About 10 years in the venture capital sector, Patricia Layola says she feels lucky to have been able to participate in very different investment funds. Now he has his own, which he has created together with Abel Conill. This is Victoria Venture Capital, a fund specialized in spin-off of researchers, specifically those with solutions in the field of clean technologies and new advanced materials.
Layola (Barcelona, 1981), who in her previous life was a manager of companies in financial institutions, now heads Victoria's investment area as a co-founding partner. Among his tasks is to identify possible startups in which to invest, with a flow of more than 100 projects per year. Most of his time is spent visiting universities and science parks, so he just steps into his office in Vic (Barcelona). In it he receives EL PAÍS Retina.
How would you define Victoria?
We are a five million fund aimed at investing in researchers who have developed disruptive technologies that solve global problems. We look for applied research, which is close to the market. Victoria is a self-managed venture capital company regulated by the CNMV, 100% private, with investors that add value thanks to their experience and professional and sectoral knowledge. In addition, the management team also participates as an investor.
What led you to create the fund?
We seek to contribute in investments that help in the fight against global warming
We founded Victoria in 2015 after realizing that there was potential for operations flow in universities and research centers. The research environment of our country has teams of international excellence. In Catalonia alone we have 12 public and private universities, 22 scientific and technological parks, 46 research centers and several prestigious business schools. Many of these centers are encouraging the creation of spin-off : new companies born in them, formed by research teams and entrepreneurs who want to transfer their knowledge through business practice. We are an investment alternative with much higher profitability expectations in exchange for taking on greater risk. A fund that invests in leading technologies in its sectors has a high potential, but assumes a greater risk in its initial phases. We are looking for a profile of investors that could provide value in Victoria, both sectoral and business.
What sets Victoria apart from other funds?
We are a fund hands-on that accompanies the startups inverted This type of company has a lot of potential with leading teams in its field, but also needs to be covered in its initial phases. The first is your limited business knowledge. The second is that they have little private financing to cover the operating expenses of the company. Victoria covers both, investing private capital and providing business, financial and corporate advice.
What criteria govern investments?
We believe that climate change is an increasingly closer reality and since Victoria priority is given to investments that contribute to mitigate in some way its negative effects. We prioritize investments in spin-off with disruptive and innovative technologies, with leading teams in their field and international journey in the energy and industrial sectors. We seek to contribute in investments that help in the fight against global warming: reduce pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels, sustainable mobility, smart grids, recycling, et cetera. We invest both in new solutions and in those that improve existing technologies, which make them more efficient and profitable.
In what stage of development?
We look for projects in initial stages, either in the seed phase or as startup. That they are in Spain, mainly in Catalonia. We participate in them directly with between 5% and 50% of capital, which can reach up to 1.5 million of investment. Also with the option to participate loans, in addition to the business, financial and corporate advisory services. Likewise, we help in the search of executives to incorporate in the spin-off.
What is the target portfolio?
We are looking for five to six investees in total. We have already selected four of them. We have Ledmotive, which produces intelligent and super-efficient LED technology with health applications; also to Hydrokemos, a clean technology to purify groundwater and wastewater; Oxolutia, which develops advanced materials in superconductivity for maximum energy efficiency and Nnergix, a software Smart for climate analysis for the energy industry.
What prioritize when selecting the spin-off?
That we can provide value is a first requirement. If not, it does not work for us. It is also essential that the promoter team is a leader in its specialty and that it is involved in the project. That does not intend just to license the product. Let him help. It must also be a scalable and international project, with a path of creating value and that is not subject to regulatory changes in a specific country because this poses a high risk. In addition, the commercialization of technology must be viable. It is important to assess the size of the market, that the product or service is competitive, with good margins and good acceptance by customers.
What is the greatest risk when investing in researchers?
There is a handicap about whether the researcher will be able to take a company out, to know the business ... It is a fear that investors usually have. That's why we not only contribute capital and we also accompany to supply the lack of business knowledge. The researchers are very good at their own and you have to let them do and put an executive, a CEO, to help them start the business. As a member of the jury of the SME Instrument program of the European Innovation Council, I also see that many projects have a very disruptive technology but in terms of margins and costs of exploitation and production, they are not economically viable.
Is it hard to invest in this type of projects in Spain?
I see a lack of commitment to clean energy, which comes more from international funds. We would like there to be more awareness and great funds created in Spain with the same philosophy as Victoria. We understand, however, the obstacles to some of these solutions, which depend on obsolete laws or governments with slow administrative processes, legislative changes, etc., that hinder the rapid implementation and acceptance of the new energy models. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, companies continue to develop innovative and profitable solutions that help mitigate climate change.
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- BCN3D. Spin-off from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia that develops 3D printers that allow to duplicate production and make complex, multicolored, multimaterial and high quality 3D prints at a competitive price. "Clearly it is a sector of the future."
- EZZING SOLAR. Startup who has created a software advanced that offers 3D geolocation and simulation to facilitate the management, installation and marketing of photovoltaic panels on roofs. "Simplify photovoltaics and allow companies to better develop distributed energy".
- WIKILOC. Spin-off of the Scientific and Technological Park of Girona that has developed an advanced software with geolocation application for outdoor sports. It has a community of over four million users that has shared more than 10 million mountain routes around the world. "It's a model of success."
- LEDMOTIVE. It is one of Victoria's inverted. It has created and patented a led technology that allows the digitalization and reproduction of any type of light (natural or artificial), dynamically, adjustable, connected to the Internet of things and governable from anywhere. "It's a unique technology in the world."
- HYDROKEMOS. Another of the participated by Victoria. Its patented technology makes it possible to purify and remediate water contaminated by nitrates and ammonium in a more sustainable way, "without waste or environmental impact and at a more competitive cost than the best available technologies at present