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AXA Venture Partners (AVP) accelerates on the development of its growth strategy and is pleased to announce the appointment of a new General Partner in Paris. Benoit Fosseprez, who was Deputy CEO and CEO France of Veepee, will be joining the team as General Partner and will be managing the Growth Fund together with François Robinet, Imran Akram, and Alex Scherbakovsky. Benoit is an experienced leader with a very inspiring background combining deep knowledge of the tech industry and strong operational experience in a leading digital company.

Just a few months after the exit of One Onc (Growth Fund) and Modern Message (Early Stage Fund), AVP announces the second exit in its Early Stage I Fund with the sale of Limelight. This sale is an important step for the AVP Early Stage fund as it will return a meaningful portion of the fund and will mark its first distribution back to its LPs. After only 4 1/2 years, close to 50% of the fund has been recycled or returned to the investors.

Limelight Health, a compelling quoting, underwriting, and proposal platform for the employee benefits industry has been acquired by Fineos, a public company with business worldwide and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. AVP partnered with Limelight Health in 2015 when we co-led the Series A, and subsequently participated in each of the following rounds. Limelight Health was one of the first investments by AVP in the Early stage strategy in the US. In addition to our investment, one of our LPs, Equitable Holdings also became an important anchor customer for the company.

We are proud to have been part of Limelight Health’s success story and are excited for the team as they take the next step in the company’s journey. It is our second exit on the Early stage fund after Modern Message few months ago. The fact that we had a successful sale even during the current economic environment further demonstrates the quality of our investment strategy and the focus we put on capital efficiency and the execution skills of the management team of the companies when we invest” commented Manish Agarwal, General Partner at AVP.

More details here:
https://www.fineos.com/2020/08/11/fineos-acquires-limelight-health/

Although several people, like Bill Gates or many epidemiologists, have warned for a long time about the risk for an interconnected world like ours of a pandemic scenario, it is fair to say that the Covid-19 has caught everyone by surprise. As the virus spreads all over the world and as governments are taking unprecedented actions, we are all living day-by-day, often at home, trying to re-invent our ways of working and interacting, whilst hoping that this is only temporary and that we will soon go back to normal.

However, everybody now expects that there will be enough (good) doctors to treat them…

The world is a village and the whole village got sick…

We are all social animals !
Confinement/lockdown forces us to recalibrate our vision of the world…

Although the spread of the disease has stabilized in China and South Korea, it is still too early to draw any conclusions on its impacts worldwide, as cases in the US, the UK and other European countries are still ramping up. In fact, few countries have already hit their epidemic peak.

This is true for all of us, and in particular for our entrepreneurs in the AVP portfolios… They are of course very concerned by the impacts of this crisis on their companies and they all ask us what we think, and therefore, what they should do.

Most entrepreneurs and investors, as well as governments remember 2008-2009…
Reactions were quick. Companies know that“cash is king”…

In this environment, it is very important to remain humble and to recognize that there is a huge number of unknowns. So, at this stage, the only thing we can effectively do is build scenarios. Of course, forecasters will forecast, and analysts will analyze. However, past data does not allow us to reliably predict what will happen over the next few months

We also have our own point of view of which scenario is most likely to occur, and we will share it at the end of this paper, but we are also fully aware and acknowledge that there is considerable uncertainty. We are always happy to share our thoughts and reasons to believe in one scenario with our companies, but we also explicitly tell them to consider other outcomes and help them to do so.

Although the risk of a worldwide pandemic has been predicted by many, from a financial market standpoint this crisis is a perfect illustration of the “Black Swan theory”: completely unexpected, outside of any model… But this time, it is not even possible to recalibrate expectations as many factors remain unknown…

In fact, many different factors will influence the environment in the coming days, weeks and months, leading to a wide range of possible outcomes, from very bad, such as a total collapse of the economy, to rather good with Covid-19 (relatively) quickly put under control, a fast economic recovery and extensive public policy programs. Colossal relief plans have already been announced by governments and central banks all around the world.

