I attended the French tech XMas bash yesterday. Hosted in the nice offices of Balderton, right next to King’s Cross Saint Pancras, it was good to meet new faces and catch up with acquaintances. Great food and drinks but, refreshingly, no mince pies. Well, it was a French affaire after all and it’s one of the XMas thing I never really understood (Brussel sprout being another one of course). More importantly, there was an interesting talk by Bernard Liautaud from Balderton. Balderton raised a recent found of £375Mn and already made some investment in various businesses.Bernard Liautaud mentioned the 5 values that drive Balderton.
The 5 (well 4 here) values driving Balderton
I could only hear 4 of these values as the room was quite busy so here goes
1- The next European giant will be a technology company. Needless to say, there are in Europe very few big giants compared to the United States. However, the European landscape has evolved to the point where it enables the creation of more ventures and allow them to scale up. One of the classic example that Bernard Liautaud mentioned was SAP. A 30 years old giant, with the largest market cap in Germany, more than €120bn. It is bigger than car manufacturing and than any other company and is leading the charge
2- The second thing was the belief of Balderton in pioneers. People with huge ambitions and dreams. And there are no reasons why California is better suited to foster and support these people. They can come from anywhere in Europe
3- The third belief mentioned was the belief in engineering serendipity. The infamous outcome by chance. I have to admit that one of my belief is “I’ve never been so lucky since I’ve been working so hard” aka forced serendipity. And Balderton is keen to play his role in enabling this luck by organising these networking events
4- The fourth belief mentioned was the belief in ethics. Something that the team at Balderton is hearing more and more (which I have to admit is encouraging). Having a strong set of ethics prevents companies from making large mistakes. And as these mistakes can eradicate entire companies and leadership, Bernard Liautaud mentioned that Balderton wants to invest in companies that have this strong set of ethics.
I would argue that it is probably difficult for an investor to actually validate the presence of ethics driving a company. Asking how prospection is made, if there is a replicable sales process in place or current POC going on is rather straightforward. But ethics is probably harder to quantify. Nonetheless, it is nice to hear from a VC company a focus on ethics.
The fifth belief, sadly, you will have to ask it directly to Bernard Liautaud!
Spotlight on two French start-ups.
Marie Sagarzazu presented briefly iadvize , a conversational marketing platform going strong in France and starting to expand in the UK. Julien Callede presented Made.com which actually went the other way round, having started in the UK before eventually expanding in France.
French tech bits and pieces.
This was a French tech event in London. So, fair game, there was a little bit of chest beating about the strength of the tech start-up … in France. Whilst one could argue London and Paris are competing, along with Berlin, to retain / gain the title of start-up city, there seem to be some indicators that Paris is doing rather well at the moment, compared to London and Berlin. The slide above, I understand, was data that came up in a recent FT article. Three salient data points worth highlighting were:
- More than 2bn raised in capital venture
- Only 3-4 days were required in 2016 to found a company (though I wonder if the hurdle of the infamous URSAFF is still there)
- Largest start-up campus with the so called Station F
So, all in all, quite an interesting event and big thanks to the organising team and notably Audrey Vanderoost (reach out to Audrey if you have any question about French Tech in London or if you want to lend a hand!).