In founders we trust

#11 Elina Berrebi


Elina, it's wonderful to have you here. Could you start by sharing a bit about yourself and your journey so far?
From a young age, I developed a passion for finance as I enjoyed mathematics. I completed a college degree in engineering at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, where I met Alice Albizzati, who later became my co-founder. During my university days, I joined a research project on long term investment and sustainable finance, which provoked a desire to understand more about the principle of private equity investing in companies of all types, as well as how you can develop extra-financial performance. As a result, I decided to work at the French Sovereign Wealth Fund (FSI) for a few years. Passionate about technology, I then joined Eurazeo, to participate in the creation of Eurazeo Growth, Eurazeo’s growth equity arm, where I supported leading tech companies such as Farfetch, PeopleDoc and ContentSquare.
What motivated you to establish Revaia, and how did you prepare yourself for the significant journey ahead?
Before launching our fund together, Alice and I had very similar backgrounds which allowed us to consolidate our convictions, starting with the belief that investment can have a positive and sustainable impact on society. As growth investors, we wanted to give even more meaning to our action and measure the impact that our profession can have on the environment. That’s how Revaia was born, with the aim of finding the sustainable technology leaders of tomorrow and helping them become global while developing their direct and indirect impact.

Would you mind elaborating on what exactly Revaia is, and the vision you're nurturing for this firm?
Revaia is a leading investment firm in sustainable innovation and tech. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do everyday as investors, building a diverse team of outstanding investors, building a brand, partnering with investors, investing in companies such as Deepki that help build a path to Net Zero, working with companies to improve their practices (environment, Diversity & Inclusion) and their path to sustainability.  Today, we specialize in late-stage investments (from series B to IPO), but tomorrow we could expand into other asset classes while maintaining a strong common denominator: sustainability and technology.

Your story as an emerging manager is somewhat unique. Many in your position have been a general partner at a firm for over 15 years before venturing out on their own. How did you manage to build trust with Limited Partners and convince them to invest in your vision?
When we created Revaia in 2018, the market for growth funding in Europe was experiencing strong momentum, and there were very few players. We were also facing a new generation of entrepreneurs with a mission and a desire to accelerate their sustainability journey. For almost 10 years Alice and I had been partnering with founders, through thick and thin, to make them world leaders. I believe that our fund stood out for its entrepreneurial approach, focus on responsible investment, and international ambitions.  To build trust with LPs, we simply walked the talk and focused on achieving new steps in our journey month after month. This way, we were lucky to  raise close to €100m with commitments from Tier-1 institutional investors and a large pool of family offices and private investors for our first closing. Then we grew very quickly to a team of 15 people spread across two offices, Paris and Berlin, and a portfolio of ten European scaleups included  a unicorn. These achievements convinced institutional investors - Tier 1 insurance companies such as Generali, Allianz, and Maif, pension funds, other institutional investors such as Bpifrance - and close to 100 renowned family offices and high-profile individuals to back the fund ahead of its final closing at €250 million, which made our first fund become Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund and one of the largest globally.  This was a huge milestone and a solid foundation from which we can support future European technology leaders with their ambitions and sustainability plans, as well as expand and internationalize our team while building a strong value creation platform.

You've certainly accomplished a lot – raising funds, investing in startups, and managing operations simultaneously. This approach, although not typical, has been highly effective for you. Could you reflect on this hands-on approach and how you made it work in setting up Revaia?
Just like startups, we had to quickly prove the concept of our strategy by building a portfolio. In order to make our first investments, however, we had to have our first investors. The key challenge was finding investment opportunities, raising funds and building a team all at the same time. To run all of these in parallel, you need to understand where is your individual value, where you are needed and where other people would do the job better than you.  I feel fortunate to have an exceptional co-founder at my side as well as several wonderful team members that have joined us along the way and contributed to this entrepreneurial journey.

You've invested in about 15 companies such as Aircall, Frontify, Deepki, and Algolia - all highly competitive deals. How did you manage to secure these investments?
At Revaia, we have a research-driven approach and like to build a strong conviction and a strong relationship with the management ahead of the launch of a new round. We proactively research verticals where we would like to invest and not only build a conviction around a product and a market but also understand how such a market intersects with another and how the product could ultimately touch other adjacent markets. As a growth investor, I believe one of our roles is to nurture the strategies of scale-ups and help C-level build more horizontal platforms,  get from single product to multiple products, have more sophisticated pricing, etc. So with that articulate understanding of a category, one can really nurture a differentiated conversation with founders and hence be trusted as the right partner to lead a round. Beyond that, I think we just stick to who we are. We walk the talk, we’re transparent, we share our analyses and present world-class profiles so we bring value beyond the money.  

You're known for being hands-on with your portfolio work, and it's clear you place a high value on community and strong bonds. How do you work with your portfolio companies to ensure their success, and what typical strategies do you implement?

We actively support the entrepreneurs of our portfolio companies by having a seat on their Board of Directors when relevant. This allows us to provide guidance and assistance in their decision-making processes. To go further and, as a significant value-add to our portfolio companies, we often appoint former successful founders or C-levels who represent Revaia on the companies’ boards and offer both mentoring and strategic counsel drawn from first-hand experience. This adds greater diversity to  their board’s skillset, abilities, and composition and is really appreciated. These people also work directly with founders outside of the boards on matters ranging from go-to-market to product roadmap and other topics. 

To further support our portfolio companies, we leverage the expertise and network of both our Corporate team (ESG, Communications, Investor Relations, CEO) and operating partners (data, public markets, etc.)  to provide comprehensive support and increase their chances of success.

