It’s not just venture capital funds in the lives of French start-ups. For several years, other players have also wanted their share of the French tech pie. Private equity funds and hedge funds, for example, were very active in 2021 and contributed to the explosion in valuations.
In 2022, a year of funding slowdown (mainly in the second half), other much smaller players multiplied their investments in young French startups in the start-up phase. Sufficient to increase or maintain valuations while the trend is very low for the other financing stages (series A, B, C, etc.).
In total, these investors injected €1.1 billion into very young start-ups in 2022, an increase of 22% compared to 2021, according to the report “The State of The French Tech Ecosystem” by ‘Alexander Dewez. This Eurazeo investor identified three categories: family offices, “super angels” and new business angels.
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Several French family offices have been putting tickets into technology for some years now, such as Kima Ventures (Xavier Niel), Financière Saint James (Michaël Benabou, co-founder of Veepee) or even Aglaé (Bernard Arnault, owner of Les Echos – Le Parisien group) . Unlike most family offices, they don’t cultivate discretion and are very well identified by the startup ecosystem.
Other newcomers have hit the market – like Motier Ventures, which has made around thirty investments to date. This wealth manager represents the Houzé family, owners of Galeries Lafayette. “They came out the right way with a strong brand and identity,” said Julien Petit, founder of Mighty9, a fundraiser.
Purple, the family office of Laurent Ritter (Voodoo) and Snaw Ventures, of Adrien Montfort (Sorare) are also among the rising players. “It’s a new generation of family offices fighting against VCs [pour ‘venture capital’ ou capital-risque, NDLR] in business”, observes Julien Petit.
Microfunds, which manage a few million, have more or less the same operation as family offices – with the difference that they don’t have one, but several investors behind them. “They never lead the rounds, they are followers who place tickets between 100,000 and 300,000 euros”, explains business angel Alexandre Berriche, citing the example of British Cocoa Ventures. Their teams are small and sometimes even alone, what we call “solo GP funds”.
Be “VC compliant”
Second category: the “superangels”. These are individual investors who alone manage their allocations, make as many investments as family offices and issue tickets worth several tens or even several hundred thousand euros for the richest. The best known are Thibaud Elzière (eFounders), Eduardo Ronzano (Keldoc), Antoine Martin (Zenly) or Renaud Visage (Eventbrite).
Their common points? Having (well) sold his start-up and developed a very good network in French technology. “They invest in companies where they are sure that the VCs will invest in the next round of funding”, emphasizes Julien Petit. We can join this big family the “scouts”, business angels who invest on behalf of a venture capital fund. American Sequoia Capital has, for example, Roxanne Varza (Station F), Alexandre Berriche (Fleet) or even Maxime Brousse (Selency) to unearth French nuggets.
The last category, business angels, is certainly not new, but it has grown and diversified in terms of profiles. Previously, these investors, who injected tickets from a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of euros, were mostly businessmen who had sold their start-up or who had resold part of their shares during a fundraising (the “cash out” in the jargon).
Its former employees are now doing the same. The mega collections of 2021 allowed them – in particular the first employees – to sell their BSPCE (a kind of stock option). Members of management committees, whose salaries skyrocketed in 2021, are also starting to invest. These two profiles are highly appreciated by young startups because they have already held or hold operational positions, such as Romain Libeau, current director of products at the unicorn Swile.
In the midst of family offices, there are also multi-family offices, such as LetUs, which has several technology entrepreneurs in its portfolio.