First and foremost, we believe that the key criteria to decide which scenario to favor is how long the various measures of confinement/lockdown, meaning the quasi shut-down of the economy, will last. Indeed, this quasi shut-down implies a severe demand shock and a simultaneous massive supply shock. And these are global shocks; that affect all economies around the world, with in addition, a massive disruption of the global supply chain.

Never in the past have we experienced something like this, not even in 1929, nor during war times. Impact may be somewhat mitigated thanks to government and Central Banks packages, but there are limits to how much government can spend, to how much debt they can raise, and to how much money central banks can print. The longer it lasts, the more irreversible the impact on the economy will be.

Taking care of public deficit is less important than taking care of people…

Economic response strategies everywhere consist in spending money to fight the pandemic, to provide a social safety net to people and support to companies…

Best case scenario
4 to 8 weeks of confinement followed by 2 to 3 months towards normalization.

This scenario implies that confinement measures are actually enforced and respected in most parts of the world. This suggests that a “Korean type approach” with massive testing is effectively implemented at the end of the confinement and that a treatment whose effectiveness has been proven is available. In this scenario, there is probably limited irreversible damage to the economy. Combined with the huge financial packages put together by various government and the even bigger quantitative easing programs announced by Central Banks, there could be a very strong rebound in H2 2020.

 

Worst case scenario
the crisis drags for months and months.

No real solution before a vaccine is found, which takes at least 18 months. Every time confinement rules are lifted, the virus spreads again and no effective cure is available. The monitoring currently happening in China will provide key information on this. In this situation, the supply and demand shocks are not just temporary, and therefore, the impact on the economy is permanent and irreversible (bankruptcies, destruction of production capacity, etc.). In this scenario, the likelihood of a financial crisis in addition to the economic crisis is significantly increased. This scenario is close to an “end of the world” scenario…

And, in between these two scenarios, depending on where you put the cursor of the length of the confinement/shut down of the economy, there is a full range of outcomes, from mild to catastrophic. In order to assess the potential impact on a start-up, and then, for an overall portfolio, one needs to understand which risks a specific company is exposed to, and for this purpose, to consider three different periods:

1. Short-term / Exposure to quasi shut-down of the economy:

During the confinement/lockdown, the economy is stopped, at the very least in a significant slowdown. For most companies, it means no additional sales and therefore no growth. In addition, depending on their business, they will also start seeing increased churn with their customers. Some companies may also not qualify for government relief, especially in the early stages or in case of a strong reliance on freelancers rather than full-time employees. Consumer-facing industries are expected to be most impacted, as well as automotive players.

A very severe demand shock associated with a very severe supply shock, globally, with deep disruption of the global supply chain… Some sectors suffer greatly, and some may not even recover if this lasts too long…

In a few cases, some companies may benefit from the situation, at least in the short-term, because they contribute to produce or deliver something critical in this environment. This may also be the moment for digital communication tools to expand their customer base beyond early adopters. However, revenues from online advertising are expected to plunge even though higher traffic will partly compensate lower marketing budgets. Online retailers are set to benefit, if they can manage their logistics.

Some are benefiting….
More generally, this crisis could be a real catalyst for faster adoption of digital solutions in businesses, for acceleration of e-commerce (and all associated solutions), for emergence of new digital health approaches…

2. Medium-term / Exposure to economic cycle / Recession:

Following the end of the confinement measures, things will restart, but this may be very slow and gradual, and there will clearly be major economic impacts. It is very likely that the world will be in recession, and the more the economy suffers from irreversible damage during lockdown, the more the recession will be severe. Cyclical companies (or the ones dependent on economic cycles) and those that have “nice to have” rather than “must have” products or services will be the most impacted. This is where churn will happen most acutely, when clients implement cost cutting measures and review their priorities. This is when products/services that do not have very clear short-term ROI will suffer.

