Michiel de Haan is GP of Aescap Venture, a life science venture capital company in the exit phase of its remaining portfolio of three biotech companies. He is also actively involved with two VP equity investments in Madagascar. As a Dutch co-founder of EVPA, he has also been actively involved in supporting the EVPA staff with this conference.
At the time EVPA was set up I was Founder/Managing Partner of Atlas Venture, an early stage IT and life sciences venture capital company. Although Atlas contributed to societal impact in IT and new medicine by helping to create big companies, I was convinced that a new form of investment could be developed targeted to economically underdeveloped countries or underdeveloped segments in European society. I saw VP as THE new phenomenon to achieve this.
EVPA has contributed in a big way to interest and awareness of societal problems in the Western Hemisphere as well as providing a means to tackle them by being problem-focused and solutions oriented and innovating. The huge attendance of the current conference is a flagship example of this.
One concern is the currently relatively few members that come from a venture capital background. That’s the reason I gave an interview to the Dutch venture capital and private equity association, Nederlandse Vereniging van Participatiemaatschappijen (NVP), which went out in a publication this year to celebrate their 35th anniversary, explaining what VP is and inviting them to come to The Hague.
Venture philanthropy in its classical form I don’t think has changed. Classical VP is equity investing with the hands-on approach of venture capital and driven by sustainability, and, for me, it’s the social impact element of VP that has struck a chord with social investors. EVPA’s broad church approach covers a wide spectrum of VP and social investing. There are those, like me, who adopt a more venture-like model with equity and a hands-on approach. We invest in those opportunities where we can develop an organisation that’s sustainable. At the other end of the scale, are those who will accept a smaller return on an investment because of the social impact, but who adopt a more hands-off approach. The first group is still at the moment, a smaller proportion of the EVPA’s members than the latter. While I’d like to see more of a balance, I think the mix of members with different approaches is healthy.
Over the next five or more years, I am convinced and hope that more and more players will be established that embrace and exercise the venture philanthropy method as the most effective approach to creating social impact. That will take time. Fifteen years is not a long time for an association. In the case of the European Venture Capital Association, which is now Invest Europe!, its growth and sophistication, which is now impressive, have taken some time to achieve. It is both a mirror and a benchmark for our relatively young association.