers’ market. The period from 2012 to 2018 will be remembered as private equity’s ‘Golden Age’ due to exceptionally benign economic conditions, very strong interest from investors and a strong bull market for equities. Private equity managers have taken advantage of various innovations: GP-led restructuring, GP-stake transactions and a growing willingness for LPs to support multiple strategies. However, cracks have started to show in 2018 as it closed on an uncertain note.”
He continued: “The technology space has suffered from falls in public market valuations, IPOs trading below their listing price and the first signs of the impact of trade wars. This has led to a palpable sense of caution from most GPs and we’re getting closer to the top of the market, if we’re not there already. This means that it’s time to be cautious rather than piling on a lot of risk. We’ve tried to be very disciplined in the way we commit money and really focus on managers with a huge amount of experience; they’ve seen a lot of cycles and we think that has a lot of premium in a volatile period.”
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