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Capricorn Venture Partners closes €100m clean tech fund

The European firm has raised its first early stage clean tech fund nearly two years since its first close. The firm quintupled the size of its last capital raising in 2001 in an effort to avoid dilution by larger investors in later funding rounds of successful companies.

Capricorn Venture Partners, a European venture firm, has raised more than €100m ($157 million) for its early stage venture fund.

Three existing investors, ParticipatieMaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV), the Flemish government’s investment arm, Ethias, a European financial institution, and an undisclosed Dutch pension fund, re-upped to the fund. The Solvay Group, a global chemicals company, joined as a strategic partner, while more than 15 other private investors committed.

The fund is the firm’s first fully-dedicated to clean tech. Capricorn raised its first generalist venture funds in 1995 and in 2001, both raising $22 million.

Jos Peeters, a managing partner at Capricorn, said: “An important aspect of the €100 million fundraising is we will be able to keep sufficient reserves for follow-on investment. This is one of the problems for many venture firms.”

Peeters said it was frustrating to not be able to support successful companies all the way through their development due to the size of the funds as larger investors diluted its stake.

Capricorn has completed its first three deals including participation in a €2.5 million funding round into Neosens, a water quality monitoring company.

The firm had its first close on the clean tech fund in November 2006 on €26 million.
“As our fund started to get a certain size there was confidence from investors we would get out of the doldrums experienced by the small funds. More limited partners are revisiting the opportunities offered by European venture now,” Peeters said.

It has been able to market to investors as one of the few European venture firms to survive the fall out from the dot.com bubble. A number of previously high profile European venture firms including Apax Partners, 3i and Merlin Biosciences, now Excalibur, run by Sir Christopher Evans, have abandoned early stage investment due to its complex risk to return profile. Apax has entirely abandoned venture, while the others now only invest at a later stage. 

Peeters said: “We’ve seen the good and the bad years of venture capital but this is our trade and that’s what we wanted to do. At some points people thought we were stupid, but we’ve stuck with it and the cycle has turned.”