Last week Startups.be in partnership with the Innovation Hub, empowered by BNP Paribas Fortis, brought a delegation of more than 10 Belgian startups to Paris. Our three intense days of the Go Global Paris mission were tailored to reach ultimate goals: to discover the unique startup scene and tackle its numerous commercial opportunities for settling and starting business in Paris.
Together with our partners we have organized a wide spectrum of activities where Belgian startups could meet their peers, VCs, accelerators and incubators, and experience one of Europe's and world’s foremost innovation hubs.
We've learned a lot, and we are excited to run through the highlights of our increadible 3-day journey...
The matchmaking between startups and corporates
The first meeting was at BNP Paribas’s incubator named We Are Innovation. The goal was to understand how the French bank helps startups in practice. Since 2012 BNP has proved to be one of the most active banks, and has supported more than 2000 startups. The bank launches multiple programs connecting startups with big corporates, thus giving an increadible boost to entrepreneurship. The matchmaking occurs as client or as investor.
The goal of having 30% of startups coming from abroad
Another incubator on our list was Paris&Co. It is an organisation helping French and international startups that want to develop their activities in Paris. With multiple incubators all around Paris and in different sectors (foodtech, digital publishing, sustainable city, e-health, tourism, etc.) they cover a broad aspect of digital startups’s needs. In addition, they also welcome foreign startups - the goal is to have 30% of startups in incubator coming from abroad. Besides, it is one of the provider of «French Tech ticket» that helps (with €45.000 free of equity) foreign startups to come and develop their business in Paris.
Discovering funding opportunities & pitching to VCs
During our first day, we had the chance to interact with 360 Capital Partners and Serena Capital, two of the best Venture Capital funds in France. It was crucial to understand what VC’s are looking for and how they can help startups next to the money they provide. After this 1h30 hands-on meeting, startups could pitch to VCs.
Must-have legal insights
To close the first day, we went to visit 11.100.34 which is a law firm. Since 2008 it has been specializing in startups. They developed many tools to help startups from legal document to start a company, to term sheets templates. The vision and comprehension of the ecosystem by these lawyers were amazing. We gained detailed understanding and learning of do’s and don’ts when starting or while raising funds.
This first day ended at 9.15pm and we could still stay and talk to Serge, one of the founder of 11.100.34, who is a real passionate.
Our first visit of the day was to BPI (Banque publique d’investissement). BPI is a €22bn fund that invests €600M in seed funds and €3.1bn in Venture Capital funds. The goal of the meeting was to better understand how BPI HUB works. That’s the branch of BPI that connects startups and corporates. For our delegation it was also an opportunity to receive valuable contacts with potential corporates or with «competitors» in the French market. The holistic view of BPI is to help startups that are willing to enter this market.
Meeting the Parisian accelerators
After that, we could meet 50Partners. It is an accelerator built by 50 experienced entrepreneurs, who select and support promising early-stage startups. Next to business, operational and strategic mentorship, 50Partners also supports in providing funding.
Our last visit was to TheFamily, the well-known and disruptive accelerator that has started in early 2013 and has already helped 500 startups. Notably that 4 out of the first 8 accepted startups are worth €200+M). TheFamily’s purpose is to disrupt the way startups are helped in France and by being radical in the advices they give to startups: through general “industrial” approach and one-on-one meetings or slack exchanges. Until now 3 Belgian startups have been accelerated by TheFamily.
Menu Next Door experience
Another highlight of the day was meeting Nicolas Van Rymenant, the founder of Menu Next Door. Founded in May 2015, this startup has been enjoying an incredible growth. Nowadays, it is present in Brussels, Paris and London and is supported by Index Ventures (one of the best investment funds in Europe). Nicolas’ insight was an amazing learning experience. We would dedicate a blog post to share what we’ve learned.
The first visit of the day was to Ecole 42, the disruptive coding school launched by Xavier Niel 3 years ago. The goal of Xavier Niel is to allow everyone in France to become a developer if only he/she is motivated to. The selection is drastic. The school receives 70.000 applications a year and selects only 1.000 students (younger, older, with or without diploma) who should successfully enter the job market in a year. This school has no prof but peers with whom students can discuss the way to code. Nowadays it is composed of 3 levels with rooms stuffed with 1.000 computers where students code. It is fully private and free.
The only organisation in the world that gather startups and VCs
Our last afternoon in Paris started with visiting France Digitale. It is an organisation similar to Startups.be. Their goal is to help French startups to be noticed and listened by authorities. It’s the only organisation in the world that gathers startups and VCs. Besides that, France Digitale also organises a lot of events in the different regions of France as well as meetings between investors and startups.
Just after France Digitale, we visited NUMA which proposes an acceleration program, first launched in France in 2012. While it has started by helping 12 startups per batch, with the new version of the acceleration program, NUMA wants to spend more time with each company, accepting only 5. Numa provides also a co-working space and organizes lots of events.
From a startup to one of the biggest comanies in France
We had the chance to meet Sigfox, one of the fastest growing companies in France. It was a truly fascinating meeting: the IOT startup explained to us the way they started from Toulouse in France until they grew into one of the most important in France. Sigfox is an IOT network and supports a lot of startups that want to develop their business in this segment, they really are at the center of the IOT innovation. In Belgium, Sigfox has a special agreement with The Faktory.
A startup builder
The last visit was to eFounders. The Belgian-French startup studio welcomed us for a drink and explained the way they are working. By launching nearby 4 startups a year and counting many succesfull ones, eFounders is the reference in SAAS for SMB’s. Quentin Nickmans, co-founder of eFounders, took time to give his valuable advice and answer to our questions, thus wrapping up our amazing 3-day visit.
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