EN­TREPRENEURS

Silicon Luxembourg - - CONTENTS -

In­vestors on Pa­per, En­trepreneurs at Heart

Where Tech­nol­ogy & Sup­port In­ter­sect

An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney

LET'S DIVE INTO AN IN­VEST­MENT GROUP THAT WE HEAR LIT­TLE ABOUT, ALTHOUGH IT IS LED BY WELL-KNOWN EX­PERTS WITH A TRACK RECORD OF HELP­ING FEL­LOW EN­TREPRENEURS SUC­CEED. A MEM­BER OF HLD EUROPE'S BOARD OF DI­REC­TORS IS NONE OTHER THAN SE­RIAL EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR XAVIER BUCK.

AN EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL AP­PROACH

HLD is an in­vest­ment group cre­ated by en­trepreneurs for en­trepreneurs. Founded in 2010 by Jean-philippe Heck­etsweiler, Jean-bernard La­fonta and Philippe Don­net, HLD was born out of a de­sire to sup­port, with no re­stric­tions on du­ra­tion, the de­vel­op­ment of Euro­pean com­pa­nies from all sec­tors. From the very be­gin­ning, sev­eral share­hold­ers – lead­ing en­trepreneurs – joined the project. Since then, as true part­ners, the group has in­vested with the aim to sup­port com­pa­nies in their growth across Europe and abroad. It fo­cuses on the long term in or­der to strengthen their lead­er­ship. HLD Europe was opened in Lux­em­bourg in 2015.

"When they ap­proached me to join them in 2015, I was ini­tially sur­prised be­cause their funds did not look like any of those with which I worked or which had in­vested in my com­pa­nies. The en­tre­pre­neur­ial ap­proach re­ally ap­pealed to me,” Buck said.

Cho­sen for his knowl­edge of the Luxembourgish ecosys­tem and his vast ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­ter­net sec­tor, Buck re­cently joined the boards of two star­tups in the fund's port­fo­lio: Gekko and Alchimie. A few weeks ago, Gekko made head­lines when it was ac­quired by Ac­corho­tels for €100 mil­lion. The startup spe­cial­izes in ho­tel reser­va­tion ser­vices and im­pressed one of the lead­ers in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. Af­ter in­vest­ing in 2015, HLD has just com­pleted one of its most im­pres­sive “ex­its” thus far.

AN IN­VEST­MENT CA­PAC­ITY OF €250 MIL­LION

"A big dif­fer­ence at HLD is that it doesn't force it­self to sell at a set time, as other in­vest­ment funds usu­ally do af­ter about five years. The Filorga ex­am­ple is the most telling. In 2010, the com­pany gen­er­ated €10 mil­lion in sales and we in­vested to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of their busi­ness. To­day, the com­pany is still in our port­fo­lio, with an av­er­age growth of 30 per­cent per year, a pres­ence in the Chi­nese mar­ket and many in­ter­ested buy­ers. How­ever, we keep Filorga in our port­fo­lio. For Gekko, the Ac­corho­tels Group of­fer seemed ap­pro­pri­ate, as did the price. That's why we sold the com­pany,” ex­plained Buck, who will leave its Board of Di­rec­tors fol­low­ing the ac­qui­si­tion. "It's a beau­ti­ful story. To­gether we launched the ser­vice in Spain, Por­tu­gal and Bel­gium and ex­pe­ri­enced more than 15 per­cent growth each year."

All of HLD'S in­vestors and share­hold­ers are en­trepreneurs or have an en­tre­pre­neur­ial back­ground. Thanks to their re­spec­tive net­works, ev­ery­one plays their part in the busi­ness by propos­ing projects. With around twenty files to re­view per year, the HLD Group makes three to four in­vest­ments rang­ing from €10 to 50 mil­lion.

PLAY­ING THE LUX­EM­BOURG CARD

For the record, HLD does not have many projects in Lux­em­bourg, if any at all, though the Lux­em­bourg ad­min­is­tra­tion is cur­rently pre­sent­ing some promis­ing files. The group in­vests in fast­grow­ing projects in buoy­ant mar­kets and in man­agers with com­mon sense and a great deal of am­bi­tion. This is the case with Alchimie, a com­pany that de­signs and dis­trib­utes en­ter­tain­ment ap­pli­ca­tions for mo­biles and tablets, gen­er­at­ing a turnover of €80 mil­lion. The in­vest­ment made by HLD en­abled the team to con­duct a man­age­ment buy­out and be­come a share­holder of the com­pany.

"This is one of the sce­nar­ios HLD likes be­cause it sup­ports a team that will be more mo­ti­vated if it be­comes a share­holder. HLD brings knowl­edge and part­ner­ship,” Buck said. "I'm learn­ing a lot. The qual­ity of the peo­ple I deal with is re­mark­able. For ex­am­ple, we made a takeover bid ear­lier this year for Tessi, the French leader in the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of doc­u­ment and pay­ment flows, cus­tomer mar­ket­ing and the pro­cess­ing of cur­rency and gold trans­ac­tions. This is the very first time I saw such an op­er­a­tion from the in­side. It was ex­cit­ing!"

At the mo­ment, HLD Group's in­vest­ments are mainly French. Among them are Coy­ote, Elivie, SVR, Fun­bridge and Le Cou­vent des Min­imes. The com­pany re­cently an­nounced its first Euro­pean in­vest­ment, an in­vest­ment in Ital­ian com­pany M-cube, spe­cial­ists in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and point-of-sale mul­ti­me­dia. With the De­caux fam­ily among its share­hold­ers, there is no doubt that HLD made a smart in­vest­ment.

LUX­EM­BOURG, HOME OF HLD EUROPE

"The banks have warmly wel­comed us, in­clud­ing BIL and Roth­schild, with whom we have made a bond is­sue, listed on the stock ex­change (euro bonds) with its clients/in­vestors. We are play­ing the Lux­em­bourg card be­cause we have be­come a real Luxembourgish fund and are work­ing with lo­cal bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions. We have a real de­sire to in­vest in a Luxembourgish project. For the mo­ment, the op­por­tu­nity has not pre­sented it­self, but I'm sure it will come. We con­tinue to at­tract more and more com­pa­nies and star­tups to Lux­em­bourg and cre­ate a fa­vor­able ecosys­tem, which al­lows the emer­gence of com­pa­nies with strong growth po­ten­tial,” Buck con­cluded.

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