Le Seed: FCombinator and the TechEtoiles

Last week, Zlio’s Jérémie Berrebi and Iliad’s Xavier Niel announced the launch of their new seed fund, Kima Ventures, which I wrote about in TechCrunch Europe. Kima’s aim is to invest between €5,000 and €150,000 in 100 start-ups within the next 2 years.

Uh, that’s a lot of seed.

There’s been a lot of whispering about whether or not this is a good idea. How on earth do they plan to manage 100 companies, let alone make that many investments? With something like 52 weeks/year, Kima would need to make roughly 1 investment per week to reach their goal.

A dime a dozen.

Personally, I don’t really understand the criticism. It isn’t exactly raining seed money in France. And while Niel and Berrebi may be more occupied with making investments than actually managing them, entrepreneurs will have the added benefit of working with 2 of the hottest names in French tech – and their networks. What’s not to like about that? And the relationship comes with a check – better than lining-up at OSEO, no?

Two of a kind.

Funny enough, Marc Simoncini of Meetic announced the launch of a similar seed fund, Jania Capital, only several months before (be sure to check out their gorgeous website). If nothing else, I think France’s seed situation is about to dramatically improve.

FCombinator and the TechEtoiles.

The one model that seems to be locally MIA, is the YCominator or TechStars-type model: also known as mentorship with seed money.  Obviously there is Seedcamp, which is pan-European, but what about a YCombinator program for France? The Founder Institute, which just launched its Paris program, offers the mentorship component without the seed. So until someone decides to put this system into place, Kima and Jaina are essentially the next best thing for seed funding in France.

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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.

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.