Italian super angel Gianni Matera to invest €4m in Irish start-ups

3 Nov 2016

Pictured from left: HBAN director John Phelan and angel investor Gianni Matera. Image: John Ohle

Angel investor Gianni Matera has already invested €900,000 in six Irish-start-ups and plans to bring this figure to €4m by 2020.

This includes €830,000 that he has already invested in four high-potential Irish start-ups – Brim Brothers, Glofox, MotorSpecs and Caragon – as well as a further €70,000 into two nascent start-ups – MyServiceHistory and Reflex Gaming – in just over a year.

Matera expects to invest in three more start-ups by the end of 2016.

‘I am particularly interested in US-oriented companies where the founders are open to moving to the US’

Future Human

Matera moved to Ireland in 2013, where he expects to grow his seed investment value by 300pc in five years.

Key to this will be careful investment in Irish technology companies looking to break into the US market, where exits are more likely.

Matera founded Growing Capital to enable his investment in Irish start-ups.

In 2007, Matera also founded Digitouch, which he grew to become Italy’s largest independent digital advertising company, before exiting in a stock market flotation worth €44m.

In 2011, he founded Digitalchemy, which helps telecoms and media companies develop and market products for their customers.

Matera started his career as a business consultant with Accenture, before becoming a director and country manager in Italian telco Buongiorno.

Irish start-up ratios higher than rest of Europe

“Ireland is business-friendly and vibrant,” Matera said.

“The rate of investment in start-ups in Ireland is a much higher percentage of GNP than in the rest of Europe. Ireland’s investment ratios are similar to the US.

“Ireland is also a great place to be a seed investor. In Ireland, we typically invest in businesses that are already trading, maybe even profitable. Seed investing in the US, by contrast, typically involves similar investments in untested ideas for a smaller shareholding.

“I am seeking investments in companies that can scale and in which revenues will grow faster than costs,” he added.

Matera said his decision to back Irish start-ups was due to the willingness of leadership to move lock, stock and barrel to the US, where such commitment would attract further investment from overseas investors.

“I am particularly interested in US-oriented companies where the founders are open to moving to the US. Exits typically achieve higher valuations when the founders are based stateside. Given the culture, language and location advantages, Irish companies do well in America.”

He said he has met 11 Irish start-ups looking to raise seed finance in the last four days, referred to him by a combination of Dublin BIC, Enterprise Ireland, accelerators and venture capital firms.

“I also met five prospects at the HBAN Investor Forum. HBAN does a great job in shortlisting the most investable companies so that I can focus on picking the best ones. The quality of start-ups HBAN brings is very strong and this saves me a lot of time in filtering out unsuitable companies.”

Matera will be at The Dean Hotel, Dublin, on Thursday 10 November as part of HBAN’s Business Angel Roadshow.

“The HBAN Business Angel Roadshow will seek to raise funds of €6m from 27 new angels in the space of just 48 hours, starting Wednesday 9 November in Waterford. It will also visit Dublin, Cork and Galway,” said John Phelan, national director of HBAN.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years