Delano: In just a few words, could you tell us about Promus Ventures?
Pierre Festal: Promus Ventures is an early-stage venture capital company focusing on deep-tech startups that use innovative solutions to solve complex problems. We have invested in roughly 100 companies globally, mainly at an early stage and opportunistically in later-stage ones.
Investments include Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB), Whoop, Spire (NYSE: SPIR), Mapbox, ICEYE, Bellabeat, Swift Navigation, AngelList, Isotropic Systems, Halter, Cobalt Robotics and numerous others.
How did the firm get started?
Promus Ventures was founded in the US, in 2012, by our managing partner Mike Collett. We have been managing a range of funds in the US and, more recently, one in Europe--from Luxembourg.
What are you looking for in a portfolio company?
When assessing a potential investment, we focus first and foremost on the quality of the founding team, its vision and its ability to execute that vision. We seek strong founding teams with domain expertise and the grit and resilience needed to build a company. We also examine the technology, product, business model, market and competitive dynamics.
What’s your top challenge as a VC firm this year? Top opportunity?
We expect 2023 to be a year of transition with a reversal to the historical mean around valuations, capital formation and capital efficiency. There has been a contraction in late-stage financing that will significantly impact mid- and later-stage startups as they return to the market to raise funding over the next 18 months. The early-stage end of the market, where our focus is, has been less impacted. Nevertheless, we are optimistic about our portfolio companies, which are well capitalised to face current market conditions, and expect them to continue executing their strategies.
On the opportunity side, we will keep focusing on what we’ve been doing well over the years: investing in space and other sectors that fall under the larger deep tech category, like automation and robotics, applied artificial intelligence and so on.
We have a great foundation, team and track record and have invested in the deep-tech and space sectors for a decade. We look forward to continuing to grow our platform and team to serve the exciting founders and companies we partner with.
Three portfolio companies to highlight?
—Whoop, a wearable technology that provides in-depth fitness, health feedback and customised coaching to individuals
—Rocket Lab, which provides spacecraft, satellite components, launch services and on-orbit management in the commercial, civil and defence markets
—Halter, whose solar-powered cow collars help farmers “communicate” with cows, monitor their health and build virtual fences
And three exits?
—Kensho, which offers AI solutions to companies, including audio transcription, text enrichment and connecting to external knowledge sources; was acquired by S&P Global in 2018 for approximately $550m
—Gauss Surgical, a medtech that developed an AI-enabled platform to monitor blood loss during surgery; was acquired by Stryker in 2021 for $160m
—Figure Eight, which uses human intelligence to help train machine learning algorithms; was acquired by Appen in 2019 for $300m