2017: year in review

Global Government Venturing looks back at the past twelve months, highlighting some of the funds that grabbed the world’s attention.

For all the geopolitical upset in world, countless governments around the world found a lot of time to double down on – or get involved in – the venturing space in 2017.

The timing was right, therefore, for Global Government Venturing to launch its Leadership Society at the annual Global Corporate Venturing & Innovation Summit in January, with delegates including representatives from countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Ghana, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK and the US, states such as California and institutions including the UN.

Indeed, Global Government Venturing recorded more than 265 funds last year – many of them new vehicles, though some existing initiatives also boosted their capital. If that seems like a lot of funds, that is because it is – in fact, it is approximately a 33% rise on 2016, when this publication tracked just over 200 funds.

There were the usual actors, of course, such as Canada, where BDC Capital, the investment arm of state-owned financial institution Business Development Bank of Canada, confirmed a budget of $55m for investments in women-led technology companies in November – extending a program first launched a year prior.

Alberta Enterprise, the provincial government of Alberta’s investment arm, committed $10m to the first close of the $135m Yaletown Innovation Growth Fund, managed by Canada-based investment firm Yaletown Partners, also in November, while the province of Ontario committed $42m to be managed by venture capital funds for the clean technology sector in February.

VC firm ScaleUp Ventures meanwhile achieved the final close of its inaugural fund at $82m with the backing of the British Columbia government-owned BC Tech Fund in September.

BDC Capital also turned its attention to Canada’s four Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, in May, announcing a $200m fund aimed at businesses in that region to be committed over two years.

Another province that gained more of a focus this past year was Prince Edward Island, where the local government committed $2m to a $4m investment fund being raised by Island Capital Partners to support the local ecosystem in August.

The strength of Canada’s ecosystem did not pass by Temasek, the investment firm owned by the government of Singapore, which was one of more than 60 limited partners to back a $140m fundraising effort by venture capital firm Real Ventures. BDC Capital and internet company Tencent also put their weight behind that vehicle, raised a month ago.

Temasek was busy closer to home, too. When VC firm Wavemaker Partners closed its $66m Southeast Asia-focused fund in October, Temasek was one of the limited partners, alongside International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector-focused arm of multilateral financial institution World Bank.

Vertex Ventures, the VC arm of Temasek, meanwhile raised more than $150m for its third fund aimed at Southeast Asia and India in August, after the firm had already announced in June it was planning two new funds focused on Israel and US-based companies.

Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly-owned investment subsidiary of Temasek, unveiled a $422m vehicle that will co-invest with corporates in February, followed by the government of Singapore announcing in May that it was launching a $718m fund to assist businesses with development and overseas expansion as part of an effort to drive economic growth.

And Spring Singapore, a government agency responsible for assisting domestic SMEs, launched a $72.8m fund aimed at technology startups in July.

China meanwhile continued to claim big numbers in 2017 – so much so that even focusing on the $1bn-plus funds would justify an entirely separate article.

Tianjin’s municipal government launched the Tianjin Haihe Industry Fund, a $17.4bn government guidance fund, in April. The cash will be deployed in various subsidiary funds targeting several sectors, with the subsidiary funds expected to leverage a total of $77bn in private sector capital.

Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC) and US-based investment bank Goldman Sachs revealed plans in November for a $5bn private equity fund aimed at promoting US-based exporters to China.

The Russian-Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Russia, and CIC agreed in July to invest an additional $1bn into their joint venture Russia-China Investment Fund.

Russia upped its game elsewhere, too. Regional investment arm Far East Development Fund, fund-of-funds RVC and nanotech commercialisation fund Rusnano agreed to launch a $175m Far East High Tech Development and Implementation Fund to back technology businesses in the Russian Far East in November.

Government-owned development bank Vnesheconombank signed a memorandum of understanding with India-based infrastructure finance provider Srei Infrastructure Finance to create a $200m IT and innovation fund in June, while RDIF and Japan government-owned export credit agency Japan Bank for International Co-operation joined forces for a $900m fund in May.

The city government of St Petersburg meanwhile established a $4m venture fund aimed at local IT and light industry startups. And Russia was also one of several countries to reach for the stars: in September, space agency Roscosmos established a venture capital fund to commercialise inventions from the space ecosystem.

Another country hoping to get in on the space action was the UK, whose British Business Bank backed a $95m space technology fund in September along with the European Space Agency. And Saudi Arabia state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) went straight to putting a total of $1bn into Virgin Galactic, Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit in October.

The government of South Korea unveiled efforts for a $9bn investment fund to join investors backing South Korea-based startups over the next three years in November, adding to an initiative by Korea Venture Investment Corp (KVIC), a state-backed fund-of-funds management firm, which committed $8m to a $20m fund managed by Mexico-based VC firm Angel Ventures that same month.

