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Has Paris FinTech scene finally kicked off?

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-France

This post was originally published on Medium.

Last week, not one but three Paris-based FinTech startups announced a fundraising: Finexkap completed a $22.5M fundraising to launch the first French on-line working capital financing platform, Lendix raised €7M to fuel the growth of their crowdlending platform for SMEs and Paytop received€3,3M from historical investor Truffle Capital (link in French) to scale its international payment card solution.

Until this year, I must admit that apart from first movers like Litchee(money pot collection) or KissKissBankBank (crowdfunding), the FinTech scene in Paris was almost nonexistent. According to an Accenture study, even less than 10 FinTech VC deals were done between 2004 and 2013. But it seems that 2014 is changing all that. Founded in March 2014, the Paris FinTech meetup now counts more than 350 members.

With this growing interest for FinTech, we’re seeing more and more startups popping up. The last time I counted, there were more than 50 startups just in Paris with my personal favorite being Marie Quantier andPayplug. On top of that, new regulations favorable to crowdfunding have opened the way to several crowdlending services like Lendopolis and Prêt d’Union.

Don’t open the champagne bottle just yet. Paris is still way behind London is terms of funding and valuation for FinTech startups, with the likes of TransferWise ($1B valuation) or FundingCircle (raised $65M earlier this year). And I’m not even talking about accelerator programs focused on FinTech like Startupbootcamp FinTech, Level39 and the Barclay’s accelerator (powered by Techstars).

Despite all that, it seems to me that the time is finally right for Paris to get into the race and host FinTech champions that could become as great as Criteo or Blablacar.

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Entrepreneurship at Supélec

Yesterday, for the second time this year, I was invited by the Supélec engineering school, to talk about tech entrepreneurship for 3 hours. As you can see below, my slides are very much inspired by Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad course. Some thoughts and comments about this course:

  • 50 last year engineering students attended the speech and more or less half of them seemed interested by starting their company. That is way better than I would have thought
  • Students were much more interested by practical examples than concepts
  • I still get questions like: “should I start my startup in college?”, “what happens if I fail?”, “how can I work in a big company after a startup?”

All in all, it seems that more and more engineering students are interested by the startup world and it feels great :)


 

 

Start your company in college: a good idea?

This post was originally published on Medium.

French newspaper Les Echos published today a series of articles on student entrepreneurship. According to the article, 24% of new company founders in France are below 30 years old and 9% of them are below 25. In 2002, only 20% of founders were below 30. While the explanation of this new trend is relatively easy to find (more and more role models a la Mark Zuckerberg, using the auto-entrepreneur status to do freelance jobs, a desire of Generation X to be more in control of their lives), I wanted to take some time to reflect on starting a company while being in college.

When I started StartUp42 accelerator 2 years ago in partnership with EPITA, it was obvious to many that most of the projects we selected would be founded by EPITA students. In reality, and since we’re open to all, EPITA applications represent more or less 20% of all applications received and just half of them are founded by students (i.e. have not yet graduated at the time of application). Nevertheless, over the past 4 batches, we consistently selected at least 1 student startup per session (EPITA or not). Here is what I found out.

Why College is the perfect time to launch your startup

  • The trade-offs of starting a company are definitely lower: at 21, you don’t have a family to feed, a loan to pay back or already high living standards. So living of noodles until you startup grows and working nights and weekends will not affect much your lifestyle
  • The fear of failure is also lower: no one will ever blame you if you fail because, hey, who can blame a 20-something to start a company. More experienced people might fear for their reputation in the marketplace and difficulty to find a new job in case the startup fails
  • Everyone wants to help (sometimes not necessary the most helpful though)
  • With hundreds of other students, teachers, researchers, you’re in a perfect micro-climate to test your idea before releasing it to the world

Why College is not the perfect time to launch your startup

  • As very well said by Paul Graham in his recent guest lecture at Stanford (and subsequent essay), “starting a successful startup is similar to having kids in that it’s like a button you push that changes your life irrevocably […]. You can do things in your early 20s that you can’t do as well before or after, like plunge deeply into projects on a whim and travel super cheaply with no sense of a deadline.”
  • You only come up with ideas to change your life (I mean your student life) and miss out on an enormous amount of other business opportunities
  •  Some people want to take advantage of you, since they think you’re young and unexperienced (and they will probably succeed)

So?

Well I believe the answer is inside yourself and, as summarised by David Cohen in his Do More Faster book: “if you can quit, you should”. In other words, if you can’t stop yourself from starting your company, do it!

Publicis M&A

Publicis Groupe, one of the “Big Four” agency companies (and headquartered in Paris), announced last week the purchase of a 20% stake in Matomy Media Group, an Israeli digital media advertising company. Since it was the second Publicis acquisition that week, I started to dig into their M&A activity. Here is what I found out:

  • Very interestingly, none of these deals concerned technology companies. The companies were for the most part acquired for talent or regional reach
  • None of them were located in France. On the other hand, 7 out of the 22 companies were located in South Africa

I must admit to be really disappointed by the absence of AdTech startups acquisition. Notwithstanding the Criteo acquisition rumour as well as Publicis’ CEO recent comments on the group digitalisation, this digitalisation is definitely not happening. At least in terms of M&A.