Capricorn Cleantech

c-Lecta: from investment to exit

c-Lecta: from investment to exit

c-Lecta is a global biotechnology company specializing in the development, production and distribution of enzyme products. The company uses world-class enzyme engineering and production technologies to provide its partners in the food and pharmaceutical industries with superior biotechnological solutions for innovative industrial applications.

Capricorn invested in June 2018, leading an € 8 million capital increase and followed by Beteiligungsmanagement Thuringen. The company was sold to the Kerry Group in 2022, a leading ingredient manufacturer, for consideration of € 137 million, excluding management shares after having quintupled sales and reaching a high level of consistent profitability.

Marc, congratulations on the fantastic track record that you have accomplished with c-LEcta, as a founder and CEO of a company that was born under your initiative almost 20 years ago. What were your drivers to start a company?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): When founding c-LEcta I was a scientist who had just completed his PhD. Running a business fascinated me and was on my agenda. These two worlds came together with a concrete idea, so I had to give it a try.

When Capricorn Partners and bm-t stepped in, you were well on your way on a route for value creation and sales. What were the most difficult obstacles you encountered up to that path?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): Two things come to my mind: First, choosing the right products and partners. As a technology-driven company, it is difficult to make the right calls on which markets you want to address, and which commercialization partners you choose. Secondly, it was a challenge to build all the competencies to become a fully-integrated company with a reach from product development and production, to quality management, marketing & sales.

What are some of the significant pivotal in- or externally driven developments that convinced your clients about your enzyme-based solution and your approach?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): Our unique technology always attracted high interest in the industry and brought in exciting projects. But in order to work at eye-level based on sustainable, value-creating business models, it was essential to bring more to the table than “just” technology. Positioning c-LEcta as a product company and resigning from the fee-for-service business were key on our road to success.

We were impressed by Capricorn Partners' knowledge and experience. We liked their appreciation-based company culture very much.
Marc Struhalla , CEO c-Lecta
Thomas, at the time of the Capricorn Partners-led capital increase you were hired to become the CFO and second Managing Director of c-LEcta. What attracted you to this innovative scale-up, coming from PE-backed and mature businesses?

Thomas Pfaadt (CFO, c-LEcta): I was particularly attracted by the people handling the business but also by the business model and the markets addressed. I enjoy working in a dynamic environment and appreciate the challenge of actively shaping and supporting the growth of a company. In the end, I simply believed in the story of c-LEcta and it turned out to be the right decision.

You chose to hire an investment bank which allowed you to approach many potential investors. Why did you decide to have Capricorn Partners, and bm-t, jointly invest in c-LEcta?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): Capricorn was chosen as the lead investor of the round. They made an attractive offer, and we were impressed by their knowledge and experience. We liked their appreciation-based company culture very much. A co-investor was needed to complete the round and bm-t as a locally acting VC with a great team was an obvious and perfectly fitting addition.

Have your expectations come through? Moreover, were there any aspects that you particularly appreciated or disliked about our approach?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): It was great fun to work together. We had a close exchange and very good relationship and therefore it was also a little bit sad to end the partnership.

c-Lecta in a nutshell

  • Founded in 2004

  • Invested by Capricorn in 2018

  • Located in Leipzig

Exiting a company or at least, transferring the largest part of the shares to a large corporation like the Kerry Group is not an easy decision to make. What was important in that process and finally deciding to go ahead with it?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): The attractiveness of the offer of course was a big factor. For me, it was most important that we put c-LEcta on a good track with a good perspective for the site and the people. Kerry was on my short-list from the very beginning because they have a strong footprint in both food and pharma which are the two key markets of c-LEcta. Additionally, they have a strong enzyme business which completed the fit.

Now after six months of being part of a large and multi-national group, would you want to relate to us what are the major differences you experience? How is it working under the umbrella of a large corporation?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): c-LEcta continues to operate under its established business model as an independent business. Therefore, not too much has changed. On the other hand, we have kicked off many collaboration initiatives in which we are joining forces in product development and the distribution of products. These initiatives now materialize, and it is great to see that happen. This will accelerate our growth path.

What are the next challenges and goals for the next phase of c-LEcta? What is in stock for c-LEcta’s (and Kerry’s) customers and the market in general?

Marc Struhalla (CEO, c-LEcta): Some of our commercial products still have a lot to win in the marketplace. Others were just recently launched so we are still in the market introduction phase. Together with Kerry, we are working on lifting these potentials and at the same time we are heavily investing in our product development pipeline with a focus on food and biopharma enzymes.

I was immediately triggered by c-LEcta’s unique “cell-free” approach to manufacture ingredients and API’s.
Ludwig Goris, Partner Capricorn Partners
Ludwig, what drove you and Capricorn to invest in c-LEcta?

Ludwig Goris (Partner, Capricorn): When the company was presented to us, and I reviewed the pitch, I was immediately triggered by c-LEcta’s unique “cell-free” approach to manufacture ingredients and API’s. I did not encounter any company yet that presented such a complete offering from enzyme design over microbial programming and unique know-how to enable multi-enzyme based chemical processes. When I met Marc for the first time, I could notice that c-LEcta was built on profound scientific fundamentals that escaped the hype of industrial biotechnology. He managed and still manages the company with a true vision in mind and conviction that he is able to set through all layers of the organization.

Kevin, what are the reasons that drove you to co-invest in c-LEcta and why did you choose to follow-on with Capricorn in this equity round of financing?

Kevin Reeder (CEO, bm-t): Right away we felt that the c-LEcta team was of the quality and level to run a much bigger business and were excited by the strategic pivot to becoming a product business and thus harvesting much more of the value created by c-LEcta´s excellent technology. As we met Ludwig Goris from Capricorn we realized we had a double win here, as he and the Capricorn Sustainable Chemistry team bring so much expertise and drive to their investments. Ludwig´s participation on the board and the deal team added significant value from which we all greatly benefitted. I certainly hope we can find another attractive investment together.

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