Pioneering in its commitment to investment in technology, this group is a good example of how the ability to renew and find new angles can be key to surviving crises and growing.
Axon Partners Group is the success and transcendence of a personal project and, above all, a test of survival. Francisco Velázquez, the main architect of the group, launched the Axon Capital management company and a fund aimed at launching new technology solutions and products in 2006. The Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and Tecnalia helped to set up the entity, by becoming shareholders. It was a pioneering technology transfer proposal in Spain and followed the pattern of other international investment initiatives linked to large academic institutions.
Almost a year later, the subprime mortgage crisis exploded in the US, followed by the debt crisis in Europe. And the plans drawn up by Francisco Velázquez and Alfonso de León, a champion of Axon, collapsed. The market was shut down.
Something had to be done and the duo opted for diversification. It established a consultancy, in which Velázquez had experience, creating SVP Advisors and explored opportunities in emerging countries, with a vehicle in India and another for Latin America (Amerigo, in alliance with Telefónica).
`Thanks to this decision,` stresses Velázquez, Axon survived. The investment platform and the consultancy firm faced adversity and advanced in parallel with different shareholders until 2012. That year there was a re-structure that favoured the exit of UPM and Tecnalia and the entry of Dimitri Kallinis. Axon Partners Group was formed. From there, `there was a second wave of growth`, says Velázquez.
A period of prosperity followed and 2018 was boosted by new approaches, such as expansion investment or funds of funds, which has allowed Axon to grow from around 15 team members then to around 80 employees today.
At the head of Axon are the aforementioned Francisco Velázquez, chairman and managing partner, and Alfonso de León and Dimitri Kallinis, managing partners.
The management company is divided into four areas: Direct Investment, Crossover Investment/Alternative Markets, Fund of Funds and Sustainability, which are led by Iván Feito, Juan Jiménez, Mauro Yovane and Luis Castañeda, respectively.
The consulting arm is headed by Dikmen Edgu, Jorge Martínez, Jesús Carballal, Álvaro Neira and Alfons Oliver, who is also director of operations. Irene Alía, is head of Compliance and ESG, and Javier Martínez de Irujo, financial director, completes the management team.
`IT HAS BEEN POSITIVE TO BECOME A LISTED GROUP`.
This July 23 it will be a year since Axon went public on the BME Growth. The group had the courage to go ahead with the plan, even though the environment had changed and became unfavourable for an IPO. Velázquez says the risk has been worth it: `It has been positive. In addition to facilitating the entry of new shareholders, it has given us visibility outside Spain,` he says. `As part of a regulated market our investors and clients have confidence, and this boosts growth.` Today Axon manages assets worth 500 million Euros and has various vehicles with strategies that transcend the initial vocation of direct financing of technology start-ups, with a more industrial focus and an eye on new niches. Holaluz and Dogfy Diet are some of its main investees. Axon consulting has been successful as well, collaborating on 350 projects in 70 countries.
- Headquarters: Madrid, Spain.
- Offices: Madrid, Seville (Spain); Bogotá, Medellín (Colombia); Brussels (Belgium); Riyadh (Saudi Arabia); Istanbul (Turkey), Milán (Italy).
- Year founded: 2006.
- Main executives: Francisco Velázquez, Alfonso de León and Dimitri Kallinis.
- Investment under management: 500 million euros.
- Portfolio companies: Holaluz, Dogfy Diet, Metricool and Kampaoh, among others.