That’s not because he doesn’t like the company of his fellow VCs, he maintains.
‘It’s because businesses [without VC backing] have evolved in an environment of frugality. If you start your company with almost zero capital – perhaps a bank loan or some money from your uncle – you’ve got to make sure your product or service meets customers’ demands spot-on. You don’t have the luxury of a year or two to develop your offering.’
Founded by Elias in 1997, Kennet has just raised its third fund, which has €200 million (£160 million) to invest in fast-growing technology companies. The firm does not limit itself by market or sector (it backs everything from semiconductors to software-as-a-service) but usually invests in founder-managed businesses with a turnover of between €10 million and €30 million. Investee companies, says Elias, are typically seeing top-line growth of 30 to 50 per cent.
‘We very rarely put debt into companies because they need all the cash flow they can generate to fund their growth,’ says the Harvard graduate.
The majority of Kennet’s exits are through trade sales, mainly to listed companies in the US. Elias says that AIM has been ‘a continuing disappointment’, and exits through initial public offerings on the junior market are unlikely.
‘The problem with AIM and other minor markets in Europe is that critical mass and liquidity is not there,’ he says. ‘It’s like going to a food market and finding only three or four stalls there – it doesn’t attract the punters.’