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Orange, Publicis, Iris to Create Digital Venture Funds

France Telecom-Orange and Publicis Groupe today announced they will partner with Iris Capital Management (Iris) to create one of Europe’s premier venture capital investors in the digital economy.

Orange and Publicis will together contribute 150 million euros (ca. $200 million) to the initiative. Added to Iris’ pre-existing funding commitments from investors — including the European Investment Fund and French public investor CDC Entreprises (Groupe Caisse des Dépôts) — this will result in a total investment capacity in excess of 300 million euros.

Announced today, March 12, three funds will be created, to be organized as follows:

  • OP Ventures Growth will target established companies in France and Europe, providing up to 15 million euros per project.
  • OP Ventures Global will invest in start-ups outside Europe, also with funds of up to 15 million euros per project.
  • OP Ventures Early Stage will provide seed-capital and early-stage investment of up to 3 million euros to young companies in France and Europe.

Both OP Ventures Growth and OP Ventures Global will be immediately operational, while the third fund, OP Ventures Early Stage, will open for business in the course of the second quarter of 2012.

Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of France Telecom-Orange said, “I’m delighted by today’s launch of OP Ventures. This joint initiative with Publicis Groupe and Iris is a pioneer in its field.”

All three funds will be dedicated exclusively to companies involved in creating value within the digital economy.

“A lot of companies eagerly anticipate our new project,” said Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe. “There are a lot of smart engineers and entrepreneurs in France and in Europe who are involved in projects that are innovative and exciting, and our plan is to get funds flowing to their businesses as fast as possible so they can flourish”.

In practical terms, Orange and Publicis will each acquire a minority 24.5% interest in Paris-based Iris. Iris’ management will retain a controlling 51% interest and the company will continue to be run by Pierre de Fouquet and Antoine Garrigues.

The Supervisory Board will be chaired by Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, with Gervais Pellissier, deputy CEO of France Télécom-Orange, as deputy chairman.

All investment and divestment decisions will be made by an independent Investment Committee, it was stated.

Photo courtesy: France Telecom-Orange

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