As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, the City of Zagreb’s much loved Museum of Illusions, a Croatian creation that received an additional spring in its step in terms of global expansion with the entry of the venture capital fund Invera Equity Partners, is moving its headquarters across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA.
Although in the business of selling (optical) illusions according to a successful museum-style formula, according to which their network today consists of 37 museums across the world in 21 countries, business logic demands its own set of rules. They want to be perceived as a company and not merely a museum, which is why they’re opening an office in Atlanta in order to achieve better valuations once the time comes for the exit of the aforementioned capital fund and the eventual payment of returns to its investors.
“We belong to the entertainment industry, the ”mid-way” segment of the market that refers to attractions lasting up to two hours for which visitors are willing to pay between 20 and 70 US dollars, it’s a concept quite similar to that of Madame Tussauds,” illustrated Invera partner Slaven Kordic. Invera Equity Partners is otherwise currently the only venture capital fund present here on the Croatian market that sought its lucrative investment in the entertainment industry segment.
“Croatia could have many more such investments, there are homegrown ideas with similar potential when it comes to spreading to Western Europe and all the way over to the USA. We have five more target companies with whom we’re talking about potential investment,” Kordic revealed. How much they’ve actually invested in Metamorfosis, the company behind the project of the Museum of Illusions, since July 2021 – he didn’t discuss.
It was the completion of that particular investment, which saw the capital fund acquire a majority share of 65 percent, that the venture capital fund industry recognised as the best private equity investment of the past year. It’s worth mentioning that the competition was quite fierce because Provectus’ investments in Keindl Sport, Adria Dental Group and the Aiva polyclinic, Prosperus’ acquisition of Neos and Rohatyn’s sale of Pet Network International, which includes Pet Centre, all competed for the title.
Despite the move of the Museum of Illusions’ headquarters across the pond to Atlanta, the service centre, i.e. the “brain” of the operation, will remain at home in Croatia.
“Zagreb will be a global hub where people from all over the world will work with the ”know how” of running a museum, creating exhibits and marketing, while the management functions will be moved to the USA,” said Kordic. The head of the company since October has been American Jonathan Benjamin, a renowned manager from the USA who honed his experience in the development of the business of Altitude Trampoline Parks and Briggo Coffee, who, alongside the team in Atlanta, is focused on making strong step forward for the Museum of Illusions on the American market.
Unlike, for example, entrepreneur Mate Rimac, who fiercely branded all segments of his business (despite all expectations and bets) here at home in Croatia, where he was supported by strategic investors, Kordic says that the circumstances of venture capital funds are somewhat different, as there is a huge emphasis on ensuring eventual financial returns for investors.
“It’s less important where they’re from and who runs the business, the key is that the majority of employees will remain here in Croatia. We want to achieve a situation in which the company is perceived as American in order to achieve better returns one day when it comes to those payouts,” explained Kordic. The perception of an “American” company in practice is very specific, the return could reach 15x EBITDA, while a Croatian company would have to count on far less than that.
The investment time horizon of Invera EP is five years or less, and this is the period in which the fund wants to transform the business by taking it to a higher and more secure level. Their ambitions are great, but so is the potential, according to investors, so the initial projections for the eventual investor exit have been corrected to a massive “200 million euros plus”.
“We’ve already received two offers for sale from Europe, but we rejected them because we believe that there’s a lot of great potential with investments and development,” said Kordic, adding that they want to achieve this with strong names in management, among which are Teo Sirola at the head and Ivan Stipancic in charge of finances. Co-founder Roko Zivkovic, without whom the idea of the Museum of Illusions and all of its accompanying optical illusions and puzzles around the world wouldn’t even exist, is still within the company as an advisor to the Management Board.
The largest investors in the fund are the European Investment Fund with 30 million euros, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with 10 million euros, and three domestic pension funds, Raiffeisen, Erste and PBZ CO, cumulatively supporting it with 14.5 million euros. Among the investors is also the Krsko Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning Fund with 4.5 million euros, while partners Slaven Kordic and Kemal Sikiric and their employees invested another 1.5 million euros.
Receiving the award for the best private investment of the year, Roko Zivkovic said on Wednesday in Zagreb that when they started the Museum of Illusions project, they never dreamed that such an expansion of a project made entirely in Croatia could happen, pointing out that in addition to the 37 current locations of the museum around the world, another 12 locations are currently under construction.
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