French financial services firm, Leonardo Finance has opened a subsidiary, Leonardo Association, in Brussels. Through a network of industry experts the company offers services to entrepreneurs. These include advice on fund raising, help identifying sources of equity and related financing, assistance with business development, such as legal and strategic advice, exit strategy services to help identify industrial and/or financial partners and help preparing companies for IPO.
Leonardo Finance was established in 1995 but has been active as an association in France since 1989 and has helped structure financings with a total worth of €185 million. In exchange for a fee, Leonardo Finance puts companies in touch with appropriate members of its international network, which comprises approximately 700 members including 300 business angels, financial investors and venture capitalists, as well as members of the banking community, consultants, accountants and lawyers.
The key to the group is a network of 130 “shareholder-experts”, which helps secure financing and participate in the development of companies to grow their value. The group arranges monthly breakfast meetings to present start-up companies to a group of potential investors.
Michel Vautgerun and Jacques Nevens, who come from industrial and accounting backgrounds respectively, have launched the service in Belgium with the objective of attracting 300 new members and 500 projects by year-end. There are already 80 deals in the pipeline.
According to Eric Izabelle of Leonardo Finance in Paris, the expansion into the Benelux region was a natural step since the company already has contacts with companies and investors based there. In addition to the group’s regional affiliate in France, Leonardo Finance, plans to extend its network into Spain shortly and has also been looking at the German market. Future plans also include raising a fund to provide bridge financing for developing companies.