Venture Capital/Interview/

Meet Europe’s largest female led VC firm

Elina Berrebi and Alice Albizzati recently closed a €250m growth fund for their firm Revaia. What do they want to invest in?

By Sharmila Devi

Gaia Capital Partners' Elina Berrebi

In Europe, the average VC fund run by women is €10m, seven times smaller than the average run by men. So it was big news last month when Elina Berrebi and Alice Albizzati closed a €250m growth fund for their firm Revaia — the largest run by women in European history.

Sifted caught up with Berrebi and asked her what kinds of companies she was looking to fund.

ESG is a plus

Revaia, formerly known as Gaia Capital Partners, is targeting European growth-stage companies with more than €5m in revenue with a commitment to environmental, social and governance values.

So far the firm has a varied portfolio that includes Aircall, Epsor, GetAccept, gohenry, Planity, Welcome to the Jungle and Yubo.

Not all of these fit into a “sustainable” box with an obvious ESG mission, but Berrebi tells Sifted it’s important that all their companies have a “willingness to go down that path”.

“It’s not necessarily because we’re female that we’ve thought about [diversity], but because it’s the only rational way to think.”

Before making an investment, Revaia examines a company through several lenses, she says. 

Has the company embedded in its business model and practices an awareness of not only climate change but also societal change? Does the company have top-notch governance?

Diversity and big markets

Berrebi says that interest in ESG does not get in the way of the basics: finding companies tackling hard problems in big markets. 

“Typically, there are metrics around net retention on which we try to focus. We look at how healthy the business is so we look at contribution margins. Then we would pay attention to the quality of the brand, if they have built a really strong asset behind the brand,” she says.

But backing a diverse range of founders is also part of their strategy to find those great companies. 

“We have to judge on the future of products and services that are supposed to address very big audiences and segments of the population so we can’t see any way for us to make the right decisions without having the right representation in our company,” Berrebi says. 

“It’s not necessarily because we’re female that we’ve thought about it but because it’s the only rational way to think of making a good investment decision.”

Only 1.7% of capital went to female founders in Europe from 2016 to 2020, according to a report presented by European Women in VC to the European Commission earlier this year.

Leading the way for female VCs

There are a growing number of female VCs in Europe. 

In Paris Marie Ekeland, a well-known figure in the French VC scene, is aiming to raise between €100m and €150m for her 2050 fund. 

In Iceland, Crowberry Capital is headed by three women, who say they have the largest VC fund operating out of the country. It announced in early September it had raised a $90m seed and early-stage fund.

Revaia is set to be the biggest yet, and is moving fast with its growth strategy, having made eight investments out of an expected 15. 

A growing firm

The firm has grown to 15 people, it opened an office in Berlin earlier this year and it has a presence in New York and Toronto. Having focused on France, Germany and the Nordics, further expansion is possible with Eastern Europe of particular interest.

“This is about a human journey so if there’s a great human being in these geographies or beyond, we’re happy to have that person on board and location doesn’t matter that much these days as long as it’s relevant for business,” Berrebi says.

The fund is invested across several sectors including software, consumer and fintech. One of its portfolio companies, telecoms firm Aircall, achieved unicorn status with a valuation above $1bn at a fundraising round earlier this year.

Revaia is designed to evoke rêve, French for dream

Other companies include GoHenry, which helps children manage money; GetAccept, a sales platform, and Epsor, an employee savings and pensions tool. Some 15% of the fund is dedicated to listed investments and Revaia has made four of these so far.

Berrebi says that Revaia’s most recent investment, announced on September 13, in Hublo, a French digital tool to manage staff in hospitals, clinics and care facilities, ticks all of Revaia’s financial and ethical boxes.

“This is a very critical mission because in Europe we already know there’s going to be a shortage of nurses in the next few years and it’s critical to have tools to better manage the workforce as evidenced by Covid so we’re happy to be in this area,” she says.

Backgrounds

Berrebi studied engineering and finance and met her cofounder Albizzati at the École Polytechnique, one of France’s most prestigious science and technology elite universities. The two also worked together at Fonds Stratégique d’Investissement, a French public investment bank now called BPI France, after the financial crisis of 2008.

“It was a very particular moment because as you may remember, the markets were completely frozen and all private equity funds wouldn’t invest so we had a very important role to play investing public money in companies of all sorts, venture-backed, growth capital, listed companies, everywhere and it was a steep learning curve for me,” she says.

“My cofounder Alice, whom I had already known since university, was also starting her career there so we got super fascinated in the job of being an investor and about the responsibility that comes with it.”

Berrebi is particularly enthused about Revaia’s partnership with France’s Sycamore Asset Management, saying they have shared ethics around sustainable and responsible investment. 

“The second conviction we had together is the whole European tech ecosystem needs more capital that is sophisticated and that can help companies graduate from the private markets to the public markets,” she says. “There are very few European platforms that are able to do that.”

Revaia changed its name from Gaia Capital Partners but because the word Gaia, the Greek earth goddess, was too ubiquitous, says Berrebi. The new name was designed to evoke rêve, French for dream.

One of Berrebi’s dreams is to see more liquidity in the European tech scene in the form of stock market flotations. “European growth capital is a bit lagging behind but we hope to bridge a little bit the gap,” she said. 

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