French start-ups that got VC funding in January 2010

I think the VC community in France had a promising start for 2010. The month of January included the launch of the Paris Founder’s Club and tech innovation cluster System@tic launched its investment club with 17 VC firms.

In addition,  quite a few start-ups got funding, including (and obviously not limited to):

eYeka (@eyekafr)

 This company likes to call itself the “leader in consumer engagement”, which translates to leveraging user-generated content to advertise for large brands. Their clients include big names like Coca-Cola, Nike, FootLocker and they have offices in the UK, France and Singapore. They scored €3 million from I-Source and their original investors (which include Ventech :p). More info on the round of funding can be found here.

Spartoo (@i_love_spartoo)

The “French Zappos” – and European leader in internet footware sales – got €12 million from Highland Capital Partners, Endeavor Vision and their former investors. The company, funded by 3 youngsters, gets over 4 million monthly uniques.

More info on their series B and their quest to be the next Tony Hsieh can be found here.  

IJENKO (@Ijenko)

If anyone’s familiar with Silicon Valley-based iControl, you can almost think of IJENKO as a eco-version. The company was founded in 2008 and is finally out of beta. Their platform helps individuals be more eco-friendly at home, by allowing them to keep track of their energy consumption while at home and away.

The company scored €2 million from I-Source, Direct Energie and Bouygues Telecom Initiatives. You can find more details in French here.

The Little Lady Got Published in TechCrunch Europe :)

It’s been almost a month that I’ve had this blog and I must admit, so far it’s been a success!

I just published my first article in TechCrunch Europe on the CEO drama @ French Start-up Deezer.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think and keep me posted on other events in the French start-up world.

Would a company like Twitter get funded in France?

Yes, it happens. French companies get funded, regardless of what Silicon Valley may like to think. Hot start-ups like Deezer, Eyeka, DailyMotion, Streamezzo, MXP4, etc. can all vouch for this.

But would someone like Twitter ever get funded in France?

French VCs tend to position themselves as different types of investors than their American or British counterparts, characterized as more  patient, investing less and sitting on a company for longer before an exit. In other words, it’s likely that a company like Twitter would’ve had a hard time getting funding from VCs in France – although now the sentiment has likely changed.

Not such a bad thing.

Last night’s first Founder’s Club event in Paris, which included speakers from leading French and European VC firms, also underlined the positives of the more timid French approach to investment. French VCs aren’t looking for serial entrepreneurs, per say, but rather an entrepreneur who can stick with a company, is passionate about the product and really develop a loyal clientele and partner network.

And when it comes to the exit, some French VCs claim to be open to the idea of companies getting acquired before becoming profitable but it’s definitely not in their blood. The general sentiment is that they also tend to see smaller exits than across the Atlantic – although Vente-privée may soon change that.

Did some French VCs bypass the economic crisis?

The local VC community went into a bit of a venture slump in 2009, with investments plummeting between 30 to 50 percent depending on the industry. Yet, some French VCs, like Innovacom, disregarded the economic recession and closed the same number of deals in 2009 as the year before.

Seed funding where you least expect it.

For French entrepreneurs, particularly in the social media space, French VCs may be a little less likely to be seed investors. There are VCs, like 360 Capital Partners, that do more early-stage investments in order to build a stronger relationship with a company. Still, seed funding definitely doesn’t run like water and most entrepreneurs tend to look to the government for their initial investments – namely OSEO, the “public bank” that supports start-ups and SMEs. OSEO has also been hosting an annual seed funding competition since 1999, providing between €45,000 and €450,000 to very early stage companies. Plus, now that the French government allows French taxpayers to invest in a start-up and reduce their wealth tax by 75%, business angels are much easier to come by.

But who is to say Twitter wouldn’t get funded in France?

While French VCs may not throw themselves at a company without an initial business model, like Twitter, given the various additional sources for funding there’s no reason why Twitter wouldn’t have found funding in France.

The Founder’s Club event in Paris included speakers from leading French and European VC firms: François Tison from 360 Capital Partners, Guillaume Lautour from AGF Private Equity, Dennis Champenois from Innovacom, Jean-Yves Quentel from Go4Venture and Grégoire Aladjidi from Demeter Partners.

A Few Noteworthy French Music Start-ups

Midem (@midemnetblog) – the music industry’s largest international event – is taking place in Cannes, France from January 24-27.  So, why not take a look at some rather interesting French music startups…

MXP4 (@theremixculture)

The company has created an interactive music platform – which lets listeners personalize and mix their favorite tracks – with €6.5 million raised to date from Sofinnova and Ventech. CEO Albin Serviant (@albinserviant), who is also EVP and GM for Vivendi Mobile Entertainment, spoke at Midem last Wednesday about business models for music applications. Details on what he discussed can be found here.

