Changes at PwC Incubator

Newly-named PricewaterhouseCoopers Venture Partners is ramping up its investment activity with the appointment of Michael Jonovski as investment director and a new hire to join the team in the coming months. There is also talk of a venture capital fund, although the firm is reluctant to confirm plans as yet.

The expansion of the investment team follows the division’s recent change of name from PricewaterhouseCoopers Incubator, in an effort to dissociate itself from the bad press incubators have been experiencing. The new hires are a sign that the division is pressing on in spite of shaky market conditions and Gerry Devlin, managing director and founder, says the venture is taking on an aggressive investment strategy.”The name change better reflects the division’s go forward strategy, looking at investments as well as incubation,” he said.

He added that earlier in the year it was predicted of the 300 or so incubators that were active, only ten would be left. “We have certainly witnessed this shake-out,” he says. “But thanks to the backing of PwC, our venture has staying power.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers Venture Partners, that has made five investments since March 2000, is focused on nurturing selected technology ideas (predominantly b2b e-businesses) including life sciences from start-up through to IPO or trade sale. Devlin remains optimistic about the long term value potential of the technology sector, and the venture is gearing up to ensure it capitalises on investment opportunities at a time when the general level of investment in the sector has fallen.

The appointment of Michael Jonovski – see People moves this issue – as investment director brings the investment team to nine professionals. Devlin is in the process of recruiting for a tenth person to join the team in the coming months. With access to around 150,000 technology specialists within PwC, Devlin says he is less concerned about recruiting a professional with specific sector expertise than he is with finding someone who has hands-on experience of investing and the ability to nurture an idea through to fruition.

He says: “It is important to know how to take a venture forward so that we can attract serious VC money further down the line.”

He cites mobile Internet and broadband as areas that will continue to spawn opportunities and the firm also has a sizeable practice of biotech experts based in Cambridge.

Looking at the positive side, Devlin says: “We know that people are sitting on their hands at the moment, but technology is not going away. Private equity investment in technology grew by around 68% last year to euro11.5 billion. Ninety per cent of VC’s still think it is a good time to invest in technology.”