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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, that’s right my friends; while Silicon Valley was over there spreading rumors that it’s impossible to score VC money in France, the French government got a little creative.
Since 2007, French tax payers can lower their wealth tax (ISF) by investing in a company.
French taxpayers can now reduce their wealth tax by up to 75% via making an investment of €50,000.
In the beginning, it wasn’t obvious if any magic had been made; were French tax payers going to go knocking directly on the doors of companies they wanted to invest in? And how were emerging start-ups to sniff out the money?
Et voilà, le VC: what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine.
That’s right, who better to play the intermediary than a VC.
And now for a little name-dropping.
One example of a company that was recently funded this way is Proxi-Business.com, a French e-commerce solutions platform, which scored €1.15 million (I might cry if I convert this to dollars) at the beginning of this week from a company called Audacia.
Audacia has also funded companies like French organic e-commerce site, Brindilles.fr, IT security company, ASP 64, and a few more.
And they’re not alone. France’s darling start-ups DailyMotion and Deezer – which both scored funding in October 2009 – have received funding from AGF Private Equity, who raised over €35 million in June 2009 through an ISF campaign. Not too shabby if you ask me.
So who is laughing now?
Ok, ok. Maybe this scheme hasn’t dramatically changed the investment practices of local VCs (yet!). But it certainly looks like VCs aren’t agnostic with regards to this new resource (here is a non-exhaustive list of French companies that received VC funding in 2009).
It’s all about being green.
Inc. Magazine published an article last month on San Diego-based ecoATM, a start-up developing kiosk or ATM-like machines where people can deposit their old cellphones for cash. Sounds like a brilliant idea. I remember seeing a company that wanted to do the exact same thing at a Silicon Valley Launch event last year (or maybe it was them).
Best part: the ATM still gives you cash.
For ecoATM, a used Blackberry or iPhone goes for $50 to $55. They estimate around $12.2 billion worth of used phones are just sitting in people’s drawers, waiting to be cashed-in.
Not so fast.
Why lug your phones around to track down one of these silly machines when you could just slip your phone in the mail? With the machines, there may also be the added possibility of a technical slip leaving you with a little less cash than you bargained for.
2 sites that do the trick: Love2Recycle and MonExTel.
France’s Love2Recycle.fr (Love2Recycle.com) is an inititaive put forward by LaPoste and Anovo, buying used phones for up to €250. Users log-on to the site, select the phone they want to turn in, send it and then receive their check in the mail.
Another site that works in a similar fashion is MonExTel.com. The company behind the site, Recommerce Solutions, buys the phones, which are then repaired by Ateliers du Bocage and resold.
Oh, and of course there is always the Telcos.
Bouygues Telecom, for example, is launching their mobile phone recycling program on January 18. Although mobile phones recycled through their site will go to MonExTel.com.
Great short term solution?
I think that telephone recycling solutions are terrific in the short term. But wouldn’t it be a little more green if companies encouraged consumers to change consumption habits althogether?
Ok, well not exactly.
“Hadopi” is actually the name of the French law for creative protection rights on the internet. The name comes from the organization that oversees internet copyright protection, the Haute autorité pour la diffusion des oeuvres et la protection des droits sur Internet (Higher Authority for the Distrubution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet), which is to be operational at the end of Spring 2010.
Hadopi’s goals: fight againt internet piracy and develop legal digital content offers.
In essence, they’re supposed to be protecting digital creative rights.
The problem: that logo looks familiar.
Hadopi’s logo recently came under fire as it seems the font, which was designed for France Telecom, was protected and used without authorization. Whooooops.
Well, maybe next time they’ll be more creative.
(images from LePost.fr :p)