3. Medium to Long-term/ Exposure to refinancing risk:

Over the medium to long-term, there will surely be some adjustments to the supply chain organizations, and, at least because of political reactions to the crisis, some parts of the supply chain, for some industries, will be readjusted. But the key unknown is the situation of the financial system. So far, the economic crisis has not yet translated into a deep financial crisis (in the sense that, despite the drop of the equity market and the lack of liquidity in most market segments, banks and financial institutions have not shown signs of weaknesses). This is also the result of the 2008 crisis and the fact that balance sheets have been significantly strengthened.

Bank balance sheets are in a much stronger position than before the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. No serious signs of weaknesses have been observed so far.

This is a key factor for hope of a strong rebound.

We therefore have a few beliefs:

  • All companies should do whatever it takes to preserve their cash first, reduce their cash burn as much as possible while still being able to bounce back (restart their activity) quickly when the confinement is lifted. They should also have a very clear and well thought-out plan post-confinement. In particular, key challenges will be to avoid churn as much as possible. Therefore, adequate communication plans should be carried out, so that when clients take cost cutting measures (which are unavoidable), they have heard the “must have” arguments before hand.

Companies, assisted by consulting firm and pushed by investors, are actively looking at ways to preserve their cash.
(Source: McKinsey & Company, Covid-19: Implications for Business, March 2020)

  • Although predicting the future is impossible, we still want to keep an optimistic, but realistic stance by favoring the best-case scenario: relatively short confinement, quick normalization and big and impactful economic and fiscal stimuli from governments and Central Banks. In that case, the macro-economic impact will be limited. The reason for favoring this scenario is not particular data nor additional information, but lessons learned. By reflecting on what happened in past crisis, we usually tend to overestimate short-term impact because we overweight current information and context and underestimate the possible range of longer- term scenarios. And, although there are also potential negative factors that could further deteriorate the situation, it is possible that positive trends materialize. Indeed, the more the world fights this crisis through research and innovation, the more likely it is to have new insights and findings that have not been taken into account yet.

Human tend to favor linear projections, which very often mis-estimate short-term and long-term impacts.

  • In this scenario, the loss of output in Q1-Q2 will be partially offset by the rebound of activity in Q3, but even more in Q4. Companies that have been able to protect their position and keep a close dialogue with their customers will go back to their previous activity levels. There is no financial crisis and given the huge liquidity that has been injected in the economy, VC and growth markets will resume slowly and eventually (in 2021) go back to where they were in mid-February. So, overall, we would have lost one year, but this is not a 2008 crisis during which there was very little investment activity for a few years. This is our scenario. And in this scenario,“winter has not come”or at least it is a very short winter and we will enjoy the spring.
  • However, we also recognize that there are so many uncertainties and that the probability for this scenario to occur clearly does not reach 90%. The development of the situation in the coming weeks is critical and will bring crucial information:
      1. ▪ How the confinement policies are observed / managed?
      1. ▪ The availability, at scale, of testing and monitoring solutions
      1. ▪ The emergence and the medical validation of an effective cure (and the availability of and access to this treatment).
      1. ▪ The situation in China, and later in Italy and Germany, when these countries lift confinement (does the virus spread again or not?). Indeed, it is too early to draw any conclusions, as signs of recovery from China, such as industrial production and cities traffic reaching 80-90% of pre-Chinese New Year levels, are mitigated by slowed exports pushing factories to lay-off suspended workers. In addition, fears of a second wave have delayed the re-openings of client-facing businesses.

If one or more elements of our best-case scenario do not materialize, then things will be much more difficult. So, despite the fact that we believe that the worst is not certain, we also believe it is good practice for our companies in this climate to prepare for a worst-case scenario. If this worst case does not happen, it will be a good surprise and everybody will be very happy!

