Promus Ventures: a Luxembourg space fund

Promus Ventures, an early venture capital firm, raised € 120 million to the Orbital Ventures Fund, a fund that closed last year. This fund does not focus exclusively on space start-ups in the Grand Duchy, although companies affiliated with Luxembourg receive a certain part of their investments. The fund’s “limited partners” (its external investors) are all European, mostly public and active in the Grand Duchy.

The main investors in the Orbital Ventures Fund are the European Investment Fund (EIF), which is said to have committed 40 million euros, as well as the Ministry of Finance and the National Credit and Investment Company (SNCI) in Luxembourg. Banque Internationale à Luxembourg (BIL), BGL BNP Paribas, OHB, Post Luxembourg, SES and Spuerkeess also made deposits.

According to Pierre Festal, partner of Promus Ventures in Luxembourg, the fund’s portfolio currently includes 10 start-ups.

In total, Promus Ventures has five funds. Among the company’s portfolio companies are Iceye, Rocket Lab, Spire and Swift Navigation. Some of his previous releases include Enview, Figure Eight, Gauss Surgical and Kensho.

The venture capital firm has three offices and five of its eight employees are based in the Grand Duchy.

Delano spoke with Pierre Festal about the fund, its investors and its portfolio companies, as well as his views on the space start-up scene in Luxembourg.

Tell us in a few words about Promus Ventures.

Pierre Festival. – Promus Ventures was founded in 2012 and invests in deep-tech start-ups in the early stages that solve complex problems to improve everyday life around the world. From its offices in Chicago, San Francisco and Luxembourg, Promus Ventures has invested in 95 startups in the early stages of the US, EU, UK and New Zealand.

How was the Orbital Ventures fund set up and what is its main purpose?

The Orbital Ventures Fund closed at € 120 million in July 2021. Limited Partners (LPs) include the European Investment Fund as well as other companies, institutions and private and public investors. Among them are the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and the National Credit and Investment Company (SNCI). The fund is based in Luxembourg and focuses on space companies in the start-up phase.

Space is an important segment. What exactly are you looking for in a company for your portfolio?

The Orbital Ventures Fund targets early-stage investment opportunities in a wide range of areas, such as: space telecommunications networks and services; location-based geospatial services and applications; space-related technologies and innovations, such as robotics, sensors, data; earth observation and environmental monitoring; the efficiency and safety of transport and logistics; and use and exploration of space resources.

When assessing a potential investment, our primary focus is on the quality of the founding team, their vision, and their ability to deliver on that vision. We also look at technology, product, business model, market and competitive dynamics.

What kind of connection does a start-up company need with Luxembourg? Should she have an office here? Should it invest in a technology that is – partially or completely – developed in Luxembourg?

“Part of the fund must be invested in companies that are affiliated with Luxembourg – either with headquarters in Luxembourg or with plans to establish themselves in Luxembourg.

Let’s talk about your investors. How does it change for the fund to have a large proportion of its sponsors from the public sector compared to a fund that has a majority of sponsors from the private sector? Does it change your strategy, prospects, operations?

“It does not change anything. We operate like any other fund. We are a financial investor whose goal is to maximize the return on associates.

What are your prospects for start-ups in the space sector in Luxembourg and in Europe? Is the sector competitive with its North American and Asian competitors?

“Luxembourg has been at the forefront of democratization and development of the space sector in recent decades. The country continues to provide significant local support to start-ups in the space sector and is a privileged place for international space companies. We can say that the country has always had great success in this sector.

Europe has come a long way in building and supporting a thriving space technology ecosystem with initiatives such as the European Commission’s Cassini program and the European Space Agency’s incubation programs, as well as growing support from large companies that have become aware of the threats and opportunities offered by start-ups.

The private finance market remains relatively limited and does not have a sufficient level of “dry powder” (understanding of uninvested capital) to support new businesses through their life cycle – this problem is not specific to the space sector. As a result, young European space companies tend to look to the United States or the international investment community when it comes to raising significant funds to support their growth. While Europe has made good progress, it remains lagging behind the United States in terms of the number of new space companies and available funding.

Asia is relatively fragmented, with China having its own set of largely state-sponsored initiatives in the space sector. India, Japan and Australia have been relatively active with a number of startups accumulating large sums in recent quarters.

Are you planning to raise other funds soon, either for the Orbital Ventures Fund or another fund focusing on the space sector?

“We are in the process of rolling out the Orbital Ventures Fund and hope to continue investing in EU-related space projects in the future.

Space Resource Week
a conference that takes place at Luxexpo from 3-5. May, includes a panel entitled “Make Resources and the Moon Bankable” on Wednesday afternoon.

This article was written for Delano, translated and edited for Paperjam.

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