The Truth: (Young) French VCs ARE on Twitter

In an earlier post, I applauded the French VCs that I found on Twitter. Turns out a majority of the French VC adoption of Twitter  is from the younger VC crowd. I’ve included them in my FrenchVC list on Twitter but here is a quick look at who they are.

Serena Capital

Has funded companies like Creads.org (@creads), Augure (@augurerepmgmt) and RSI Vidéo Technologies (@notontwitter). 

Young VCs from their firm on Twitter include: Marine Desbans (@mdesbans) and Jean-Baptiste Dumont (@jbdumont)

Ventech (@ventech_vc)

Ventech has a gorgeous portfolio and includes companies like Viadeo (@viadeo), Bonitasoft (@bonitasoft) and Awdio (@awdio_usa).

The just launched their official Twitter account last week – the same time as they announced their investment in London-based Muzicall (@muzicall).

Their young VC: Mounia Rkha (@moumsinette)

Alven Capital

Another VC firm with a very impressive portfolio, including MyFab (@myfabfr), Companeo (@companeo), MobileTag (@mobiletag) and more.

Their young VC on Twitter is: Jeremy Uzan (@jeremyuzan) 

Elaia Partners (@Elaia_Partners)

The only other firm with an official account, as far as I know. Another very nice portfolio, with investments in Criteo (@criteo), Goojet (@goojet) and WyPlay (@Wyplay). 

The account is run by their young VC, Samantha Jérusalmy.

**Feel free to let me know if I’ve left anyone out.

Why am I applauding these guys?

I think they’re definitely leading the way in terms of new technology adoption and are changing the face of the stereotypical, traditional VC. Also, as many of the new media-related products are oriented towards a younger crowd, having a younger VC on the team works nicely as they can also play the role of a beta tester. It’s nice to see that French VC firms are not only realizing the benefit, but actually implementing a mélange of the age-range.

Who is still MIA?

If I’m not mistaken, most of the bigger more well-known French VC firms are still nowhere to be seen! Sofinnova, Innovacom, Partech and the likes…

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The Truth: French VCs ARE on Twitter

One of my first posts was called “France, Meet Twitter” where I happened to very slightly criticize French VCs for their absence on Twitter.

Well, I take it back.

I discovered some very high-profile French VCs on Twitter, namely Guillaume Lautour (@G_Lautour) of AGF Private Equity. Even though I haven’t come across the Twitter accounts of anyone from Partech International, Sofinnova or Innovacom, it’s nice to see that there are French VCs making the move. Still, after the Founder’s Club event I went to on January 26th, only 2 of the 7 VCs I met had Twitter accounts (either personal accounts or accounts for their firm).

But wait, there is another pleasant surprise: the young VC.

Now here is where I get really impressed. There seems to be a younger generation of VCs in France and this generation is definitely active on Twitter. I’ve stumbled on youngsters from 360 Capital Partners, Alven Capital and Ventech for the moment, and I’m sure there are more to come.

So we can trash 2 stereotypes.

First, of the French financial services sector being over hierarchical and second, of there being no French VCs on Twitter.

Check out my French VCs list on Twitter and feel free to make suggestions for VCs to include.

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.

France, meet Twitter.

LeWeb came and left Paris and we couldn’t even get President Sarkozy – or Baby Sarkozy (Jean), for that matter – a verified Twitter account. Sad.

Especially after Robert Scoble’s post-LeWeb rant (which made me cringe because it seemed so Silicon Valley-centric and arrogant), I would’ve thought French companies would’ve tuned into the need to get on Twitter ASAP.

 A decent number of French start-ups actually were on Twitter prior to LeWeb.

Some (about 160) of which are included in Goojet’s Cedric Giorgi’s Twitter List. Still, I’ve been coming across more and more French start-ups sans Twitter account recently.

This doesn’t mean that US start-ups have mastered the art of tweeting, however.

Soon-to-go-public Solyndra, for example, is one Silicon Valley company without a Twitter account. But it looks like someone is already squatting their name, which brings me to my next point: even if you’re not going to tweet, get on Twitter and claim your account name ASAP.  I am more than certain that someone is going to come along and snatch it up if I don’t get there first (yes, Twitter squatting is one of the less original and more lamentable business ideas I’ve had recently).

What makes Silicon Valley unique is the quick adoption of different technologies.

Therefore, from a professional standpoint, being slow to adopt these new means of communication may send the wrong message. I’ve been particularly disappointed to see Invest in France (and other French governmental organizations) MIA from Twitter, while Ireland, Canada, the UK and even Spain have already registered their accounts (Spain is yet to tweet, but still). Germany, contrary to what I would’ve thought, seems to be in the same slow boat with France. 

Now, the only other finger I’m going to point is at French VCs, mainly Sofinnova, Innovacom and Partech. 

If you have an office in Silicon Valley and encourage new technology growth and adoption, I would have thought you’d be that much more inclined to get on Twitter just to try it out. And you may not care about Twitter but I bet some of your portfolio companies wouldn’t mind. That being said, I’d also love to see tweets from the CIA’s Silicon Valley-based venture group, In-Q-Tel.

Nonetheless, there are a few French organizations that I would like to commend for their Twitter accounts:

 Innovation Cluster Cap Digital, SME Support Organization OSEO (wouldn’t hurt to tweet a bit more), Paris-based Incubator and Coworking space LaCantine and Networking group Open Coffee Paris. I’m also rather proud of business school, HEC  and Paris’s public transportation account.

There. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, to the rest of France, please meet Twitter.