he first edition of the Luxury Innovation Awards, held last summer in Geneva, rewarded four start-ups active in the luxury industry, following the vote of a jury composed of professionals from the sector.
Among the winners were Authena, a platform that has developed an anti-counterfeiting application; Xibit, a specialist in augmented reality; Lanéva, a manufacturer of electric boats; and The Rayy, an innovative Swiss jewellery start-up that we profiled in our pages last year (read about them here). During the ceremony, Jean-Claude Biver was also honoured for his lifetime career achievements (you can read a detailed account of this first edition by Stéphane Girod, a professor at IMD, here).
The organiser of the annual event is Luxury Venture Group, founded by Deependra Panday, a Swiss-based entrepreneur. The objective of the venture capital fund is primarily to support start-ups in the luxury industry. Beyond the Awards, over the longer term, Luxury Venture Group intends to take a direct stake in the most promising new companies.
The objective of the venture capital fund is to support start-ups in the luxury industry. Luxury Venture Group aims to take a direct stake in some of them.
The second edition of the Luxury Innovation Awards (of which Europa Star is a media partner) will take place on 21 and 22 October 2021 at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva, with the support of the cantonal authorities. “Through our events, training programmes and investments, we want to create an ecosystem that will bring together the right people, start-up capital and networks for new luxury companies,” says Deependra Panday. We caught up with him to find out more.
Europa Star: What is your background?
Deependra Pandey: Immediately after my MBA at the University of Bern, I founded my first start-up in 2011 – which allowed me to make all the mistakes I needed to make in order to progress! My master’s thesis was about the future of the luxury industry, more specifically about new customer relationship management tools. A few years later, a spin-off from the company Muvacon, active in digital services, that I had founded, was bought out by a seed investor. I wanted to go back to my roots, to my interest in luxury. This was the genesis of Luxury Venture Group.
What is the concept?
It all started from an observation: I noticed that there was no incubator, business accelerator or venture capital fund dedicated to the luxury industry, and more specifically to technological innovation in luxury, in Switzerland. There is “fintech” for financial technologies and “medtech” for health technologies, but no “luxtech”. Yet the know-how in this area is immense, and just as promising. The idea is therefore to encourage innovation by supporting start-ups that are active in new technologies applied to luxury – whether they are active in Switzerland or in the rest of the world.
“There is ‘fintech’ for financial technologies and ‘medtech’ for health technologies, but no ‘luxtech’. Yet the know-how in these areas is immense, and just as promising.”
- Deependra Pandey, founder of Luxury Venture Group
How are you realising this ambition?
Originally, we wanted to organise an initial three-day conference, and present the first luxury innovation awards during the 2020 edition of Baselworld, of which we were partners. But as you know, this edition did not take place due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, we still wanted to organise a summit last year, albeit a reduced one given the conditions. So we put out a first call for applications and the response was fantastic: we received applications from 149 start-ups operating in 34 countries. We selected nine finalists and announced four winners at a mini-summit in Geneva in August 2020. The winners received a total of CHF 60,000.
- The winners of the 2020 Luxury Innovation Awards
Who funded these awards?
We were self-financed for this first edition, and we also benefited from the support of Jean-Claude Biver, who was honorary president of the ceremony. This year’s edition, which will take place in October at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva, is much more ambitious: we have launched the call for applications, which closes on 31 July, and we are expecting more than 500 participating start-ups from over 40 countries. The prize itself is perhaps less important for these start-ups than the recognition, networking opportunities and investment they receive.
In what sense?
We intend to invest directly in the start-ups we consider the most promising and help them grow. All companies shortlisted for the Luxury Innovation Awards (not just the 12 finalists) will be considered as potential investment targets for Luxury Venture Group. Each company gives us the right, as a venture capital fund, to take a 5% stake in their capital. Whether or not a stake is taken will be decided within 100 days after the October summit. The LVG Capital Invest venture capital fund will thus be officially born next year. We are aiming for a first fundraising round of up to CHF 20 million.
“The venture capital fund LVG Capital Invest will be officially launched next year. We are aiming for an initial fundraising round of up to CHF 20 million.”
- The Luxury Innovation Awards trophy is designed by famous Swiss designer Roger Pfund.
Who else is part of the fund?
It will bring together a network of ambassador-investors, often personalities who already have a long career in luxury. They all share the idea that innovation in luxury should be encouraged by providing more structured support to new entrepreneurs. Moreover, their interest is not just financial: there will also be exchanges of experiences, networks, know-how, in short, everything that cannot be “materialised” but which is so important in the first steps of a company.
This initiative is above all about building a new ecosystem and changing mindsets, because start-ups active in the luxury sector are not yet considered a serious investment target. As I said, there wasn’t really a structured platform to connect these new players with investors. Luxury Venture Group aims to fill this gap.
- Following the awards in October, the venture capital fund will choose to invest in the most promising luxury start-ups.
Do you have other ambitions for Luxury Venture Group?
Eventually, we also have the ambition to create a physical campus, the Luxury Innovation Lab, to house start-ups active in luxury and serve as a laboratory for innovation in this industry. On the research side, our academic partner is IMD. This campus will bring together companies, start-ups and academic organisations, with a programme of events to help generate opportunities for learning, growth and development.
“It’s all about building a new ecosystem and changing mindsets; start-ups active in luxury are not yet seen as a serious investment target.”
Concretely, what can we expect from the summit that takes place next October?
It will be a totally “phygital” event, with a physical presence at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva coupled with online broadcasts and interactions. There will be six categories of participation for start-ups: art and culture; watches, jewellery and accessories; fashion and design; lifestyle, beauty and travel; sustainability; technology, artificial intelligence, data and markets. We have also invited a country of honour, the United Arab Emirates. The trophy awarded to the winners is designed by Roger Pfund’s studio and produced by Altmann Casting. The Geneva cantonal authorities are also supporting the event.