The year 2022 is a quick start for French Tech. While French unicorns were still counted on the fingers of one hand three years ago, the sector welcomed in January its 26th start-up worth more than a billion dollars (Spendesk). In the same month, Back Market announced that it had raised 450 million euros. A few weeks later, Doctolib announced that it had completed a 500 million euro funding round, making it the biggest tricolor unicorn in the process. The tempo is accelerating in the French tech scene. However, some stones can still be removed from the path of blue-white-red start-ups, says Agathe Wautier, president and co-founder of the entrepreneurs ’collective The Galion Project. The latter was launched on March 17 Galion.exe, a new investment fund dedicated to seeding.
L’Express: Is there access to financing for French start-ups that has improved over the years?
Agatha Wautier: For five years, there has been real acceleration. Previously, access to financing was very difficult. When we won 500,000 euros in series A, well, a million is a dream. From now on, series A is between 3 and 7 million euros. Finally, French start-ups have access to a global financing market. The arrival of SoftBank, which is one of the largest tech investment funds in the world, along with Frenchman Michel Combes (named No. 2 in the group, the editor notes) is changing the scene. We also see that foreign investors are coming in earlier and earlier in ventures. As a result, the values of French start-ups have finally been brought to standard in what is being done elsewhere.
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Why launch a new investment fund in this context?
Accessing financing is easier than ever, but there are still steps to improve, especially at the start-up level. This is where there is the most risk, but also the most opportunity. The British knew this very well. In the United Kingdom, approximately thirty funds are involved at this stage. In France, there are only 4 or 5 investors in the start -up stages. This is problematic because companies need these funds, but also the support that comes with it. With our new seed -focused investment fund, Galion.exe, we will do all of these aspects. The fund is owned by more than 250 entrepreneurs. The investment team is led by Willy Braun and Kevin Kuipers. The strategic committee has five people, four of whom are permanent: Didier Kuhn, Thierry Petit, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle and Carole Walter. The fifth member will be selected according to his or her area of expertise prior to the review of each file. The goal is to get into the capital of a dozen companies per year, through investments ranging from 1 to 4 million euros.
Is funding the only barrier to the growth of French start-ups?
There were also recruitment issues that arose. Admittedly, we already have an entire generation of executives cutting their teeth on Criteo and other Blablacar. They have already experienced various stages of the development of start-ups. They can reuse and send appropriate models to young shoots that hunt them. But there is still a lack of problematic tech profiles. It numbers in the hundreds of thousands of people. We need to train more people in digital professions.
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How to accelerate the development of French start-ups?
They need to be taught how to manage hypergrowth. One of the most sensitive points is recruitment, as these companies may have to double or quadruple their workforce in a semester. Not easy to manage. You need to have the right reflexes and install, from the beginning, the appropriate corporate culture that will allow these changes to work smoothly. The profiles recruited will be strategic. By ensuring we have equal, inclusive teams, we are laying a very solid foundation that will advance the company’s growth. There is also the complex question of covering new markets. Companies are advised to have an international perspective from the beginning. Don’t just start with France, but target certain countries from the beginning, for example France and Belgium. Developing all of its documentation in English and quickly recruiting English-speaking profiles will save valuable time.