Dear entrepreneurs and founders, dear investors, dear friends,
We think it is important, during this extraordinary time, not to tell you too much about the Covid-19 health crisis, because many things have already been said and written, but to give you an update about AVP and to tell you how we are navigating through the crisis.

First, it is clear that for all of us at AVP, the wellbeing of the community is our first and foremost objective. Health and safety of our team and all those we interact with is at the forefront of all our concerns and is the driver of all our decisions. We’ll give you a few more details later in this note about the way we are currently operating.

But, this crisis also makes us realize what “living in society” means. Beyond the protection of our team, taking the right decisions also contributes to the safety of all and is a basic act of solidarity. Adopting and encouraging responsible behaviors, while keeping a capacity of judgement, understanding what is at stake and the reasons why responsible behaviors are important is a duty not just of all individuals, but also of all businesses. This is why, at AVP, in every country in which we operate, at a minimum, we comply carefully with the directives of public authorities. Even more, we have chosen to let our team exercise their judgment, but also encouraged them to align with the most prudent guidelines, for instance through a strict confinement policy.

More generally, we are convinced that everyone can and should contribute beyond adopting responsible behaviors, by more direct actions sometimes. For example, as far as we are concerned, we will hold regular open hours for entrepreneurs who need advice or help, we will support our companies that have specific initiatives to support the community in this period, such as K4Connect, Happytal and others, and to have a long-term charitable donation policy, initially focused on helping organizations engaged in the battle against the virus and its effect on communities.

Our global organization allows our entrepreneurs to benefit, during “peace time”, from our global viewpoint. It also allows us now to have first-hand information regarding the evolution of the situation in each market, on different continents, to exchange daily with our local partners, to observe and share how local stakeholders react, as well as how our companies adapt and what the measures they put in place are. More than ever, we are convinced by the strength of our global footprint.

As far as our day to day operations are concerned, we anticipate no particular issues as our platform is managed in a decentralized and virtual manner by design.

  • Every team member of AVP can work seamlessly from home without needing any special equipment, as all our IT systems are cloud-based and we are not dependent on any physical infrastructure. We hold regular meetings through video-conference (Zoom seems to be one of the winner in this crisis!) and in particular our weekly team meetings on Monday and Friday.
  • We maintain very regular contact with our portfolio companies (and even others!) to help them navigate through this crisis, give them advice when relevant, share with them the experience that some of us had in 2000-2001 and 2008-2009, even if we recognize that every crisis is different. We encourage our companies to actively and continuously analyze the situation, to identify risks and discontinuities, and sometimes opportunities, to react quickly and decisively, but without panicking, because companies that have been agile, that have taken the right decisions early are the ones that have been stronger after the end of previous crisis. We encourage them to monitor carefully their cash levels and to take appropriate decisions to go through this challenging situation.
  • Of course, we continue to do our job of investors and we meet fantastic teams and amazing entrepreneurs every day (even if virtually!). We also realize that this crisis is a real discontinuity and we remain careful and wide open to what the market says to draw all consequences of the current situation.
  • With regards to our Fund Investing activities, we continue to maintain regular contact with all of our Portfolio GPs in order to understand how they are reacting to and managing the situation both with their own teams and their portfolios. As the situation unfolds, we will seek to use our broad, global view of the situation to understand the impact and to share insights with all of our GPs. We continue to meet new teams and intend to continue to commit capital to new managers in order to be well positioned in the post Covid-19 world.

And, even if it may be premature to say this, we also think that every crisis is a source of opportunity, the occasion to learn, to reinvent ourselves, and to adapt. It will be absolutely necessary that society as a whole understands what happened and learns the lessons about all this. Our job, as investors, implies that we anticipate and quickly incorporate these lessons.

