Who are Ireland’s top 10 venture capital investors?

16 Jan 2019

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Venture capital activity points to a pretty frenetic start-up scene.

Ireland’s start-up scene has been burgeoning steadily in recent years with an entrepreneurial fervour matched by pretty sizeable funding rounds and some incredible exits.

New PitchBook data has now named the most active investors in the Irish tech landscape in terms of deal counts. The count fails, however, to mention Enterprise Ireland – ranked by PitchBook in 2015 as Europe’s third largest seed investor – and focuses on private venture capital (VC) fund owner/managers.

According to the PitchBook Platform, there were nearly 200 VC deals in Ireland in 2018 worth around €553m, up from the previous year but down from 2016’s peak of more than €632m.

However, as recent Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) figures reveal, all is not all rosy in the Irish tech investment scene, with VC fundraising down 47pc in the third quarter of 2018 and seed funding down 32pc. The biggest decline in funding, according to the IVCA, was in deals above €5m, which were down 30pc year on year.

The market awaits State action on the creation of new seed funds that can be leveraged by local and international investors to carry on funding companies for the next five to six years.

According to PitchBook data, the 10 most active investors in Ireland since 2014 (excluding accelerator/incubator rounds) by deal count (in brackets) are:

Delta Partners (38)

Founded in 1994 by Frank Kenny, Delta Partners invests in products and services businesses in ICT, pharma, life sciences and medtech. Investments include Pulsate, Therapeutic Devices, Miracor Medical, Corrata and Popdeem.

ACT Venture Capital (34)

Headed by John Flynn, ACT Venture Capital was founded in 1994 and focuses on tech companies serving global markets. Investments include AQMetrics, Storyful, Cubic Telecom, DecaWave, FeedHenry, Trustev, Swrve, S3 TV Technology, Arralis and Soundwave.

Kernel Capital (29)

Cork-based Kernel Capital was founded in 1999 by Niall Olden and manages the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Venture Funds. It has offices in Cork, Dublin and Belfast. Investments include Nova Leah, Sytorus, DisplayNote, B-Secur, Pilot Photonics and Altratech.

Frontline Ventures (28)

Founded by Shay Garvey, Dublin and London-based Frontline Ventures last year raised the €60m Frontline Fund II, which will invest in B2B software start-ups in Europe that have an eye on making it in the US. Investments include Countingup, Logical Clocks, Signal Media, Moltin and AQMetrics.

SOSV (28)

With offices in Cork and New Jersey, SOSV was established by tech entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan in 1995 and today the company has $300m in assets under management. A large network of follow-on VCs invests another $200m in SOSV start-ups every year. Investments include Jump Bikes (bought by Uber for $200m), Sun Genomics, Synthace, Circadia, Feel, Silicon Republic, Naughty Noah’s and Chronomics, to name a few.

Enterprise Equity (22)

Founded in 1987, Enterprise Equity has three funds under management and has invested in excess of €50m in more than 80 companies throughout Ireland. Investments include Movidius, Duolog, AccountsIQ, Touch Press and Zartis.

Fountain Healthcare Partners (16)

Focused purely on the life sciences sector, Fountain Healthcare Partners was founded by Aidan King and Dr Manus Rogan in 2008. The Dublin-based company has invested in more than 45 start-ups with eight exits. Investments include Neuromod, Chrono Therapeutics, Velicept, Inflazome and Neurent Medical.

Tribal.vc (13)

Backing mission-driven entrepreneurs, Tribal.vc was founded by Conor Stanley and Tadhg O’Toole in 2014. Investments include NewsWhip, Payslip, Glofox, Brightflag, Endeco and Unravel Analytics.

Growing Capital (12)

A seed fund focused on tech start-ups, Growing Capital was founded by Gianni Matera in 2015. Investments include Flipdish, Cerebreon, Glofox, Reflex Gaming, Siren Solutions, TenderScout and Popertee.

Investec Ventures (11)

Previously known as NCB Ventures, Investec Ventures invests in companies active in tech, renewable energy and services. Investments include SilverCloud Health, Davra, Gridstore, HeyStaks, Brite:Bill (acquired by Amdocs), Zamano and Accuris Networks.

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Updated, 9.02am, 16 January 2019: This article was updated to clarify that the 2018 VC deals in Ireland were worth around €553m, not €533m as previously stated.

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