New CEE firm Espira hits first close on debut fund

ESPIRA

ESPIRA Investments, a new private equity set up to make growth investments in central European SMEs, has reached a first close on its €30m debut fund.

Espira Fund I has received support from from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the EIF. Family offices and locally-based entrepreneurs have also backed the fund.

Espira will invest between €1m and €3m per deal and back companies in the consumer goods, manufacturing, and services sectors among others.

Espira will back companies managed by balanced management teams of men and women, making it the first firm in the region to adopt this approach. It will follow a similar strategy to Dutch firm Karmijn, which has also been set up to investment in companies with gender-balanced management teams.

Espira believes its gender diversity strategy and focus on high potential SMEs in traditional sectors addresses an underexploited niche in the market, especially in consumer-facing sectors, where up to 80 per cent of consumer spending is influenced and driven by women.

“We believe that Espira has identified a niche in the market and that its team is well-positioned to identify high-potential opportunities with the capability to grow and internationalise,” the EIF’s chief executive Pier Luigi Gilibert said.

The firm was founded by Andrea Ferancová and Emília Mamajová. Ferancová has more than 20 years of experience in finance and investment banking. She was the co-owner of CEE brokerage Wood & Company, leading a management buyout of the business in 2000.

Mamajová has worked in private equity for 14 years. She was the head of Czech Republic and Slovakia with PineBridge Investments CEE and has also held roles at Benson Oak Capital and Penta Investments.

“Our goal is to support entrepreneurs who have built something unique and are passionate to develop their companies further,” Ferancová said.