Jérémie Berrebi changes his life. Xavier Niel’s partner in the investment fund Kima Ventures does not renounce the daily study of the Torah, nor his commitment to the Israeli Orthodox Jewish community. Even less so for the education of his eleven children, whom he and his wife are raising in their large house in Bnei Brak, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
The young 36-year-old business angel, probably one of the most active in France in recent years, is going to shake up his way of working. No more cascading deals of several tens of thousands of euros, at the rate of two or three equity investments per week. Jeremie Berrebi wants to shift up a gear. After six years of supporting the founder of Free to invest more than 35 million euros in almost 250 start-ups, he wants to place himself as a super advisor with the largest family office of the planet, a sort of investment banker for multi-billion angels. †These are fortunes that represent five to ten times Xavier’s.”, blows the investor. He estimates his new average ticket at 10 million euros.
Something has clearly changed in the small world of French business angels. When Challenges published its first selection of 100 start-ups, five years ago a famous trio dominated the investor landscape: Xavier Niel, Jacques-Antoine Granjon and Marc Simoncini. The three men remain very much present even though Marc Simoncini has announced that he plans to sell the holdings of his Jaïna fund within three years to move forward. But according to the ranking compiled by the site Fundme.fr, which connects start-ups and investors, dozens of other personalities have since risen to the rank of sponsors in this French universe of fast-growing companies, such as a Jérôme Lascombe, the founder from the PR agency Hopscotch, or Olivier David, a 36-year-old repeat entrepreneur.
“We must not reduce the world of business angels to the stars of the system”, claims Tanguy de la Fouchardière, vice president of France Angels, which brings together some 75 associations of French business angels. In total, 4,442 individual investors financed 305 start-ups last year for an amount of almost 40 million euros. †We are seeing more and more interesting dossiers, we don’t lack imagination or entrepreneurs”he notes.
And according to him, tax exemption comes last among their drivers: “Taxes are levied on retirees, not corporations. Of course, without losing sight of the financial investment – but also the inherent risk that it entails – more and more managers and seasoned entrepreneurs are offering their time and skills to start-ups. Launched in France in 2012 by Xavier Milin, the Startup Leadership program offers executives from large groups the opportunity to sponsor and advise young entrepreneurs on a voluntary basis for six months, without any financial contribution.
“What’s important for an entrepreneur is to have people who help you not to screw up when you have your head in the wheel”, summarizes Francesco Maio, co-founder of 50 Partners, who last year launched Fashion Capital Partners, a fund that invests primarily in fashion and technology. About fifteen very different personalities bring money and time with them. †And no one is tax free”, assures Francesco Maio. Because startup cycles have their reasons that financial logic doesn’t understand…
No release for five to ten years
Fabrice Grinda knows something about it. He founded several start-ups before becoming one of the most active business angels in the world. Now based in New York, he has invested in nearly 200 companies in 17 years. The evaluation rules are very strict before deciding, but there are mainly three conditions: invest in what you understand, like the project, like the team. The rest is a matter of feeling and patience: “I lost money in 60% of the companies I invested inhe confides. To succeed, you must have at least ten companies in your portfolio and understand that you have to wait five to ten years before you have the chance to leave.”
Marc Ménasé, founder of Menlook.com, waited nine years for the resale of Kredity, a credit comparator, to earn 25 times the stake. The average release time is about seven years. But the big hits remain exceptional. Especially in France, where all players regret the liquidity problem and difficult exit conditions for investors. Successful IPOs of start-ups are exceptions in France. The prettiest Exit are done by selling to large groups, which remain rare even if the giants of the CAC 40 have multiplied in recent times declarations of love to entrepreneurs. The angels would love to believe it.