Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Philipp Göhre has successfully built up a growth capital portfolio at Haniel over the past two years - thanks to its enkelfähig investment approach.

Courage and entrepreneurial spirit have a long tradition at Haniel. But in recent years, Haniel was known more as a typical mid-cap and majority investor that didn’t take big risks – and thus missed opportunities for higher returns. But that has changed: Philipp Göhre, Lead Growth Capital, successfully built a sustainable growth capital portfolio. “Courageous entrepreneurship is everywhere in Haniel’s history. By building a growth capital portfolio, we focused on this part of our DNA,” he recalls. A total of €500 million was made available to him for early-stage investments – directly and through funds. In addition to returning to entrepreneurial courage, the goals were primarily to diversify the portfolio and gain early access to new business models and technologies so that the experience gained could be used to fill the pipeline of the core portfolio.


Successful – enkelfähig
Haniel entered the venture capital and start-up world through both funds and direct investments. Initially, Haniel participated in various venture capital funds in order to become active primarily outside Europe and to gain access to a wide range of business models as quickly as possible. At the same time, direct investments were made in selected start-ups in which Haniel wanted to take a relevant stake: Against this background, the investment in Infarm took place in 2020. The vertical farming company produces organic herbs and vegetables directly in restaurants or supermarkets – and is so successful that it became a unicorn in 2021. “In the growth capital area, Haniel also only invests in assets that fit the three pillars of People, Planet and Progress and not only meet our expectations in terms of returns, but also our Future Worth Living principles – in other words, investments, that are enkelfähig,” explains Philipp Göhre. “This strategy works and gave us access to both exclusive funds and in-demand individual investments.”

Investment examples on the fund side include Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Gilde Healthcare, Verdane or Five Seasons. Haniel has also made three other direct investments: Sdui, happybrush and wandelbots. Wandelbots has developed a visionary no-code robotics platform that enables anyone to program robots, regardless of individual programming skills. The platform is already being used by large companies such as VW, BMW, Ericsson and Siemens, as well as SMEs such as Rotop and Heidenbluth. Sdui is one of the fastest growing education start-ups in Germany. The German school system’s need to catch up in the area of digitalization was particularly evident in the pandemic – this is where Sdui comes in. Due to higher demand, the company was looking for an investor to help it scale – not just with a quick cash injection, but as a long-term partner. “Haniel’s purpose to become enkelfähig convinced us,” says Daniel Zacharias, CEO of Sdui. “We were really impressed by the people at Haniel and their collaborative approach. We work together as equals – that’s not always a given.”


Focus on Planet
Thanks to the successes of the past two and a half years, Haniel now wants to focus its holistic investment approach once again and is providing a further €100 million to make direct investments in areas such as cleantech, circular economy and agricultural technologies, i.e. primarily in the Planet investment pillar. Meanwhile, Philipp Göhre no longer works alone, but has built up the “PPP Growth+” team and has additional support from external consultants. “We have gained a lot of experience in the last two years,” explains Philipp Göhre. “In the future, we want to make even more early-stage direct investments, especially in our Planet pillar, because this is where a lot of new business models are being developed today, especially to help combat climate change.”