Quietly backing startups - Europe’s most powerful families

Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images

Some of Europe’s wealthiest business dynasties are backing a variety of start-ups around the world in an attempt to ensure their dynasties prosper for many more generations. And they are doing this very discreetly.

A good example of this is the activities of the appropriately named venture capital group La Famiglia. The Munich-based group has attracted the money of some leading German and other European family business owners to back startups, according to reports. Among them are the family owners connected to the giant appliance maker Miele; members of the Siemens family, who are still the biggest shareholders in the huge German conglomerate, the Viessmann family, behind the same-named German family business, the family behind the Austrian luxury group Swarovski, and family members of the Belgian chemical group, Solvay.

Founded a little over a year ago by Robert Lacher and Jeannette Fürstenberg, the Munich-based venture fund has been involved in eight funding rounds involving six startups, according to CrunchBase. These include two rounds of funding for the Spanish logistics startup, OnTruck, and a Berlin startup called Finiata, which offers factoring services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Another example is big corporate venturing groups backed by family business dynasties. Vorwerk Ventures is part of one of Germany’s most successful family businesses, the big appliance maker Vorwerk, owned by the Mittelsten Scheid family. Vorwerk Ventures has backed a number of startups including the Berlin-based healthy food group, HelloFresh, a fashion business called Pippa Jeans, and a robotic vacuum maker called Neato.

But perhaps the family backing more startups than any in Europe is the Haubs, the owners of the huge German holding group, the Tengelmann Group. The Haubs, one of Europe’s wealthiest families, own two venture capital/private equity groups - Tengelmann Ventures and Emil Capital Partners - which together have made 64 investments in 44 companies.

Although the families behind these groups are no doubt confident of the progress of their core businesses, backing startups provide a further safety net to ensure the long-term survivability of their family’s wealth. It is also a useful way to engage the next generation into their business empires.