In 2017, Techstars announced the opening of an accelerator program in Paris. I am very excited to join Techstars and take over as Managing Director for Techstars Paris accelerator program.
Techstars represents all the values that I believe in and that I cherish in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, most notably mentorship. I believe Paris’ ecosystem can benefit a lot more from Techstars. I would love for Techstars to act as a magnet to get the most successful entrepreneurs to give back to the community by helping the new generation of entrepreneurs. Paris has a lot to offer as well when it comes to entrepreneurship. France is known for having extraordinary schools and research institutions. The new generation of college graduates are no longer looking for settling in a large corporation and spending their career there. They want to take risks and change the world!
A Life Experience
I created my company, Infinit, out of my research at the University of Cambridge. Back in France, we met with a few people who helped us get started but the ecosystem was nascent and it was very difficult to find entrepreneurs with expertise. The first years were very difficult and we made a lot of mistakes.
But everything changed when, in 2014, Infinit was selected to join Techstars in NYC. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. The program took a lot more energy than I was ready to give. But I learned so much! There, we met so many experienced entrepreneurs (SquareSpace, Kickstarter, Github, Foursquare, Digital Ocean etc.) who became our mentors and helped us even long after we had left the program.
That is Techstars’ true value: a network of like-minded people giving their time and energy for you to achieve your dream. Even long after your company exits, you are still part of a large family that will always answer positively when it comes to helping other entrepreneurs: Techstars is for life!
Following my experience in the NYC accelerator program, I started mentoring other entrepreneurs in Paris following Techstars’ credo #givefirst. Mentoring was as beneficial to me as it was to the entrepreneurs. I’ve learned through their challenges, discovered markets and most importantly met amazing people who eventually became friends. In short, I became a better entrepreneur thanks to them.
Even though it sounds idealistic, I can attest that I wouldn’t be Managing Director today if it were not for it. After selling my company to Docker in 2016, Techstars called me. It happened that my name had been circulating: fellow entrepreneurs had recommended me, other had vouched for the value of my mentorship and so on. This would never have been possible if I had not started helping other entrepreneurs in the first place without expecting anything in return.
Although France has a reputation for heavy bureaucracy and is still perceived as hostile to success, the truth is that France is also one of the best places to start a company. There are so many unfair advantages: grants (CIR, AIMA, etc.), innovation-specific benefits (JEI) and loans from the city, region and government, not to mention now easier processes to get a VISA through the French Tech. So much that even the government has its own incubator developing innovative online services for the country while corporations invest massively in innovation.
Techstars is right at the center of this revolution. On one end, Techstars just completed its first ever french program dedicated to intrapreneurship. This program, called Techstars Corporate Innovation Bootcamp takes the best teams of our corporate partners for six weeks to develop their business ideas. On the other end, and most importantly, these companies (Air Liquide, FDJ, Accor Hotels, Groupama, Total, Gefco and Next 47) work with Techstars through the city program with the goal of partnering with the Techstars startups. Not only are those corporate partners ready and willing to work with startups but they are dedicating massive resources to make that happen with Techstars’ selected companies.
As Managing Director, my job consists in finding the best 10 companies to join the program. Quite a challenge given the quality of the companies applying that keep raising the bar. We are especially interested in companies tackling challenges in artificial intelligence, blockchain, security, hardware, energy and transportation. We are looking for companies that leverage the growing amount of information at our disposal to take better decision, remove biais etc.
Another very important aspect of my day-to-day job will be to help/assist/mentor the companies joining the program. Even though I have my fair share of experience in technology, strategy, marketing, recruitment, product, partnership etc. I am far from an expert in all of those areas. This is where Techstars’ networking effect takes all its dimension. Should you need more expertise, an introduction to a prospective client or else, I will connect you to the right person from Techstars, being in Paris or somewhere else in the world so that you can always do more faster!
If you have a team, an idea, a project, an existing business and would like to take it to the next stage, feel free to read the application toolkit and apply to Techstars Paris’ next class that will start in September 2018. Note that we will be hosting an AMA on the May 3rd, 2018, register here to join it.