KVIC also launched an investment fund with Applied Ventures, the corporate venturing unit formed by materials engineering technology provider Applied Materials in June. While a size was not officially confirmed, a regulatory filing indicated the partners were looking to raise $40m.

In April, South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning had already said it would set up a $102m fund for startups and VC firms in the biotechnology sector.

India, too, remained a strong player in the government venturing world. The Indian state government of Karnataka said in October it would invest $6.1bn in a new hub designed to support India-based artificial intelligence and data science startups.

The Indian state of Kerala launched a fundraising effort to secure $78m from early-stage funds, while a range of state-owned institutions – including Small Industries Development Bank of India and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the UK’s development institution CDC – backed a $95m first close for the sixth fund of Aavishkaar Venture Management Services, the impact venture arm of investment firm Aavishkaar-Intellecap in November.

The state of Tamil Nadu meanwhile said it would establish a $78m venture capital fund in April. And the government of Karnataka launched a $1.5m proof of concept fund aimed at women entrepreneurs in March, an idea replicated by Telangana and Rajasthan in December.

Elsewhere in Asia, the government of Hong Kong launched a $256m Innovation and Technology Venture Fund in September, inviting venture capital firms to become co-investors. The fund’s launch had been awaited since July, when Anne Choi, commissioner of information and technology, said at the Hong Kong Venture Capital Association’s VC Forum that it was due to go live “in a matter of weeks” after several years of development.

Arab countries, which in 2016 primarily made headlines when PIF committed $45bn to the SoftBank Vision Fund, primarily remained in the news with investments – but new commitments to funds were still made. One of these was the Oman Investment Fund, the government venturing arm of the Omani government, which became an anchor investor in a $15m fund established by VC firm 500 Startups in May. The fund will invest exclusively in startups based in the Middle East and North Africa.

Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, meanwhile showed an interest in investing in the aforementioned SoftBank Vision Fund in October. The vehicle, which is targeting a $100bn close, had secured $97.7bn by the end of the third quarter.

A range of countries that rarely appear on GGV’s radar gave a boost to their local ecosystems, too, such as Thailand, which announced a $147m fund aimed at the domestic digital economy sector in June.

Several Iranian ministries and councils prepared to launch separate VC funds as part of the country’s bid to build a knowledge-based economy in November. Each fund will be supported by the government-backed investment arm, Innovation and Prosperity Fund.

There were other, more unusual funds. Mossad, the intelligence agency of Israel, created an investment fund aimed at domestic startups in June, with France’s Ministry of the Armed Forces and public investment bank Bpifrance following with a $59m fund called Definvest in November.

Ras Al Khaimah Police, the police force of emirate Ras Al Khaimah, launched an investment fund targeting the policing and technological security industries in June.

The government of Nigeria meanwhile launched a $1m venture capital fund aimed at startups in the creative economy in July, while the government of Ghana relaunched its scandal-hit Venture Capital Trust Fund with $50m in capital and a new management board charged with driving the country’s ecosystem for small and medium-sized enterprises.

And things ticked along smoothly in Australia. The state government of New South Wales, for example, partnered non-profit pension fund First State Super and private equity firm ROC Partners to launch a $118m investment vehicle in October, while Queensland decided to put another $8.3m into its Business Development Fund in June.

In neighbouring New Zealand, government-owned investment firm New Zealand Venture Investment Fund received permission to invest up to $1.1m in startups through its Seed Co-Investment Fund – double the previous limit – in August.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru revealed plans to secure a $120m fund to invest in entrepreneurial projects across the four countries in July. The four nations have been partners since 2011, when they formed the Pacific Alliance with the aim of creating deeply integrated economies that provide free movement of goods, capital, people and economy.

Chile’s economic development agency Corfo also injected $6m in the $8m Chile Outlier Seed Fund I, aimed at software companies in the south of the country in December, while the government of Mexico invested $4.1m in three agtech-focused venture capital funds to help grow Mexico’s agtech ecosystem in September.

Other parts of the continent were not far behind: BNDes, the economic development bank of Brazil, for example said it was going to launch two funds aimed at growing the internet of things ecosystem in November.

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), an investment arm of development finance institution Inter-American Development Bank, committed $5m to Argentina-based accelerator NXTP Labs’ $120m impact fund in November – other limited partners have not yet been named.

Argentina also launched three venture funds with $12m in state funding in December to be managed by Mexico-based Jaguar Ventures and Drayper Cygnus, and NXTP Labs – all three funds are set to gain an additional $18m each from private investors.

And the Bahamas government-backed Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund received a $5m one-off capital injection from the public purse to help meet its backlog of funding applications in June.

