LPEA’s new CEO Stéphane Pesch talks about his new missions and visions on supporting Luxembourg’s economy and startup ecosystem.

Former Director Strategy and new head of the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (LPEA), Stéphane Pesch explains how the VC and PE lobbying body can help investors pitch in startups and innovative companies.

Stéphane Pesch, what will be your missions as LPEA’s CEO?
I will continue the LPEA strategic plan 2020- 2025 as elaborated by the executive committee and actual CEO of LPEA, Rajaa Mekouar. Rajaa has tremendously grown the visibility of our association, by organizing for instance a lot of events (both physical and virtual) and networking activities involving investors and family offices.

LPEA has now many projects going on, that we will push further. I want to further grow the association and continue to increase the strong presence, promotion and defense of our industry.

More particularly, we want to find new players ready to come to Luxembourg and to bring new angles to the game. We want to get the recognition of private and public stakeholders and the understanding that our actions bring positive effects to our economy.

The whole makes my role very interesting, as I can implement a complete approach around the three central pillars: Sharing thought leadership and content with our current and prospective members; Public advocacy, by meeting public stakeholders including ministers, various lobbies and investors;

Nurturing contacts with universities and students, in order to attract more talents to Luxembourg, our industry and helping the development of further talents via the LPEA Training Academy and other partnerships (SHU).

How will LPEA promote venture capital in Luxembourg?
Since its creation of LPEA, the two first chairmen– Hans-Jürgen Schmitz (Mangrove’s founder) and Jérôme Wittamer (founding Partner at Expon Capital) – have been highly recognized, successful venture capital actors and evangelists. Both are still members of our Executive Committee.

We don’t do any direct matchmaking between startups and investors!

Due to the Covid-19, we had to reinvent and re-brand ourselves as ‘e-LPEA’ – for instance through e-interviews webinars, e-trainings, etc. – to keep strong contacts with our members, and show strong leadership and content. Some of our e-interviews and e-panels also represented and, promoted the VC angle (Mangrove interviews, Family office and VCs, C-19 and biotech vaccine panel).

As Venture Capital (VC) has a proven performance track over the past years in Europe, we will certainly continue the challenge.

What does it mean in practice?
Within our VC club, which I coordinate with my colleague Natalia Koltunovskaya (Head of international Development and Operations), we analyze what is happening in the industry and we see how to develop further synergies in Luxembourg.

Furthermore, we invite guest speakers and decision takers from the LHoFT, the House of Startups, the Technoport, Luxinnovation, etc., and we discuss what we can do to foster further Luxembourg’s visibility and make its ecosystem recognized on the international scene.

We also try to attract more VC companies – and therefore more startups through them – to the Grand-Duchy.

More concretely, how can LPEA help Luxembourg’s startup ecosystem?
We don’t do any direct matchmaking between startups and investors! But startups can always come to us, e-meet and explain us their business model if relevant. And if we know someone amongst our members who is looking for a specific technology or field, sometimes we can potentially help out and share such intelligence.

We also collaborate with SMILE (Security made in Luxembourg), LBAN and others, on events such as the startup pathways. During the cybersecurity week in October, we will organize a webinar with startupers and VCs, who will provide ‘rules’, recommendations and hints.

Luxembourg-based VCs will not necessarily and systematically be able to invest into local startups.

How can VC and PE investors support Luxembourg’s startup projects?
They can help, depending on their business model and specialization, as well as on the sectors, the size and the maturity of the companies they target.

However, since Luxembourg is smaller compared to our neighbors, the number of companies, which investors can target, is also intrinsically smaller. For this reason, Luxembourg-based VCs will not necessarily and systematically be able to invest into local startups.

For us indeed, it is important to have them onboard, work and share with us meaningful information next to startupers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

We see our active role in exchanging information, opening doors, facilitating contacts, building further synergies and bridges. However, we can only ‘inspire’ to directly invest in Luxembourg and buy private companies here.

How can VC and PE industries gain more recognition?
If you want to be recognized by the national and local authorities and stakeholders, you must show that you are developing synergies and are talking with one voice.

You also must come up with examples of concrete realizations, such as success stories of companies that have been pushed and supported by venture capital investors. But you have to illustrate these successes through key performance indicators (KPIs):

Did they create many jobs, have they expanded abroad, did they develop/protect the best technologies in specific fields, how many taxes/revenues have been produced in Luxembourg and the EU…

Do VCs and PE investors have to reinvent themselves, to adapt to the post-Covid-era?
I don’t think so, at least only partially! Because they have the best new breed companies under their eyes, they pitch lots of them all the time and receive lots of proposals from companies that need investors onboard. They hence have very clear KPIs on which firms they can invest in, and on which they will keep or divest from plus in many cases an overview of the latest and hottest technologies.

Furthermore, many PE funds management companies (general partners) have already started transforming, by digitalizing their own business model and processes as well as the ones of their portfolio companies. Hence, unlike many businesses during the crisis, they were already familiar with the new social media tools, communication channels, platforms and technologies.

We see our active role in exchanging information, opening doors, facilitating contacts, building further synergies and bridges. 

But for businesses that have been impacted by the confinement – such as events, food, retail commerce, etc. – general partners and investors, if exposed, will have to look at those with other lenses and see which companies can be further digitalized and whether or not need further investments.

What is your timeline to implement your actions?
My mandate as CEO has been defined for an unlimited period. I believe in the association with all my heart and I intend to push further the strategic 2020-2025 plan with all the required energy and we will see together with the ExCom what can be developed further down the road.

Stéphane Pesch (43) holds a degree in economics, business administration and finance (from Nancy University). After an exchange program with the Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, he started his career in the telecom and media industry, before working in the financial sector (at BNP Paribas Securities Services, Quintet, Sal. Oppenheim and Cornèr bank).

In 2015, he then joined Ipes Luxembourg, a provider of fund administration and outsourcing services to the private equity and venture capital. In February 2019, the company was acquired by Apex Fund Services, a global financial services provider. Pesch left the group in October 2019.

In 2010, he joined the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (LPEA), taking part to different technical committees (promotion, legal, VC, young PE Leaders), international roadshows and activities aiming for example at attracting students and young talents to Luxembourg.

After a year as Director-Strategy, he now succeeds Rajaa Mekouar as LPEA’s new CEO.

Mekouar is returning to a full-time job as a Head of PE and Portfolio Manager for an investment company owned by Luxembourg-based entrepreneurs.

Created in 2010, the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association aims to represent, promote and protect the interests of its 281 members including GPs, LPs, family offices and service providers. The lobbying body expects to serve 500 members by 2025.

Silicon Luxembourg, August 2020