Category Archives: TC

Samwer Brothers Team Up With Delivery Hero Founder In New, $194M Venture Fund

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Make way for one more big venture fund coming out of Europe, this one with some colorful backers. Oliver and Marc Samwer — founders of the Rocket Internet startup incubator among other things — have teamed up with Fabian Siegel, one of the people behind online food delivery company DeliveryHero, to launch Global Founders Capital, a new €150 million ($194 million) fund aimed at any and all startups worldwide — but initially with a focus first on developing markets and e-commerce ventures, according to Siegel.

The first funding deal from GCF, Siegel says, will close in about five weeks.

The Samwer’s influence on startups and entrepreneurship in Europe has been pretty huge over the years. Critics have alternately accused them of being cloners — simply copying models created by others in other markets and not really offering much in the way of innovation — and of being, in effect, bullies that have had a negative impact on the businesses that they build up and run. On the other side, you cannot deny that have built up a massive startup empire, with some 27,000 people working across its portfolio of mainly e-commerce businesses in 43 countries. And financiers have come flocking, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into their different operations, and buyers have come too — with some of the most notable exits being selling MyCityDeal to Groupon and Alando to eBay, both to help those companies in their international ambitions.

This new venture is something a little different, though, as it appears that it will behave more like a traditional VC rather than an incubator. Although it will start first with what the three founders know best — e-commerce — ultimately it will look at anything and everything, at all stages of investment from seed to growth capital, with typical investments, Siegel says, going anywhere from €100,000 to €10 million.

In fact, the idea for the Samwers appears to be to use this fund to get involved in the kinds of businesses that they otherwise might not incubate at Rocket itself — or, if you are a cynic, to get ideas that it can then replicate at Rocket.

“There are businesses that Rocket cannot build or do not have time to build,” is how Siegel describes the motivation behind the fund. “This is about opportunities elsewhere that Rocket does not do but wants to participate in, to give back to entrepreneurs. Things we don’t understand as well as e-commerce will be investments later.” As for those later investments, two areas he names that GCF is likely to consider are apps, big data solutions, and other areas of e-commerce that Rocket does not touch right now, such as travel. Travel alone, he points out, “could keep us busy for 1-2 years, with the number of promising startups out there that are currently bootstrapped in markets like Vietnam.”

Interestingly, Siegel is a sort-of rival to the Samwers in that one of Rocket Internet’s portfolio companies is Food Panda, which is not unlike Delivery Hero in its premise. In fact, Siegel points out that the two companies have more or less been engaged in friendly coopetition, with the only crossover market being Poland in Delivery Hero’s quest to blanket Europe with online take-out options, and Food Panda focusing on emerging markets.

Siegel says that the impetus for GFC came from Ollie Samwer, and that in fact the whole process of creating the fund was actually very quick. “Ollie reached out to me 6-7 weeks ago, and I’ve been working with them for only a couple of weeks,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. While this will not be an incubator as such it will follow on from the model set out by U.S. and other VCs of trying to offer mentorship in addition to money. “The idea is that maybe we can help other teams to scale as we have. That’s somehting that you will see in the investments from our fund. We do like to build things want to help others build them, too.”

Siegel points out that GCF will not be making any investments into Rocket Internet-backed companies — but it’s not clear whether they will support any potential rivals, either.

In addition to the three principals, there are a number of limited partners, Siegel says, whose names are not being disclosed, except to note that a “large proportion” comes from the Samwer family itself “plus other entrepreneurial families.”

Siegel is new to the Samwer fold but he’s also not a stranger to the brothers’ reputation. He remains neutral and wait-and-see for how it plays out in terms of partnering with them as VCs. “It’s hard for me to say because i’m just starting to work with them, but my experience is that great entrepreneurs are very passionate and have a clear perspective of how the world should be,” he says. “That’s how they get things done but as a result they polarize people. But even among those who ask questions or have bad opinions, none would say they don’t respect what they’re doing.”

With No Buyer For The ST-Ericsson JV, Chipmaker Cuts 1,600 Workers And Prepares For Divorce

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More developments on the grim story of ST-Ericsson, the unprofitable JV between Ericsson and STMicroelectronics that tried to kickstart a semiconductor business in Europe. Failing to find a buyer for the full operation, they will commence splitting up the assets instead, laying off 1,600 employees in the process.

As background, the story goes back to last year, when the two companies decided to call time on the JV, first founded in 2009, and explore strategic options, taking multi-billion-dollar hits in the process, after Ericsson and STMicro both confirmed neither wanted to subsume the entire loss-making business themselves following a review that first started in April 2012. That business in Q4 reported net sales of $358 million, but an operating loss of $133 million, after taking a $1.5 billion write-down in Q3. The story took a further turn a couple of days ago when it was reported that it could become a takeover target for Qualcomm on the cheap after finding no takers for the complete assets.

Then, this morning, the two owners laid out a formal plan for how they planned to split up the assets in a divorce. Ericsson is taking on take on the “design, development and sales of the LTE multimode thin modem products, including 2G, 3G and 4G multimode.” ST, meanwhile, will assume all other products, including some assembly and test facilities. The remaining parts would get closed down.

The 1,600 people getting laid off today are worldwide, the company says, with just over one-third in Europe. In addition to this, Ericsson will be taking on 1,800 employees and contractors, mainly in Sweden, Germany, India and China. STMicro will take 950 workers in France and Italy. They are still looking for a buyer for its connectivity business, employing 200 people — and the fact that they’ve kept that on the table seems to imply that there may be an offer on the table at least.

Once the dust settles on today’s news, it may be likely that the workers transferred to STMicro and Ericsson will also be under review, as those businesses get integrated into their new parents’ operations.

The story of the JV is the mobile infrastructure leitmotif to the bigger decline of the European mobile manufacturing industry over the last several years. While the region remains a very important market in terms of consumers of mobile services, the center of gravity for production and R&D in mobile has moved to China and companies like Samsung, Qualcomm, Google and Apple. Meanwhile, in Europe, once-global leaders like Finland’s Nokia (significantly, once one of ST-Ericsson’s biggest customers) are now on their knees, with others like Siemens exiting handset making years ago, and Ericsson following slowly in Siemens’ path.