In the US, new funds were few and far between – belying a flurry of investment activity, as the country remains one of the strongest players thanks to organisations such as In-Q-Tel, the investment firm affiliated with the intelligence community.

Nevertheless, some new vehicles did appear: fintech-focused venture capital firm TTV Capital for example closed a $93m fund backed by Invest Georgia, a long-term investment program backed by the US state of Georgia, in March, while the US city of Pittsburgh in September began looking into establishing its own fund to support startups, revitalise deprived districts and prepare Pittsburgh to churn out autonomous vehicles.

Across Europe, funds were raised at a much more prolific rate. Portuguese government-owned financial company Instituição Financeira de Desenvolvimento and Vesalius Biocapital agreed to a $77.4m partnership targeting Portugal-based life science companies in September.

The UK-focused $132m Nobel Sustainability Growth Fund (NSGF) launched in November with support from state-owned Constitutional Reserve Fund of Monaco and investment syndicate Set3 via the Nobel Sustainability Fund.

And France made headlines with president Emmanuel Macron outlining his vision for the future of Europe and ambitious plans for a $12bn innovation fund – though the figure was slightly less impressive when the plans were picked apart in a Global Government Venturing editorial in September.

The EU-owned financial institution European Investment Bank (EIB) backed a close of $103m for Italia Venture I Fund, an Italy-based public-private partnership managed by Italian government-owned firm Invitalia Ventures, in October, while its European Investment Fund (EIF) put its weight behind a wide range of funds, such as one created in May in partnership with Tekes, the Finnish state-owned innovation funding agency, to bolster angel investors in Finland with $33m.

EIF’s commitments across Europe came as the fund decided to halt investments in the UK, following the country’s decision to leave the EU, in May. In January, EIB itself had already informed the government of Northern Ireland it would not be backing its investment fund.

That meant the UK government had to step up its own efforts, and in December British Business Bank invested in the $81m Enterprise Capital Fund raised by VC firm Episode 1.

Scotland on the other hand still managed to get EIF’s cash for a $250m fund in June – only a couple of months before EIF retreated from other opportunities the United Kingdom.

And the Welsh government finally launched its Development Bank of Wales in October with a $580m budget.

Things were rosier in the Republic of Ireland: between a flurry of vehicles launched and backed by export credit agency Enterprise Ireland and sovereign wealth fund Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, the country’s startups should face little to no funding worries in 2018.

In Sweden, SamInvest, a VC arm of Sweden state-owned investment fund Almi Företagspartner, contributed to the $119m first fund for Norway-based, life sciences-focused venture capital firm Hadean Ventures.

In the Netherlands, the ministries for Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation jointly announced a $2.1bn government venturing fund called Invest-NL in February, adding to the city of Rotterdam investing in Icos Capital Fund III, a $52m cleantech and sustainability-focused vehicle created by domestic venture capital firm Icos Capital, a month earlier.

In September, the Netherlands government-owned Dutch Investment Agency and the EIF then committed $117.7m to a fund targeting growth-stage startups dubbed the Dutch Growth Co-Investment Program.

In neighbouring Belgium, investment firm Fortino Capital Partners achieved a $150m first close of its $240m Fortino Capital II Growth fund with Flemish government-owned investment firm PMV as a cornerstone investor in December. Insurance provider AG Insurance also signed up to be a cornerstone investor, as did financial services firms BNP Paribas Fortis and Belfius.

Germany, where public-private partnership High-Tech Gründerfonds celebrated a $275m first close of its third fund in May, also marched on, as HTGF III added a seven-figure commitment from RWE Generation, the power production arm of energy firm RWE, in October, and another seven-figure sum from Ewe, a local government-run energy and telecoms utility, in November.

Other areas of Europe also received cash: Western NIS Enterprise Fund, an investment vehicle backed by the government-owned foreign aid agency United States Agency for International Development, launched a fund called U.Ventures in December. The fund will focus on early-stage technology businesses based in Ukraine and Moldova – two countries that have seldom appeared on GGV’s radar so far.

The government of Hungary supplied an additional $31m to its Széchenyi Venture Capital Fund and extended the fund’s lifetime to the end of 2025, with the deadline for exits extended to 2030.

And finally, Greece launched a call for financial institutions and private investors to participate in its VC fund Equifund in February. The fund has received $214m in public funding through the EU initiative Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a part of the NSRF 2014-2020 program, having been established at the very end of 2016. The vehicle is expected to leverage more than $1.2bn in total funding – a substantial figure for an economy that continues to suffer from the aftershocks of the 2008 global recession.

The question now, of course, is whether governments will be able to keep up this momentum heading into 2018. The odds, it would seem, are in startups’ favour everywhere either way – and Global Government Venturing will be here to keep track of it.


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