This crisis should also be a reason to remain humble. While, as investors in technology, we have an immense faith in the benefits of innovation for the society, we must also recognize that our world remains very vulnerable and that, despite the progress in biotechnology, this virus is a real crisis, and despite what Artificial Intelligence and Big Data allows, Nature/God/Destiny (choose what you want) still has a few “Black Swans” for us which are neither modeled, nor predictable. It is a therefore clearly a lesson of humility…

Remaining adaptable and agile in this ever-changing world, being useful to the entrepreneurs that we support and accompany during key moments and contributing to the development of the society in which we live, are essential motivations for us at AVP.

Let’s take care of each other.

Stay safe.

Best regards

The AVP team

Cognism, the world’s leading all-in-one globally compliant prospecting solution, today announces it has raised $12M in funding.

The funding round was led by AXA Venture Partners and is an extension to the $10M already raised with PeakSpan Capital. Since that last funding round, Cognism has opened an office in New York and expanded its three offices in the UK, Europe and Asia. The company also enhanced its AI expertise with James Hodson, former Head of AI at Bloomberg, joining as Chief Science Officer.

Few weeks after the exit on Modern Message, AVP is very happy and proud to announce the first exit in the AVP Growth fund.

One Inc, a digital payments platform provider for the insurance industry, today announced that in partnership with the management team, the company has been acquired by Great Hill Partners, a leading growth-oriented private equity firm. The acquisition includes a primary investment enabling One Inc to expand engineering, sales, and marketing resources significantly. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

One Inc is quickly becoming one of the dominant players in insurance payments. Growing at an average rate of 77% year-over-year and processing over $10 billion in transactions for the 100+ customers using the company’s platform, One Inc has experienced rapid growth over the last few years. The One Inc Digital Payments Platform combines inbound and outbound payment capabilities with industry-specific reporting and reconciliation, along with a host of digital communication methods. The entire platform was developed to allow insurance operators to maintain a frictionless payments experience with policyholders, vendors, agents, and service providers. With seamless integration into existing legacy and modern core systems, the One Inc platform helps its customers increase retention and persistency while reducing costs, complexity, and the burdens of compliance and security.

AVP team partnered with One Inc in 2016 when we led a $20M Series B, and subsequently participated in the $15.5M funding round in 2017. One Inc was the first investment done by the AVP team on the Growth strategy.

We are proud to have been part of One Inc’s success story and are excited for Chris and the One Inc team as they take the next step in the company’s journey. It is an important development for our Growth Fund which demonstrates the quality of our investment strategy of being focused on growth businesses with sustainable unit economics”, commented Alex Scherbakovsky, General Partner at AVP.“

February 2020

Trends for 2020

What we have seen in 2019 and how we imagine 2020?

More than $100m have been deployed by our teams to support entrepreneurs and world class tech funds across the globe in 2019. We will continue in 2020 to invest in new companies or reinvest in our best portfolio companies. But we will also continue to bring value to our portfolio companies by connecting them to our investors and other relevant corporates and partners.

Now that we’ve wrapped up another exciting year, we asked our team their perspectives on what were the main themes in 2019 and which one they believe will carry over into 2020, as well as new trends and technologies they think will emerge.

Hello,

The AVP team wishes you and your loved ones an amazing 2020!

A new year is always the opportunity to reflect on the positive outcomes from the past year, to take good resolutions and to be committed to do even better than last year and, in the end, to take a positive and optimistic view about the future.

At AVP, 2019 was an exciting year of growth. First for our portfolio companies, which we are so proud to support. But also for our team in the US and in Europe. Several talented people have joined us and share our ambition in supporting innovative entrepreneurs and driving change through technology.

2020 will be an important year for us during which we will continue to invest in promising tech companies and deliver the best value for entrepreneurs and funds. In addition, 2020 will be also the year where AVP will be raising new vintages of existing funds and also new funds; stay tuned…

We are humbled and grateful for all of your support this past year and look forward to doing more together in 2020.

Again, the entire AVP Team wishes you a Happy New Year!

AVP Team

Paris

San Francisco

New York

London