Investor Marc Coucke is investing 16 million euros in Itineris, the specialist in software for utilities of the Ghent entrepreneur Edgard Vermeersch.
‘If Club Brugge isn’t playing, I’m happy to support Anderlecht’, laughs Ghent entrepreneur Edgard Vermeersch when we ask him about his personal relationship with Marc Coucke, the Anderlecht chairman and newest investor in Itineris. ‘I didn’t know Marc very personally, but we regularly meet on forums that bring companies and investors together.’
At one of those meetings, Coucke turned out to be tempted to – through his investment holding Alychlo – pump 16 million euros into Vermeersch’s software company. The scale-up fits into Coucke’s portfolio for two reasons: it is a Belgian company that is doing well abroad, especially in the US, and it is riding the wave of sustainability in the world of water and energy companies. EnergyVision, the solar panel and charging station company of the entrepreneur Maarten Michielssens, was previously in the same field of interest, in which Coucke invested 20 million euros at the beginning of this year.
Itineris’ software platform allows the millions of customer data from utilities, such as gas, electricity and water companies, to be neatly stored, processed and analyzed in the cloud, so that invoices and contracts can also be prepared in one go. For the Belgian grid operator Ores, it processes all data that is sent from the digital electricity meters in the homes. By being close to those data, it is possible to achieve significant water and energy savings, and the utilities can achieve their environmental target.
You can feel everything that the economy in the US is running at full speed, and we want to take advantage of that. We are currently negotiating a contract with two major cities.
Itineris is largely in the hands of founder Edgard Vermeersch, a descendant of the family known for the Auberge du Pêcheur, the star restaurant in Sint-Martens-Latem. Vermeersch founded the company in 2003. Ten years later – and after a title of Promising Company of the Year in 2012 – the investment company Gimv came on board. Smartfin, the investment fund of, among others, fintech pioneer Jürgen Ingels, and the public investor PMV are also in the capital. And at the end of 2020, the SFPI, the federal government’s investment vehicle, strengthened Itineris’ capital. Even then, 15 million euros was raised. Vermeersch does not want to say how the shareholding will be divided after Coucke’s entry.
‘The pennies from the previous capital round were far from being consumed, and because we are profitable, we didn’t really need any capital,’ says Vermeersch. ‘But it is always good to build up a financial buffer in case you come across a nice acquisition prey. For example, last year we acquired the Walloon Opinum, a data analytics company that does not analyze customer data, but data from time series of water and energy networks. †
Founded in 2003 by Edgard Vermeersch, descendant of a catering family, known for the Auberge du Pêcheur in Sint-Martens-Latem.
Has a software platform with UMAX, with which utilities can automate their back office (invoicing, meter reading).
Turnover (2021): 60 million euros (+23%)
More than 400 employees in Europe and the US.
That new takeover prey could well emerge in the US. The utility market is booming there, following the major round of investment in aging infrastructure launched by President Joe Biden. ‘You can feel everything that the economy is running at full speed there, and we want to take advantage of that,’ says Vermeersch. ‘We currently have two new major cities in our client portfolio, but as we are still finalizing the contracts, I cannot name them. Also in the UK, we’re about to close our biggest deal ever – bigger than New York’s – with one of the largest utilities in the country.”
Coucke may take a step towards a possible IPO of Itineris. This was already on the table in September last year when it turned out that KBC Securities and Berenberg had been mandated to ‘review the company’s strategic options’.