On top of these actions, our investment team is heavily involved in supporting M&A strategies for our portfolio companies, i.e. identifying relevant companies, reaching out to them and helping run acquisition processes. We’re seeing a massive acceleration of M&A activity from our portfolio companies given where the market is these days.

ESG factors prominently in your investment selection and support. Could you explain how you help with B-corp labeling, diversity tracking, etc., and how you ensure it's a benefit, not a burden, to the founders?
Our approach involves providing comprehensive support through regular discussions at both the founder and board levels, as well as engaging with the relevant teams in charge of sustainability topics. We begin by conducting ourselves a due diligence of the company's existing environmental, social, and governance actions to identify any potential gaps.

Following the due diligence, our approach is customized to meet the unique needs of each company. We actively promote essential ESG matters and analyze, on a case-by-case basis, the relevance of specific projects such as pursuing B Corp certification. When a project is initiated, we collaborate with the company to co-build roadmaps, set goals, and assist in selecting the most appropriate service providers by benchmarking available solutions in the market.

To further support companies, we offer relevant documentation and have developed an in-house ESG toolbox equipped with resources and tools necessary for effective ESG project management. Additionally, we leverage our network of experts and organize webinars on technical ESG issues. We continuously monitor the progress of these initiatives and provide regular updates to ensure ongoing support and improvement.

Our objective is to facilitate the integration of ESG practices into companies' operations and strategies in a manner that aligns with their goals and values. We strive to make the process of implementing ESG initiatives a beneficial and value-added experience for the founders, ultimately contributing to their long-term success.

Looking at the macro level, how do you predict the landscape of growth capital investing will change over the next three years? What challenges and opportunities do you foresee?
The landscape of growth capital investing is expected to undergo significant changes. One notable factor influencing this change is the increase in interest rates, which has made the fixed income asset class more attractive. As a result, there may be a reduced liquidity in private equity markets, leading to a shift in investment preferences. In Europe, the growth sector is anticipated to become increasingly professionalized, driven by the emergence of specialized funds such as Revaia. These funds will bring a higher level of expertise and focus to the investment landscape, further shaping the growth capital market in the region.

Technological innovation will continue to be a dominant long-term investment theme, addressing both current and future challenges. The widespread adoption of AI, increased digitization, and environmental solutions will contribute to the growth and development of various industries. This technological evolution is expected to create opportunities for growth capital investors as they seek to invest in companies at the forefront of these advancements. The financial performance of the growth segment is expected to remain highly attractive. As valuations align more closely with the fundamentals of companies, investors may find opportunities that offer greater value. Additionally, the European market may present unique advantages for growth capital investing. With less competition from US and Asian players, investors can tap into the European market and benefit from the support of public authorities, who are actively fostering the emergence of tech global leaders and ensuring technological sovereignty.

However, there are also challenges that need to be addressed. In Europe, growth tech is still an underinvested asset class for many investors, including pension funds, insurance companies, and retail investors. Encouraging these institutional and retail investors to allocate more capital to growth tech will be crucial for the further development of the sector. Another challenge lies in the need for improved exit liquidity in Europe. To effectively compete with other geographies, it is essential to provide more opportunities for successful exits, allowing investors to realize returns on their investments. Enhancing the exit ecosystem will be vital to attract more capital and sustain the growth of the European growth capital market.

 You're in the process of raising a second fund. How are you thinking about portfolio construction, geographical distribution, verticals, etc. ?
In raising our second fund, we are building upon the successful investment strategy of our first one. The primary focus remains on digital technology and innovative European companies. Our aim is to support mission-driven entrepreneurs with global ambitions and who will develop positive externalities on the planet and society through their business model and business practices. We primarily invest in companies in their growth phases, ranging from Series B to pre-IPO rounds. Our target companies usually have a run-rate revenue exceeding €5 million and show potential for profitability. We consider factors such as product-market fit, scalability, internationalization potential, market share potential, management team quality, and positive impact when selecting companies. Geographically, our focus is on Europe, including France, Germany and the UK, with some opportunistic investments in Israel and other OECD countries outside of Europe. Our goal is to build a portfolio of 15 to 20 companies that drive sustainable growth, create positive impact, and generate attractive returns for our investors.

Let's pivot to the future of Revaia. What do you envision Revaia becoming in the next 5-10 years? How does your personal passion fuel this journey? Where do you see opportunities for optimization, and what are your non-negotiables?
In the next 5-10 years, I envision Revaia becoming a more global and leading investment company for sustainable innovation. Our goal is to establish an investment platform that empowers technology leaders in their growth journeys by providing them with unique multistage capital, expertise, and guidance in developing sustainable growth roadmaps. Our long-term strategy encompasses more investment stages, geographical areas, and themes than we do today. I’m passionate about how capital, when well managed, can be a powerful force for good. This comes with a huge responsibility upon the shoulders of investors and shareholders. This conviction will naturally fuel more initiatives around value sharing, better care for the people inside and outside our ecosystem and solving pressing environmental issues, while supporting and nurturing groundbreaking companies.

While optimization opportunities may arise in various aspects of our business, some non-negotiable principles guide our actions. These include making no compromise neither on ambition,  nor on ethical practices, environmental responsibility, and social impact. Overall, Revaia is poised to become a driving force in sustainable innovation investment, leveraging our expertise, capital, and global reach to empower technology leaders and make a meaningful difference in the world.

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