Awdio (@awdio_usa)

A Webradio network lets users stream music live from clubs and venues around the world. The company was founded in 2007 by Vittorio Strigari (@awdiovitto) and has raised €1.5 with Ventech since 2007.

Deezer (@deezer)

France’s hot little music start-up that is was run by youngers Jonathan Benassaya (@JBenassaya) and Daniel Marhely (@blogmusik) and is, quite frankly, way better than Imeem. Benassaya is reported to have left the company,  which closed a second round of funding in October 2009 and has raised €12.2 million to date. Troubled waters?

JiwaMusic (@jiwa)

They may be still in Beta but they’ve signed with Universal and look like they may be getting ready to try and take on Deezer. Oh, and they’re also looking for good people to join their team.

 Musicovery (@needstogetontwitter)

A so-called interactive webradio that works like a moodring. Huh? They’ve been around a little longer than the others, since 2003. The man who runs the show is Vincent Castaignet (@alsoneedstogetontwitter) and they’re apparently not VC-backed.

Looking for funding? Why not ask Sarkozy…

Through January 28th, start-ups and entrepreneurs can apply to receive between €45,000 and €450,000 from the government and OSEO (French parapublic SME support organization).

And you don’t have to be French to score funds.

The contest is open to entrepreneurs of all nationalities (although the company needs to be set-up in France). If you’re just a Francophile with a good idea, it might be worth a shot. The online application can be found here.

France’s government financially supporting tech companies: not a new idea.

Believe it or not, this Concours national d’aide à la création d’entreprises de technologies innovantes has actually been around since 1999. That makes this the 11th annual contest.

Additionally, the government offers tons of financial assistance and subsidies to help fund new tech companies and start-ups. They also – as part of an initiative to boost local entrepreneurship – the auto-entrepreneur regime, to help soften the fiscal burden for independent entrepreneurs and start-ups. In 2009, this helped over 300,000 entrepreneurs put their ideas into practice.

Le Fonds stratégique d’investissement = the French government’s €20 billion VC fund.

The money is meant to support fast-growing companies and start-ups that are important for the French economy. Thus, the FSI has invested millions of euros in companies like DailyMotion, Avanquest Software, Gemalto and more.

More information on the FSI and VC in France (including a lovely VC Directory) can be found here (in French).

So if you’re looking for a little funding in France…

Angels and VCs may be one answer. And Sarkozy may be another.

Facebook: Still Not the Leading Social Network in France?

01Net published an article on Friday based on a recent study by Ifop (The French Institut of Public Opinon) on the progression of various social media platforms in France.

Facebook is still not #1.

According to this study. Of the 1,002 people to participate in the study, 49% had an account on French social network site Copains d’Avant versus 37% with profiles on Facebook. Even Windows Live beat Facebook, making their 350-million person platform #3 in France. Weird. Then again, let’s remember that this info is only based on the limited group of participants in the study.

What about Twitter?

The same study found that only 5% of France was on Twitter, however, in November 2009 – the same month that Twitter became available in French – Ifop released a slightly different figure via a similar study on the status of Twitter and microblogging in France. 

60% of the 1,052 participants had heard of Twitter and only 9% had a Twitter account.

And get this: 79% of French Twitter users claimed that their main use for microblogging was to discover special offers and promotions.

RIP Yammer and Friendfeed.

Sadly only 4% had heard of Friendfeed and only 1% had heard of Yammer. I guess they may want to consider Tweeting in French.

France goes to Silicon Valley: French Tech Tour 2010

Just a quick note for French tech companies interested in developing activites in Silicon Valley or establishing relationships with some of the big US tech stars:

La Mission Economique and UbiFrance are now accepting applications for the 2010 French Tech Tour.

From June 4-11, 15 leading French companies hand-picked by the following list of leading IT companieswill have a chance to meet with:

Adobe, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, eBay, Fujitsu, Google, Intel Capital, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Sony, Sprint, Symantec and Verizon.

French companies can apply online through March 1, 2010. More information can be found here (in French).

Companies that have participated in the past include: A-Volute, CodaSystem, BinarySec, Smart Quantum, Vision SAS, Digitrad (Yes.tel), Orcanthus, Paytap, Taztag, Calinda Software, Gigatribe, Twinsoft, Delcrea, Bobex, Exaprotect, MyERP.com, TellMeWhere, NewScape Technology and Momindum.