What role do family offices play in growth financing?
Family offices are particularly relevant for the later financing phases of growth companies. For once, other institutional investors are particularly underrepresented in Europe at this stage of development. In the U.S., for every dollar invested in the early stages, over $3 is invested in later stages. In Europe, this ratio is only 1 to 1. Accordingly, the opportunities in later phases are greater.
On the other hand, the barriers to entry in the form of good access to the relevant deal flow are disproportionately smaller in the late phase. The number of promising targets is only 5–10% of the relevant early-stage volume. The potential target companies are already active and visible on the market. An active approach is possible in principle, while early-stage investors depend to a good extent on being approached in good time by the relevant entrepreneurs. For this, a certain awareness of the investor brand and a good reputation are important. However, this contradicts the widespread philosophy of family offices to rather act from the background.
Some family offices have chosen to be active in the early stage as well. In this case, I observe an extensive alignment of structures with those of independent early-stage venture capital funds. The family office becomes the sole “LP” (funder) of an early-stage fund managed by a professional team of early-stage investors. This team is generally incentivized in line with the market and can act relatively freely. Typically, there are only a few specifications regarding the investment strategy, which aim to ensure the compatibility of the early-stage investments with the other activities of the family office or family. For this purpose, the family office often reserves the final investment decision by leading the investment committee. Compared to independent venture capital funds, these family office funds have the advantage of hardly having to spend any time on fundraising and can therefore concentrate fully on portfolio work. In addition, it is often possible to access know-how from other activities of the family office or the family, which can create synergies.
I believe that the presence of family offices in the area of growth financing will continue to increase. — Firstly, because the prospects for returns continue to increase as a result of accelerating technological innovation, while they remain under pressure in other areas. Secondly, because family offices are fundamentally well suited for investments in growth companies, which are generally designed for the long term, for the reasons mentioned above.
Studied aerospace engineering at the Technical University of Munich. After graduating, he spent three years as an engineer at Airbus predecessor EADS. In 1991, he joined McKinsey, where he met Christian Nagel. In 1997 they founded Earlybird together with Roland Manger and Rolf Mathies. The company has just under 50 employees (divided between offices in Berlin, Munich and Istanbul) and manages assets worth over one billion euros. Earlybird has invested in around 170 companies to date, with seven IPOs and 22 other exits (“trade sales”) realized by the end of 2018.