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A venture capital fund that focuses on early stage investments has raised $170 million from Australian institutional investors. Early-stage technology fund Southern Cross has raised $170 million from Australian pension funds.

Six institutional investors have contributed to the fund, including Industry Funds Management (IFM) and superannuation fund Sunsuper.

The fund also announced the launch of its funds management operation, Southern Cross Venture Partners.

The firm will be based in Sydney and focus on investing in early-stage technology companies across a range of sectors, including electronics, information technology, telecommunications, nanotechnology, clean energy and defence technology.

It will be run by three Australian-based directors, Bob Christiansen, Bill Bartee and Gareth Dando.

Christiansen, who is Southern Cross Venture Partners managing director, said the fund had reached a size where the focus could move from capital raising to investment.

"Lack of scale has historically been a problem for early-stage funds in Australia and New Zealand, particularly when they have had to step up to investing in later rounds beside larger international venture capital funds," he said.

"With a fund of this size, we can now follow our winners through the later investment rounds and also be able to support other portfolio companies through the occasional downturn."

The fund has already made two investments worth a total of about $5 million. It has bought Sydney-based mobile phone software firm uiActive and Brisbane-based wireless technology company Microwave and Materials Design.

Christiansen said five further deals were nearing completion.

IFM senior investment manager for private equity Judith Smith said IFM's decision to invest in the Southern Cross Fund reflected a continued and growing interest in early-stage venture capital in Australia.

"IFM believes that the Australian early-stage technology sector will provide rewarding returns from Australian-originated technologies," Smith said.

 


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