Posted on Dec 12, 2022 at 7amUpdated 12 Dec. 2022 at 12:15
Their names are Amicie, Shana, Anta. His name is Paul. They are between 24 and 37 years old, work in Paris, are graduates of Science-Po, English universities, have a doctorate in medical research or a double degree from an engineering and business school. Seed, priming, series A, bootstrap, growth fund, VC, deal flow, track record, road show… These anglicisms don’t keep secrets for them. Through readings, F Station conferences, and meetings, they mastered all the codes of this particular ecosystem.
Beginners? Do not. But not too far. Venture capitalists. The famous VC (pronounced “vissi”) in the jargon, for Venture Capital, which finance the raising of resources in exchange for participation in the capital.
It is difficult to find figures to draw a typical investor portrait. The term is too general to take into account the nuances. Some integrate analysts and company managers, who carry out the search for start-ups, others reserve the term for partners and managing partners, these associates being able to sign checks of 6 to 8 digits to finance start-ups in the hope of a fruitful return of the investment.
In May 2022, there were more than 5,000 people working in the investment teams of French private equity and venture capital funds, according to LinkedIn data compiled by Paul Bazin, an investor at the Daphni fund, who warns, however, that “some profiles are incorrectly categorized”.
Young investors interested in social impact
Amicie, Shana, Anta and Paul are not yet key figures in the ecosystem, but they are starting to shape the future of French Tech. They detect promising startups capable of emerging between international crises and technological sovereignty. Asked about their motivation, they guarantee: they didn’t choose this job because of the only zeros in their bank accounts.
Entry salaries for young graduates remain comfortable: between 40,000 and 50,000 euros, according to estimates. To succeed, you need a little luck and patience. Becoming a partner takes time, and the older generation hasn’t gone away yet. Meanwhile, the new generation prints its trademark. And to listen to those served, she only has one word on her lips: impact.
A PhD in Molecular Biology from Imperial College London, Anta Gkelou switched to venture capital because she was convinced she could have a quicker influence on people’s lives than staying in research labs. “In 5 years, I would like to have discovered, evaluated and supported a startup that developed a drug to treat serious diseases”witness the young woman, director of Sofinnova Partners in Paris.
selflessness and responsibility
But believing that someone could join a fund with the sole aim of helping society is far from reality. Young VCs cannot escape the purpose of an investment fund: the pursuit of financial performance. But, in principle, the business requires bets, especially in the start-up phase, right in the first months of the company’s life. By investing at this stage and supporting the company for at least 5 years, the investor can expect to earn an attractive multiple… or lose it all.
“We have the right to be wrong. It is even specific to our profession. We usually say that we are judged after 10 years., reassures Paul Bazin. He gives the example of his investment in Agricool, a start-up that wanted to revolutionize the concept of urban agriculture and which went bankrupt. “There were many different problems. But we would make that investment again. It was a great team that had an overflowing ambition in line with the ecological transition, to produce vegetables close to home, without pesticides, using 90% less water. »
Good achievers, we all identify them. The differentiation between the funds is low
Shana Hudes, an early-stage investor at the Iris Capital fund, sees 3,000 applications a year, but the fund only invests in six to eight start-ups, between France and Germany. With four years of experience, she has already seen the business change with automated tools and competition increase with the arrival of well-heeled foreign funds. Once the nugget is identified, to win the bet, “It is necessary to develop a relationship of trust with the entrepreneur to convince him that we are the best to support him, that we perfectly understand his work, being able to go into detail when we talk to him. Good achievers, we all identify them. Differentiation between funds is weak. »
Abnegation and conviction are two of the keywords of this work. Anta Gkelou adds responsibility. “It is very hard work and a lot of responsibility. In biotechnology, we will therefore choose to help scientists who have been working on their theses for years.adds the young Greek, passed by Inserm at the European hospital Georges Pompidou and previously by Danone Nutricia.
Identifying the next opportunity for drug development is not neutral. You have to be able to talk to a researcher, who has dedicated his life to working on a protein, and then convince him to become an entrepreneur by sharing his knowledge, with no guarantee that in the end he will be able to produce and commercialize a medicine.
Amicie Favre is just starting out, but she’s not new. Master in international business and sustainability from Sciences Po, she has already entered the sector through internships. She is also president of the Baby VC association, which introduces students to the venture capitalist profession. The 24-year-old is about to join the prestigious Eurazeo fund for an internship as a trainee VC analyst. Your motivation? “Being part of an innovative ecosystem. »
A balance of life that would be preserved
Market observation, file selection, meeting with start-ups, attending conferences, reading reports, discussions with colleagues… Your daily work will certainly resemble that of a consultant, with hectic days but with preserved professional/personal life balance to listen to the first interested party.
The most experienced and talented ones can also participate in the boards of directors of startups where their investment fund sits. “It is an extremely intellectually stimulating environment. I meet people smarter than me all day long who explain their projects and missions to me. You have to be curious”says Shana Hudes.
There is no typical day here. “There’s always something to do and that’s what I love”explains Paul Bazin, who joined Daphni as an intern five years ago and is now a partner.
Homogeneity of profiles
To enter this circle, the four young specialists recommend working in your network from an early age, going to professional events. If that’s not possible, don’t hesitate to search LinkedIn for common contacts to make a connection.
But this offensive attitude is not enough. Despite all the goodwill in the world and the positions taken, the start-up nation remains the temple of social reproduction. This is the average Achilles heel. It’s even easier to become an investor when you come out of a prestigious school. While women are tentatively starting to find their place on investment teams (27% according to a study by France Invest with Deloitte), alumni at HEC, Polytechnique, ESCP, Dauphine and Centrale Supélec continue to rely on private roles equity and venture capital. “We must not hide our face. We all come from the same places. It’s very homogeneous. There is a diversity problem. We are working on it”recognizes Paul Bazin.