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Welcome to the first edition of our monthly French Tech News roundup. I am your host and guide, Chris O’Brien, an American journalist who moved from Silicon Valley to France in 2014 and am, among other things, the founder of The French Tech Journal newsletter.
When I arrived, the French Tech ecosystem was just gathering steam, and I might have wondered if there would be enough “news” to fill such a roundup. Let me assure you: that’s no longer a problem. In fact, day-to-day, I’m drowning in announcements and can barely keep up. But I’ll do my best to sort through the pile and highlight the most interesting stuff and people so after you read this summary you’ll sound like a veteran insider and all your new French startup friends will marvel at your acumen.
So, let’s dig in….
It’s hard to say what THE big news of the month was, but Vestiaire Collective certainly would be a favorite for the prize. Vestiaire kicked off the month by announcing it had raised 216M$ in venture capital, making it France’s 11th unicorn (or licorne if you’re working on your French startup vocabulary). The circular economy company fits neatly into the nation’s Tech For Good campaign thanks to its marketplace for second-hand clothes. But it’s also another notch on the belt toward the Macron government’s goal of creating 25 unicorns by 2025.
In terms of international buzz, France managed to capture a bit of the white-hot light surrounding NFT or non-fungible tokens. NFT startup Arianee raised 9M€ in venture capital for its luxury branding platform. That came just two weeks after Sorare, which uses NFTs to power its virtual trading card platform, raised 50M€ from a gaggle of A-level investors. The whole world suddenly seems to be obsessed with NFTs and both companies are well-positioned to ride this wave.
Speaking of waves, cancer care startup Resilience made some big ones when it came out of stealth on March 16 to details its plans for reinventing health care. Its 5M€ financing isn’t all the money in the world. Instead, what turned heads were the CVs of 2 of the co-founders: Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou. Lazorthes was co-founder of Leetchi, a crowdfunding company and a spinoff called MangoPay that were both bought by Crédit Mutuel Arkéa. And Benhamou was co-founder of HR SaaS startup PeopleDoc which he sold to Ultimate Software in 2018. That’s a heavy-hitting lineup of talent and the kind of repeat entrepreneurs that are increasingly common in France. The opportunity was so strong that Benhamou, who had vowed that his entrepreneurial days were behind him, couldn’t resist the temptation: “I said to myself ‘never again’,” he wrote on LinkedIn, “but there is definitely no effective vaccine against the virus of entrepreneurship.”
Calling all investors…
The money continues to flow into the French Tech ecosystem. VC firm Breega just announced the closing of its third fund for 90M€. This comes just a few weeks after Serena closed a new 300M€ fund, and Founders Future started its 50M€ impact fund.
Beyond VC-land the French state is also priming the pump. Following a series of cyberattacks, the government has allocated 1.3 billion euros for cybersecurity funding that is designed in part to accelerate French security startups. Meanwhile, state bank Bpifrance said it plans to double its investment in Deep Tech startups as part of a 5-year plan to boost research-based startups. France has big ambitions in this space and after creating 200 Deep Tech startups in 2 years, Bpifrance is hungry for more.
If you are new to France, one name worth knowing is Taig Khris. His back story alone is an amazing tale. This former extreme sports star once jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing rollerblades. I met Khris in December 2014 when I interviewed him at Le Web about the launch of his new telecom company On/Off. You can read a profile I wrote of him and his journey here. Now he’s back in the news with the launch of his new company, Albums, a photo-sharing app that wants to take on Instagram. Gulp. A daunting challenge for sure. But Khris isn’t flinching, so…game on!
Finally, Parrot captured the world’s imagination with its consumer drones. But that consumer drone bubble popped, and now Parrot is trying to reinvent itself to focus on commercial. Henri Seydoux founded Parrot in 2014 and has been its only CEO. You can read my interview with him here to get a sense of his dedication to turning this company around:
“I think I’ve never worked so much. I’m working 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. I sleep at my computer and I’m managing the company and writing software. Writing code has always been very interesting. But I think now it’s even more interesting than ever.”
And now you’re caught up! See you next month.