Brexit Ireland: A prologue

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Draper Espirit's £100m investment fund is grabbing headlines but don't expect any local benefits

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21 January 2019 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitOne of the big stories in today’s business pages is the establishement of a £100 million fund by Draper Espirit to support digital businesses based in Europe.

The plan is a continuation of a partnership with German VC firm Earlybird with its Earlybird IV and Early Digital East funds worth £55 million and £16 million respectively. The investment will also add 19 tech companies to Draper’s portfolio and give early stage European start-ups access to capital, expertise and other supports.

“We passionately believe in the potential for Europe to become a high-tech powerhouse and are putting our money where our mouth is by furthering our strategic partnership with Earlybird. This allows us to cement our position as a leading VC in Europe, whilst simultaneously offering investors access to exciting and high quality underlying assets,” said Draper Espirit CEO Simon Cook.

“These acquisitions represent an exceptional opportunity made available to us through our strategic partnership with Earlybird. The two funds include a number of high-quality, well-positioned and fast-growing European assets, the prospects of which we are very excited about. We’re also refreshing our financial resources to continue to invest in our strong pipeline of potential future investment opportunities.”

Some of those new additions are German consumer loan portal smava; Turkish mobile games developer, Peak; and UiPath, a Romanian developer of a software platform for robotic process automation.

Most important from an Irish perspective, Draper Espirit is set to begin trading on the London Stock Exchange and the ISEQ under the name Euronet. With this kind of money, momentum and organisation the pieces are in place for another tranche of investment money in Silicon Docks. Well… not so much.

Draper Espirit does not have a huge presence in Dublin and despite recent investments (Roomex being one example) it seems to lack a dynamic outreach programme. A representative for the company said Draper was “always looking to do more deals in Ireland”, but it’s curious that there is little strategic connection between the Earlybird investment and these shores – save for an ISEQ listing.

Call me cynical but something tells me the real story isn’t the expansion of a British VC firm into Europe, more that UK firms are looking to Dublin to become more tax effecient while tracking what Westminster will try to mitigate the effects of Brexit – possibly by slashing its own corporate tax rate.

There’s nothing wrong with forward planning and we’re going to see a lot more of these stories over the coming year but this is not the vote of confidence in the Irish tech sector it appears at first glance. The really impressive story is how many and how quickly we see such announcements flood the business pages. Welcome to Brexit Ireland. Things are about to get crazy.

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