Sophora joined AVCO in August 2022. Learn more about the equity investment firm from Benjamin Hubner, Managing Partner, with whom we had the talk…
Can you briefly introduce yourself (background, past and current positions)?
I am a founding partner of Sophora Unternehmerkapital, an SME- and DACH-focussed private equity firm, where I am working together with an interdisciplinary team of entrepreneurs with many years of experience in the investment industry as well as in operational roles as founders and managing directors of companies. Our joint track record dates back to our time at Silverfleet Capital and includes investments in Prefere Resins, 7days, CCC, Kalle or Pumpenfabrik Wangen.
I was born and raised in Austria (Graz), studied in Munich (B.A. in International Business), London (M.Sc. in Accounting & Finance) as well as Heidelberg (LL.M. in Corporate Restructuring) and am a CFA charterholder.
I started my career as a management consultant in 2010 at McKinsey & Company in Munich and Vienna. Before founding Sophora Unternehmerkapital in 2022, I was a Partner at Silverfleet Capital’s Munich office where I worked from 2014 to 2022.
What is your company’s activity, and what is its competitive edge?
Sophora Unternehmerkapital is an independent equity investment firm with a focus on SMEs in the DACH region. We see ourselves as a value-creating partner of entrepreneurs and management teams of businesses and provide flexible capital as well as our strategic and operational know-how and our network of experts in order to discover and unlock potential together. To achieve this, we bring our growth-oriented “best-in-class approach” to value enhancement: Based on the individual profile of the company and taking into account the company-specific characteristics, we develop the Sophora Value Creation Plan (“SVCP”) together with the management. In developing, implementing, and adapting the Sophora Value Creation Plan, we always strive to leverage the diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise of all individuals. Value creation – which we refer to as “our shared most important routine work” – thus becomes a continuous team effort that we accomplish together.
We want to contribute to making good companies even better, and believe that resilience and perseverance are key traits to successfully manage even difficult situations. At the same time, we always maintain our positive mindset and look for the best solutions. This combination helps to make our portfolio companies “winter-hardy”, just like the pagoda tree (Sophora Japonica).
What are your main projects/targets for 2022?
Our main target was to complete the set-up of Sophora Unternehmerkapital this year as an interdisciplinary team of investment and operating specialists which offers a differentiated approach to small cap investing by combining the provision of flexible equity capital with next-level value creation for SMEs. As holistically thinking entrepreneurs and process experts, our goal is to promote entrepreneurial success. In our projects, we also pay special attention to promoting and integrating the potential of women.
In an ideal situation, what would you change or improve in the current VC/PE market?
There is still an awareness gap (and sometimes a too negative perception) amongst entrepreneurs/sellers when it comes to understanding what private equity investors can bring to the table. Having a more differentiated view on the private equity landscape and understanding the value that some of them can offer (which goes far beyond just capital), represents an opportunity to create even more international success stories made in Austria.
Which one of the following topics inspires you most and why? – Sustainability, Equality, Education, Regulation
Energy transition and resource availability represent key investment themes in our investment strategy and we believe that finance intermediaries can play an important role when it comes to transforming the economy towards a more efficient and sustainable model. We invest into companies that are able to use the challenge on the limitation of natural resources as an opportunity and, above all, as a growth driver.
We take responsibility and act sustainably in our dealings with business partners, companies and their employees. We are signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) with the aim of better understanding the impact of investment activities on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. We are convinced that the active engagement with ESG issues can affect the performance of investments positively.
Thank you very much for the interview!