The French A-list

I get lots of local entrepreneurs contacting me, wondering who exactly in France has money in the bank. So just like with the Le Best of French Blogs post that I wrote-up a while ago, it’s perhaps time for a French A-list (or angel-list). Well, here it is kids. These are some names  (in no particular order) that I’d want to be talking to if I was looking to fund my company in France. Obviously, some of these people are also behind funds like ISAI, Jaina and Kima but that doesn’t mean they don’t also invest à titre personnel.

1. Oleg Tscheltzoff.

The CEO of stock photo giant Fotolia, Oleg is honestly one of the few people I’ve met that can just tear a business plan apart. He’s funded over a dozen projects this year, including Dealissime, Leetchi , Restopolitan and PeopleforCinema.

2. Xavier Niel.

Xavier is arguably France’s hottest angel. And don’t just take it from me – an article published in le Journal Du Net in May claimed that he’s invested in over 150 companies, including Leetchi, OpenERP and Deezer. Damn. I mentioned him in an earlier post as one of the 9 French entrepreneur names to know. And if you don’t know him by now, he’s not only the mastermind behind Iliad/Free and makes-up half of the Kima Ventures team with Jérémie Berrebi.

3. Jérémie Berrebi.

Naturally, if I’m going to mention one half of Kima, I’m not about to ignore the other. Berrebi is also a very active investor. Even if he isn’t physically based in France, I’m impressed by what he’s managed to do for local startups from Israel. He’s personally invested in companies like Kwaga and Architurn.

4. Marc Simoncini

Meetic’s current CEO and founder of Jaina Capital is perhaps somewhat less active than Kima’s Niel and Berrebi but still amongst the French investor elite. He’s backed companies including Ouriel Ohayon’s Appsfire, Catherine Barba’s Malinea and Zilok.

5. PKM

The famous face behind Priceminister (acquired this year by Japanese Rakuten for €200 million) is also part of the “entrepreneurs investment fund”, ISAI. He’s one of the many investors in Pearltrees, Novapost and YellowKorner.

And the beat goes on.

There are obviously many more names that I could add to the list, including Kelkoo/Wikio-founder Pierre Chappaz, Vente-Privée founder Jacques-Antoine Granjon, Allociné’s Jean-David Blanc and miore. However these last few appear to be somewhat less active in terms of investments than those listed above. Deezer’s Jonathan Benassaya is also an up-and-coming business angel to add to the list.

Too many cuisiniers.

One thing that I’ve noticed lately is that more and more of the French business angels are coming together for collective investments. Recently, Restopolitan (essentially the French Opentable alongside the likes of LaFourchette and TableOnline) announced a €1 million round with what’s being called the investor “Dream Team”: Oleg Tscheltzoff, Marc Simoncini, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, Jonathan Bennasaya…pretty much the whole gang, quoi. The photo below didn’t happen to go unnoticed on Facebook or in the press either – it’s Restopolitan’s founder, Stéphanie Pelaprat, surrounded by the company’s beautiful bank account. But still, many people are wondering if too many A-level cuisiniers or investors will spoil her startup soup.*

Young Money.

In honor of the theme of our recent TechCrunch France event, the “young” generation of web entrepreneurs and services oriented towards the 15-25 age-range, I’d also like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to 2 of the younger business angels in the space: Fotolia’s Thibaud Elziere and MyMajorCompany’s Simon Istolainen. I don’t think either of them are giving Xavier Niel a run for his money just yet, but it’s definitely nice to see the younger generation giving back to the entrepreneurial community. I could probably also include Berrebi in the youngster investor list too.

Feel free to add additional names to the comments.

*In English, the expression uses “soup” and in French the expression uses “sauce”.

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Haha, the Oh-So-Silly French Startup Pitch

I don’t really know when it dawned on me for the first time that the practices of the startup world are actually, well, kind of silly. For people who aren’t in the industry, some of the lingo is probably just incomprehensible. Startup pitches, various business models, investment trends – most of the people I go to school with must look at my facebook status updates and think I’m on drugs. In fact, one person once thought I was talking about religion when I posted an article on the rise of European super angels. 🙂

So, if we’re so funny why aren’t more comedians making fun of us yet?

When the French The Social Network parody came out last week, I realized that startups would make insanely good material for comedians. This one is perhaps more cultural, making fun of the not-so-successful French Facebook, Copains d’Avant and some particularities of the French business enivornment. I tried to get these guys to put English subtitles on this video because it’s just that good. To anyone who doesn’t speak French, I’m honestly sorry that you’re missing out on this one.

More than a good laugh.

More than being good for a laugh, comedians may actually be good critics of business models and have good business ideas. For example, Franco-moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh presented a rather humorous game-like version of GPS navigation systems in Papa est en haut (2007). But if you get beyond his humorous presentation, what he was saying made a lot of sense ; GPS navigation should have levels, like a game, because some people require more detailed directions than others. Obviously today you have numerous systems with all kinds of possibilities but still, it was good idea for its time perhaps.

Nintendo gone bad.

An upcoming French comedian (who also stars in the Social Network parody posted above), Max Boublil, has gone after a more recent technology: the Nintendo Wii. But before you jump on me for promoting his X-rated humor, take a moment to realize that his idea could potentially sell. I’m pretty sure Max Boublil has hit the nail on the head as to why the Consumer Electronics Showcase is held the same week as the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas every year.

So Max, why don’t you pitch a startup?

Honestly, this is one idea I’m going to run with as soon as I get a chance in the future : I’d love to invite Max Boublil or any other willing French comedian to pitch a startup or judge a startup competition. The ideas don’t have to be ridiculous – but just out of the box a little. I think it could go down really well. Even if not,  it’ll still be entertaining regardless.