Orange invests €30 million in worthy start-ups

Orange Ventures has set up a new investment vehicle to back what could probably best be described as ‘worthy cause’ start-ups, giving it €30 million of funding to dole out.

The new vehicle, known as Orange Ventures Impact, will back French and other European start-ups in their seed stage or with proven development potential, the firm said. “These start-ups must help new responsible economic models with a positive impact on the environment, inclusion or CareTech to emerge, fields which are not currently covered by Orange Ventures,” it said.

CareTech is a new one on us, but presumably we’re talking about technology related to healthcare and patient care.

In many ways, the announcement feels like something of a fluffy CSR initiative, but given that Orange’s venture capital arm is willing to plough €30 million into it, it’s safe to assume that it also believes there is money to be made in these hot topic areas.

But there is definitely some box-ticking going on too. Orange Ventures notes that it will monitor the impact of its aptly-named Impact fund, keeping track of key metrics like the number of people helped via the various investments, the number of jobs created in the sustainable economy, and the amount of CO2 emissions avoided where applicable. These measurements will help the Orange group track its contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it said.

Against that backdrop, it comes as no surprise that start-ups hoping to attract VC funding from Orange will have to prove they are worthy first. In addition to the financial analysis Orange Ventures usually conducts ahead of an investment, each project will also be subject to a precise business analysis “via the definition of specific impact indicators,” it said. The fund will initially invest between €750,000 and €3 million in each round of financing.

“By launching Orange Ventures Impact, without sacrificing any part of our ambition for financial performance, we are pleased to allocate €30 million to start-ups which, due to their development stage or business sector, had not been captured in Orange Ventures’ current investment proposition, but whose positive impact on the environment, inclusion or help to individuals will be especially strong,” said Jérôme Berger, Chairman and Managing Partner of Orange Ventures, in a statement.

Orange Ventures was spun off from the Orange group, becoming a separate legal entity, at the start of this year. It has €350 million worth of assets under management, mostly in areas like networks and IT, digital enterprise, cybersecurity, fintech, e-health, e-commerce, gaming and VR.

Orange Ventures Impact gives it another string to its bow; sustainability and environmental issues are becoming increasingly big business. But it also provides a platform to enable the VC fund to position itself as a contentious investor, and that’s worth something too in the current climate.

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