It’s funny – one of the more popular posts that I’ve written on this blog was the 13 hot French entrepreneurs under 30 list. It still gets hits and it was published over a year ago. So I figure it’s time to give it a little update for 2 reasons: first, because some of those people are no longer under 30 and also because there are definitely new names to add to the list! Yes, my friends, there has definitely been a dramatic increase in the number of young entrepreneurs in France. So in no particular order, here comes some names that I feel should be added to the list.
1. Anne-Béatrice Sonnier (MyArchiveBox)
Anne-Béatrice just made the age cut-off but definitely deserves to be on this list. Going against the grain, she made the move from investment to being an entrepreneur in a Katy Turner or Avid Larizadeh type-of-way. With an insanely technical product – digital archiving – she’s managed to launch and run things without a co-founder. Pretty. Impressive. Follower her @annebeatrice
2. Emilie Gobin & Charles Digby-Smith & Vincent Plazen (L’Usine à Design)
To be honest, I can’t really say that I know Emilie’s co-founders as well as I know her. But these 20-something-year-olds are definitely doing a stellar job in a rather hot yet difficult space (remember MyFab?): e-commerce for customized furniture. Her team has already managed to secure over 1 million in financing – plus she’s the one stole the show at our Girls in Tech Lady Pitch Night! Follow the team on Twitter at @enamilys & @charles_ds & @vincentappearstobeMIA (Emilie & Charles pictured)
3. Antonin Chartier & Sacha Bostoni (Jimmy Fairly)
You may think these two are brothers but I can assure you they are not. The beauty behind the story of youngster team Antonin and Sacha is not just that their company was born from Startup Weekend…in TOULOUSE…but that it also managed to secure €200K in just 3 weeks (What? You thought it was hard to get funded in France?). Sacha also left his cushy job at Orange/France-Telecom (somehow still considered one of “THE” companies to work for in France) to live the bootstrapping dream. Love it. Follow the boys @antoninjf & @sachabn
4. Arthur Philbé & Florian Galby (Weblib)
How could I not write about a successful team in the Sciences Po Incubator?! I’ve talked about this company before as an innovative way of adapting the “Velib” or bike-rental model to tech. Providing tablets, netbooks, etc. in tons of public locations and businesses, co-founders Arthur and Florian are not at all in an easy business – especially in a world where people usually just turn to their cell phones for internet. Regardless, they have done an amazing job at providing access to a bigger screen in places you would probably want it most. Follow the dynamic duo @floriangalby & @oùestarthur
5. Quentin Reygrobellet & Mathilde Lacombe (Joliebox)
This is the one team on the list where I have not yet had the chance to meet either of the co-founders. That being said, Quentin and Mathilde have been turning heads with their local Birchbox competitor, Joliebox. But not only are they up against the Accel-backed US sensation, locally they compete with Glossybox – founded by Germany’s ruthless Samwer brothers. But according to TechCrunch France readers, these youngsters have a much better product in place! Keep tabs on them @quentinrey & @lavieenblonde (Mathilde pictured)
7. Olivier Issaly & Vincent Guth (Owlient)
I mentioned these 20-something-year-old founders at the end of last year’s post. I’m a huge fan of their story and also invited CEO Olivier to speak at our TechCrunch France Remix event last november. Launching the company while in school – the team ultimately said au revoir to their classmates after they realized they were making a proper living with their terrific gaming company. And as if that wasn’t good enough, they were just bought by French gaming giant Ubisoft for an undisclosed amount. Follow the talented team @oissaly & @vingtcent (Olivier pictured)
8. Olivier Desmoulin & Marc Chataigner (Super Marmite)
Yes, I know what you’re thinking and yes, these two names bring us to 14 entrepreneurs and not 13 (oh well). Another team born from Startup Weekend, these guys set out to redefine home cooking made it to the top 3 LeWeb finalists of 2010 after just a few months. Killer. Follow them @odesmoulin & @marcchataigner (image of Olivier pitching at LeWeb)
Honorary: Ismael Nzouetom (I-dispo)
OK, yes, there are many more deserving names that should be on the list. I adore Aurélie Perruche of Likiwi and MaSpatule, the boys at Ykone (as always), Tumbup and a number of other startups. But one entrepreneur that absolutely blew my mind was Ismael Nzouetom of I-dispo. I saw him pitch for the first time at Microsoft Windows Phone 7 app competition (yes, in front of Steve Ballmer & Co.) and I think it was hands down one of the absolute best pitches I have seen in France. He may not have won the app competition that day but he did manage to bring Kima Ventures and Jacques-Antoine Granjon on board as investors. Nice. Keep tabs on him @ismosoft
I love them youngsters.
Before you start thinking that I have some sort of unhealthy interest in young entrepreneurs à la Lewis Caroll, let me explain pourquoi. It’s hard to name the European equivalents of Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Rose and Sean Parker. The job market is more hierarchical so it is harder for young entrepreneurs to gain the credibility they need. Some of the young entrepreneurs we invited to discuss this issue last year at TechCrunch France Remix have incredible first-hand stories of how they had to overcome this situation. Many people would argue that young entrepreneurs have it easy because it is “easiest” to get into the startup world when you are fresh out of school with no expectations – but there are other challenges that youngsters have to face that someone with more experience and a developed network may not. And to top it all off, these kids are the ones that are really changing the local face of the startup scene and making it seem cool to have a startup.
Oh, Peter Thiel.
I’ve mentioned before how I feel about the French educational system and its impact on failure. And I don’t expect things to change over night. Entrepreneurs have certain character traits that may be easier to develop at a younger age. While there are mixed opinion’s of Peter Thiel’s 20 under 20 program, I do think that it is nice to have programs like these to give young people the option of going into entrepreneurship – especially in a country that still has a very traditional approach to education. I would love to see more programs fostering and supporting young entrepreneurs throughout Europe.
If you know of a young European entrepreneur that deserves a little credit, feel free to mention it in the comments or shoot me an email.