Earlier this week, we caught up with Steve Saracasino, founder of Greenwich’s Growth-Equity Firm Activist Capital was closing with a pledge of $257 million capital. As we have learned, Activant, which tends to invest in e-commerce infrastructure and payment companies, is now (according to SEC filing) approaching the fourth fund with a target of $ 425 million. It – like a growing number of other U.S. companies – has also opened a new office in Berlin, led by Max Meyer, a former investor with Global Founders Capital.
We have discussed some of the growing interest in activators in Europe and its key issues. We also talked about the speed with which contracts are being created right now and what Sararacino makes among the best trends of the year: a lot of roll-ups from Amazon’s third-party vendors. Parts of that conversation are lightly edited for length. SS: We’ve been investing in Hybrid for a long time [an e-commerce company that was acquired by SAP in 2013 for $1.5 billion]. We are also investors in Newmarket [a six-year-old Berlin- and Boston-based sauce company owned by serial entrepreneur Stefan Shamchach, who founded Demandware].
We go back to London all the time; it’s easy from the east coast. But the continent is a different story. You really need to have your presence on the ground there. SS: There’s always been a lot of technical talent – I think the number of STEM graduates in the U.S. doubled in Europe before the challenge was that the entrepreneurial community was small – it takes a vibrant early stage community to create the next stage opportunity.
Europe also lost the medium system. L.A. Or in New York or Boston you could pull powerful SVP or C-level executors from Facebook and Amazon, but there weren’t equal levels of big companies and that has changed. They are now all [in Europe]. So you’ve got the technical talent, the [adequate] initiative [the dollar] and the management. SS: For the best companies, you won’t see too much difference in appraisals across the continent. But the opportunity in Europe is interesting in the middle. Seeds and are quite well covered but B, C, D and E are a very different game.