DFJ Esprit raises funds, buys 3i assets

London-based DFJ Esprit has split its operations into standard venture capital investing and portfolio acquisitions, the firm announced last week.

DFJ Esprit closed $100 million toward its $215 million target for its third VC fund, raisinging commitments from the European Investment Fund, Finnish Industry Investors, Partners Group, JP Morgan, LGT Group and Harbourvest.

“We are delighted to be able to announce two new funds in the current economic climate,” says DFJ Esprit CEO Simon Cook.

Rightfully so, European venture funds raised $4.5 billion from limited partners during the first half of 2009, down more than 52% from the same period during 2008, according to data from Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week).

Other major firms to raise funds in Europe this year include Balderton Capital, which raised $500 million for its fourth fund; Finland’s Nexit Ventures, which held a second close on its $152 million second fund; and WHEB Ventures Private Equity, which raised $267 million for its second fund, records show.

DFJ Esprit’s nascent secondary operation also raised a fund, called Encore I, which topped out at $280 million, the firm announced. Investors include Coller Capital and Harbourvest.

In addition, the secondary group made its first investment, acquiring 3i Group’s European VC portfolio. The secondary group will manage a reported 29 total assets purchased from the firm.

In acquiriing the assets from 3i, DFJ Esprit said that support will include significant follow-on capital.

Some of the 3i assets acquired include Bristol, U.K.-based chip-maker Icera Semiconductors, which has raised $270 million from venture capitalists; Elstree, U.K.-based synthetic bone maker ApaTech, which has raised $99 million from VCs; and London-based wireless broadband maker The Cloud, which has raised $32 million from VCs, according to Thomson Reuters

The sale mirrors a secondary sale earlier this year in which 3i sold 10 assets to Cipio Partners and is part of an overall strategy by the firm to move out of early stage venture capital.DFJ Esprit joined the Draper Fisher Jurvetson affiliate network in 2008, raising a $50 million mixed-stage VC fund, some eight years after raising a $350 million independent, first fund, records show. —Alexander Haislip