Sofinnova unveils new fund

France’s oldest VC has raised a new fund of E330m for investment in early-stage biotech and IT companies.

Sofinnova, the Paris-based venture capitalist, will today unveil an E330m fund aimed at early-stage IT infrastructure and biotech firms.

New investors included PartnersGroup, LGT, IMB and Dow Chemical. Previous investors included AGF, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, Fondinvest, HarbourVest Partners, JP Morgan, and Swiss Re.

“The fund raising went well,” said Sofinnova's Jean-Bernard Schmidt. “We launched it in the fall.”

The fund originally had a target of E230m and a maximum of E300m. “We discussed it with the main investors,” said Schmidt. “Adding 10 per cent allowed us to turn down some investments and reduce others.”

The fund's oversubscription shows how much appetite there is for biotech and IT infrastructure. “Two things helped us – our track record and the diversification between biotech and IT,” said Schmidt. “We have seen cycles in IT and biotech, usually not at the same time. This is good as it allows us this diversification.”

However, the venture capitalist will like many others eschew investments in consumer internet companies, last year’s must-have investments. Sofinnova’s portfolio did not emerge from the dotcom bubble unscathed – it backed Letsbuyit.com, a Swedish e-commerce company.

Scmidt said that Sofinnova would pursue new investments with vigour. “A lot of people in the market are being cautious and not investing,” said Schmidt. “This is not the case for us – we are investing aggressively in these two sectors.”

Such aggression matches France's overall mood. According to the recent European first quarter private equity statistics released by Venture Economics, France was the only country to experience more activity in the first quarter of this year than in the fourth of last year. “Economic growth remains strong,” said Schmidt. “There is good confidence.”

The new fund has made investments in six companies: Biolipox, Cellzome, David Pharmaceuticals, Neuro 3D, e-mail Vision, and T-Source.

The venture capitalist makes investments of between E457,000 and E4.57m. About 40 per cent of its investments are in France, about 40 per cent in the rest of Europe and about 20 per cent in the US.