Five Questions with Delphine Descamps of Creadev–investment arm of Mulliez family

  • Set up U.S. office in 2016
  • Food, healthcare, renewables and education
  • Communities crucial for deal flows

The Mulliez family business is organized as a set of verticals. Each company is run independently with its own board and financials. The family’s wealth is managed by Mobilis, its family office and Creadev, its investment arm. Creadev has more than $1 billion assets under management worldwide.

In 2016 Creadev set up its office in New York with Delphine Descamps as its principal. A law graduate from the Sorbonne in Paris, and Columbia Law School, Descamps has worked in the U.S. and France as an attorney on mergers, acquisitions, and deal flows on private equity and venture capital in both countries.

What is Creadev?

When it was launched in 2002, Creadev’s mandate was to partner with French entrepreneurs and invest in high growth areas in France. Then, the company set up its office in Shanghai in 2012, and the U.S. in 2016. The Kenya office opened in 2017. The Creadev team of 20 people worldwide has the mandate to assess local opportunities and carry out the due diligence. International but local is the way we operate.

The decision to open the U.S. office came from the strong desire of our portfolio companies and entrepreneurs looking to expand their operations in the country. We were also attracted to U.S. innovation around our key sectors.

What are the sectors that appeal to Creadev U.S.?

We mainly invest outside traditional retail. Creadev’s focus is primarily on healthcare, education, renewable energy and food. In the U.S. we have recently been most active in food, looking for innovative agribusinesses. From supply, to food waste, to food traçability, to new foods, there is incredible activity and we want to be part of it.

One of the Creadev investments you might be familiar with is Acticall, a customer-relationship-management company. In 2015 we acquired Sitel, a global customer-care provider headquartered in the U.S.

How do you decide on your investments?

We look at hundreds of deals in a year and choose around two per Creadev office. The companies we select have a story to tell. They have a clear message and path to achieving their objectives. They are ambitious but practical about the timelines. We are not interested in someone who is overly aggressive and short-term oriented. We are more interested in taking a longer view, to create value and to create a sustainable business.

We take about three months to close the deal. The proposals are discussed with the Creadev investment committee that comprises family members, employees and industry experts. Apart from engaging with our Paris office, we get in financial and legal advisers to help us in the due diligence.

We work on direct deals, and welcome co-investments with venture capital firms and family offices. We can come in as minority or majority shareholders in the deals. We definitely look for a board seat. We are happy to be a smart money addition in a sector/business that has the potential to create disruptions.

What makes you attractive investing partners?

There is plenty of expertise we bring to the table that give us a competitive edge. Apart from being investors, we help entrepreneurs develop strategies or understand the bigger picture. For instance, you want to know how a food product may perform in the global market, we can connect you to the experts in our grocery business who understand the landscape and what will work. We also help create business synergies with our in-house companies.

Importantly, because of our strong geographical footprint, we help companies expand internationally.

How do you get the deal flow?

Communities are important for engagement. We are part of family office networks around sustainability and impact investing. We get strong support from the French-American community that connects us to people. We also attend conferences as speakers or otherwise to connect with companies we may look to invest in.

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