By choosing the name The Family when it created this popular start-up companion in 2013, Alice Zagury, Oussama Ammar and Nicolas Colin, the three co-founders, have developed a flair … Over the years , this emblematic figure of starting country has truly gathered around him a real community. But now he is experiencing another obligatory passage of family legends: internal heartbreaks. Alice Zagury and Nicolas Colin, two of the co-founders, are accusing a third, Oussama Ammar, of embezzling approximately three million euros. Several legal proceedings were launched against him in February and March. And the case is now experiencing a new twist. According to a press release published on Wednesday May 25 by The Family, management now suspects Oussama Ammar of using these funds to invest in a luxury property in Normandy. A further complaint was filed in Paris, and other legal actions are in preparation in England and Wales.
This “divorce” between the three co-founders, made public in March, is more than surprising. Despite criticisms released by investors over the past few months, the three seem, as in the early days of the adventure, united like five fingers. It must be said that these three strong personalities made it possible to breathe new life into this unprecedented model in France. In exchange for a stake, The Family offers turnkey support to start-ups to accelerate their growth. The structure can also boast a series of great successes with hundreds or more young shoots combined, with nuggets like the Heetch VTC application, the Captain Train ticket sales platform or the PayFit payroll management solution.
The “tech guru”
And in this great oil mechanism, everyone plays an important role. The dynamic Alice Zagury, former director of start-up accelerator Le Camping, is the woman in the field, a great connoisseur of the French ecosystem, the serious Nicolas Colin, enarque from the Finance Inspectorate, the architect of the project, and the Pedagogue Oussama Ammar, sometimes qualified as a “tech guru”, has expressed at numerous conferences his vision on entrepreneurship. An addition of talents that allowed The Family to assert itself in front of the stage tech in French. “I was part of The Family’s first fundraiser: they had a very interesting way of training and connecting with people, they understood everything on a human level”, said Frédéric Montagnon, a first-time investor. At the height of its heyday, the area of rue du Petit-Musc, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, saw the political and economic gratin pass, and even the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, received by Emmanuel Macron in 2015.
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However, last fall, Oussama Ammar announced his departure from The Family, and his desire to turn to the “world of Web 3”. Simple genius of one with the gift of feeling the trends where it is necessary to surf? The disclosure at the end of March of a complaint filed by several The Family companies for “breach of trust, forgery and use of forgery” against him shed new light on this rapid departure and this desire. for a change of scenery. He is alleged to have stolen approximately three million euros from several SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicle), a somewhat barbaric acronym to designate a “club” of investors coming together to place their marbles on companies. An activity developed by The Family since 2014, along with support for start-ups. “We want to meet the expectations of The Family’s first shareholders, who are looking for investment opportunities”, the managers explain.
A property in Normandy
Initially limited to young shoots supported by start-up accelerators, SPVs have gradually expanded into larger pieces, such as payment solution Stripe, the essential Airbnb or SpaceX, space company Elon Musk . Problem: nearly 3 million euros allocated for investments in these tech companies were transferred by Oussama Ammar to his personal holdings, and “from October 2020 to September 2021, despite repeated requests from everyone of working at The Family, we do not receive clear answers to our questions: not even a bit of documentation, or proof that the assets were acquired ”, explains Alice Zagury. In other words, not everyone knew where the millions of deep investors went, so the first legal proceedings were launched.
After several weeks of auditing, the Family is now bringing in new elements. “The suspicions are becoming clearer, due to the information available, in the fact that these amounts may in fact have been used for other purposes, particularly the financing of a prestigious real estate project in Normandy (. ..), as well as miscellaneous unjustified fees and expenses, “the statement said. Management would have also discovered other “illicit transfers for the benefit of Osama Ammar and his personal holdings”, from other SPVs. “We have focused our attention on the Domaine d’Ablon, and especially the costly construction site of a prestigious residence called Petit Manoir, which is nearing completion and the total cost is estimated at more than 2 million euros. This is extraordinary. the property is owned by a company controlled by Oussama Ammar.However, the construction schedule is exactly coincident with the period in which countless disputed transfers were made from the bank account of the SPV now managed by The Family in the Cayman Islands. These are the elements we want to send to the public prosecutor after the first complaint is filed, “Ivan Terel, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, told L’Express.
“A ubiquitous shortcut”, protested Christophe Delaune, the manager of Domaine d’Ablon, which brings together suites and prestigious accommodation, near Honfleur, and of which The Family is also a shareholder. An activity that is a bit far from the young shoots where the guide usually invests. “They were attracted to the project, and by the time everyone was in agreement, that wasn’t a problem”, he said. “Oussama liked the place and the concept of high-end hotels and he decided to help the owner build the place“ like you build a start-up ”, hopes The Family”, explain on their side the current leaders. A “love story” with areas to proceed for Oussama Ammar, on a personal basis, to create a company that buys land on the adjoining property to build the luxury property referred to in the Family’s accusations, the Petit Manoir .
A “movie character”
Contacted by L’Express, Oussama Ammar declined to comment on the merits of the case: “I don’t have much to tell you. This is a case that should be settled in court and not in all newspapers. I I’ll just remember that the aggrieved shareholders have a contract with The Family and not me. There is a legal person who unilaterally blames me rather than assumes responsibility for it. So I will defend myself at the speed of justice and not by the media tribunal. ” This case is not the first setback to justice by one who describes himself as a “movie character” on his Instagram account. In 2018, Osama Ammar already found himself in court for “breach of trust, forgery and use of forgery”. Facts set in the time when he was general manager of the young shoot Be Sport, a social network dedicated to the sport. But after the civil party’s withdrawal, Osama Ammar was “only” sentenced for a false invoice of 5,000 euros. A youthful mistake, he often pleads, but who is now asking some investors about the trust given to him by the other two co-founders. “Before the fall of 2020, management had no reason to suspect malfeasance or gross negligence on the part of Osama Ammar in The Family”, the leaders responded for them.
A case that is more of a series of other problems plaguing The Family. For several months, some investors criticized the lack of management transparency, a management they deemed inadequate, and the management of certain SPVs. Last topic of dissatisfaction: liquidity. They feel they don’t know when they will be able to get their money back. According to them, The Family’s economic model, which is primarily based on taking stakes in start-ups, and generating small profits (simply by organizing events or structuring events) SPV), is not sufficient to cover the operating costs of the group. “And here is now added a crisis of confidence,” estimates Frédéric Montagnon, now very critical of the functioning of The Family.
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Unfair accusations according to management, believing it only comes from a minority of disgruntled people. “If there was a bit of rock’n’roll management in the beginning, like any start-up company, things would have improved, communication efforts would have been made, there would have been no problems with more than 85 % of SPVs ( 62 in total), and the value of our portfolio of start-ups today is more than 50 million euros ”, replied the leaders. It remains to be seen if the Family will be able to recover after this typhoon.
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