Publicis Groupe and Orange buy into financier Iris to kick start OP venture capital investments

Publicis Groupe and France Telecom’s Orange have advanced their plans to set up a big new tech and new media venture capital fund by teaming up with Iris Capital Management in a deal with sees PG and FT taking a 24.5 per cent stake each in Paris-based Iris.

PG and Orange will contribute €150m to OP Ventures, with the remainder coming from Iris investors including CDC Enterprises and the European Investment Fund, bringing the total to about €300m.

The new venture will operate three funds: OP Ventures Growth targeting established companies in France and Europe with up to €15m per project, OP Ventures Global investing in start-ups outside Europe, also with funds of up to €15m per project, and OP Ventures Early Stage providing seed capital and early-stage investment of up to three 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 summer.

It’s early days yet of course but this looks a refreshing initiative on the part of PG and Orange, a bid to create a kind of European Silicon Valley, largely but not exclusively in France. It shows PG boss Maurice Levy’s ability to get things done at the highest levels of French industry and may be seen also as a kind of legacy move on his part as he contemplates eventually stepping down as chairman and CEO of PG.

Publicis Groupe’s Vivaki digital media operation can also be expected to snap up some of the (hoped-for) winners to emerge from OP’s investment.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.