Why the business angels of the Grandes Ecoles form a common network

“We mainly fund start-ups in the seed phase.” Rémi Uzzan is president of the brand new ISEP business angels club. It consists of former students of the technical school (electronics, IT, telecom) and was launched at the end of 2013. It is the newest of these clubs bringing together former students who want to invest their time and money in thesupport for promising young companies† In recent years, for example, many alumni networks have created a structure of business angels. Usually it is a simple association, more rarely an investment fund.

Polytechnicians aggregate the networks of other Grandes Ecoles

The oldest structure of business angels of former students comes from l’X. The Polytechnicians have been interested in entrepreneurship since the late 1990s a platform for exchanges between alumni, dedicated to corporate takeovers. “As we received many requests for help with creation, in 2005 we launched the XMP Business Angels club that allows alumni of X, Mines and Bridges to fund start-ups,” explains Jacques-Charles Flandin, founder, from.

XMP’s business angels are naturally interested in alumni project leaders, but not only. Marie Davideau, EDC graduate, raised €160,000 from l’X business angels to launch Lilibricole, hands-on classes for girls in Paris and Lyon according to the principle of cooking workshops. “It doesn’t matter what education the entrepreneur has! We tackle projects wherever they come from, as long as they are innovative and have a start with implementation”, confides the chairman.

After supporting and financing dozens of projects in eight years, XMP Business Angels created the Badge network at the end of 2012 – for Business angels from the Grandes Ecoles that unites a dozen clubsall from technical or management schools that are members of the CGE (Conference of Grandes Ecoles): AgroParisTech, Centrale Paris, EDHEC, ENS Paris, ENSTA ParisTech, ESPCI ParisTech and ISAE are already part of it.

“In 2013, our network supported more than 40 young innovative companies, participated in the financing of 17 start-ups for a total invested amount of almost € 1,319,000, ie an average of about 77,500 euros per project”, explains Jacques-Charles Flandin. Now with 10 major partner schools and more than 200 active business angels on the clock, the Badge network is at a critical size that allows it to receive more applications: between 800 and 1,000 projects are added each year, 80% of which are from older entrepreneurs. 25 to 35 years old.

“Our ambition is to have 20 to 25 partners to invest with by the end of 2014. Every major school that is a member of the CGE has a calling to join us”, says Jacques-Charles Flandin. Among the institutions with which discussions have begun: Audencia Nantes, ESIEE Paris or even Paris-Dauphine University.

Polytechnicians - © S.Lecherbonnier

Art and Crafts distinguish themselves

However, if there’s one network that doesn’t join the business angels of the Grandes Ecoles, it’s that of the Gadzarts. With about 110 members, the former Arts et Métiers want to remain independent† Their business angels Arts et Métiers Business Angels was founded in 2008 and has six active branches in the region. “Since our inception, we have funded 35 projects,” explains Pierre Orsoni, the general secretary. The average amount invested in each project is approximately €100,000† Our members love techno or digital economy projects, but do not exercise exclusivity. Most invest in one or two projects a year for €10,000 to €20,000.”

In the regions, the bulk of Gadzart’s business angels is Rhône-Alpes, which has about 40 members. About twenty former business angels work in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The Arts et Métiers play on their specificity with decentralized branches in the regions.

The Gadzarts have also established their own investment fund, Liancourt Invest, a SIBA (business angels investment company). This fund reserved for members of Arts et Métiers Business Angels allows them to make pooled investments. Minimum subscription amount: € 10,000 anyway.

Networking or building partnerships is key to boosting business angel club activity

management schools: between timid beginnings and alliances

Astonishing! While HEC has the slogan “Learn to dare”, former students of the great school of Jouy-en-Josas do not have a business angel club within HEC Alumni, their alumni association. Note: many of them are already doing this on an individual basis.

At ESCP Europe, the alumni business angels were only established in 2012. It has yet to gain momentum, even though it has already funded four start-ups for amounts ranging from €50,000 to €150,000.

As for EM Lyon, it launched its club in 2011. Pragmatism prevailed: from the start, the designers approached existing Lyon structures.
Same concern for realism ESSEC BA, founded in 2010, which has signed a partnership with Paris Business Angels to benefit from its know-how (10 years of existence) and the strength of its network (150 members).

Indeed, joining a network or entering into partnerships is the key to boosting the activity of business angel clubs. First of all, the French market for business angels is still small† It is estimated at 4,500 people in France according to France Angels, which brings together 82 networks in the territory – ten times less than the UK, which is said to have more than 40,000 business angels.
If a core of 5 to 10 active members is enough to start a club, it is difficult to run it and attract quality projects for less than 15 Especially sincea member who invests one year does not necessarily have to invest the next, less due to lack of money than time to monitor projects and coach young entrepreneurs. Belonging to a larger network thus opens up access to more files and makes it possible to co-invest in the capital of young companies. Dauphine Business Angels, founded in 2009, is a network of alumni and yet important with more than 50 members, so in 2014 it wants to join the network of business angels of the Grandes Ecoles.

It’s hard to run a business angel club and attract quality projects with less than 15 members

GEM, a business angel integrated into the curriculum

In Grenoble, GEM Angels, the structure created by graduates of the management school (Gem Graduate Network) takes the form of an investment fund. “Our 31 business angels are all GEM graduates and hold management, commercial, financial, R&D and project management positions,” explains Benoît Giroud, President of GEM Angels Participations.

Remarkable educational initiative: the link with the school’s specialized master’s degree in business. “Gem Angels is the first business angel structure integrated into students’ academic curriculum, welcomes Benoît Giroud. The project sourcing and evaluation process is partly performed by students of the MS entrepreneurs, allowing them to combine the professional side and the theoretical knowledge learned during their courses.”
In fact, unlike other structures that arise from the Grandes Ecoles, Gem Angels intervene in projects carried out exclusively by its students or graduates† A skillful tactic that enhances the uniqueness and positioning of the school, which strives to make innovation its trademark.

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