Fourth Level to fund Irish start-ups

Fourth Level Ventures, sponsored by Dolmen Securities, is planning to raise up to E50m to invest in university spin-off opportunities both in Ireland and overseas.

Irish financial services firm Dolmen Securities is backing a new venture capital manager to invest in university spin-off companies across the country and internationally.


Fourth Level Ventures has already so far raised E12m, including a E4.2m contribution from Enterprise Ireland’s National Development Programme as well as an investment from German insurer Munich Re, which has provided E8m.


The firm is hoping to raise a total of E50m, which will be spread across two separate funds. Fourth Level Ventures I will invest in companies which have already received seed backing from university institutions. It is seeking up to E30m from European funds and institutional investors with a final close scheduled for the summer.


Of the capital raised to date, E8m has been set aside for Fourth Level Seed Ventures, the second fund, which will look to invest up to E500,000 per transaction in Irish university start-ups. The Seed Ventures fund is hoping to raise E20m, primarily from university institutions.


“The funds have been set up because of a perceived lack of funding for university spin-offs in Ireland,” said Louise Sloan, a spokesperson for Fourth Level. “Universities were unhappy with the level and type of backing they were receiving from the VC community.


The fund is being launched by Ronan Reid, managing director of Dolmen Securities. Also involved is Dennis Jennings, ex-chairman of WBT Systems and Ray Naughton, former MD of Siemens Nixdorf Ireland. Dolmen Butler Briscoe is Ireland's largest independent stockbroking firm, and is backed by the Munich Re group.


The firm has already spoken to a number of universities in Ireland, including the Universities of Ulster, Galway and Cork. They will look to invest in technology-related opportunities, including information communications technology and life sciences.


Last year, venture capital funding in Ireland fell by E100m. E226m was invested in 34 deals, against E330m across 46 deals the previous year. Despite the decline in the VC markets, ACT Venture Capital, based in Dublin, closed its third technology fund on E170m in January, making it the largest technology fund raised in 2002.